When Did Baseball Start?

The origin of baseball is still unclear. Generally it is accepted that the game was being played as far back as the 1830s. But there is disagreement as to how it began.

Possible Sources

The currently accepted theory is that the game was adapted from Rounders. It was a children’s game played in 17th century England. This game was mentioned in the book “A Little Pretty Pocketbook”. This was published in 1744 and called Rounders “base-ball”.

The basic rule stated that players would hit a ball with a bat. There were also fielding options and scoring was done by going around four bases. Its similarity in rules not to mention name have led most to suppose this was the origin of baseball.

The Game in America

The English who settled in the New World brought the game with them. Although popular since the 1820s to 30s, there were no standardized rules. In 1845 that all changed when Alexander Cartwright established rules that would become the standard. Among them were the 90 ft base lines and having the batter at home plate. His creation of other rules and innovations became very popular with other teams and some remain used to this day.

The First Game

The first game on record took place on July 18, 1846. Cartwright’s team, the New York Knickerbocker lost to the New Yorks. The score was 23 – 1 in four innings. On May 1857, the first meeting between teams took place. It was to straighten out rule differences between New York and Massachusetts games.

Another event important to the origin of baseball took place on March 10, 1858. The National Association of Baseball Players was organized. Further rule changes were announced. Two of the most important were changing the scoring unit from aces to runs. It was also decided the game would end in nine innings.

The National and American Leagues

The National Association of Baseball Players was the first professional league. It opened on March 4, 1871. It only ran for four seasons. While popular the games became rowdy. As the game was being played people gambled, were drinking and engaged in open bribery.

In 1876, the National League was created to replace it. Most of the rules were kept but the organizers removed gambling and the other negative aspects. The history and origin of baseball would never be the same. The National League would draw in the big clubs from all over the country. However in 1899, the American League emerged.

The two became rivals and would raid each other for talents and clubs. The time came when states would have two teams playing for the different leagues. In due time however the leagues settled their differences. In 1902, to determine the champion, the winners of the National and American leagues played in the first World Series.

Today the game is still considered as one of the most preeminent of American sports. It is also a huge hit in Japan and increasingly in other parts of the world as well.

The origin of baseball is still being debated but what cannot be questioned is its enduring popularity. Even with other emerging sports, the game is still regarded by most as deserving of the tag “America’s favorite pastime”.

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