Passed down through the generations, baseball has become a staple for many households throughout America. But how did the national pastime earn its prominence?
While baseballs origins are generally disputed, evidence of a game played with a ball and a bat exists as early as the 1300s. In American history, baseball emerged prior to the American Civil War, which occurred in the early 1860s. The game is thought to originate from Town Ball, a 19th-century American game that incorporated posts instead of bases and is thought to evolve from the sandlot game, Rounders. There is also evidence that a game called baseball was played in England during the 18th century, but such a game is thought to play little influence on the American version.
In 1839, an army officer during the Seminoles War and expected General in the civil war, Abner Doubleday, invented the game of baseball. While Doubleday had never claimed his invention, little doubt exists as to whether he contributed to the idea of baseball. Years later in 1845, New York bookseller and founder of the Knickerbockers in 1939, Alexander Cartwright, wrote the rules for baseball and organized the first game in the United States. The first game of baseball was played in Hoboken, New Jersey on June 19th, 1846.
It only took several years before baseball became a professional sport. The National Association of Baseball Players (NABBP) was born in 1850, and in 1876, the National League of baseball was founded to replace the National Association. The National League’s original members included the Boston Red Stockings (now known as the Atlanta Braves), Cincinnati Red Stockings, Hartford Dark Blues, Chicago White Stockings (now the Chicago Cubs), Mutual of New York, Louisville Grays, Philadelphia Athletics, and the St. Louis Brown Stockings.
By the early 20th century, most large eastern cities in the United States had a professional baseball team. Rival to the National League, the American League of Professional Baseball Clubs was founded in 1901. As baseball’s popularity grew, it became an international game, incorporating the World Series. Teams began participating in the World Series in 1903, where the best team from each league would compete against each other. While teams switched in and out of the National League, it remained an eight-team league until the 1960s. In 1962, the New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s (Houston Astros) joined the team and seven years later, the San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos (Washington Nationals) also joined the League. That same year in 1969, the League split into East and West divisions, which comprised of six teams each. The League was again reorganized in 1994 to include a Central division.
Major League Baseball introduced inter-league play in 1997, which allowed National League teams to play regular-season games against same-division American League teams. Later, in 2002, the rules were revised to allow both leagues to compete against each other even from non-corresponding divisions. American League teams made up 61 out of the 103 World Series winners between the years 1903 and 2007. As for World Series championships, the New York Yankees (members of the American League) have won 26, earning them more wins than any other team in baseball.