Baseball is the true American pastime, and it is a sport with a rich history, an exciting present, and a long future before it. Most historians place the origin of baseball as the derivative of the English game called "rounders". Rounders became popular in America in the early nineteenth century, and was called "townball" by some sources. It was thus named because individual towns would form teams and compete; later, baseball clubs were formed in larger cities.
Abner Doubleday is often cited as the inventor of the game, but in reality, the true founder of baseball was Alexander Cartwright. In 1845, Cartwright took it upon himself to create a formalized set of rules by which all baseball teams would be obliged to play. His game, in 1846, was the first recorded baseball contest. His team, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York City lost to the New York Baseball Club at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. In 1857, many amateur teams convened to discuss rules. These teams and their delegates eventually coalesced into the National Association of Base Ball Players. This was effectively the first organized baseball league.
In the 1860s, the looming terror of the Civil War caused baseball teams to drop drastically. Though formalized teams were scarce, Union soldiers carried the rules of the game with them throughout the country, spreading the game's influence and appeal. When the war ended, more people were playing the game than ever were before. By 1868, there were over one hundred clubs; they each sent delegates to the league's national convention. As the popularity of the game grew, teams began to charge admission to games, or else they were forced to seek sponsors or ask for donations. Winning became essential to inspire others to turn out their pockets in favor of baseball.
In 1871, the Cincinatti Red Stockings became the first completely professional team, whose players were no longer "amateurs"--they were always paid handsomely. Though some wanted to preserve the amateur teams, soon they became obsolete as professional games and players took center stage. In 1871, the National Association became the first professional baseball league.
The game of baseball has seen many changes in its august history. Many leagues usurped the National Association, and these in turn were eclipsed by bigger, better, more influential leagues of players. Eventually, in 1922, the Supreme Court announced that baseball enjoyed a monopoly. In the 20s, the baseball we know today became apparent.
The Twenties brought true stars to the fore, like the legend Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox. When he was traded to the New York Yankees, he revolutionized the game with his excellence as a home run hitter. In 1947, baseball saw another legend, who was also a sign of the changing climate in America--Jackie Robinson. He was the first Black man to play professional baseball, with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Robinson paved the way for complete integration in the early sixties.
Nowadays, we know that the Major League Baseball Players Association is synonymous with the baseball we know and love, and names like Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson have become the stuff of legend.
If you're reading this, you probably have a passing interest in baseball, if not more. Just in case you're unfamiliar with the rules, however, here's a summary of how the game is played, and the rules to follow.
There are nine players allowed on a team at a time, but they can't all be on the field at the same time. There are also nine innings in a game, in which each teams tries to score as many runs as possible in only three outs. The team that is not batting is playing defense, trying to make three outs so the team batting can't score any runs. There is a batter, a pitcher, an umpire, and the men in the outfield. The pitcher stands on the pitcher's mound in the middle of the diamond and pitches to the batter, who tries to score a home run. The better the batter bats, the more chance his team has of scoring runs.
The rules of baseball are many and complex, and they can be found on the MLB website, as well as the history website listed below, where the original rules set forth by Alexander Cartwright may also be found. The game we know today as baseball has changed in the past into the sport we all love today, the sport that stands as a symbol of American freedom and is the essential American pastime.