This article is about the game of baseball. For other uses, see Baseball (disambiguation)
Baseball is an outdoor sport played between two teams of nine players each, with the object of the game for the offensive player to hit the ball with a wooden bat in such a manner as to allow that player to successfully touch each base on a running circuit and scoring a point at the run's completion at home plate. Extremely popular within the United States, Japan, and Latin America, baseball is played everywhere from neighborhood sandlots and city streets to its culmination in a best-of-seven championship World Series between two professional teams of the American and National Leagues of Major League Baseball.
Baseball has been intertwined within American life and culture like no other sport has. It has given us record-setting heroes, many of which are still talked about over a century later. It has given rise to movies, songs, books, magazines, and a lexicon of words and phrases which are part of everyday life.
Baseball is played on a field which is roughly diamond-shaped, with the wide end serving as the outfield. The infield consists of a square, each side of the square 90 feet long. The narrow end of the square is the point furthest from the outfield fence at center field, which can be anywhere from 250 to 400 feet away; this point on the square serves as home plate. The remaining corners serves as first, second, and third bases, running counterclockwise from home plate. Within the center of the square - 60 feet, 6 inches away - is the pitcher's mound.
Baseball is one of the very few sports in which the defense controls the ball. All nine defensive players are on the field during play: three in the outfield (left, center, and right fields); four in the infield (first, second, and third basemen, and shortstop); the catcher behind home plate, and the pitcher on the mound. The single offensive player takes his place within a batter's box on either side of home plate, and with a bat attempts to hit the ball thrown to him by the pitcher into "fair" territory such that it is not caught in the air and gives the batter time to run to a base. The offense strives to advance these baserunners until they circle the three infield bases in order and get back to home plate, resulting in the scoring of a run. The only offensive players on the field at any other time besides the batter are those who successfully made it onto one of the three bases.
A baseball game is divided into nine innings; each inning consists of both teams having their turns at bat. A "strike" is called when the batter swings and misses a fairly-thrown ball; three strikes results in an "out", which in its basic description means the failure of the batter to reach base. Three outs ends that team's attempt during the inning, and they must go to the field for defense. Each team is allowed nine of these "innings" during the course of the game; if the game is tied after nine innings, additional innings are played until there is a winner.
The baseball itself is 9-9.25 inches in circumference, and weighs between 5-5.25 oz. The core is made of rubber and cork, wound tightly with woolen yarn, and sealed with a two-piece leather casing closed off with 108 double-stitches in waxed red thread.
The bat is made of wood - primarily ash - and is up to 2.75 inches thick at the striking end, and up to 42 inches long. At one time in professional games aluminum bats were used; they have since been removed, and are sometimes used during amatuer games. In a version of baseball known as "stickball" played by kids in some inner cities, the bat consists of little more than a broom handle.
Defensive players wear a baseball glove, or mitt. Made of leather, seven players wear a version with looks like an over-sized hand with the fingers sewn together, and a basket of leather between the first finger and thumb. Fingerless, rounded versions are worn by the first baseman and catcher; the catcher's mitt having the addition of heavy padding within the glove. That, plus the chest and knee protectors, and steel face mask, ensures the catcher has protection against the pitcher's fastball, which can be in excess of 90 miles per hour.
A well-publicized tradition holds that the game was invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York in 1839. But not even the National Baseball Hall of Fame, founded on the strength of that tradition, seriously promotes this theory any more:
- After the  Commission [appointed to determine the game's origins] reported its findings in 1908, many of the game's historians disputed Graves' accounts, noting that many of the innovations he attributed to Doubleday were already being practiced earlier in the 1830s. The discovery in 1999 of the original Mills Commission papers, long reported to have been burned, supports the view of many researchers that Baseball developed from, and along with, other bat-and-ball games earlier in the nineteenth century.
- it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books...
but there is nothing in the context that tells any details of the game.
"Base-ball" or "base ball" was being played, under that name, during the Civil War:
- Captain Kimberly was an experienced and skillful player and base ball player and took the lead in inaugurating a series of games of base ball.
- The air seemed full of heavy shot, and as the flew they could be seen as plainly as a base-ball in one of our games.
A 1902 book about Philadelphia says that "base-ball" was simply a new name for an older game:
- During the Civil War there was an interesting athletic development when the old game of "town-ball" was rechristened "base-ball." It is believed that the first town-ball club, called the Olympic, was established in 1833.
In 2004, a baseball historian made national news with the apparent discovery of 1791 bylaw of the town of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, stating that
- for the Preservation of the Windows in the New Meeting House... no Person or Inhabitant of said town, shall be permitted to play at any game called Wicket, Cricket, Baseball, Football, Cat, Fives or any other game or games with balls, within the Distance of Eighty Yards from said Meeting House.
The first definitively recorded organized baseball game took place in Hoboken, N.J., in 1846.
The Abner-Doubleday-in-Cooperstown tradition was a reaction to famous baseball writer Henry Chadwick, who had stated that the game evolved from the British game of "rounders.". In response, Albert G. Spaulding, another baseball pioneer, urged the formation of a commission to determine the game's origin; one was formed, and in due course issued a report on December 30, 1907 stating "the first scheme for playing baseball, according to the best evidence obtainable to date, was devised by Abner Doubleday at Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1839." The results of the Spaulding committee led to the 1939 founding of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in the city of Cooperstown. Just how long has baseball been played? The only valid answer known (as of the summer of 2008) indicates that it must have been played before March 31, 1755. In a diary found recently, a lawyer by the name of William Bray wrote as follows: "After Dinner Went to Miss Jeale's to play at Base Ball . . . ." The next known reference to the sport is the 1791 law in Pittsfield, Mass., forbidding the game to be played. There are also some Egyptian carvings in which a bat and ball may be seen, but these are indecisive.
The game of baseball is now played the world over. In North America, the primary governing body at the professional level is Major League Baseball, which consists of thirty clubs. Major League Baseball is divided into two groups; The American League and The National League. Every year, all of the MLB clubs from each league battle to earn a place in the World Series, the pinnacle of the sport. To date the New York Yankees of the American League have won the most World Series titles with 26 followed by the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League with 10 wins. College baseball in the United States is governed primarily by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
In Japan, professional baseball is primarily governed by Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). There are a total of 12 teams. The association is divided into two leagues of six teams each, the Central League and the Pacific League. With 21 overall titles since the league's inception, the Yomiuri Giants have been the most successful Japanese club since the NPB's beginnings in 1958.
The baseball as we know it—or at least the familiar "figure-eight" stitched cover—was invented in the 1840s by Ellis Drake of Stoughton, Massachusetts.
The umpire's hand signals for "strike" and "out" were invented by deaf baseball player William "Dummy" Hoy (1861-1961)
References and notes
- The Origins of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
- Austen, Jane (1803) [Northanger Abbey http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext94/nabby11h.htm], Chapter 1
- Nash, Eugene Arus (1910) A History of the Forty-fourth Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, in the Civil War, 1861-1865, p. 166
- Johnson, Robert Underwood and Clarence Clough Buel (1888), Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, Volume IV, p. 37
- Edmond, Franklin Spencer, History of the Central High School of Philadelphia p. 251
- Pittsfield is "Baseball's Garden of Eden"
- Hoboken Baseball
- The National Baseball Hall of Fame was inspired by the Hall of Fame for Great Americans in New York. Established in 1901, with a 600-foot colonnade ultimately containing bronze busts of 98 great Americans, the Hall of Fame was at one time a major landmark, and the additions of honorees to it was a national news event. Ironically, the Hall of Fame for Great Americans has itself passed into obscurity; today, the phrase "Hall of Fame" has practically come to mean the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
- Japanball.com Team and League Information
- Nineteenth-century baseballs
- Deaf Place Names
- The Official Site of Major League Baseball
- Minor League Baseball
- BASEBALL HISTORY Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.
- Hall of Fame National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.