Baseball

By Jones Science 6

About Baseball

Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of nine players who take turns batting and fielding.

The offense attempts to score more runs than its opponents by hitting a ball thrown by the pitcher with a bat and moving counter-clockwise around a series of four bases: first, second, third and home plate. A run is scored when the runner advances around the bases and returns to home plate.

Players on the batting team take turns hitting against the pitcher of the fielding team, which tries to prevent runs by getting hitters out in any of several ways. A player on the batting team can stop at any of the bases and later advance on a teammate's hit or other means. The teams switch between batting and fielding whenever the fielding team records three outs. One turn at bat for both teams, beginning with the visiting team, constitutes an inning, and nine innings a game. The team with the most runs at the end of the game wins.

Evolving from older bat-and-ball games, an early form of baseball was being played in England by the mid-18th century. This game was brought by immigrants to North America, where the modern version developed. By the late 19th century, baseball was widely recognized as the national sport of the United States. Baseball is now popular in North America and parts of Central and South America and the Caribbean, East Asia and Europe.

In the United States and Canada, professional Major League Baseball (MLB) teams are divided into the National League (NL) and American League (AL), each with three divisions: East, West, and Central. The major league champion is determined by playoffs that culminate in the World Series. The top level of play is similarly split in Japan between the Central League and Pacific Leagues and in Cuba between the West League and East League.

History of Baseball

The evolution of baseball from older bat-and-ball games is difficult to trace with precision. A French manuscript from 1344 contains an illustration of clerics playing a game, possibly la soule, with similarities to baseball.[1] Other old French games such as thèque, la balle au bâton, and la balle empoisonnée also appear to be related.[2] Consensus once held that today's baseball is a North American development from the older game rounders, popular in Great Britain and Ireland. Baseball Before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game (2005), by David Block, suggests that the game originated in England; recently uncovered historical evidence supports this position. Block argues that rounders and early baseball were actually regional variants of each other, and that the game's most direct antecedents are the English games of stoolball and "tut-ball".[3] It has long been believed that cricket also descended from such games, though evidence uncovered in early 2009 suggests that the sport may have been imported to England from Flanders.[4]

The earliest known reference to baseball is in a 1744 British publication, A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, by John Newbery. It contains a rhymed description of "base-ball" and a woodcut that shows a field set-up somewhat similar to the modern game—though in a triangular rather than diamond configuration, and with posts instead of ground-level bases.[5] David Block discovered that the first recorded game of "Bass-Ball" took place in 1749 in Surrey, and featured the Prince of Wales as a player.[6] William Bray, an English lawyer, recorded a game of baseball on Easter Monday 1755 in Guildford, Surrey.[7] This early form of the game was apparently brought to North America by English immigrants. Rounders was also brought to the continent by both British and Irish immigrants. The first known American reference to baseball appears in a 1791 Pittsfield, Massachusetts, town bylaw prohibiting the playing of the game near the town's new meeting house.[8] By 1796, a version of the game was well-known enough to earn a mention in a German scholar's book on popular pastimes. As described by Johann Gutsmuths, "englische Base-ball" involved a contest between two teams, in which "the batter has three attempts to hit the ball while at the home plate." Only one out was required to retire a side.[9]

Alexander Cartwright, father of modern baseball

By the early 1830s, there were reports of a variety of uncodified bat-and-ball games recognizable as early forms of baseball being played around North America. These games were often referred to locally as "town ball", though other names such as "round-ball" and "base-ball" were also used.[10] Among the earliest examples to receive a detailed description—albeit five decades after the fact, in a letter from an attendee to Sporting Life magazine—took place in Beachville, Ontario, in 1838. There were many similarities to modern baseball, and some crucial differences: five bases (or byes); first bye just 18 feet (5.5 m) from the home bye; batter out if a hit ball was caught after the first bounce.[11] The once widely accepted story that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839 has been conclusively debunked by sports historians.[12]

In 1845, Alexander Cartwright, a member of New York City's Knickerbockers club, led the codification of the so-called Knickerbocker Rules.[13] The practice, common to bat-and-ball games of the day, of "soaking" or "plugging"—effecting a putout by hitting a runner with a thrown ball—was barred. The rules thus facilitated the use of a smaller, harder ball than had been common. Several other rules also brought the Knickerbockers' game close to the modern one, though a ball caught on the first bounce was, again, an out and only underhand pitching was allowed.[14] While there are reports that the New York Knickerbockers played games in 1845, the contest now recognized as the first officially recorded baseball game in U.S. history took place on June 19, 1846, in Hoboken, New Jersey: the "New York Nine" defeated the Knickerbockers, 23–1, in four innings.[15] With the Knickerbocker code as the basis, the rules of modern baseball continued to evolve over the next half-century.[16]

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