READ: 1911 British Baseball Cup footage discovered; oldest baseball film outside of North America



In this guest blog, Andrew Taylor of the Folkestone Baseball Chronicle discusses the exciting discover of the oldest-ever British Baseball footage from 1911! For more from the Folkestone Baseball Chronicle, visit them on Facebook here.

A few weeks ago, silent film collector Josh Cattermole and baseball historian Andrew Taylor revealed the oldest known footage of baseball outside of North America – and it was filmed here in Britain at the 1911 British Baseball Cup Final. 



Played on the 19th August 1911 at the Leyton Football Grounds, the game between Crystal Palace and Leyton baseball clubs was the climax of the London Baseball League season.

League champions Leyton were also holders of the cup from 1910. Played in a knockout format the prestigious cup was only competed for by six teams, all affiliated with their eponymous London Football Clubs.

It was to be the final act of the London Baseball League which had run since 1906, financial distress and a less than enthusiastic press coverage saw this second attempt at organized baseball in the metropolis fail.

Josh, from Leicester, first acquired the film in 2018 from an eBay seller. The opening intertitle of the film was present, which aided in identification, and advice from the Pathé in London helped confirm it as a newsreel missing from their archives. After attempts to film a projection of the film, using a 1906 cinematograph projector, Josh had the film digitised by his friend at the Archive Film Agency in London in preparation for uploading on the 110th anniversary of the game.

The film itself is on 35mm nitrate film stock, probably manufactured in Britain. This film would have been spliced together with other Pathé newsreel topics for projection in a British cinema before the main film would have been screened. In its present state it is a stand-alone film solely showing the baseball footage, without any other news clips of other topics. It is unknown whether the baseball film is complete but owing to the brevity of some newsreels of the time, and the costs of longer films, it is possible that what survives is complete, or near complete.

Andrew, who has researched and published on British Baseball history, filled in the details.

Leyton had a reputation for only recruiting and developing home grown talent, their star pitcher Jarman had seemingly learnt the game during a period of service in the US Army prior to 1906, but most of the players had been novices and had learnt the game as adults. By the time of the 1911 final Jarman had cemented a reputation as the best pitcher in England, and he was in particularly devastating form that season.

Crystal Palace, by contrast, were considered a Yankee team, reliant upon American born players and imports, indeed nine of the eleven match day roster had represented all-American teams in various exhibition games over the previous years.

Without a doubt the perceived international match up of England v America added an extra layer of excitement to the final.

The match itself didn’t disappoint. A seesaw affair, Leyton ran out winners 6 to 5 courtesy of a daring play in the bottom of the eighth innings by their catcher Marsh, who stole Home from Second Base giving them the lead. This set the scene for Jarman to shut the Palace out in their final innings.

A handful of match reports appeared in local and national newspapers, until now these had been the last remaining connection with the London Baseball League. The film itself depicts various action shots of the game in play and would have formed part of a newsreel to be played in Cinema’s around the country.
Prior to the discovery of this film, the consensus among baseball historians (see here was that the oldest film of baseball being played outside of North America was from September 1915, when a team of Canadian soldiers (garrisoned at Folkestone) took on the civilian London Americans team (featuring a number of stars of the defunct London Baseball League) at Lords Cricket Ground. Cup-Winners Jarman and Marsh appeared in this game too forming the battery.

This newly uncovered film pushes the boundaries back even further and gives a fascinating glimpse both of early British Baseball and the twilight years of the Dead-Ball era.

Baseball in Britain has a proud and long history, but its story is little known outside of the baseball community. Hopefully this film can help raise awareness of that history beyond the outfield wall – a unique piece of British film history it is also a treasure for the Baseball world, and Josh and Andrew are eager to tell its story, perhaps even all the way to the Hall of Fame.

For a more indepth article on the 1911 British Baseball Cup Final and the London Baseball League, visit the Folkestone Baseball Chronicle here

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Neale 20:28

Brilliant piece Andrew.
Can’t wait until you publish your first book.

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