Sphaeristerii in Boston

Wednesday, May 10, 2006 at 8:39 AM

The Greeks practiced it as tending to give grace and elasticity to the figure, and they erected a statue to Aristonicus for his proficiency in it.
Before there was Fenway Park, the Bambino, the Curse or its miraculous lifting, there was Aristonicus and sphaeristerii -- special departments in ancient Greek gymnasiums where men gathered for a good old-fashioned, “grace and elasticity”-enhancing ball game. Or so we learn from George V. Tuohey, author of the 1897 tome, A History of the Boston Base Ball Club –- one of the many turn-of-the-century books anyone can browse through using Google Book Search.

When Tuohey isn’t waxing eloquent on the noble roots of the sport in the ancient world, he’s painstakingly detailing its early history in the United States, including providing team pictures of the kind that inspired the first baseball cards and player biographies from the time when the Boston Red Sox were known simply as the Bostons. But while many things have changed over the past century, others remain remarkably consistent. More than a hundred years before Google created AdSense to match ads to website content, Tuohey’s publisher matched the contents of this book with ads for beer and hernia medication.


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