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Spinning Baseball A BRIEF HISTORY
Spinning Baseball

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 Abner Doubleday 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 matters.

"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 country.

Modern Baseball

Tom Heitz of the National Baseball Library in Cooperstown has stated recently that the Hall of Fame recognizes September 23, 1845 as the date Alexander Joy Cartwright when the rules of modern baseball were formally written down and established.

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 baseball field.

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.

First Game

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 Jersey.

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 1820's.

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 hometowns.

Baseball was now both watched and played by Americans of every social status.

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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Sources Cited
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

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               you will wind up somewhere else."....Yogi Berra