One of the most popular sports in the United States is baseball. It is even regarded as the national pastime (Rader 42). For the average American, every summer and spring time, is the season to play this exciting “bat and ball” game of baseball. Still, other baseball enthusiasts who catch the games live or on screen as they keep track of the progress of their players and teams of choice.
At the eastern region of the country during the middle part of the 1800s, people started to learn how to play the game of baseball (Reiss 236). Eventually, the game started to spread across the Untied States. In the year 1876, the National League was established. In 1900, the American League was then formed (Riess 4). Over the years, the game began to spread beyond the borders of the United States reaching different regions around the globe.
Historians suggest that the game of baseball can trace its origins from an old English sport called rounders (Block and Wiles 3). They claim that it is from this game that early Americans developed what is now known as baseball. Notwithstanding the aforementioned evidence however, many people still regard Abner Doubleday, an American as the inventor of the game.
Beginning in the year 1700s, American colonists who settled in New England started to play a game of rounders (Block and Wiles 160). The game they played came to be known by several other names such as the Massachusetts game, town ball, and occasionally, baseball. Sets of rules have been printed in books every so often. Nonetheless, those who play the game normally manipulated the rules in accordance to their local traditions (Block and Wiles 15).
The distances between the bases, the number of bases themselves, as well as the number of players on either side, together with other rules of the game differed from one place to the other. Eventually, Americans changed the game into what is now known as baseball. Among the significant highlights of such development happened the moment the practice of soaking runners has been replaced by the practice of tagging them instead. Historians believe that the players in New York City made such changes to the rules of the game some time around 1830s or 1840s (Block and Wiles 185).
Regardless of the evidences presented suggesting that baseball developed from the game of rounders, many people still believe that it was indeed Abner Doubleday of Cooperstown, New York, who must be regarded as the inventor of the game. Many people believe that Doubleday invented the game in the year 1839 (Rader 7).
During the early part of the 1900s, the Doubleday Theory surfaced from a debate over the origin of the game. Albert G. Spalding proposed the appointment of a commission to resolve the argument over the origin of baseball. Many people expressed before the commission that the game developed from rounders. In 1908 however, through a published report made by the commission, Doubleday was credited to be the inventor of baseball. The commission based its judgment from a letter written by the childhood friend of Doubleday named Abner Graves. Graves claim that he has witnessed the invention of the game (Rader 93).
Today, historians believe that Doubleday has hardly any contribution if not none, to the game of baseball (Riess 17). Moreover, they stress that the game illustrated by Grave involved the routine of soaking runners. Therefore, the game Graves describe is actually no different from rounders.
A New York sportsman named Alexander Cartwright is acknowledged to be the Father of Organized Baseball (Block and Wiles 20). Cartwright formed the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York in 1845. He was also the one who crafted its set of rules. The first of its kind, the club’s main goal is to play baseball. The set of rules initially drafted as well as the additions which came in 1848 and 1854 largely influenced how the game is played at present (Block and Wiles 84).
In accordance to the original set of rules, the distance between the bases measures 90 feet or 27.4 meters (Block and Wiles 82). Each base is composed of nine players. The 1845 set of rules was where the earliest recorded mention of the need to tag runner instead of the need to soak them can be found. Three years after, the set of rules has been amended indicating the need to tag the first base to put a batter out on a ground ball. This rule is still being followed until today. In 1854, the force out rule was incorporated (Block and Wiles 84).
The Knickerbocker Club competed with the New York Nine on June 19, 1846 making history as the first baseball game ever to be played involving two organized teams (Rader 7). The game was held at the Elysian Fields located in Hoboken, New Jersey. The teams scored 23 to 1 in favor of the New York Nine (Rader 9).
The Civil War was instrumental in spreading the game across the United States. Union soldiers regarded baseball as a form of recreation (Riess 4). Whenever Union soldiers play the game, prisoners and troops alike were watching them. Thus, more and more people learned how to play the game. When they returned home after the war, they shared what they have learned. From then on, the game has gained a huge following all over the country.
Interest in the game of baseball increased following the year 1900 (Rader 100). From that time on, it has become an important component of the average American life. Leisure time has been spent playing the game outdoors. Baseball players leading their respective leagues become local if not national heroes. Famous philosopher Jacques Barzun once said that if one wants to know the mind and heart of America, he or she must learn how to play the country’s national pastime (Riess 1).
Block, David and Tim Wiles. Baseball before we knew it: A Search for the Roots of the Game. Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2006.
Rader, Benjamin. Baseball: A History of America’s Game. Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2008.
Riess, Steven A. Touching Base: Professional Baseball and American Culture in the Progressive Era. 1999.