August 16th, 2012
Continuing yesterday’s lexicographic musings, I offer this, located moments ago on page 13 of the Trenton Evening Times of November 13, 1915. For students of the old ball game, or old ballgame, this subject has been one of enduring vexation. The author is, yet again, Old Anon.
Is it baseball? No. Clarence, this is not foolish question NO. 2,473. It is asked in all seriousness, and the question affords opportunity for much controversy in the councils of the Hot Stove League.
So far as the great majority of those able and brilliant men who write baseball dope for the daily press are concerned, the issue was decided long ago. Baseball is baseball. If there is a sporting writer on a daily paper in the United States or Canada who holds that baseball isn’t baseball, the writer isn’t aware of his identity.
Most of the up-to-date dictionaries of the American language uphold the contention of the baseball writers that baseball is baseball. Backed up by such good authority as this, the matter should be considered as setttled, perhaps. But it isn’t. A small but influential minority continue to adhere to the old notion that baseball isn’t baseball at all, but base ball. That is, that it is not one word, but two.
Of the publications devoted largely or exclusively to the great American pastime, Sporting News of St. Louis and the Baseball Magazine refer to the game as baseball. On the contrary, Sporting Life of Philadelphia, one of the recognized journalistic authorities on baseball, never makes use of the compound word. If by any chance some ignorant compositor should call it “baseball,” and the Sporting Life proofreader permitted it to get by, we fancy there would be a great commotion in the editorial office of our valued Quaker City contemporary.
Nor is Sporting Life alone in standing pat on the old form. Most of the leading baseball annuals, including Spalding’s and Reach’s, make two words of base ball. They seem determined to stick to their guns in spite of Ellen Highwater [in our less squeamish age, this odd individual would be rendered as “hell and high water”–jt] and with them it will probably be “base ball” until the end of time.
In the early days of the game “base ball” was universal. After a time, as the game increased in popularity, many publications adopted the hyphenated form, and it became “base-ball.” At a still later period along in the ’80s, as nearly as can be discovered—the newspapers began to drop the hyphen, and “baseball” came into use.
With all regard for those publications which adhere to the old form, the writer can see no valid reason for its continuation, common useage [sic] has set the stamp of approval upon the simple form of ”baseball” unhyphenated, one and indivisible.