Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of nine players each. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball that a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat.
One of the first known mentions of baseball in America appeared in an edition of “Sporting Life” magazine. The article describes an informal game played by the New York Knickerbocker Club members who were emulating similar English games like rounders and cricket.
In the 1850s, baseball started taking shape in the United States‘ northeast. This is when the saying “national pastime” and “national game” began to be said. The Cincinnati Red Stockings are credited with being the first organized baseball club in the United States, and their namesake lives on through the Boston Red Sox.
Numerous forms of leagues would crop up and fade over time until the National and American Leagues formed and their inevitable merger in 1903.
Founding of Major League Baseball
Before 1903 there were two professional baseball leagues in the United States, the National League and the American League. Before then, there was a “baseball war” before the merger and founding of what we know today as the MLB. Both leagues would cannibalize each other, constantly stealing away players from each other.
Then in 1903, the two leagues put their differences aside and formed the MLB. There was briefly a three-person governing force for the league but was later ditched, adding their first commissioner in 1921, which was Kenesaw “Mountain” Landis.
First World Series
The first World Series was held in 1903 between the Boston Americans of the American League and the Pittsburgh Pirates of the National League. It was a best-of-nine series, with the first three games in Boston, the next four in Pennsylvania, and the final being held in Boston.
While the games were close, by game 5, Boston was heavily outscoring the Pirates. Game 5, for example, had a score of 11-2, and for the next three games, Boston outscored their opponents by three runs or more while going on to win the first World Series.
Since then, the World Series has been awarded to either a team of the AL or NL 116 times in 118 years. It has only not been awarded twice, in 1904 when there was no World Series and in 1994 when there was a player strike. Even through two pandemics, baseball has found a way to get the World Series awarded.
Babe Ruth and His Impact on the Sport
Made even more famous with his “cameo” in Sandlot, the Great Bambino is regarded as one of the greatest players to ever swing a bat. Described as the sport of baseball’s first slugger and was initially brought into the MLB by the Boston Red Sox. In what is regarded as the most significant trade in sports history, Red Sox owner Harry Frazer sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $100,000.
That very next year, Ruth registered 54 home runs and 154 runs scored, and 135 RBI. Ruth popularized the home run, and ever since, kids of all generations have swung for the fences and imitated his iconic stance. So long as the MLB is around, The Babe will continue to be a legend. He won 7 World Series over his career.
Integration in Major League Baseball
Prior to the 1940s, many had tried and failed to segregate the sport of baseball. That all changed when the Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey took a swing and tried his “great experiment.” In 1945, Jim Crow laws altered the sport of baseball forever, allowing Branch Rickey to sign Jackie Robinson from the African American League; he was at the time playing for the Kansas City Monarchs.
On April 15th, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the “color line” and became the first African American to play in the MLB. Jackie faced much scrutiny and faced a lot of tricky situations over his 10-year MLB career; he won his only World Series in 1955 when the Brooklyn Dodgers beat their cross-city rivals in the New York Yankees 4-3.
Brooklyn Dodgers Departure from New York
In the 1950s, real estate mogul Walter O’Malley acquired majority ownership of the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodger’s long-time home in Brooklyn had been getting too old, and the club needed a new place to call home. With talks of a new stadium in New York eventually started breaking down, the City of Los Angeles gave O’Malley the chance to buy land in California, and in 1957, the team played their last game in Brooklyn and moved for the sunny coast of California.
Cross-country travel by bus and plane had gradually become more accessible during this time of American history and saw an influx of people moving to California after World War 2. This migration of people and the popularity of Southern California was too enticing for the MLB to pass up, and the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers packed their bags for warmer markets.
The Philadelphia Athletics also slowly migrated west, leaving Philly in 1954 and playing in Kansas City for a few seasons before moving to Oakland in 1968. To this day, people from Brooklyn still love and miss the Dodgers, despite the team being gone for almost 75 years.
Doping Periods Stain on the Game
Sadly, when it comes to America’s pastime, there is a dark mark on the legacy that will forever stain the image of the game. There is no start to this period of baseball, but there is an end.
It is guessed that 40% of players were on steroids or some other form of performance-enhancing drug at the time. Mark McGwire having androstenedione in his locker was one of the first signs the MLB had a severe problem.
The MLB has worked tirelessly to move on from this period of baseball, but even now, almost 20 years later, the MLB is considered at the bottom of North American Sports.
The steroid era of baseball maybe have started in the ’80s or ’90s but defiantly ended in the early 2000s with the introduction of league-wide drug testing. Even in 2022, the MLB still suspends players for the use of drugs and almost has a zero-tolerance policy for it.
The Start of the 21st Century and Beyond
On the field, one of the most exciting parts of the 21st century thus far has to be breaking two championship doubts by the Boston Red Sox (86 years) and Chicago Cubs (106 years). Two storied franchises and cities witnessed a World Series championship for the first time in a generation.
While another significant change baseball has experienced is more reliance on technology than ever before. With this reliance, there are many new ways to watch games and interact with players. The MLB has also seen an increase in attendance due to these technological advancements. This also includes changes in the new ballparks that have been built to accommodate fans and players alike.
Looking toward the future, we can say baseball will be around for a long time. The baseball game is being played and seen by more people than ever, expanding into new markets and bringing new fans to America’s pastime.