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The History of Baseball

Origins of baseball
The question of the origins of baseball has been the subject of debate and controversy for more than a century. Baseball (and softball), as well as the other modern bat, ball and running games, cricket and rounders, developed from earlier folk games.
Although the roots of baseball are English, similar games have also been played in other parts of the world. Oina is a Romanian ball sport, similar in some ways to baseball. Russia had a bat and ball game called Lapta since the 1300s. Germans played a game called Schlagball, which was similar to rounders. A "bowler" threw a ball to a "striker," who hit it with a club and then tried to run around a circuit of bases without getting hit with the ball by a defender.
Americans played a version of the English game Rounders in the early 1800s which they called "Town Ball". In fact, early forms of baseball had a number of names, including "Base Ball", "Goal Ball", "Round Ball", "Fletch-catch", and simply "Base". In at least one version of the game, teams pitched to themselves, runners went around the bases in the opposite direction of today's game, and players could be put out by being hit with the ball like in Schlagball. Like today, however, it was three strikes and you're out.
Few details of how the modern games developed from earlier folk games are known. Some think that various folk games resulted in a game called town ball, from which baseball was eventually born. Others believe that town ball was independent from baseball. Another ancient sport similar with baseball is the Romanian national sport called "oina". Its origins seems to be a pastoral game played among the shepherds from ancient times.

Folk games in England
A number of early folk games in England had characteristics that can be seen in modern baseball (as well as in cricket and rounders). Many of these early games involved a ball that was thrown at a target while an opposing player defended the target by attempting to hit the ball away. If the batter successfully hit the ball, he could attempt to score points by running between bases while fielders would attempt to catch or retrieve the ball and put the runner out in some way.
Woodcut from "A Little Pretty Pocket-Book"
Since they were folk games, the early games had no 'official' rules, and they tended to change over time. To the extent that there were rules, they were generally simple and were not written down. There were many local variations, and varied names.
Many of the early games were not well documented, first, because they were generally peasant games (and perhaps children's games, as well); and second, because they were often discouraged, and sometimes even prohibited, either by the church or by the state, or both.
Aside from obvious differences in terminology, the games differed in the equipment used (ball, bat, club, target, etc., which were usually just whatever was available), the way in which the ball is thrown, the method of scoring, the method of making outs, the layout of the field and the number of players involved.
An old English game called "base," described by George Ewing at Valley Forge, was apparently not much like baseball. There was no bat and no ball involved. The game was more like a fancy game of "tag", although it did share the concept of places of safety (for example, bases) with modern baseball.
In an 1801 book entitled The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, Joseph Strutt claimed to have shown that baseball-like games can be traced back to the 14th century, and that baseball is a descendant of a United Kingdom game called stoolball. The earliest known reference to stoolball is in a 1330 poem by William Pagula, who recommended to priests that the game be forbidden within churchyards.
In stoolball, a batter stood before a target, perhaps an upturned stool, while another player pitched a ball to the batter. If the batter hit the ball (with a bat or his/her hand) and it was caught by a fielder, the batter was out. If the pitched ball hit a stool leg, the batter was out. It was more often played by young men and women as a sort of spin the bottle.
According to many sources, in 1700, a Puritan leader of southern England, Thomas Wilson, expressed his disapproval of "Morris-dancing, cudgel-playing, baseball and cricket" occurring on Sundays. However, David Block, in Baseball Before We Knew It, reports that the original source has "stoolball" for "baseball". Block also reports that the reference appears to date to 1672, rather than 1700.
A 1744 publication in England by John Newbery called A Little Pretty Pocket-Book includes a woodcut of stoolball and a rhyme entitled "Base-ball." This is the first known instance of the word baseball in print. [1] The book was very popular in England, and was later published in Colonial America in 1762. [2] In 1748, the family of Frederick, Prince of Wales partook in the playing of a baseball-like game.
A 1791 bylaw in Pittsfield, Massachusetts bans the playing of baseball within 80 yards of the town meeting house.
Les Jeux des Jeunes Garçons is the first known book to contain printed rules of a bat/base/running game. It was printed in Paris, France in 1810 and lays out the rules for "poison ball," in which there were two teams of eight to ten players, four bases (one called home), a pitcher, a batter, and flyball outs.
Another early print reference is Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey, originally written 1798-1799. In the first chapter the young heroine is described as preferring "cricket, baseball, riding on horseback and running about the country to books". [3]
In 1828, William Clarke in London, published the second edition of The Boy’s Own Book which included rules of rounders. Similar rules were published in Boston, Massachusetts in "The Book of Sports", written by Robin Carver in 1834, [4] except the Boston version called the game "Base" or "Goal ball." The rules were identical to those of poison ball, but also added fair and foul balls and strike outs.
Also, in 1828, an article published in a Hagerstown, Maryland, newspaper briefly describes a young girl who's drawn away from her daily chores to play a familiar game with her friends. In "A Village Sketch," author Miss Mitford wrote: "Then comes a sun-burnt gipsy of six, beginning to grow tall and thin and to find the cares of the world gathering about her; with a pitcher in one hand, a mop in the other, an old straw bonnet of ambiguous shape, half hiding her tangled hair; a tattered stuff petticoat once green, hanging below an equally tattered cotton frock, once purple; her longing eyes fixed on a game of baseball at the corner of the green till she reaches the cottage door, flings down the mop and pitcher and darts off to her companions quite regardless of the storm of scolding with which the mother follows her runaway steps." [5]
The account by Fred Lillywhite (1829-66) of the first English cricket tour to Canada and the United States in 1859 refers to the "base-ball game [being] somewhat similar to the English and Irish game of "rounders"". A day's play was lost during a cricket match in New York due to snow, but a game of baseball was arranged about a mile away between "the players of that game and a portion of the English party" (The English Cricketers' Trip to Canada and the United States, 1860).
A unique British sport, known as British Baseball, is still played in parts of Wales and England. Although confined mainly to the cities of Cardiff, Newport and Liverpool, the sport boasts an annual international game between representative teams from the two countries.

Origins of Stoolball:
1. In stoolball, which developed by the 11th century, one player throws the ball at a target while another player defends the target. Stob-ball and stow-ball were regional games similar to stoolball. In stob ball and stow ball the target was probably a tree stump, since both "stob" and "stow" mean stump in some dialects. ( "Stow" could also refer to a type of frame used in mining). What the target originally was in stoolball is not certain. It could have been a stump, since “stool” in old Sussex dialect means stump.
2. According to one legend, milkmaids played stoolball while waiting for their husbands to return from the fields. Another theory is that stoolball developed as a game played after attending church services, in which case the target was probably a church stool.
Originally, the stool was defended with a bare hand. Later, a bat of some kind was used (in modern stoolball, a bat like a very heavy ping-pong paddle is used).
Clear regional variation:
There were several versions of stoolball. In the earliest versions, the object was primarily to defend the stool. Successfully defending the stool counted for one point, and the batter was out if the ball hit the stool. There was no running involved. Another version of stoolball involved running between two stools, and scoring was similar to the scoring in cricket. In perhaps yet another version there were several stools, and points were scored by running around them as in baseball.
Because of the different versions of stoolball, and because it was played not only in England, but also in colonial America, stoolball is considered by many to have been the basis of not only cricket, but both baseball and rounders as well.

Dog and cat
Another early folk game was cat and dog (or "dog and cat"), which probably originated in Scotland. In cat and dog a piece of wood called a cat is thrown at a hole in the ground while another player defends the hole with a stick (a dog). In some cases there were two holes and, after hitting the cat, the batter would run between them while fielders would try to put the runner out by putting the ball in the hole before the runner got to it. Dog and cat thus resembled cricket.

The history of cricket prior to 1650 is something of a mystery. Games believed to have been similar to cricket had developed by the 13th century. There was a game called "creag", and another game, Handyn and Handoute (Hands In and Hands Out), which was made illegal in 1477 by King Edward IV, who considered the game childish, and a distraction from compulsory archery practice.
References to a game actually called "cricket" appeared around 1550. It is believed that the word cricket is based either on the word cric, meaning a crooked stick possibly a shepherd's crook (early forms of cricket used a curved bat somewhat like a hockey stick), or on the Flemish word “krickstoel", which refers to a stool upon which one kneels in church.
There was at least one official Cricket Club open to membership, established in 1846 in the US at New York. However it appears the popularity of the sport waned during the US civil war, leaving baseball to become the more popular sport.

Cat, One Old Cat
A game popular in colonial America was one hole catapult, which used a catapult like the one used in trap-ball.
The game of cat (or "cat-ball") had many variations but usually there was a pitcher, a catcher, a batter and fielders, but there were no sides (and often no bases to run). A feature of some versions of cat that would later become a feature of baseball was that a batter would be out if he swung and missed three times.
Another game that was popular in early America was one ol' cat, the name of which was possibly originally a contraction of one hole catapult. In one ol' cat, when a batter is put out, the catcher goes to bat, the pitcher catches, a fielder becomes the pitcher, and other fielders move up in rotation. One ol' cat was often played when there weren't enough players to choose up sides and play townball. Sometimes running to a base and back was involved. Two ol' cat was the same game as one ol' cat, except that there were two batters.

The Abner Doubleday legend/myth

Abner Doubleday
The story that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in 1839 was once widely promoted and widely believed. There was and is no evidence for this claim, except for the testimony of one man decades after the fact, and there is more persuasive counter-evidence. Doubleday left many letters and papers, but they contain no description of baseball or even a suggestion that he considered himself a prominent person in the history of the game. His New York Times obituary makes no mention of baseball at all, nor does an encyclopedia article about Doubleday published in 1911. Contrary to popular belief, Doubleday has never been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, although a large oil portrait of him was on display at the Hall of Fame building for many years.
The legend of Doubleday’s invention of baseball was itself baseball's invention, in a sense that of Al Spalding, a former star pitcher, then club executive, who had become the leading American sporting goods entrepreneur and sports publisher. Debate on baseball origins had raged for decades, heating up in the first years of the 20th century. To end argument, speculation and innuendo, Spalding organized a panel in 1905. The panelists were his friend Abraham G. Mills, a former National League president; two United States Senators, ex-NL president Morgan Bulkeley and ex-Washington club president Arthur Gorman; ex-NL president and lifelong secretary-treasurer Nick Young; two other star players turned sporting goods entrepreneurs (George Wright and Alfred Reach); and AAU president James E. Sullivan.[6]
The final report published in 1908 included three sections: a summary of the panel’s findings written by Mills, a letter by John Montgomery Ward supporting the panel, and a dissenting opinion by Henry Chadwick. The research methods were, at best, dubious. The Mills Commission probably looked for and found the perfect story: baseball was invented in a quaint rural town without foreigners or industry, by a young man who later graduated from West Point and served heroically in the Mexican-American War, Civil War, and U.S. wars against Indians.
The Mills Commission concluded that baseball had been invented by Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York in 1839; that Doubleday had invented the word "baseball", designed the diamond, indicated fielder positions, written down the rules and the field regulations. However, no written records from 1839 or the 1840s have ever been found to corroborate these claims; nor could Doubleday be interviewed for he had died in 1893. The principal source for the story was a letter from elderly Abner Graves, a five-year-old resident of Cooperstown in 1839. But Graves never mentioned a diamond, positions or the writing of rules. Graves' reliability as a witness has also been questioned because he was later convicted of murdering his wife and spent his final days in an asylum for the criminally insane. Further, Doubleday was not in Cooperstown in 1839. Doubleday may never have even visited Cooperstown. [7] He was enrolled at West Point and there is no record of any leave time. Mills, a lifelong friend of Doubleday, had never heard him mention inventing baseball.
As noted previously, versions of baseball rules have since been found in publications that significantly predate the alleged invention in 1839.
Jeff Idelson of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York has stated, "Baseball wasn't really born anywhere," meaning that the evolution of the game was long and continuous and has no clear, identifiable single origin.

Alexander Cartwright
The first published rules of baseball were written in 1845 for a New York (Manhattan) base ball club called the Knickerbockers. The author, Alexander Joy Cartwright, is one person commonly known as "the father of baseball". Evolution from so-called "Knickerbocker Rules" to the current rules is fairly well documented.
On June 3, 1953, Congress officially credited Cartwright with inventing the modern game of baseball, and he is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, the role of Cartwright himself has been disputed. His authorship is sometimes called a significant exaggeration, a modern attempt to identify a single "inventor" of the game, thereby akin to the Doubleday myth. He was at least secretary for a group effort. One point undisputed by historians is the direct evolution from amateur urban clubs of the 1840s and 1850s, not the pastures of the small Cooperstowns of America, to the modern professional major leagues that began in the 1870s.

1845 The Original Rules of Baseball

Alexander Cartwright's 20 Original Rules of Baseball
1. Members must strictly observe the time agreed upon for exercise and be punctual in their attendance.
2. When assembled for practice, The President, or Vice President in his absence, shall appoint an umpire, who shall
keep the game in a book provided for that purpose, and note all violations of the By-Laws and Rules during the time
of exercise.
3. The presiding officer shall designate two members as captains, who shall retire and make the match to be played,
observing at the same time the players put opposite each other should be as nearly equal as possible; the choice of the
two sides to be then tossed for, and the first in hand to be decided in a like manner.
4. The bases shall be from "home" to second base, 42 paces; from first base to third base, 42 paces, equidistant.
5. No stump match shall be played on a regular day of exercise.
6. If there should not be a sufficient number of members of the club present at the time agreed upon to commence
exercise, gentlemen not members may be chosen in to make up the match, which shall not be broken up to take in
members that may afterwards appear; but in all cases, members shall have the preference, when present at the making
of the match.
7. If members appear after the game is commenced they may be chosen in if mutually agreed upon.
8. The game to consist of 21 counts, or aces; but at the conclusion of an equal number of hands must be played.
9. The ball must be pitched, and not thrown, for the bat.
10. A ball knocked out of the field, or outside the range of first or third base, is foul.
11. Three balls being struck at and missed and the last one caught is a hand out; if not caught is considered fair, and a
striker is bound to run.
12. A ball being struck or tipped and caught either flying or on the first bound is a hand out.
13. A player running the base shall be out, if the ball is in the hands of an adversary on the base, or the runner is touched
with it before he makes his base; it being understood, however, that in no instance is a ball to be thrown at him.
14. A player running who shall prevent an adversary from catching or getting the ball before making his base is a hand
15. Three hands out, all out.
16. Players must take their strike in a regular turn.
17. All disputes and differences relative to the game, to be determined by the Umpire, from which there is no appeal.
18. No ace or base can be made on a foul strike.
19. A runner cannot be put out in making one base, when a balk is made by the pitcher.
20. But one base allowed when a ball bounds out of the field when struck.sides to be then tossed for, and the first in hand
to be decided in a like manner.

Baseball being played during the Civil War