Ball, bat, and bishop: the origin of ball games
"Step aside, Abner Doubleday! In this impeccably researched history, Robert W. Henderson uncovers the true origins not only of baseball but of a score of related sports involving hitting, catching, throwing, or kicking a ball.Henderson traces the origins of ball sports to religious rites in ancient Egypt, where the ball (perhaps a shrunken head) represented a fertility symbol and opposing teams engaged in mock combat signifying the struggle of good against evil. Centuries later, pagan fertility rites featuring the ball were adapted by the Christian church as rituals symbolic of Easter and the Resurrection. Court tennis was also firmly rooted in the church, the earliest players being the bishops, canons, and clerics who played it in their cloistered courtyards.Henderson overturns the popular belief that the game of racquets originated in the debtors' prison on Fleet Street in the early nineteenth century. He also notes that polo, the most ancient of games played with stick and ball, originated in Persia and migrated to China and India, where it was eventually embraced by English imperialists. Other sports discussed include football, lawn tennis, cricket, and golf.The most substantial portion of Henderson's study is devoted to the game of baseball. Providing copious evidence of early forms of baseball played in England and the United States before 1829, he offers a meticulous account of the legerdemain by which Abner Doubleday, the famous Civil War general, came to be identified as the inventor in 1839 of a game that was already at least two centuries old. The new foreword by Leonard Koppett affirms the significance of this classic work of sports history, which was the first to dismantle the Doubleday/Cooperstown myth."
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