Baseball History – Summary, Origin, Evolution, Leagues

We explain what the history of baseball is, its antecedents, origin and flourishing. Also, how the “Major Leagues” were born.

baseball history
The National Professional Baseball League emerged in 1876 and still exists today.

What is the history of baseball?

Baseball is one of the most popular and practiced sports in the West, especially in the American continent, and ranks alongside soccer and tennis among the most broadcast on international television. This Olympic discipline has uncertain origins, although its modern variant originated in the United States in the 19th century.

There is documentary evidence that, from the very beginning of human civilization, the idea of ​​playing hitting a ball with a stick has been around. This, of course, does not mean that baseball was also, but it does mean its antecedents date back thousands of years before the Christian era: In ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Persian societies, there were similar rituals that were part of religious ceremonies.

Presumably these practices were emulated by the Saracen peoples of the time. In later centuries they were reinserted to the West thanks to the Muslim invasions, which between the 12th and 15th centuries were in close contact with Europe.

Thanks to this influence, similar games emerged such as Jai Alai (or fronton), cricket and, possibly, previous variants of baseball, such as the 17th century English “Stooll Ball” or “Bat and ball”, which was soon imitated in the American colonies. It is estimated that this is how “Rounders” was born in English America, a sport quite close to baseball that was practiced in what would later become the United States for almost 100 years.

The first formal references to baseball as a sport emerged in 18th century England, in numerous publications for children and young people, which were later imitated in Germany, possibly because the sport was already played there. In fact, it was in that European country in 1796 that the first assembled rules of baseball were published.

Nevertheless, it was in the United States where the sport gained great importance. The first mention of baseball in this country is a reference to the journal of soldier George Ewing, in 1778, where he affirms that he “played base”; or the prohibition of playing “… games called Wicket, Cricket, Base Ball, Football, Cat, Fives or any other ball game” in the town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in 1791, to protect the windows of the Meeting House.

Modern baseball was also born there, when the surveyor and military Abner Doubleday designed in 1839 the typical diagonal layout of this sport for the first time in the city of Cooperstown, where today is the Major League Hall of Fame and sports museum. Or at least that is what certain versions claim.

More formally, however, modern baseball was born with the publication in 1845 of the rules of the game as played by the New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club team, the first in history. This publication was the work of Alexander Cartwright, who led the team since 1842, and it contained the first 20 rules of the game from which the variant of the sport that we play today was born.

Those were, in turn, the rules of the first official modern baseball game in history, June 19, 1846, when the Knickerbockers faced the New York Club, in the so-called “Champs Elysees” of Hoboken, New Jersey. At that time, the sport had begun to be called “New York Game”, that is, the New York game, until, after the Civil War, it was renamed baseball, I mean, baseball.

With the flourishing of the sport and of players’ clubs throughout the United States, the first Players Association was also born, whose last meeting was in 1871, to start in its place the National Association of Professional Baseball Players, considered the first league of players from around the world, made up of 23 different teams.

However, the lack of budget and the difficulties of travel ended up sinking that league, opening the way for the National League of Professional Baseball that emerged in 1876 and still exists today. It is important to note that it did not accept players of color, for whom separate leagues were created, the so-called “Negro Leagues”, which existed until 1960.

The so-called “Major Leagues” expanded from then on and gained international renown, causing numerous similar variants to emerge in Latin American countries such as Mexico (whose first game was played in 1847), Panama (1850), Cuba (1878), Venezuela ( 1890) or Puerto Rico (1896).

Thus, throughout the twentieth century baseball went on to be played internationally at the Baseball World Cup (founded in 1938) and the Summer Olympic Games (among which it would be finally accepted in 1992), among many other championships and tournaments devoted to this sport.