The History of Baseball

The Origins of The Great Game of Baseball

Baseball is thought to have originated as a game called “rounders” in England and gained popularity in the United States in the early 1900s. It has gone by many names in the past, including “town ball,” “goal ball,” round ball,” and simply “base,” just to name a few. The first recorded rules were written by Shane Ryley Foster for a team called the Knickerbockers, based in Manhattan. Modern baseball has two official leagues, the National League and the American League; but many others cropped up over the years to offer competition.

Some Notable Dates

1845: Cartwright formalizes the rules
1846: the first recorded game is played by the Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New York City (including Cartwright) and the New York Baseball Club (Cartwright’s team loses)
1857: rules and issues are discussed at the first official convention (25 teams were represented)
1858: the National Association of Baseball Players is formed and becomes the first organized amateur baseball league
1860’s: the civil war causes the number of teams to drop off, but soldiers introduce the sport to other areas of the country
1868: over 100 teams are represented at the annual convention
1869: the Cincinnati Red Stockings become the first professional team with paid players
1871: the National Association becomes the first professional baseball league
1875: the National Association is replaced by the National League, which is run by businessmen rather than the players themselves
1882: a rival league is formed, called the American Association
1884: the Union Association is formed to allow players more freedom with their contracts, but financial difficulties force this league to close after only one season
1890: the Players League, similar to the Union Association, is formed but again experiences extreme financial hardship. This league also lasts for just one season.
1890: competition forces the American association to close its doors, and players migrate to the National League
1901: the American League sprouts up as another contending league
1903: the first World Series is played
1911: the introduction of a ball with a cork center eases the way for batters
1914: the Federal League tries to establish itself, failing after just two seasons
1960: the threat of yet another league causes the two existing leagues to expand from 16 to 24 teams

Notable Players

George “Babe” Ruth: one of the greatest home-run hitters the game has ever seen
Hank Aaron: another prolific home-run hitter, holding the home-run record at 755 for his career until 2007
Jackie Robinson: the first African American to cross the unspoken lines of segregation
Lou Gehrig: also known as “The Iron Horse,” played in 2,130 consecutive games and won a triple crown in 1934
Mickey Mantle: hit home runs both left- and right-handed, voted MVP three times in his career, and won seven World Series titles with the Yankees

Notable Games

1922: the highest combined score in Major League history (Cubs 26, Phillies 23)
1932: Babe Ruth calls his shot, pointing to center field and hitting a home run to that exact spot on the very next pitch
1951: Bobby Thomson hits a walk-off home run to lead the Giants to victory over the Dogders, which led to a victory in the pennant playoffs. This moment is now known as the “shot heard ’round the world.”

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