My Great Grandfather, Archibald Gracie Ogden, played semi-pro baseball in Elizabeth, NJ in the late 1800s. His Great-Great Grandfather, Colonel Elias Dayton of the 3rd New Jersey Continentals (1st establishment), may have played a form of protobaseball more than 100 years before, along with his regimental chaplain, various officers, and even some of their Iroquois allies.
Vol III of the Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society (1848-1849) includes the Journal of Lieutenant Ebenezer Elmer of the 3rd NJ Regiment,in which he makes mention of a game called Whirl played while on garrision duty in September, 1776.
[September 16th, 1776] "...we had a long play at whirl with the Colonel and Mr. Kirtland, (who exercises among us with the greatest familiarity), some of the Indians, and such of the officers as saw fit: continued at it for a very considerable period of time. After which I went with some others and took a drink of grog..."
[September 18th, 1776] "...in the afternoon the Colonel, Parsons, and a number of us played whirl."
[September 20th, 1776 a.m.] "...we had a game or two more at whirl; at which Dr. Dunham gave me a severe blow on my mouth which cut my lip, and came near dislocating my under jaw..."
[September 20th, 1776 p.m.] "Played ball again."
Lt. Elmer makes mention of playing ball in October of that year, and again in 1777 in New Jersey when the Regiment had returned from the New York Frontier.
Some researchers into the origins of baseball have inferred from the two entries on September 20th that "Played ball again" is in reference to the previous game of Whirl, although no one knows anything more about the game, its origins, or how it was played.
An article by Bonnie S. Ledbetter entitled "Sports and Games of the American Revolution", published in the Journal of Sports History, Vol. 6 No. 3 (Winter 1979), proposes that Whirl may have been a game of Elmer and his associates own invention to while away their unaccustomed leisure time at Fort Schuyler, as his is the only known reference to a game by that name. If so, it may not have been very complicated to learn, as Mr. Kirtland the parson had only recently joined the regiment to replace Reverend Caldwell, yet seems to have joined in with great gusto. I tend to think that whatever game it was would have been very similar to other games more familiar to participants, especially if they were able to field a team that included their native american allies.
In any case, I find it quite fitting that a game which might have been a forerunner of our National Pastime was played during the Revolution by my ancestor Elias Dayton in upstate New York. It gives a little weight to Cooperstown, after all, even if old Abner Doubleday's claim is no longer taken as Gospel.