Baseball is the team sport game with a ball and a bat. It is considered the most popular game among Americans. This research paper tells about the world history of baseball. It highlights the information about the founder of baseball and the first professional team. It demonstrates the most important historical dates that made the impact on the formation and the development of modern baseball. It shows how the simple game turned to the professional one. It demonstrates the participation of baseball in the Olympic Games and its modern status.
Keywords: baseball, Olympic Games, professional team, Americans, baseball clubs.
The History of Baseball
Baseball is one of the most popular games in the United States of America. It is considered the national sport which has fans from all over the country and among different ages. Baseball is a team game with a ball and a bat. Nowadays, it is the most common game not only in the U.S, but in Canada, the UK, Japan, and Cuba. In the classic version of the game, there are two opposing teams, of which each has 9 players. Both teams take turns attacking each other and protecting from the opposite team. Stages of the game in baseball are called innings.
There is a lot of controversy about the origin of baseball. Many experts are not sure what main features led to the creation of this game. Various historical references point to several types of older "relatives" of the game. In different times, people loved to play various outdoor games all over the world. Many of them were based on principle of hitting the ball with the bat, separating the playing field on zones. The Russian game ‘Lapta’ that is played with the ball and bat is known from the 13th century. French people had a similar game called in the 14th century. Finally, the Irish game of Rounders was particularly popular in the 15-16th centuries. However, the birthplace of baseball in its modern form is considered to be the United States of America.
Baseball is a sport that evokes a lot of memories in American people. It is the most widely played game in childhood, especially among boys. There are so many children who play this game that it is considered a national pastime. This game is very democratic. It means that it is available for people of average height and weight, unlike football or basketball. The origin of baseball is covered in mystery. The roots of the game go into the deep Middle Ages, and in that time we can find images of the game that are reminiscent of baseball, or at least, a game in which players bounce the ball with a stick. Traditionally, the origin of baseball is directly linked to rounders that migrated together with the English colonists across the ocean to the New World. However, the real baseball, in its form that we see today, was born in the United States in the early 19th century.
For a long time, the creation of this game was attributed to General Abner Doubleday, who lived in of Cooperstown. However, there is no clear evidence that can support this hypothesis. Thus, this man is mistakenly considered to have been the person who invented baseball (Sullivan, 1997, p. 8). However, there is another fact of the creation of the baseball club “Knickerbocker” that is documentary proved. In 1845, one New Yorker Alexander Cartwright created this baseball club and developed a set of rules that were soon adopted by other baseball clubs of the city. Cartwright established that one team must field nine players, four bases, and the distance between them must be 90 feet. Under these new rules, the team was practicing at the field. “With some practice behind them, the Knickerbockers were ready for their first game against a rival team” (“The first baseball game,” 2012, p.4). However, those rules did not help "Knickerbocker" to win the game. On June 19, 1846 in Hoboken, New Jersey, according to these rules, the first official game was played in which the "Knickerbocker" lost to "New York Nine". “Baseball’s appeal and spread democratized it, changing its character from a polite and gentlemanly pastime to a popular sport for the masses, whose urge to play was astonishing” (Seymour, 1990, p.6)
The rules that were developed by Cartwright were quickly adopted by other New York teams. In 1857, there formed the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) by sixteen clubs from New York area. It was an official organization that governed the sport and established the championship.
The Civil War helped distribute the popularity of the game far beyond the New York area. During the war, soldiers all over the United States of America played baseball. This also contributed to the formation of the national version of baseball. “By the summer of 1861 at least 200 juniors and senior teams were playing in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Westchester, and northern New Jersey” (Rader, 2008, p.10). The number of clubs increased to over 400 by 1867. In 1869, the first professional team was created. The name of this team was “Cincinnati Red Stockings”; players were paid money for participating in the games. There were other teams which followed this example. Eventually, after the split between amateurs and professional, it soon resulted in the formation of the first professional baseball league. It was the establishment of the National League. It happened in 1876.
Consequently, there appeared the American League. Originally, the American League was a minor league. However, in 1901, it officially received the status of a major like the National League. As a result, both leagues united in one Major League Baseball (MLB). Nowadays, they incorporate all best players from around the world and bring together 30 professional teams (Owens & Helmer, 2005, p.21). Major League Baseball is currently on top in the world baseball. Structure of the MLB championship is complex and has long regular season in which each team conducts more than 160 games. Series finals last up to four wins, in which the winners of the National and American leagues play.
Besides the U.S., baseball is very popular in Latin America, Japan, Korea, and Australia where the game was introduced by the Americans. This game is widely spread in Europe. There are various national teams which have even achieved the title of world champions.
The history of the world championships in baseball started in 1938. Although, that was the first tournament championship, it is difficult to call it this way as the game involved only two teams. Americans lost the four games and lost one to a British team. After this tournament, the British team never participated in such competition. In 1839, for the title of the strongest team of the dispute there were already 3 teams, in 1940 - 7, in 1941 - 9. World Championship of 1971, which brought together 16 teams for a long time remained the most representative of the number of participants (Zoss, Bowman, & Bowman, 2004, p. 24). However, for a long time participants of the championship teams were only Latin American countries and the United States. Australia participated in the competition since 1948, the Dutch and the Italians made their debut on them only in 1970, the representatives of Asia - in 1972. The most successful world championships were baseball players of Cuba. They became the world champion 25 times.
Baseball gained its popularity all over the world. As a result, it was included in the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, baseball had not been an Olympic sport for a very long time. In spite of a significant audience for the Olympic tournament matches, it was excluded from the Olympic Games. Its appearance at the Olympics was late enough. As it is known, the official Olympic baseball debut took place at 1992 Games in Barcelona where Cubans won the tournament. Historically, back in 1904 at the 3d Olympic Games in St. Louis, baseball was first introduced as a demonstration event. Further in history, this "demonstration" status was given to baseball at the Olympics for more than seven times. However, since 2008, baseball was dropped from the list of Olympic sports because of the low prevalence in the Olympic movement and little audience interest. Some experts believe that the main reason of why baseball was excluded from the Olympic Games was that Americans were simply tired of losing Olympic tournaments, especially to the Cuban players. Americans continued to lose even after the permission for them to include professional players to the team.
Since the 1950’s, the geographic scope of baseball began to expand. The cities of the West Coast had their own teams and were formed from the east or from the players that were provided from the existing teams. Up until the '70s, thanks to a very strict contract, the owners of baseball teams, in fact, owned the players. Since then, the situation has changed, and players may, within certain limits, offer their services to any team. As a consequence, there is a fierce battle for the top players. It gives the opportunity for the stars to make millions of dollars a year. The main disadvantage of this for Americans who like to watch it on television or stadium is a delay of tournament games (Walker & Bellamy, 2008, p. 78). As a result of disagreements between player unions and owners of teams, the games were suspended for a few months. If to consider the baseball both a sport and a business, at the end of 20th century, the indignant crowd felt the business element took over. Thanks to the American occupation forces after the World War 2, baseball became popular in Japan. In the 1990s , the Japanese player Hideo Nomo became one of the top pitchers of the team "Los Angeles Dodgers." People also actively play baseball in Cuba and other Caribbean countries. The evidence of the widespread popularity of baseball outside the United States is the fact that in 1996, the final match of the Olympic Games was played between Japan and Cuba.
The modern era of baseball is linked with money and entertainment rather than with professionalism like it was before. For the baseball team owners the baseball is a business that can bring a lot of money and, for regular people, helps to spend their leisure time. There were many moments over the division of money that comes from television revenue. The most memorable event is related to a two-day strike in 1985 that led to the cancellation of the World Series by MLB. Money that players received from their performance on the field is so large that it pushed them to work harder and harder. Eventually, it led to the steroid era, when players use drugs in order to improve their perform records. “Today, the most serious concerns about performance-enhancing drugs in baseball are related to steroids” (Porterfield, 2009, p.6). Such factors as the use of drugs, smaller size of the fields and others led to the current power age in baseball. Nowadays, baseball players can reach from 40 to 50 home runs in a season. Such performance was a rare event in the 1980s. Despite many changes, the baseball game remains the most popular game in the U.S.