Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now




Baseball’s Beginning

Posted on April 23, 2014 by Scott Huntington

Before it became America’s pastime, before all of the performance-enhancing drugs, before the Babe, before the Big Red Machine, and even before the Yankees wore pinstripes, baseball began. Like many things that began long ago, the origins of the game of baseball are unclear. Although the puzzle may not be entirely complete, we certainly have plenty of pieces which show us the path that was taken to get to how baseball is played today. From its roots across the pond to the development of more modern rules, baseball’s genesis was not one simple event in sports history.

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Rounders

Just as football developed from an alternative way to play rugby, baseball wasn’t created out of thin air. Instead, it came from an old English game known as “rounders”. Rounders was derived from the sport of cricket, but with some obvious differences, such as running in a more circular path rather than a straight back and forth one. As baseball’s ancestor, rounders lent its diamond shape to the modern game, as well as having a pitcher located within the diamond, though in rounders the pitcher is called the “bowler”.

Unlike the three-out system for each baseball inning, rounders normally featured two innings in which all nine batters would face the bowler. The inning would only be over when enough batters were on base or out with no one left to face the next ball. Like baseball, rounders includes four “posts” that are the equivalent of bases in our game, with a round/run being scored when a batter reaches the fourth post.

From England to America

 The game of rounders made its way to America and began to transform. The first account of a game that resembled baseball more than rounders came in an 1829 book called The Boy’s Own Book. Although the game was referred to as “round ball” or “base”, it was very similar to how baseball is currently played. According to the book, “round ball” or “base” included a home base. Also, outs were recorded with three missed swings of the bat and other identical ways to today’s game.

The game that was talked about in The Boy’s Own Book still contained some critical differences from the game of baseball, however. For instance, a player would pitch to his own team and batters would run clockwise around the bases after hitting the ball. Despite the differences, rounders was well on the way to turning into baseball at that point.

Creation of an Enduring Sport

The current state of baseball can be attributed to some New York men who came together in 1845. Those men started the first baseball club in history—the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club. Within the club, one man in particular had as large an impact on the game of baseball as any person ever has. Alexander Cartwright, a bank clerk and volunteer firefighter, codified a set of rules that would make the game of baseball run as smoothly as Johnson Machinery’s hydraulic cylinder services make hydraulic equipment run. Not only did Cartwright add foul lines to the field of play for baseball, he also took out a rule in previous games that allowed for runners to be out when a fielding player threw and hit them with the ball. Cartwright’s rule to tag runners made for a safer game that allowed for a harder ball to be used, creating a better spectacle.


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