The Origins and Growth of Baseball
Many people speculate the exact origin of baseball. Some say baseball evolved from an older bat and ball game, known as la soule. This game was played in Normandy during the 14th century. Other theories conclude that it came from an old English/Irish game, rounders. The first reference to baseball is a 1744 article by John Newberry describing the game, similar to the one we play today. This sport diffused to America by English Immigrants, and the first American reference to baseball is in 1791 in Massachusetts. By the 1800s this bat and ball game was being played all around North America. The first officially recorded baseball game was in 1846 when the New York Nine defeated the New York Knickerbockers in Hoboken. by the 1850s people referred to baseball as a national pastime and in 1856 the National Association of Base Ball Players was created. The National and American leagues were created in the 1870s. These 2 leagues competed with each other but the 2 agreed to a pact of peace between the 2. In 1903 the Boston Americans of the American League defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League in the first ever World Series. As the game became more profitable players and teams became corrupt, and in 1919 the White Sox conspired to throw the series. This lead to the formation of a commission to help manage both leagues in 1920. During the 1920s baseball was a pitcher driven game, as pitchers were able to manipulate the ball to their advantage. As a result, games were much lower scoring than they are today. The first power hitter, and the most famous baseball player in general, was Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees. He set numerous records including the record for the most home runs in a season. Also during this time baseball became increasingly racial, as African Americans were not allowed to play baseball with whites. Of course, this all changed in 1945, when the Brooklyn Dodgers signed African-American Jackie Robinson. This led to other clubs signing black players, and the color barrier was broken. Over time leagues have added new teams and changed rules, as in the 1970s they reduced the height of the strike zone and the size of the pitching mound as pitchers became a dominant force. In 2000, the AL and NL were dissolved as legal entities and became one league the MLB. Also during this time came the rise of steroids. Athletes took steroids to increase their performance on the field and in 2001 Barry Bonds, a heavy steroid abuser, broke the homer record. Other abusers included Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens. The MLB still faces abuse problems today, as numerous players have been suspended. Today, baseball has diffused to different parts of the world as countries like Japan and Cuba have also adopted the game as a national pastime.
Instrumental People and Players
There have been many people that have contributed to the growth and change of baseball. The first is Alexander Cartwright of the New York Knickerbockers who in 1845 created the Knickerbocker Rules. Many of the rules that he created are part of the official MLB rules today. Examples include the "foul", which is when the ball is hit outside of 1st and 3rd base. Another example is the 15th rule, which stated that a team had 3 outs per inning. Another influential person is Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first commissioner. He was a federal judge, and in 1920 was elected the first commissioner as baseball had become corrupt. He handled the Black Sox scandal, where he expelled 8 players. He ruled with an iron fist and restored public confidence in the game. Babe Ruth became the icon of baseball, as he was the first ever power hitter in baseball. The Yankees went from a nobody team to the marquee franchise of Base Ball. The Yankees used to share New York with both the Giants and Dodgers, but due to the rise of the franchise, both teams were forced to relocated to California. Babe Ruth revolutionized the game of baseball from a pitcher's game to a batter's game. Another instrumental figure in baseball is Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier. During the 1940s baseball had become racial, and even numerous attempts to join baseball by blacks had failed and resulted in violence. This all changed in 1945 when Jackie Robinson was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers. After his signing, numerous other teams took the lead of the Dodgers and signed black players. This resulted in public outrage from people at the time, but he is now remembered as a hero to baseball.
Milestones in Baseball
1845- Alexander Cartwright invents the Knickerbocker Rules
1846- First official baseball game played between the New York Nine and New York Knickerbockers in Hoboken
1871- The National Association of Base Ball Players is formed
1875-The National Association of Base Ball Players is disbanded
1876- The National League is formed
1882- The American Association is formed
1901- The American League, counterpart of the National League, is formed
1903- AL and NL agree to peace with each other
1903- Boston Red Sox win the first World Series
1919: Black Sox Scandal
1920: Kenesaw Mountain Landis hired as first official commissioner
1927- Babe Ruth sets home run record
1945- Jackie Robinson signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers
1961- Roger Maris breaks Babe Ruth's single season home run record
1975- Introduction of Free Agency
1994- Cancelation of the World Series due to players strike
1997- Sammy Sosa breaks Roger Maris's home run record
2000- AL and NL dissolved as legal entities; formation of the MLB
2007- Bonds breaks home run record
The Role and Impact of Baseball
Baseball is known as the national pastime for Americans. It currently serves as a form of entertainment in US society. Over time, attendance to MLB games has steadily increased going over 300,000 in recent years. Baseball attendance has increased with the popularity of players. For example, attendance sky rocketed when Barry Bonds became the home run king. However, TV viewership of baseball has declined. The World Series in 2010 was rated 7.1. But in 2000 it was rated 10. The decline is due to an increase in supply. Now there are so many baseball games aired on TV people don't want to watch them because there will always be another. Compare this to football there is a short number of games in a season, attracting higher views per game. Though many people say that the role of baseball is declining, they also don't interpret the statistics right. To me baseball is still the national pastime.
Baseball also plays a role in the economy. According to Forbes.com, "The average Major League Baseball team rose 16% in value during the past year, to an all-time high of $605 million. In 2011, revenue (net of payments to cover stadium debt) for the league’s 30 teams climbed to an average of $212 million, a 3.4% gain over the previous season." We can see that baseball is stimulating the economy in a positive way, with the increase in team and league revenue. Though baseball is contributing to the US economy, it is harming the environment. In May, I went to my first baseball game at Wrigley Field. One of the most classic snacks that people have are peanuts and beer. When people crack the peanuts they simply throw them on the floor, in addition to beer bottles left on the floor. Nacho and hot dog cartons are left everywhere after the game. People have to pick all of this waste up and throw it away. This contributes greatly to landfill size, which is harming natural wild life. So baseball can be either good or bad depending on which way you look at it.