May 24, 2013
While attempting to remodel my first home, I pulled back layers of carpet and in amazement looked at a perfectly cut square in the wood floor. Stories of hidden money raced through my head. I rushed to pull the square up, only to find a brown leather baseball.
Disappointment showed across my face until I became curious and started searching the Internet for information on the ball. With the help of a well-known baseball Historian from Minneapolis and an author of a book on 19th century baseball I have become educated on the game and my find. Much to my surprise I have what is known as a gusset style ball that was used in a game called townball.
The game of townball was played with a softer ball made of four brown leather pieces and often filled with rags or yarn. In town ball you could throw to ball at the runner to get him out. This was known as "plugging"
By 1851 Winona's townball was well on its way to extinction. By the end of the civil war baseball had replaced townball, which featured five stakes instead of four bases and 10-14 players instead of 9. One baseball expert dated the ball to be pre-1857. It (townball) was not among the bat and ball games usually played after the civil war. Townball was mostly popular on the East Coast. There is little record that the game even reached Minnesota except for one old timers game in Rochester in 1867.
The exact age of my gusset style ball has yet to be determined, but it is possible the ball was used in the 1850s.
Any information and or guidance on my find would be most appreciated. For now the ball has found a safe home at my bank but I would possibly be interested in selling it.
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