For well over a century now, baseball and the month of April have been happily intertwined. After a punishing winter, in which we paid court to cardiac arrest by shoveling immovable mounds of snow, or slogged through slush to free a Civic entombed in a dolmen of ice, we suddenly joy, one day, to the Eternal Return of Spring: a vee of Canadian geese heading north and a flock of Baltimore Orioles heading south. Yes, in this fourth month, which brings to mind the timeless cycles of the natural world—the budding of trees, the melting of streams—it is well to consider the timelessness of baseball, too.
Historians generally agree that the first officially chronicled baseball game, pitting the New York Ball Club against a team from Brooklyn, took place in Hoboken, New Jersey, on October 21, 1845. But the very site of that long-ago contest—the Elysian Fields, named for that rest area of the Underworld where the immortal heroes of Greek mythology reside in a state of interminable ennui—provides a clue as to the true antiquity of the game. Likewise, the rare photos that accompany this text (courtesy of the Royal Library of Alexandria) are further proof that baseball was known to, and held sacred by, the ancients, East and West. Boys of summer, meet the boys of Sumer!