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The Invention of America’s Favorite Pastime

· Stephen Geri,Sports,Baseball

Baseball has often been regarded as the All American sport, but its exact history remains a bit unclear. Throughout time and across the globe, similar games featuring a ball and a stick have been played, but its actual inception and implementation remain somewhat hazy. What remains very apparent, however, is that baseball has maintained its relevance and appeal since its creation, however long ago that truly was.

Formation
Most likely derived from two English games, cricket and rounders, baseball began to take shape in the 1700s. The exact date of the foundational sport’s creation is unknown, as identifying an individual or task in this manner would be nearly impossible. Still, recognizing the influence other games have had on the contemporary version of baseball we know could shed some light on its development. Rounders bears similarities to baseball in the number of bases and players, as well as the basic practice of hitting a ball with a stick, but the rules and physical elements are distinct enough to separate them.

It is possible, too, that the game of baseball was influenced by other cultures like Dutch and Native American. What seems to bear a significant impact on baseball’s development is its country of origin: baseball was arguably the first sport to emerge organically on what would be United States territory, and its ties to American culture are integral to its prevalence in society even today.

Early Development
There were no standardized rules for the game, no restrictions or concrete guidelines, so in spite of its popularity, there was no one way to play. It was popular among all age groups, especially young adults and working men. Unlike cricket, which appealed primarily to the upper class, baseball had been beloved by all. While some people believe that cricket and rounders were precursors to baseball, it is widely protested that the games are in fact “cousins” – similar and certainly related, but none more established or influential than the others.

Alexander Joy Cartwright
Some might call the man a legend, while most others don’t know his name. In autumn of 1845, some men in New York City created a group they called the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club. Cartwright, a bank clerk, took upon the task of establishing new rules that would ultimately provide the foundation for the baseball we recognize today. He called for a diamond-shaped infield, the three-strike rule, and the implementation of foul lines. Another prime effect he had was the abolition of tagging runners by throwing the balls at them, so as to avoid unnecessary danger and injury.

By the mid-1800s, the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club became better known as they played the official game against a team of cricket players. This, perhaps, marked the true beginning of modern baseball.

After these developments, baseball became the first professional sport. It began to spread globally, notably to Cuba and Japan at the start. The National Association of Baseball Players (NABBP) was formed in 1950, and the influence of baseball has only continued to spread worldwide over time.

Thinking of baseball’s emergence as an evolution rather than a creation could be useful in understanding its history and development. Though the sport may not have one sole founder, baseball is a classic American favorite for good reason.

Originally published at StephenGeri.net on October 29, 2018.

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