Baseball

History

Deeply embedded in the folklore of American sports is the story of baseball's
supposed invention by a young West Point cadet, Abner Doubleday, in the summer
of 1839 at the village of Cooperstown, New York. Because of the numerous types
of baseball, or rather games similar to it, the origin of the game has been
disputed for decades by sports historians all over the world. In 1839, in

Cooperstown, New York, Doubleday supposedly started the great game of baseball.

Doubleday, also a famous Union general in the Civil War, was said to be the
inventor of baseball by Abner Graves, an elderly miner from New York. In
response to the question of where baseball first originated, major league owners
summoned a committee in 1907. Abner Graves stepped before the committee and gave
his testimony. In Graves' account of "the first game," the Otsego

Academy and Cooperstown's Green's Select School played against one another in

1839. Committeeman Albert G. Spalding, the founder of Spalding's Sporting Goods,
favored Graves' declaration and convinced the other committeemen that Graves'
account was true. As a result, in 1939, the committee and the State of New York
named Cooperstown and Abner Doubleday as the birthplace and inventor of
baseball, respectively. Today, many baseball historians still doubt the
testimony of Abner Graves. Historians say the story came from the creative
memory of one very old man and was spread by a superpatriotic sporting goods
manufacturer, determined to prove that baseball was a wholly American invention.

According to Doubleday's diary, he was not playing baseball in Cooperstown, but
attending school at West Point on that day in 1839. Also, historians have found
that nowhere in Doubleday's diary has he ever "claimed to have had anything
to do with baseball, and may never have even seen a game." This leads many
to the conclusion that Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball, but it is still
a disputed and provocative issue. Sports historians have presented impressive
evidence showing that American baseball, far from being an independent
invention, evolved out of various ball-and-stick games that had been played in
many areas of the world since the beginnings of recorded history. But in early

America, precursors of baseball included informal games of English origin such
as paddleball, trap ball, rounders, and town ball. The latter was a popular game
in colonial New England and was played by adults and children with a bat and
ball on an open field. Printed references to "base ball" in America
date back to the eighteenth century. Among these accounts is one of Albigence

Waldo, a surgeon with Washington's troops at Valley Forge who poetically told of
soldiers batting balls and running bases in their free time. Similarly in 1834

Robin Carver's Book of Sports related that an American version of rounders
called "base" or "goal ball" was rivaling cricket in
popularity among Americans. Indeed, cricket played a role in the evolution of
organized baseball. From this British game came umpires and innings, and early
baseball writers like Henry Chadwick used cricket terminology such as
"batsman," "playing for the side," and "excellent
field" in describing early baseball games. Likewise, the pioneer baseball
innovator Harry Wright, a cricket professional turned baseball manager, drew
heavily on his cricket background in promoting baseball as a professional team
sport in the United States. By the 1840s various forms of baseball vied for
acceptance, including the popular Massachusetts and New York versions of the
game. The Massachusetts game utilized an irregular four-sided field of play,
with the four bases located at fixed, asymmetrical distances from each other and
the "striker's," or batter's position away from the home base.
"Scouts," or fielders, put men out by fielding a batted ball on the
fly or on the first bounce, or by hitting a runner with a thrown ball. But this
lively version of the game was overshadowed in the late 1840s by the "New

York game," a popular version of which was devised by the members of the

New York Knickerbocker Club. Organized in 1845 by a band of aspiring gentlemen
and baseball enthusiasts, the Knickerbocker version was devised by one of their
members, Alexander J. Cartwright. Cartwright prescribed a diamond-shaped infield
with bases at ninety feet apart, a standard which has stood the test of time.

The pitching distance was set at forty-five feet from the home base, and a
pitcher was required to "pitch" a ball in a stiff-armed, underhanded
fashion. The three-strikes-are-out rule was adopted, and a batter could also be
put out by a fielder catching a batted ball in the air, or on the first bounce,
or by throwing a fielded ball to