Skip to main content

Block, David 1944–

Block, David 1944–

PERSONAL: Born 1944. Hobbies and other interests: Collecting early baseball books and memorabilia.

ADDRESSES: HomeSan Francisco, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, University of Nebraska Press, 1111 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0630. E-mail—old_ [email protected]

CAREER: Author.

AWARDS, HONORS: Seymour Medal, Society for American Baseball Research, 2006, for Baseball before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game.


Baseball before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game, foreword by Tim Wiles, University of Nebraska Press (Lincoln, NE), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS: David Block's book Baseball before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game traces the origins of America's greatest pastime back hundreds of years to the ball fields of medieval Europe. Among baseball's predecessors were the early English games of cat, stoolball, trap-ball, and tut-ball. Block's research seems to have put to rest once and for all the century-and-a-half-long debate over whether or not the sport is indigenous to the United States. He also disproves the assertion of many baseball history books that the game had its roots in an English children's game called rounders.

Block makes his case by producing evidence that a game called baseball was played widely in eighteenth-century England, well before the game of rounders first came upon the scene. Among Block's evidence is a detailed description of English baseball—discovered in an eighteenth-century German book—that proves it to be the immediate ancestor modern baseball.

Block also provides new insight into the old legend of Abner Doubleday having invented the game at Coo-perstown, New York, in 1839. The Doubleday story came about as the result of an early-twentieth-century patriotic effort to prove that baseball was American born. It has long been thought that sporting goods mogul A.G. Spalding, the chief proponent of Doubleday as baseball's inventor, did so because Doubleday had been a hero of the Civil War. Block, however, shows that Spalding had a hidden ulterior motive, as Spalding and Doubleday had both been members of the same secretive religious organization.

Unlike so many other baseball historians, Block relishes the evidence of the many European games that are obvious precursors of the sport. Charles Hirshberg, writing in Sports Illustrated, appreciated the history lesson. "Once an American reader gets past the disappointment of discovering baseball's deep European roots, Block's book is a perfect delight," he wrote. Similarly, Mark Lamster, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called the book "a joyfully discursive romp through the history of ball sports." Commenting on Block's discovery of a medieval manuscript depicting French nuns and monks playing a baseball-like game, Ed Smith, writing in the London Observer, wrote: "To saddle the French with inventing the game of tobacco chewing and spitting … [is] a delicious historical discovery."



Boston Globe, April 3, 2005, Joshua Glenn, review of Baseball before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game.

Charleston Post and Courier, April 3, 2005, Carol Edwards, review of Baseball before We Knew It.

New York Times Book Review, April 10, 2005, Mark Lamster, review of Baseball before We Knew It.

Observer (London, England), July 3, 2005, Ed Smith, review of Baseball before We Knew It.

Rocky Mount Telegram, March 13, 2005, Mae Woods Bell, review of Baseball before We Knew It.

Sports Illustrated, March 21, 2005, Charles Hirshberg, review of Baseball before We Knew It, p. Z8.


Baseball before We Knew It Web site, (February 24, 2006).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Block, David 1944–." Contemporary Authors. . 19 Aug. 2019 <>.

"Block, David 1944–." Contemporary Authors. . (August 19, 2019).

"Block, David 1944–." Contemporary Authors. . Retrieved August 19, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.