by Dave Merry, UK Correspondent
As some of you know, I have a new found obsession—a love of baseball and the Red Sox. It got me thinking about why we don't have baseball in the UK, or so I thought. So Google and I spent some time together and I was very surprised at the results—which I would like to share.
History- The first recorded game of a 'form' of baseball, called "bass-ball", was played in 1749 in Walton, Surrey and the then Prince of Wales was a player. A softer ball was used and instead of a bat the palm of the hand was used to hit the ball. I bet Papi and Panda could still have given it a good whack! In 1918, a 'proper' game between the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy was played at Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea Football Club, watched by 38,000 fans—including King George V. After the end of World War II, its popularity decline rapidly.
Present Day- The British Baseball Federation was founded in 1987 and a senior league structure set up. It has now increased to 70 teams, A-24, AA-24, AAA-16 and NBL-6. The only problem is that it's all Amateur, they only play on Sunday's and for some reason a game is only 7 innings long??? All the teams' ballparks are literally in parks with just the diamond and outer perimeter marked out. No dug outs, seats or even a perimeter fence except one, Farnham Park, Slough. This first baseball complex was opened in 2013 and, yes, it has dugouts and a perimeter fence, state of the art or what, but still no seats. Farnham Park is also the home of the national team!
Team GB- Yes, unbelievably we have a national team. Why, when our baseball is of a very poor standard, do they want to advertise the fact to the rest of the baseball world? Another surprise, an MLB player has actually represented Team GB. Michael Roth (LHP), who at the time played for LA Angels (now with the Cleveland Indians), has dual citizenship due to his mother being English. He only played once, in the World Classic Qualifier, losing 11-1 to Canada. He pitched 3.1 innings, H-6, R-4, ER-4, SO-5, ERA-10.80. Now whether he realized playing for GB wouldn't do his career any good or whether he wasn't even good enough for them, we will never know.
I searched for an answer to the question going round in my head "why isn't baseball more popular in the UK?" And there is an official answer. Due to lack of funding and apathy because we have Cricket! A sport that is on par with fishing for being the most boring is keeping a great game like baseball from being popular, thereby depriving millions of Brits the opportunity of enjoying it.