Rounders (England, Ireland)
Name of sport (game)
Name in native language
Place of practice (continent, state, nation)
Rounders, or something very like it was probably played several centuries prior to the first documentary evidence of the game. There is an engraving in the Bodleian Library dated 1344 which depicts a woman about to throw (underarm) a ball towards a chap wielding a large club which is thinner at the handle end. The engraving also has several other figures of both sexes which the illustrator did not include because they were mostly damaged or indistinct. These figures are waiting to catch or stop the ball once the batsman has hit it.
The description of the engraving does not mention any posts or bases so whether the game just involved hitting or whether running was also involved isn't known. But no wicket is shown so it doesn't appear to be an ancestor of Cricket. And people playing Stoolball hit the ball with their hand in those days so it cannot be that game.
Therefore, if the game is the ancestor of any modern game, Rounders seems to be the most likely candidate.
The other primary theory, equally vague, is that Rounders is a development of the old game of Stoolball. This game is mentioned in texts that go back as far as the fifteenth century. At this time, of course, there were no governing bodies dictating rules and so people played such games at fairs and on the village green in a variety of different ways. The only really consistent thing is that one player threw a ball and another player hit it - generally speaking with their hand. The stools were usually described as a wicket but in some versions, multiple stools were set up in a ring and players had to run from one to another.
The game of Baseball is indeed an old sport. Most texts that you will read quote that the earliest documentary evidence for the game is from 1744 when the game was referred to as Base-ball. This is a reference from what is probably the first ever book written for children, 'The Little Pretty Pocket Book' by John Newbery published in London. In fact, the earliest mention made was by the Reverend Thomas Wilson, a Puritan living in Maidstone, Kent who wrote a disapproving piece about games being played on Sunday in 1700: "I have seen Morris-dancing, cudgel-playing, baseball and cricketts and many other sports on the Lord's day".
Base-ball continues to be mentioned in England - for instance by Jane Austen in "Northanger Abbey" which was written around 1800. But the earliest reference to the name 'Rounders' found by this author is in in the English Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine of 1787 as a children's game - so the term was in use by that time.
In America, where the national sport is Baseball, arguments raged for some time over whether the game was invented in North America or England. Discoveries of the above references put an end to most such discussion, especially as the rules for Baseball published in an American "Book of Sports" in 1834 were an exact copy of the rules of Rounders from the "Boys Own Book" published in London in 1829. The game was obviously being called by both names and being played in the same way in both America and England by the same rules in the early 1800s
The USA was certainly playing proto-baseball before this: In 1778, one of George Washington's soldiers in the American war of Independence mentioned playing a game of "Base" in his diary. And anyway, it was known in North America since 1750 when 'The Little Pretty Pocket Book' was published there. The game really came to the fore in America around the mid-nineteeth century, when Alexander Cartwright of New York City initiated the first codification of the rules (the "Knickerbocker Rules"), from which modern baseball developed.
In 1889 the Liverpool and Scottish Rounders Association was formed. The first official rules did away with the practice of putting a running batter out by hitting them with a thrown ball. The National Rounders Association was formed in 1943 and is still active today working particularly with schools promoting and encouraging play. These days, at competition level, Rounders tends to be played more by girls than boys.
The rules of this sport come from Rounders England website: https://www.roundersengland.co.uk/play/rounders-rules/
Rounders games are played between two teams. Each team has a maximum of 15 players and a minimum of 6 players. No more than 9 players may be on the field at any one time. If a team is mixed, there should be no more than 5 male players. A list of players and substitutes should be submitted to the Umpire prior to play. Players once substituted may return during the game, but batters only in the position of their original number.
The batting team should wait in the backward area well away from 4th post. If out, wait in the backward area well away from 1st post. A batter should only enter the batting square when called to do so by the Umpire. The batter will have one good ball bowled to them. Batters can use 2 hands if they wish. Batters can take a no ball and score in the usual way, but once you reach 1st post you cannot return. You cannot be caught out or stumped out at 1st post on a no ball.
Bowling / No balls
A No Ball will incur if:
• The ball is not thrown in a smooth underarm action.
• The ball is above the batters head or below the batters knee.
• The ball bounces on the way to the batter.
• The ball is thrown wide or straight at the batters body.
• The Bowler’s foot is outside the square during the bowling action.
Running around the track
If a batter stops at a post, they must keep in contact with the post, with hand or bat. If they don’t, the fielding side can stump the following post to put the batter out. Batters can run on to a post even if it has been previously stumped (you don’t score if the post immediately ahead has been stumped). When the bowler has the ball in the bowling square a batter cannot move on, but if they are between posts they can carry on to the next. There cannot be two batters at a post. The umpire will ask the first to run on when the second makes contact. When at a post, the batter does not have to move on for every ball bowled. Once in contact with the post, a batter may turn the corner over the 2 metre line. Batters can move on as soon as the ball leaves the Bowler’s hand, including no balls. Batters must touch 4th post on getting home.
• If the batter hits the ball and reaches and touches 4th post before the next ball is bowled, the batting team scores 1 Rounder.
• If the batter hits a no ball and reaches and touches 4th post before the next ball is bowled, the batting team scores 1 Rounder (you cannot be caught out on a no ball).
• A ½ Rounder is scored if the batter reaches 4th post without hitting the ball.
• A ½ Rounder is scored if the batter hits the ball and 2nd or 3rd post is reached and touched before next ball is bowled. However, if you continue this run and are put out before reaching 4th post, the score will be forfeited.
• A penalty ½ Rounder is scored for an obstruction by a fielder.
• A penalty ½ Rounder is scored for 2 consecutive no balls to the same batter.
• A penalty ½ Rounder is scored by the fielding team if waiting batters or batters out obstruct a fielder.
• A batter can score in the normal way on a backward hit but must remain at 1st post while the ball is in the backward area.
A player is out when
• The post a batter is running to is stumped.
• The batter is caught out.
• A batter overtakes another batter on the track.
• A batter deliberately drops or throws their bat.
• The batter misses or hits the ball and their foot is over the front or back line of the batting square.
• A batter runs inside the posts (unless obstructed).
• Side out.
• If the batter is ordered to make and maintain contact with the post and refuse to do so.
• The batter loses contact with the post; When the bowler has the ball and is in the square (except on an over run). During the bowlers action but before they release the ball.
Unit 15, Venture 1 Business Park, Long Acre Close, Holbrook Industrial Estate Sheffield, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S20 3FR, United Kingdom
Phone: 07837 810 613
National Rounders Secretary,
Croke Park Stadium,
Jones' Road, Dublin 3
Sources of information