There is no sport that evokes such nostalgia among Americans than baseball. So many people played this game growing up, such that it came to be known as a national pastime. Baseball is enjoyed by many people due to the fact that anyone of average height and weight can play, unlike in other sports such as basketball and football.
The origins of baseball date all the way back to the American civil war. This was between 1861 to 1865. It first started as a humble game of rounders, which was played on sandlots. It is the early champions of rounders who made baseball what it is today. They were able to include skills and mental judgment, which also involved scoring and record keeping.
This gave baseball gravity to grow and become one of America’s greatest games. As John Thorn put it, ‘baseball without records is inconceivable’. Most Americans know about Roger Mari’s sixty-one home runs in 1961, which broke Babe Ruth’s sixty home runs in 1927 than they know about president Reagans Electoral College votes breaking Roosevelts in 1936. This should tell you a thing or two on how the baseball culture is deeply rooted in the US.
Did you know that the word baseball was never mentioned in the United States until 1792? This was the known earliest mention of the game, and it came as a ban, prohibiting anyone from playing within eighty yards of Pittsfield, Massachusetts town meeting house. Later on, another baseball reference was made in what is now the Greenwich Village in New York. This was in 1823, and it referred to a game people regularly played on the city outskirts every Saturday.
The first professional baseball league in America was formed in 1871, and by the 20th century, most cities had professional teams. These teams were divided into the National and America leagues. This was during the regular baseball season, in which a team could only play against another team in the same league.
Each league would produce a winner, who was said to have won a pennant. The end of a regular season would see the playing of the World Series, in which winners from both leagues played against each other. The series had seven games, and the team that could win at least four were crowned the baseball champion of the year.
Although the same arrangement holds to date, some aspects have changed. The leagues are subdivided and pennants decided in a postseason series. This usually includes winners of each division playing against each other.
York Knickerbockers, formed in September 1845, was the first baseball team to play under these modern rules. It was originally formed as a social club, by the New York’s upper middle class. The club was amateur until it was disbanded to give way to new rules, which were formulated by the club members and popularly known as Knickerbocker Rules. The rules prohibited soaking the runner and instead advocated that fielders tag the runner. This is still done today and it’s been significant in avoiding fights and arguments that would arise from the plugging or soaking practice.
1857 saw the formation of the National Association Of Baseball Players (NABBP). This included sixteen New York clubs. The organization was the first to control baseball, govern the practices and launch a championship. By 1865, members had grown to a hundred, and to over four hundred by 1867.
This growth was mainly fostered by the civil war at the time and included clubs from other cities such as California. Soldiers from different states would meet and play baseball. This ultimately led to the unified version of baseball we have today.