At the risk of assuming baseball started elsewhere, for purposes of this tidbit, we will presume the United States is the point of reference. Historically, however, two English games, Rounders and Cricket had influences on today’s sport of baseball. And in the U.S. baseball has been around almost from the founding of this great nation…Declaration of Independence signed in 1776, with baseball on its heels some few years later.
- The Early Years
In the beginning, around the early1800’s, several ‘baseball clubs’ formed; the clubs in Cincinnati and New York were among the first. Although with that said, be wary of a spoiler alert to follow: the person credited with inventing American baseball didn’t. Strangely the Baseball Hall of Fame resides in this person’s hometown, Cooperstown, New York, but Abner Doubleday is not the inventor of America’s sport. However, the person who experts and fans alike credit with establishing the basic rules of American baseball in his book is Alexander Cartwright. Of course present day rules reflect slight modifications to the original ones. For example, in the game we enjoy, a fielder does not throw the ball to hit the base runner to get him out (ouch!).
- Moving into History
Available history sources inform that the first baseball league actually had its beginning in 1871 after the National Association of Base Ball Players formed in 1858. And the first National league game was played in 1876 for over 3000 spectators to watch the Philadelphia Athletics lose to the Boston Red (Sox came later). Unfortunately between 1858 and 1871 America experienced tremendous unrest in the form of the Civil War…thought civil it was certainly not. Even baseball suffered effects of this conflict.
- Making It Better!
Some clubs had black players as early as 1871, but, sadly, due to growing racism the National Association of Baseball Players voted to eliminate any club with black players. This action led to the formation of a series of black semi-professional and professional leagues. To illustrate the history of black baseball players, their involvement, and subsequent success please refer to this website in which most of the information is accurate and you may recognize names, even from the early days of the late 1800s with many more in the years to follow; one of my personal favorites being Hank Aaron. 1947, a record year setting year, saw Jackie Robinson sign with the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first black player in the heretofore all white national leagues. He was also selected Rookie of the Year that year. Now we have players from all over the world playing as professionals in America, making baseball a game for everyone.
- That Game for All Ages
Of course baseball is also a game for all ages: youth leagues (Little League, Babe Ruth League, and American Legion League, to name a few); high school, college, and minor leagues. In fact, scouts may use these last three to encourage players to consider baseball as a profession as they mature. But my all-time favorite are the kids (of all ages, mind you!) at the local neighborhood parks just playing ball ‘cause that’s just what you do come spring!
Started and Still Here
Baseball stands firm occupying a special place in American history as a game reminding us of childhood memories of family, team loyalty, and the excitement of hearing the ‘crack’ of the bat. Some things just naturally go together as American icons, not a person, but hot dogs, mom’s apple pie, and baseball! How can you not yearn for a seat in the outfield bleachers on a cool April afternoon or evening with a bag of peanuts or popcorn and soft drink ready to watch your favorite baseball team and suddenly hear the umpire yell, “Play ball!!”
Jacob Smith is a freelance writer and baseball guru from Boston. He is currently sharing information on the history of sports and famous players via blogging.
Photo Credits: Wikipedia