Who Invented Baseball?

Mandatory Credit: haulsofshame.com

Mandatory Credit: haulsofshame.com

The first game of the 111th World Series was a long one. Like more than five hours long. Do the math backwards and the first World Series was in 1903 (there was no World Series in 1904 before the tradition resumed again in 1905).

But jump back even further– all the way to 1839– and we see the misguided inception of the game of baseball.

Many have credited Abner Doubleday with the invention of the game of baseball. That, however, is inaccurate and untrue. Doubleday himself never claimed to have invented the game, and was at West Point in 1839. So where, then, did America’s Favorite Pastime come from?

One has to jump back to a murky history, across the ocean and back to the 18th century. American baseball’s closest relatives are found in the English games of rounders and cricket. Those games traveled across the Atlantic with the first colonizers of the New World, and as the decades passed, children played variations of both on playgrounds and at university.

With the turn of the American Industrial Revolution, men in busy urban areas sought recreation. In one city, New York City, a group of men organized a baseball club. And so, in 1845, the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club was founded. It was then, that we first see the coordinated organization of baseball in the United States.

Alexander Joy Cartwright– a firefighter and bank clerk– codified the rules for the group, most prominently the diamond-shaped infield and the three-strikes-you’re-out that define the game even today. He also, smartly, removed the beaning rule where the defense could get the runner out by pegging them with the live baseball.

These rule distinctions added more layers of intrigue, a faster pace, and a little more gamesmanship to the young game of baseball.

And in 1846, the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club played the first unofficial organized American baseball game against a cricket team.

And the game of baseball was born. Not ‘new’ from the mind of a Civil War soldier, but the product of a group of men from New York looking for ways to, well, pass the time.

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