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A leading archaeologist says the ancient Egyptians invented baseball 3,500 years ago before Abner Doubleday, the creator of today’s version, was even born!

“Baseball might well be the great American pastime but if they think they invented the game, they’re crazy,” Dr. Peter Drost told reporters in Arnhem, Holland.

“The Egyptians were playing a near identical version thousands of years ago. They called it ‘hit-catch’ and liked it so much they played teh sport year-round.”

The expert based his shocking claims on the translation of a papyrus scroll discovered in Egypt last year.

If his interpretation is accurate, Egyptian hit-catch was played by two six-man teams using crude leather gloves, wooden bats and a ball composed of tightly wrapped palm fronds.

The ancient game used only three bases, unlike today’s four, but the object was otherwise the same: Hit the ball as far as possible and round the bases to score.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the Egyptian version was an element of violence, said the expert.

Outfielders were equipped with small daggers and were allowed to hurl them at base runners after they rounded second and attempted to score.

“Players had the status of minor gods and almost always came from the upper classes,” said Dr. Drost.

“The lower classes and slaves were strictly forbidden to play but were very aware of the scores and top players.

“Spectators were almost exclusively from the families of the pharoahs and their courts,” Dr. Drost said. “They often viewed the action from what would be called sky boxes in our modern major league stadiums.

“Games were followed by wild parties and feasts. Winners were treated like heroes.”

The scroll the describes the Egyptian game is written in rule-book form and doesn’t say when the Egyptians started playing hit-catch.

It does suggest that the game was most popular between 1460 and 1390 BC, not long before the famed King Tut was born around 1370 BC.

Other evidence shows the game was still being played during Tut’s life.

“It’s not very clear why the Egyptians stopped playing, but we know that they did because there are no other references to the game in the historical record,” said Dr. Drost.

“I imagine after a while, people just get bored and start doing something else.”