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Early baseball: No strikes, few rules and you could hit in any direction


Illustration: Division of Research

Today’s baseball fans might have a hard time even recognizing the game as it was played back in its earliest days, a Texas A&M historian says.

“There were few rules and for years, the batter could stand and hit the ball in any direction he wished, even behind him,” says David Vaught, head of Texas A&M’s history department and a baseball scholar.

“No balls and strikes were called,” he says, “and the game itself was usually called ‘Town Ball,’ not ‘baseball.’”

Vaught recently learned he has won the 2014 SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) Award for his book, “The Farmer’s Game:  Baseball in Rural America.” The SABR Award honors research projects that have significantly expanded the knowledge and understanding of baseball.  The award will be presented to Vaught during the 44th SABR national convention held July 30-Aug. 3 in Houston.

Vaught’s book on baseball’s early beginnings, which took almost six years to write, explains the relationships of baseball and American culture. It shows that baseball’s origins  are that of a game played in small country towns.

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