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The earliest baseball board game known to exist1869 The New Parlor Game of Base Ball by M.B. Sumner. While there has been some dispute among historians as to whether Francis C. Sebring's "Parlor Base Ball" or William Buckley's "Base-Ball Table" deserves the distinction of being recognized as the first baseball board game, the appearance of an advertisement for the former in a December 8, 1866 issue of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper for the former would appear to put that matter to rest. This publication predates the official patents of both Buckley (1867) and Sebring himself (1868), each inventor anxious to capitalize on the growing trend that spread across the nation with the marching armies of the American Civil War.
Following close on their heels was the presented rarity, "The New Parlor Game of Base Ball," a creation by M.B. Sumner who released his game in 1869, the year the professional sport was born. Of the three games that debuted in the immediate aftermath of the War between the States, Sumner's was the only one to utilize an artistic rendering of the sport in action, and thus would likely be considered the most desirable of the group even if examples of the others were known to exist. Sadly, only the patent paperwork for Buckley and Sebring's creations survives.
The game board measures 12x17" in size when open and provides wonderful black and white graphics with all the period details one would expect--bib-front uniforms, an underhanded pitching style, gloveless fielders, wide-handed batting grip and a well-dressed group of spectators just on the fringe of the field of play. Minimal foxing provides little visual distraction, and the image is otherwise as close to perfect as one could reasonably hope, forgiving the necessary center fold line. A second graphic of a pitcher appears on reverse, the image 3.5x5" in scale.
An identical pitcher image is affixed to the somewhat tattered box that holds the playing pieces, which include a spinner which directs a bat to one of thirty possible conclusions, which are listed on an included card (3.5x6.5"). Also original to the game are a single card stock scoring sheet (used, with pencil markings) and a very delicate onion skin rule page which recalls documents some early ordinances long-since updated, like the ability to record an out by catching a foul ball on a single bounce, and nine called balls required for a walk. Cooper has added some modern photocopies of score sheets and line-up rosters should the owner wish to play the game. The "Red Stockings Nine" roster includes the Hall of Fame fraternal duo of George and Harry Wright. Other memorable teams include Atlantic, Athletic and the Forrest Citys, which included a young Cap Anson. Original red disc baserunner markers complete the inventory.
This game, the most complete example known to exist, appears on page twenty-one of Mark Cooper's definitive guide, "Baseball Games: Home Versions of the National Pastime 1860's-1960's." It was acquired by Dr. Cooper from famed collector Barry Halper, who told Cooper, "If anybody should own this game, it should be you."
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