History of Baseball

No one can tell for sure how baseball grew to be the game it is and whether it was created or just developed from other sports. It used to be thought that a man called Abner Doubleday simulated baseball in 1839 when he was a cadet in the US Army Academy, West Point, and that he set out the first baseball field at Cooperstown, in New York. For quite a few years it has been known that this is not so, but baseball officials have given Abner Doubleday credit for inventing baseball, and have established the National Baseball Museum in Cooperstown. Anyway, it is a nice story, and we can enjoy visiting Cooperstown and seeing the National Baseball Museum there. Inside the museum are many treasured bats and balls and gloves and other things that once belonged to famous baseball players. If you play baseball, you probably began by throwing a ball back and forth with a playmate-playing “catch.”

A little later you began to hit the ball with a bat. Then you started to run to a base and back. Probably that is how baseball itself began in the early days of the American colonies before the United States became an independent country. The game of cricket was also brought over to the colonies from England. (You can read about cricket in a separate article.) And some of the early colonists remembered a game played in the English towns called rounders. In this game, the players had to run around stakes driven into the ground to score runs. The first game that really began to look like baseball was called town ball. It was played in the larger towns and cities of the United States at the beginning of the 19th century. At that time boys who lived in the country could not always get enough friends to play a large game.

Whenever a few boys got together, they played what they called one old cat. In this game the batter, after hitting the ball, ran to a base and then scored by running back to home, the place he had started from. When more boys played, the game was called two old cat because there were two bases instead of one. Town ball had enough players so that three bases, plus home, could be used. In all these early games the scoring was the same. The batter who got back to the home base, whether from one, two, or three other bases, scored a run, and the team that scored the most runs was the winner. It seems most likely that a man named Alexander Cartwright laid out the first real baseball field in 1846, in Hoboken, New Jersey. The game became more and more known, and during the Civil War, it was played in many army camps. When the Civil War was over, baseball soon became the national game of the United States. The rules that govern baseball have been changed from time to time, but the game is basically the same that our great grandfathers played and watched.

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