Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The 'rounders' debate

Living here in the UK, I get a lot of shit from a lot of Brits about American sports. Not all, but too many of them. Mostly baseball and football. They're doing the best they can to put down our sports and try and advance their own, such as soccer and rugby. I actually like rugby, but could care less about soccer. I'll watch it at the pub, but not at home. The main way they attack baseball is to compare it to Rounders, and call it a little girls game.

It doesn't really bother me. Girls do play rounders, and so do boys and adults. Just like softball. And lots of other activities. I don't mind the insults, but what I do mind is the need to put down American sports so they can - what? I don't know why they feel the need to do it. I don't care for soccer really, but I don't go out of my way to put it down. Or darts. Or snooker. Which are all popular over here. But any chance most Brits get, they will put down baseball, football, NASCAR, processed cheese, anything remotely American.

So, you've all heard all the arguments and the insults on lots of different web sites. But in the effort to inform, lets find out what the differences really are. Here are the rules and layout of rounders, and the rules of play (abbreviated for the purpose of me not having to type so much) and you decide.

Is baseball the same as rounders and silly little girls game?

Or is it loosely based on the game and completely different, like football is to rugby?

Rounders (Irish: cluiche corr) is a sport played between two teams, each alternating between batting and fielding

Okay so far:

Game-play centres around innings where teams alternate at batting and fielding. A maximum of nine players are allowed to field at one time. Points ("rounders") are scored by the batting team by completing a circuit around the field through four bases or posts without being put 'out'.
Seems fairly easy to follow at this point:

Although rounders is assumed to be older than baseball, literary references to early forms of "base-ball" in England pre-date use of the term "rounders". Rounders is now played from school-level to international
I've lost the little girls game thread now, but I want to be fair:

In many respects, identical to Baseball. It is, however, considered a school game, very popular among primary school children, particularly girls.
Okay, back to the start point, I guess. So lets get to the heart of the matter:

The ball is hard with a cork centre, covered in white leather and comparable in size to a tennis ball (a standard tennis ball or "soft" rounders ball is often substituted in school games). In Ireland, a hurling ball called a sliotar is used. Bats are used, usually 7-10 cm wide and 40-50cm long
Still somewhat close:

A team can have a maximum of 15 players and a minimum of 6. No more than 9 players can be on the field at one time. The fielding team must include one bowler and one backstop. Other outfield players take positions at each of the bases or elsewhere on the field.
Okay, rounders/baseball. Not seeing too many fundamental differences yet:

The bowler bowls the ball with an underarm pendulum action to the batter. It is deemed a "good" ball if it passes within reach on the striking side between the batter's knees and the top of the head (NRA). Otherwise, it is called a "no-ball" or "bad" ball. The ball is also "bad" if it is thrown into the batter's body or wide of the batting box. A batter may try to hit a bad ball but is not required to. A player is not out if a "no-ball" is caught.
Going back to the roots of baseball. This is pre-1893 stuff:

A rounder is scored if a member of the batting team completes a circuit without being out. In NRA, a half rounder is scored if half a circuit is completed without being 'out' or if a batter has not hit the ball but makes it all the way to the fourth base.
While some statheads would love to see this type of scoring added to the game (more formulas for them to masturbate over), this is the first large difference in the games:

Batter is out if
a ball hit is caught.
running to (NRA) or touching (GAA) a base that had been 'stumped' by a fielder.
they drop the bat while running.
That's a little cricket there to me. That's obviously not baseball. Fundamentally, yes, but in the way that you score runs and make outs, but the play isn't the same. This is a big difference. Here are the National Rounders Association-specific rules:

The fielding team must field at a minimum six players. The total number of players on a team is limited to fifteen
Big difference here. Even in little league, you have to have 8 players at a minimum:

The ball circumference must be 190 mm (7.5 inches) and the bat no more than 460 mm (18") in length and 170 mm (6.75" ) in diameter. The NRA places a weight-limit of 370g (13 ounces) on the bat. The bases are laid out in a manner similar to a baseball diamond, except that home base is a separate base, at right-angles to third base and the batsman's base.[8] Each base is marked with poles, which must be able to support themselves and stand at a minimum of 1m (3 feet).
Okay, now we begin to digress. The field of play is not the same:

If a ball is good, batters must try to hit the ball and must run regardless of whether the ball is hit. If the ball is hit into the backward area, the batsman may not pass first post until the ball is returned to the forward area. A batter that hits a no-ball may not be caught-out or stumped at the first post. Batters may run on 'no-balls', but do not have to. Each batter except the last in each inning is entitled to receive one good ball; the last batsman is entitled to receive three unless caught out.
Back to cricket again:

A half-rounder is scored if
fourth post is reached and touched before the next ball is bowled without hitting the ball second post is reached and touched before next ball is bowled after hitting the ball obstruction by a fielder/batter two consecutive no-balls to the same batter
That's not even cricket. I don't know what the hell that is:

A batter is out if
running inside the posts
no contact with a post is made (using either hand or stick) while the bowler is preparing to bowl
no contact with a post is made and the next post is stumped
a foot is placed outside the front or back of the batting square before swinging
at a good ball
they are overtaken by another runner
Old town ball rules, at best. Some familiar things, but not modern baseball, at least in my opinion:

Two innings constitute a game. Each batting team's inning continues until nine outs are made or the numbered innings is over.
Okay, back to cricket again:

Comparison with softball and baseball
The GAA version of the game is very similar to softball.

The main difference is that the game is played with baseball-sized bats, balls and field. However, baseball-style gloves are not allowed.

The main differences between baseball and the NRA version of the game are that: the bat is much shorter and is usually swung one-handed

misses/strikes aren't called, so there are no walks or strike-outs

each batter receives only one good ball and must run whether they hit it or not

posts (which should be wooden, preferably encased in plastic sheaths) mark the bases

the lay-out of the pitch is different, especially the location of home base

In rounders, bowlers pitch with an underarm pendulum action as in softball, as distinct from baseball.

So what's the conclusion here?

Baseball is indeed very similar to rounders, and therefore, a little girls game. You know what? So is cricket. Deal with it, Nigel. You can blast baseball all you want, but people who live in glass houses...

I think the Chicago Tribune will take your insults about their $1 billion dollar payout any day. I don't think Texeira and Sabatthia are too concerned with your opinion of the game. I think Bud and his $18 million dollar salary are okay with it.

Insult our game, put it down, ridicule it all you want. But if you want to put down baseball, you need to call out cricket also. That's the way it is. I don't think too many major leaguer's are worried about it. Not with their million dollar payouts and merchandising deals. If you don't like our game, don't watch it. Don't play it. Don't talk about it.

Just get a life. And stop putting down everything American to feel better about yourself.

We're the same.

And that's what you hate about it.


Bruce L said...

I think the main sources of the criticisms are...

Baseball v rounders: Despite the differences that DO (as you so painstakingly point out) exist, nobody can argue the two games' overriding similarity to each other. No matter how you dress it up, baseball really is just rounders on steroids. Putting that into the context of the vast differences in attitude towards each game in their respective homelands (i.e. in the UK, people stop playing rounders when they leave primary school whereas on the North American continent Baseball is a multi-billion dollar industry) it is not difficult to see where the Brits' bewilderment comes from. Add to this the ludicrous naming of baseball competitions (viz: The "World" Series) alongside the historical stereotype image of the American who knows and cares little of the world outside his own country's borders, and - rightly or wrongly - contempt is never going to be far away.

Football: it's simply a naming thing. "Real" football (as Brits see it) is a game with its roots in medieval times, and American football - a completely different game - came along hundreds of years later and for whatever reason assumed the name. American football involves the "ball" being in contact much more frequently with the players' hands than it does their feet. Also, the ball is not actually a ball in the normal sense of the word. In comparison with English football (aka soccer) where the ball is in fact a ball, and contact between hand and ball is largely forbidden, the US version appears extremely illogically named. (You have no doubt heard the term "handegg" used to mock American football for these very reasons.)

In the UK, there is definitely a much greater contempt for American football than there is for baseball, as for one thing football is the national game whereas rounders is something played in gym class and is therefore seen as something which can easily be dismissed or made fun of. Football on the other hand is much more precious to its fans. The naming of American football as "football" is seen as an insult to "the beautiful game". There would be much less contempt were there not that clash of names.

Personally I'm ambivalent about all four games and honestly have no prejudice. Football (i.e. soccer) and its fans I find particularly tiresome. I see the playing of all four games as a complete waste of time and effort. But... none of them even comes close to cricket in that regard. As a cover for several days' worth of continual steady alcohol consumption however, test cricket has them all beaten hands down.

Ron Rollins said...

Thanks for commenting Bruce. Always nice to get feedback. I think, however, that you have missed the point. I wasn't really speaking about football, as the title states.

It's about rounders and baseball, and more importantly, as you so subtly proved, the need for the English to continually put down anything American with ever making an attempt to understand it. Which you did with football.

We don't make fun of your sports. Why do the English feel that making fun of American sports somehow makes their's better?

trish said...

I was discussing the difference between rounders and baseball with my American colleague today - I'd always assumed they were a lot more different than they are.

The major difference we concluded you don't actually seem to have explicitly mentioned. In rounders you only get a rounder if you get to fourth base in one go (so you have to hit the ball and complete the circuit before the bowler bowls for the next player). In baseball even if you stop at one of the bases you score when you get to home base.

Also in rounders you never touch the runner with the ball to get them out - always the base they are running towards - apparently in baseball you touch the person with ball.

Ron Rollins said...

Hi Trish, thanks for the comment. In baseball, you can either tag the runner, or make the force out at any base.

JimboUK71 said...

Great info, really brushed up on my knowledge here!! As for the 'American Bashing' you think we Brits do, I think that's unfair to tar us all with the same brush. We are so alike in many ways, yet so different. I do like to have a little jibe sometimes at Americans on FB, but it's meant in good humoUr, and believe me, you guys do poke fun at us, with our quirks and old fashioned ways!!