Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Barry Bonds.
These are few of the royalties of the iconic bat-and-ball game, Baseball. Baseball has skyrocketed to fame in the mid-1850s when it was considered as the “national pastime” in the United States of America.
Now, it has been played all over the world and has become one of the many popular sports next to basketball.
Children wear gloves and hold bat as they enthusiastically play a baseball game. Schools and states conduct baseball competitions. We also have world championships and international leagues participated by professional baseball players from different countries.
Probably, you are one of the millions who are curious what and how to play baseball.
Let us take you on a tour of the amazing world of baseball.
The beginning of baseball may be traced back in Europe’s history. According to many accounts, France has been playing a game called “la soule” which has rules similar to baseball in 1344.
However, the first use of the term “baseball” was only during the early 1700s. In a book called A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, English publisher John Newbery mentioned of “baseball”. But the clear mechanics of the game was not yet clear that time.
In the 18th century, Britain, France, Germany and other parts of Europe had developed and played folk games called cricket and rounders. These games were brought to America during the American Revolution. From then on, schools and college campuses have been playing these games with different variations.
In September 1845, Shane Ryley Foster was the first to write rules for a game for Knickerbockers, a “baseball” club. They named their group “New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club”. One member of the club was Alexander Cartwright. He was the one who formalized the rules.
The first “baseball” game with formal rules was during 1846 – a game between Knickerbockers and New York Baseball Club. Cartwright’s team lost.
In 1857, the rules and mechanics were discussed at the first ever official convention participated by 25 teams. Fast forward to 1871 where the National Association was played. This was the first professional baseball league. In 1903, the first World Series took place.
Now, this sport has been widely known in the world in which people are aspiring to be professional baseball players. Follow the blog page here.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, it should be noted that the year where the National Association (NA) was established was a rather rocky time for the sport itself. There were massive displays of unsportsmanlike conduct.
It was also very regular for players to hop from one team to another depending on the salary for a particular game. This made it quite hard for team owners to really build teams that had players with complete loyalty.
In a team sport like baseball, it is important that the players play with their team’s victory in mind. So in order to break past all of this, in was in 1876 that the National League (NL) was formed.
The goal of the NL was to standardize the playing format and to create formal contracts with players. This was in the hopes to stop them from their habitual team jump. Another of the NL’s goals was to formalize the number of teams.
At the time, it was completely normal for just anyone to create their own team. What usually follows is that that team would eventually dissolve (given all the team hopping).
This would mean that if that particular team was slotted to play against another team, it completely threw the scheduling into disarray! It was NOT a great time for baseball.
The NA did not really appreciate the NL muscling in on their “territory”. Today, the NA is known by another name: Minor League Baseball. The NL went on to establish much of the rules that is strictly followed by the teams of today. In their growth, they even absorbed the American League (AL) to eventually become the Major League Baseball.
Dip in Popularity
While it is generally accepted that baseball had a heightened popularity in the 1850s, it was not a continuous thing. As the standardization of rules and regulation was still an ongoing process, there was a point in time where the game wasn’t as popular. This was known as the Dead Ball Era. The playing was sloppy and the entire game was dominated by pitchers.
As you may know, when a ball is thrown around, it becomes muddy and hard to see. At the time, it was not yet a rule to change the ball into a fresh white one (which is easier to see). Therefore, a lot of missed plays occurred simply because the batters, catchers, and other members of both the offense and defense could not see the ball.
Rising like a Phoenix and then some
Baseball regained much of its popularity somewhere in the 1920’s. What was generally odd about it is that most historians attribute the rekindling of interest due to a tragic event.
You see, it was around this time that Ray Chapman had died on the field. To date, he is the only Major League player who is known to have died because of an on-field injury—his head was struck by a pitch.
It was this same tragic incident that jolted all of the governing bodies of baseball into reviewing and restructuring the safety procedures for all players and their audiences.
When the 2nd World War broke out, it was only natural that baseball suffered quite a bit. Men were needed in the front lines and many of the established players signed up to join the cause. It was during this time that team owners realized that their businesses were in real danger—after all, who would watch a game where there are no players?
This was when they got together and formed the All-American Girl Professional Baseball League. While they were known to have only functioned for about 11 years, the movement was a progressive one for women and society as a whole. After the war ended, baseball recovered much of its popularity.
This was because players sorely missed the game and everyone needed a distraction from the realities of war. It was a galvanizing point and it surely drove home the emphasis on Baseball being the National Pastime of the USA.
To this day, baseball has enjoyed an enduring spot in the hearts and minds of many all over the globe—and who can blame people for that? It’s a wonderful game with a long history.