“Conversations on Chymistry, in which the elements of that science are familiarly explained and illustrated by experiments and plates,” by Jane Haldiman Marcet, is published anonymously in London. The first American edition is published in New Haven in 1809 with different additions. An 1836 American edition, edited by Rev. J.L. Blake, who said he did not change the book, relates on pp. 15-16, chap. 1 “On General Properties of Bodies,” a conversation between Emily and Mrs. B., on the subject of inertia:
Emily: In playing base-ball I am obliged to use all my strengths to give a rapid motion to the ball; and when I have to catch it, I am sure I feel the resistance it makes to being stopped. But if I do not catch it, it would soon fall to the ground and stop itself.
Mrs B: Inert matter is as incapable of stopping of itself, as it is of putting itself in motion: when the ball cease to move, therefore, it must be stopped by some other cause or power; but as it is one with which you are yet unacquainted, we cannot at present investigate its effects.
(This discovery was made by Ken Mendelson, a retired physics professor at Marquette University.)
The earliest reference to baseball in the OED is Jane Austin’s “Northanger Abbey,” 1815.