||A BRIEF HISTORY
|The origin of American Baseball lies in an informal offshoot of the
English sport of cricket, and also to another English game called
"rounders", played in the Colonies in the mid 1700's.
The details of just who actually 'invented' the game of baseball are
blurred by the mists of time.
It is a commonly held belief that Abner Doubleday (1819-1893) was
the "inventor" of baseball.
In 1907, a special baseball commission recognized Doubleday as
baseball's 'inventor', based on the testimony of a boyhood friend
named Abner Graves, but this is probably not accurate.
Doubleday was actually a Cadet at West Point when this was all
supposedly taking place in Cooperstown. Doubleday actually went on
to achieve an illustrious career in the Union Army, eventually achieving
the rank of Major General.
Complicating the matter, Doubleday had a cousin (also named Abner),
15 years his junior, who lived in Cooperstown at the time.
Graves and this cousin were the same age, so it is now believed that
Graves was actually referring to the cousin concerning these baseball
"That's the latest discovery", said Jim Gates, library director at the
National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown.
"There is no specific birthplace or birth date or individual 'inventor' of
baseball. We all just like to retain the Abner Doubleday legend as part
of our American folklore".
"I think Abner Doubleday is a nice father figure for the game", states
John Thorn of Kingston, New York, a nationally renowned baseball
historian and author.
"But, for historians and students of the game, it's no more helpful than
Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny".
Thorn readily acknowledges that Doubleday distinguished himself with
many great accomplishments during his lifetime.
"One of these accomplishments however, was not the invention of
baseball," he said. "It's kind of like George Washington and the cherry
tree. It creates a wonderful image for children and it has a sweet sound
to it for adults."
The game of baseball evolved from a variety of stick-and-ball games
played during the warm summer months by youngsters all across the
Tom Heitz of the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown has stated
recently that the Hall of Fame recognizes September 23, 1845 as the date
when the rules of modern baseball were formally written down and
Alexander Joy Cartwright (1820-1892), a surveyor by profession and
member of the New York Knickerbockers Baseball Club, drew up the new
rules transforming this playground game into a more elaborate and
interesting sport to be played by adults.
They were known as the "Knickerbocker Rules". Among the many
innovations, they established the layout and dimensions of the modern
Some of the more interesting "Knickerbocker Rules":
- Foul balls were not considered strikes
- There were no called strikes
- Pitching was underhanded
- "Soaking" was abolished (under the old rules, a base runner was out
when hit by a ball thrown by one of the fielders)
- The game was won by the first team to score 21 "aces" (runs), however many innings it took.
The first organized baseball game between two teams using the new
rules was June 19, 1846 between the Knickerbockers and the New York
Baseball Club. The game was played at Elysian Field, in Hoboken, New
The New York Club defeated the Knickerbockers 23-1.
Cartwright eventually moved to Hawaii where he became a successful
businessman. There, he established the first baseball league composed
of teams throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
His Hawaiian leagues became a model for the modern American and
National Leagues that we know today.
Cartwright was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938.
Baseball Before 1845
What is still not very well known or understood, is the baseball that was
played prior to 1845. Historians have found references to early forms of
baseball in New York cities such as Rochester and Genesco in the
Organized clubs played in Philadelphia and in the New York City area in
the 1830's. Evidence has been found of early baseball in Massachusetts,
New Hampshire, Vermont, and other northeastern states.
There have been some references to baseball as far back as the
American Revolution in the late 1700's.
It was called 'baseball', but most of these early games were experiments
using various rules and methods of play that may or may not resemble
the game of baseball as we know it today.
By the 1850's, baseball had become a leisure activity for wealthy young
men; but later on, after the Civil War, returning soldiers who had played
baseball behind the lines, brought the game with them back to their
Baseball was now both watched and played by Americans of every social
By the 1860s, the sport, unrivaled in popularity, was being described as
America's "national pastime."
Baseball was institutionalized and further developed by the National
Association in 1858. The Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first all-
professional team in 1869.
The National League (1876) and the American League (1903) competed in
the first World Series in 1903, and the first All-Star Game was held in 1933.
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|The Jerome Lemelson-MIT Program, Inventor of the Week Archive
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Engineering
30 Memorial Drive, Building E60, Room 215, Cambridge, MA 02142
Pre-1845 Baseball: Was Abner Doubleday Really the Originator?
By Tom Helgesen, HistoryBuff.com
The Newspaper Collectors Society of America
Bibliography: Thomas M. Spaulding, "Abner Doubleday," DAB, 5: 391-92
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Encylopaedia Britannica Online
| "If you don't know where you are going,
you will wind up somewhere else."....Yogi Berra