Early History of BaseballAccording to myth, baseball was invented by Abner Doubleday in 1839 at Cooperstown, New York. This is a myth first promoted by Major League Baseball in 1907. In reality, the origins of the game go back even farther:
- The first written mention of baseball is in a 1792 Pittsfield, Massachusetts law which banned playing it within 80 yards of the town’s meeting house (Probably to prevent broken windows in the meeting house).
- An 1823 New York City newspaper article mentions baseball: “I was last Saturday much pleased in witnessing a company of active young men playing the manly and athletic game of base ball” (note the space).
- In 1845 the New York Knickerbockers amateur team was formed. Led by club member Alexander Cartwright, they laid out the “Knickerbocker Rules.” One significant change they made was to prohibit retiring a baserunner by hitting him with the baseball. This eliminated some fights that occurred under the previous rules.
- Baseball’s first governing body, the National Association of Base Ball Players, was formed in 1858. The founding clubs were all from New York City, but the organization quickly expanded to over 100 clubs by 1865 and more than 300 across the nation by 1867.
- Baseball’s popularity soared during the American Civil War. It was a great way to keep the soldiers occupied when there wasn’t much going on. Since it brought together soldiers from diverse location, it helped to standardize the rules, which had varied from one region to another.
- In 1869 the National Association of Base Ball Players decided to allow professional players. Players had been paid before, but always under the table.
- In 1869 the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first fully professional (at least openly) baseball team.