Baseball has its origins in stick and ball games that emerged in most cultures. Most experts believe that it is based on an English game called rounders, and sources report that it became popular in the early 19th century under the name of townball, base, or baseball. Back then, small towns created teams, and baseball clubs formed in the larger cities. Finally, in 1845, Alexander Cartwright created a list of rules for all teams, which is mostly still in place today.
The Beginning of Baseball Contests
In 1846, the first recorded baseball contest took place. Cartwright’s knickerbockers lost to the New York Baseball Club in a game at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. As these amateur games became more popular, in 1858, 25 teams from the Northeast formed the National Association of Base Ball Players.
During the Civil War, the number of baseball clubs dropped. However, Union soldiers took the love of baseball to other parts of the country. By the annual convention in 1868, there were more than 100 clubs. Their expenses grew, so they were charging admission to games and seeking donations and sponsors. Some players were secretly paid, and others were given jobs by sponsors.
The first completely professional team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869. They won 65 games and didn’t lose any. More people wanted to pay players. In 1871, the National Association became the first professional baseball league.
The Beginning of Professional Baseball
In 1871, there were nine professional teams, but by 1875, there were 13. Unfortunately, gambling blew public confidence in the game, and at the games, there was a lot of gambling and liquor. In 1875, the National Association was replaced with the National League. Before, the players owned and ran the games, but the National League was run by businessmen. They created standards and policies for ticket prices, schedules, and player contracts.
As people saw that a professional baseball league could succeed, a rival league, the American Association, emerged in 1882. They had lower ticket prices and teams in larger cities. The two leagues had the National Agreement, where they would honor each other’s player contracts, and they could bind a certain number of players with the reserve clause. This meant that players couldn’t look for other offers.
In 1884, players who were angry about this tried to form their own league, the Union Association. However, it only lasted one season. They tried again in 1890 with the Players League, but it went bankrupt after one season. The competition and loss of players hurt the American Association, and they folded as well.
Turn of the Century
In 1901, the American League started to play. They got players from the National League, and the two leagues figured out how to coexist. Baseball was a game of strategy. They had a dead ball, so there weren’t a lot of home runs. They had base stealing, bunting, and hits for offense. In 1911, they changed to a ball with a cork center. This changed everything, and baseball became very popular.
In 1914, the Federal League tried to start up. They sued the NL and the AL as monopolies. However, they folded in two years, and then in 1922, the Supreme Court ruled that baseball was exempt from antitrust legislation. Throughout the 20s, baseball grew in popularity and Babe Ruth came on the scene. He brought in economic prosperity for baseball with his home run hitting. Baseball grew from there, and it is still popular today.