How Old Is Baseball?
Scholars know from ancient Egyptian tomb paintings that games in which players used sticks and balls date from as early as 2000 B.C. During the eighth century A.D., the Moors (inhabitants of Arabia) brought ball games to Western Europe. Later the English and French developed a game called stoolball, in which a pitcher tried to hit an upside-down stool with a ball while a batter tried to hit the ball first. Next, more stools or bases were added, around which a player would run after hitting the ball. As early as the 1700s this game was called "base ball" or "goal ball."
From England, the new game traveled to the American colonies, where it was played by children. By the nineteenth century it was being played by men. In 1834 The Book of Sports included directions on how to play "base ball." In 1845 Alexander J. Cartwright, a surveyor who played base ball with rich New Yorkers, headed a committee to organize a base ball club. Not only did Cartwright found the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club in September 1845, he proposed the basic rules that are still in effect (three strikes per batter, three outs per inning, equal distances between bases). The first official game using Cartwright's rules took place on June 19, 1848, between the New York Nine and the Knickerbockers at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey.
The first professional baseball teams were formed in the 1860s, but like the first league formed in the 1870s, they had limited success. In 1875 the invention of the baseball mitt greatly improved the game. The following year, Chicago businessman William Ambrose Hulbert formed the National Association of Professional Base-Ball Players. At one time teams from twenty-three cities were part of the league, but by 1900 it was composed of the eight teams that would make up the National League until 1962. Other leagues were short-lived until the American League was formed in 1901, setting the stage for baseball as it is known today.
Further Information: Aylesworth, Thomas G. The Kids' World Almanac of Baseball. Mahwah, N.J.: Funk and Wagnalls, 1996; Cooper, Michael. L. Playing America's Game: The Story of Negro League Baseball. New York: Dutton, 1993; Gilbert, Thomas. Elysian Fields: The Birth of Baseball. New York: Franklin Watts, 1995; Macy, Sue. A Whole New Ball Game. New York: Henry Holt, 1993; Stewart, Mark. Baseball: A History of the National Pastime. New York: Franklin Watts, 1998.