Baseball is a bat-and-ball game that is played by millions of people worldwide. In the United States, it has been referred to as “the national pastime.”
But how did baseball get started? In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the history of baseball, one of the most popular sports in the world!
1. Many similar games were played in medieval times
Just like other sports such as tennis, table tennis, and cricket, baseball diverged from a variety of games that were played during the Middle Ages.
In France, a game called “la soule” was being played by clerics since the 14th century. In the northwest of Spain, a depiction of women playing a similar game to baseball was found dating back to the year 1280.
2. Stoolball is thought to be a close predecessor of baseball
All around Europe, games similar to baseball have been played for hundreds of years. One that closely resembles the modern game of baseball was called “stoolball.”
This game originated in Sussex in the southeast of England and its first reference was made in a 1330 poem in which it was suggested that this game shouldn’t be played within churchyards.
This game, however, had the object of one team trying to hit a target while the other defended it, which isn’t exactly how baseball works today.
3. Rounders was the most similar game to modern baseball
The British game of Rounders is described as being the game closest to the modern game of baseball. This game was first mentioned in a book in the year 1828 along with its rules which consist of hitting the ball with a bat and running home anti-clockwise to the fourth base.
One of the most remarkable facts about the history of baseball is that the game it was based upon is still played by millions of children today in the UK and Ireland.
4. There’s a sport called “British Baseball”
Another game that is still being played today in some parts of England and Wales is simply called “British Baseball.”
It’s very similar to rounders and was even called this way until 1892. It’s played mostly in the cities of Cardiff, Newport, and Liverpool, and can be described as rounders that were influenced by the American form of baseball.
5. The first official mention of the game of baseball was in 1744
According to David Block, who wrote the book “Baseball before we knew it” (2005), the first mention of the word baseball in print was in a children’s book dating back to 1744.
The book was published in England by children’s publisher John Newbery and called “A Little Pretty Pocket-Book.” It contains a rhyme called “Base-Ball” which describes a game similar to rounders.
6. The first recorded game took place in 1748
The first-ever recorded baseball game was played by the Prince of Wales in November 1748. It was played indoors in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, against Lord Middlesex.
7. This is how the game was described in its first dictionary mention
The first time that the word baseball was included in a dictionary happened in the year 1768 when it was mentioned in that year’s version of the “Encyclopædia Britannica.” Baseball was described as:
A rural game in which the person striking the ball must run to his base or goal.How baseball was first described in the dictionary.
8. When exactly the game came to America is unknown
The first-ever mention of the game of baseball in the United States dates back to 1791. It was mentioned in a Pittsfield, Massachusetts town bylaw prohibiting the playing of the game near the town’s new meeting house.
When exactly the game was introduced in the United States remains a mystery.
9. Baseball had spread all over Europe as well
The decades following its first official publication in print ensured the game spread over all across continental Europe as well.
It was mentioned in a German scholar’s book on popular pastimes written by Johann Gutsmuths and was referred to as “Englische Base-ball.”
In 1810, a French book was published called “Les Jeux des Jeunes Garçons” and in which the game was referred to as “La balle empoisonnée” (“poisoned ball”). The rules were also written and in this French version of the game, the ball was struck with the hand.
10. The first written rules were published in 1845
The history of baseball in the United States remains unclear before the year 1845. Apart from some mentions, there didn’t seem to be any rules aid out yet and there is no mention of who brought the game to the country.
Therefore, the rules created by Alexander Cartwright, a member of New York City’s Knickerbocker Club, in 1845, are considered to be the first-ever rules of modern baseball.
This code of baseball rules is now referred to as the “Knickerbocker Rules,” and Cartwright is considered to be the “Father of Modern Baseball.”
11. Baseball exploded in New York City in the 1850s
With the set of rules laid out, the game literally exploded in the city they were created, New York. Things went so fast that the game was referred to as the “national pastime” or “national game” by the press in the year 1856.
Just a year later, a group of 16 local teams formed the first organization called the “National Association of Base Ball Players.”
12. The first professional baseball club was formed in 1869
The first-ever professional baseball team was formed in the year 1869, the “Cincinnati Red Stockings.” They went on to play a lot of games against amateurs that year and remained undefeated the entire year.
Until today, they remain the only undefeated team during the regular season in the history of baseball! A total of 10 professional players were part of this team.
13. The oldest league in Major League Baseball was formed in 1876
The first professional league was formed in 1871 and was called the “National Association of Professional Base Ball Players.” This league only lasted until 1875 though and whether or not they can be considered a Major League is up for debate.
Therefore, the oldest recognized Major League in baseball in the United States is the “National League,” which was founded in the year 1876.
The other Major League, the “American League,” was established in the year 1901.
14. The modern rules of baseball were established in 1893
Overhand pitching was only legalized in the year 1884 and softball was invented in the year 1887. Ever since the year 1893, just about all of the rules of modern baseball have remained the same.
The only major change that was made was counting foul balls as strikes, a change that was integrated into the rules in 1901.
Do you play baseball today? Then the rules you follow now were the same back in 1893!
15. Baseball was an Olympic sport in 5 editions
Baseball was included for the first time in the Summer Olympics as a medal sport in the year 1992. It remained an Olympic sport for 5 editions, the last time being the 2008 Olympics until it was excluded from the 2012 games.
While baseball is fairly popular in many countries around the world, it’s clear that it’s an American game. It doesn’t have the same level of popularity in other parts of the world as in the United States.
The main reason it was excluded though is because of the unwillingness of the MLB to take a break during the Summer Olympics, which means the play-offs would have to be played at a later date and in colder weather.
As a countermeasure, the “World Baseball Classic” was introduced in 2006 as a high-profile international tournament. 20 countries compete in this competition which is held once every 4 years.