You might have never played the game or watched a game or went to a game but it has always been there. Baseball is America’s favorite pastime. For many, spring hasn’t officially started until the opening day of Major League Baseball. This is the week where the teams will take to the stadiums all across the country for their first “at bats” of the season. At this point, anyone can become the World Series Champions because the field is wide open. Even if you’re not a diehard fan of the game, you will certainly appreciate a little baseball history to welcome in a new season.
Who Started It All?
Baseball is truly an American sport. Like most American sports, it has its origins from overseas. Or does it? In 1903, a sportswriter by the name of Henry Chadwick wrote that the game of baseball totally ripped off the British game of rounders. This upset current baseball league Albert Spalding who proudly claimed that baseball was 100% American as apple pie. Spalding set up a commission to get to the bottom of this matter. After exhaustive research, everyone agreed that it was Abner Doubleday who invented baseball up in Cooperstown, New York. This would have probably been news to Doubleday who was only awarded this honor 15 years after his death.
The reason that Abner got the nod was that a mining engineer by the name of Abner Graves said he was there on that spring afternoon of 1839 when the young West Point cadet invented the game. Graves supported his claim with a diagram of the first diamond purportedly drawn by Doubleday himself. The problem was that Graves was only five years old at the time and Doubleday wasn’t even in Cooperstown in 1839. Still, Doubleday got the credit and that’s why the baseball Hall of Fame museum is in Cooperstown.
The First League
Although folks were playing a version of baseball all through the mid 1800s, they were all considered amateurs. In other words, they did it for the love of the sport. It wasn’t until 1871 that the first professional baseball league was formed and players started getting paid. The first professional baseball season had the Chicago White Stockings team taking an early lead. Sadly, they had to drop out of contention in the aftermath of the Great Chicago Fire. It was the Boston Red Stockings who dominated the league in those first opening seasons.
That first group The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players only lasted until 1875. That’s when the National League took over and put the emphasis on the clubs as opposed to the players. This didn’t sit too well with the players especially when they were forced to continue playing games even when it was clear they were out of the running for the championship. Imagine if a team just stopped playing today?
“A Gentleman’s Agreement”
In this National League, the club owners adopted a “gentleman’s agreement” that prevented non-white players from professional baseball. This ban lasted until 1947 when the great Jackie Robinson took to the field.
Over the years, that National League broke off into separate regional leagues. Today, there are two official leagues that make up MLB. The National League and the American League. There are 15 teams in each league. The leagues play amongst each other until a winner is decided. Then they go head to head for the World Series. Now you know a bit about baseball. Batter up!
If you’ve never taken in a game, then you should add that to your bucket list. There are many folks who build their vacations around a tour of baseball stadiums. Play ball!