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John S. Bowman
5.0 out of 5 starsAn absolutely fascinating revelation of the history of baseball
Reviewed in the United States on April 6, 2019
I can only say that anyone who has even the slightest interest in the history of America's "national pastime" should read this book. I guarantee that you will find it both entertaining and informative, as Block takes us on his personal travels and travails in search of the origins of baseball. Even those of us who have for long believed we had done our homework when it came to the early history of the game will find it almost revolutionary. Meanwhile, those who have never thought they cared that much about their beloved game's origins will be treated to an often light-hearted but masterful model of how dogged research works. Yes, it's mostly set in England and the UK but that makes it all the more fun--who of us doesn't enjoy reading about those eccentric English? There's something here for everyone--literary history, social history, sports history, journalism history--all while you are being treated to this relentless quest for the origins of baseball. All in all, David Block has pitched a perfect game.
4.0 out of 5 starsVery good book on a forgotten game
Reviewed in the United States on July 22, 2019
While there has been much research and writing dedicated to the origins of American baseball and disproof of the myths surrounding that origin, there has been little written about the game of English baseball, which as the author makes known throughout the book is NOT the same as the game of rounders. David Block has written a very interesting book on the game, combing through various publications and archives to research his material and come to some conclusions about the game.
What is most noteworthy about the book is that the majority of it discusses the literary and journalistic sources that mention the game of English baseball. The first reference that Block notes is from John Newbury’s children’s book A Pretty Little Pocketbook. Published in 1744, there is a passage that reads “The Ball once struck off,/Away flies the Boy/To the next Destin’d Post/And then Home with Joy.” A drawing that illustrates this accompanies the prose, illustrating a boy with a ball in his hand ready to toss it. Many researchers believe this is the first reference to baseball in any form, including those who research the origins of the American game.
From there, the reader will be taken along Block’s journey through the archives of many English sources as he scoured them for more references to the game. Many people know of the famous passage in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abby. This is just one of the numerous passages that Block mentions and/or quotes on his journey. Block covers the entire period that the game has references and was played, which was from the 18th century to the early 20th century. He also includes a chapter in which he explains the game as much as possible from the information he has gleaned from these sources.
Even though this is excellent information for readers who are interested in baseball or literary history, what makes this book an enjoyable read is the writing style of Block. He takes the reader on his journey to find out about English baseball with some self-deprecating humor and other wit along the way. This makes for an excellent combination of information and entertainment that is sure to please any reader interested in the aforementioned topics.
I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
5.0 out of 5 starsPatime Lost: A Great Read, and Not Just for Baseball Fans
Reviewed in the United States on April 11, 2019
In Pastime Lost, baseball historian/scholar David Block makes a persuasive case that the now forgotten game of English baseball is the true forerunner of America's National Pastime. A product of exhaustive research, the book is not some dry, pedantic treatise. Rather, it sparkles. The writing is fluid and often funny, and allows the reader to vicariously experience the many twists, turns, and unexpected discoveries along the research path that required the author to re-think and revise previously reached conclusions. Indeed, the book has much in common with a good mystery, as Block navigates his way, clue upon clue, through the maze of often-perplexing evidence to make a case for English baseball. Not just for baseball fans, Pastime Lost is a book for anyone who enjoys a great story and highly recommended. Bill Lamb, Meredith, NH.