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Austen heroine aids claim UK invented baseball

  • Story Highlights
  • Author claims baseball originated in Britain and traveled to the United States
  • Julian Norridge says American sporting magnate covered up baseball's origin
  • Norridge argues reference in Jane Austen novel supports his hypothesis
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(CNN) -- Is it a case of British "Sense and Sensibility," "Pride and Prejudice" or just a wrong-headed piece of "Persuasion?"

The British help invent baseball before it traveled to America, according to author Julian Norridge.

According to author Julian Norridge baseball originated in Britain, and part of his proof comes from a reference in Jane Austen's novel "Northanger Abbey."

Norridge, whose book "Can we Have our Balls Back, Please?" focuses on Britain's role in writing the rulebooks for a long list of sports, says Austen mentioned baseball in the opening pages of "Northanger Abbey," which was written in 1797-98.

Norridge says that Austen referenced the sport while introducing her tomboy heroine Catherine Morland, writing: "It was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of 14, to books."

He argues in his book that the reference indicates British people were familiar with the sport prior to its supposed invention much later in the United States.

"There's no doubt it was being played in Britain in the late 18th century, and equally no doubt that it traveled to America," he writes.

Norridge argues evidence of the sport's British origins were covered up by American sports magnate Albert Spalding, who set up a special commission to investigate its origins only to ignore the findings and decide it was invented by General Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York state, in 1839.

Doubleday, himself, never claimed any role in the sport's invention and many sports historians have rejected suggestions he played a part.

Norridge says the first written evidence of baseball comes from a diary written by William Bray, a teenager from Guildford, Surrey, in 1755.

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