Who invented baseball? Well, we know one thing for sure. It wasn't Abner Doubleday. People were playing baseball, or at least some version of it, long before the Civil War General came along.
Centuries ago in England, the game of rounders was played mostly by children. It involved a leather ball that was thrown to another player who would try to hit the ball with a stick. That player was "put out" by the fielder throwing the ball and hitting them with it. This was called soaking.
As far back as 1745, in a book called A Little Pretty Pocket Book, the game is referred to as baseball.
So, who invented baseball? In the United States, the man most credited with inventing baseball is Alexander Cartwright.
In 1845, Cartwright laid out the official rules of the game and even designed the first baseball field dimensions.
In 1846, Cartwright's Knickerbocker Baseball Club played the first recognized baseball game. It was played in Hoboken, New Jersey at Elysian Fields.
Cartwright later traveled the United States, spreading his game of baseball. He formed a four man panel that set out to write the rules of Baseball. They originally came up with 14 rules.
First, they eliminated the round field. They limited the number of bases to four and set them in a diamond shape. They placed the bases ninety feet apart and set up fair and foul territories.
The panel also did away with what was called soaking. A player was "put out" by the fielder throwing the ball and hitting them with it. Cartwright decided that tagging a runner or throwing the ball to the base before the runner got there was more civilized.
Originally, a team consisted of eight players on defense. An infielder stood at each base, three outfielders, a pitcher and a catcher. In 1849, the short stop position was added. The short stop was added because the ball used then was so light weight, that the outfielders could not throw the ball all the way to the infield. The short stop was added as a relay man.
A convention of baseball players in 1857, decided to limit the game to nine innings. Until then, the team to score 21 runs won the game.
After Cartwright's Knickerbocker's first game, they began to advertise their upcoming games. Teams came from New York to play. Soon Baseball was a favorite pastime of young men. These men were mostly business men, clerks, doctors and lawyers. Factory workers had little time or energy to play the game.
Alexander Cartwright continued to spread his game across the country. Including Cincinnati where the National League was established in 1876. But it was in Hawaii that he made his biggest impact. While in Honolulu, he established teams and leagues and the game became very popular.
By the mid 1930s, the National Baseball Hall of Fame was about to open. A commission determined who invented baseball. They decided that Civil War General Abner Doubleday was the founder. And that he first invented the game in a cow pasture in Cooperstown, New York.
The fabricated story completely ignored Alexander Cartwright's contribution to the game. Years later, Alexander Cartwright's descendants gave the Hall of Fame his diaries and newspaper clippings to prove that he was instrumental in inventing the modern game.
Finally in 1939, Alexander Cartwright was inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame. His plaque calls him the Father of modern day baseball.
Even though Abner Doubleday was never inducted into the Hall of Fame, officials continued to perpetuate the myth that he invented baseball. The ball field in Cooperstown is still called Doubleday Field. Most baseball fans have never heard of Alexander Cartwright.
I guess the answer to the question who invented Baseball can be summed up by saying that no one man invented it. It evolved from the English games of rounders and cricket. But Alexander Cartwright has more to do with giving us our modern game than anyone else.
So the next time someone says something about Abner Doubleday, you can now tell them what really took place.
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