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Earliest baseball reference discovered in England

A trainer looks at the arm of Milwaukee's Gabe Kapler during Wednesday's game against Cincinnati. Kapler has a torn muscle in his right shoulder and could miss the rest of the season.

A trainer looks at the arm of Milwaukee's Gabe Kapler during Wednesday's game against Cincinnati. Kapler has a torn muscle in his right shoulder and could miss the rest of the season.

LONDON – Baseball is as American as . . . tea and crumpets?

That may be the case, according to a diary uncovered in southern England last year but only now being made public.

Julian Pooley, the manager of the Surrey History Centre, said Thursday he has authenticated a reference to baseball in a diary by English lawyer William Bray dating back to 1755 – about 50 years before what was previously believed to have been the first known reference to what became the American pastime.

“I know his handwriting very well,” Pooley told The Associated Press in a telephone interview, adding he believed the game wasn’t very common at the time. “He printed it to show it was new to him. He doesn’t mention baseball again. It was something that seemed special.”

Bray wrote that he played the game with both men and women on the day after Easter, a traditional holiday in England.

“He was about 18 or 19 (at the time of the diary entry),” Pooley said. “He was a very social man. He enjoyed sports.”

The entry reads:

“Easter Monday 31 March 1755

“Went to Stoke Ch. This morning. After Dinner Went to Miss Jeale’s to play at Base Ball with her, the 3 Miss Whiteheads, Miss Billinghurst, Miss Molly Flutter, Mr. Chandler, Mr. Ford & H. Parsons & Jelly. Drank Tea and stayed till 8.”

Baseball has long been thought to have been an American invention, with roots in the British games of rounders and cricket.

The first recorded competitive baseball game took place in Hoboken, N.J., in 1846 between the Alexander Cartwright’s Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York and the New York Nine. The first professional team played in 1869 and the first professional league started two years later.

Bray, who died in 1832, kept a diary for much of his life and wrote a history of Surrey. He also transcribed and published the diary and writings of English writer John Evelyn.

Pooley said he first became aware of Bray’s reference in July 2007 after local historian Tricia St. John Barry notified Major League Baseball to say she found a notation of the game that predated their own findings.

The Surrey History Centre said there is a reference to baseball that came earlier than Bray’s, but it appears in a fictional book by John Newberry called “A Little Pretty Pocket-Book.” Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey” also refers to baseball. It was written in 1798 but not published until 1817.

Around MLB

ATHLETICS: Second baseman Mark Ellis will miss the rest of the season and could be headed for surgery to fix a shoulder injury that has taken longer to heal than initially expected.

The 31-year-old Ellis batted .233 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs in 117 games for the A’s this season. He stole 14 bases and committed only four errors.

BREWERS: Right fielder Gabe Kapler has a torn muscle in his right shoulder and could miss the rest of the season.

Kapler will stay in Milwaukee and undergo physical therapy with the team in an effort to determine whether he can return this year.

CARDINALS: Catcher Yadier Molina was out of the lineup Thursday, a day after being kneed in the thigh in a home plate collision.

Manager Tony La Russa said Molina was pretty sore with a deep bruise and he was hoping the catcher would only be sidelined a few games.

ORIOLES: All-Star reliever George Sherrill was activated from the 15-day disabled list Thursday by the Baltimore Orioles, who certainly could use his help in the back end of the bullpen.

Sherrill was placed on the disabled list on Aug. 19 with inflammation of the left shoulder. He is 3-5 with a 4.47 ERA with 31 saves in 53 appearances.

WHITE SOX: Frustrated by his latest bout with a sore back that has left him sidelined during his team’s push for the playoffs, Chicago White Sox third baseman Joe Crede will seek a second opinion from a doctor.

Crede, who is eligible to be a free agent after this season, had back surgery last year but appeared to have bounced back with a decent first half in 2008.

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