History of the ball and bat

As baseball and softball season have descended upon Lassen County, lets look back at the history of the sport, synonymous with American culture.

The origins of baseball are still somewhat a mystery. Traces of a game played with a bat and a ball date back to ancient Egypt, with a ball on display in the British Museum in London.

A game similar to baseball called Oina in Walacchia, is now a part of Romania, or Lapta in Russia.

Many still believe that baseball derives from Rounders. Actually, a game, which is an evolution of Rounders, in which you use posts and not bases, and a hitter can run without hitting the ball, first, was played in America in the early 19th century, and was called Town Ball.

In any case, Rounders is still played in the British Islands and is sanctioned by the Gaelic Athletic Association together with Gaelic football and Hurling and appeared in a book for children printed by British publisher John Newbery titled “A little pretty pocket book.” The book also contains a very popular rhyme, in which the terms Baseball and Rounders are confused.

It seems more likely that Baseball and Rounders share some origin with Cricket, a game that was imported by Flemish shepards, known as krick in their language, made its way to England in the 14th century but became an organized sport in the 17th century.

However, there is evidence that in the 18th century a game called Baseball was played in England, in “Northanger Abbey” a book by Jane Austen that was published posthumous in 1818 but was written in the 1790s.

German author, Johann Gutsmuth, wrote in 1796 a book on popular pastimes where he mentions a game called English Baseball.

This is all not truly enough to conclude that the game we know as Baseball is a British game, because there is a game still played in Wales called British Baseball. It features two teams of 11 players –– no pitcher but a bowler, as there is in Cricket. Each team plays two innings, an inning is complete when all 11 players have had a chance at bat, a run is scored every time a player gets to a base.

In the 1800’s, a man by the name of Abner Doubleday — an Army officer who was a hero during the Seminoles Wars — had been claimed to be the creator of what we know as modern day baseball. It was said he invented the game in 1839 in the city of Cooperstown.

But the story was in part made up by Al Spalding, former pitcher and world renown sporting goods manufacturer, who even called it the “perfect story,” Doubleday himself never claimed he created the game.

The invention of Baseball by Doubleday was more than likely a tall tale, but it is believed he contributed to the idea of the field or diamond, as we know it today.
But it was Alexander Cartwright who wrote up the first rules and founded one of the first organized teams in American Baseball called the Knickerbockers.

Congress of the United States certified his accomplishments in 1953 and has since been dubbed the “Father of Baseball”.

It was in 1850 that Baseball became the first professional sport when the National Association of Baseball Players was born. Americans tried almost immediately to make it a World sport.

In 1878 a professional player Esteban Bellan introduced the game to Cuba in turn was exported throughout the Caribbean.

Horace Wilson would take Baseball to Japan, and from there, it quickly reached Korea and Taiwan.

Games were organized in Australia and New Zealand in 1888. Spalding took the game to Italy. Six years later a championship game was played in England.

But in 1903, the U.S.A. would hold the first World Series between the American League and the National League. Following that, organized Baseball leagues started spreading all over the world, beginning in 1922 in the Netherlands, 1934 in Australia, 1936 in Japan, 1938 in Puerto Rico, 1945 in Venezuela and Mexico then 1948 in Italy.

Baseball is steeped in a rich history and it is America’s pastime in part due to the rich history the game shares with the roots of this country and thanks to the pioneers who crafted the beloved game we know today it is the first true American sport.