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BASEBALL. Contrary to the myth that Abner Doubleday originated the sport in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York, a form of baseball was played in the 1820s, if not before. The sport probably originated in England from games like cricket and rounders, in which players struck a ball with a stick and ran to a base. In 1748, an English woman recorded that the family of the Prince of Wales played baseball. George Washington's army at Valley Forge played a game of "base." By the 1840s, different types of baseball had developed in Pennsylvania, New York, and New England. In 1845, Alexander Cartwright, a New York bank teller, proposed rules borrowed from these various forms to organize the sport for middle-class gentlemen. Unlike today, pitchers threw underhand, the winning team had to score twenty-one runs, and batters were out if hit by a thrown ball or when a hit was caught on one bounce. But Cartwright's rules did require play on a diamond-shaped field with bases ninety feet apart, nine players on the field, and three outs to an inning.

By the Civil War, baseball was a popular sport with men from both the middle and working classes and had spread to the Midwest and California. Newspapers already reported on it regularly. In fact, one newspaper in 1856 described baseball as "the national pastime," a claim that soon became true and remained so at the beginning of the twenty-first century, no matter how clichéd the phrase itself has become. Henry Chadwick, an English immigrant and sportswriter, did much to popularize baseball by creating the box score in 1860, by calculating batting averages, and by promoting the game as an enjoyable sport to play and to watch. From the start, as Chadwick discerned and generations since have discovered, base-ball's statistics have proved to be a subject of debate and fascination, more so than in any other sport.

After the Civil War, baseball's popularity spread to the South, and growing numbers of fans throughout the country encouraged more intense competition and brought money into the sport. The first professional team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings, founded in 1869. While the quality of play steadily increased and amateurs rarely won against professionals, disputes over salaries, gambling, alcohol abuse, and rowdy fans also began to plague professional baseball by the early 1870s.

Players organized the first professional league in 1871 but it collapsed in 1875. A year later, William Hulbert, owner of the Chicago White Stockings, helped create the National League with teams from other cities in the Midwest and East. While this league also saw many franchises fail over the years, it did survive. The rival American Association was formed late in 1881. By 1887, at a time when the country accepted the practice of Jim

Crow segregation, players and owners agreed not to employ African Americans in baseball. The owners also agreed to the reserve clause, which at first limited the number of players eligible to switch teams. By 1889, the reserve clause blacklisted any player who broke his contract, thus keeping players' salaries low and ensuring the owners' survival. It also prevented players from marketing their talents freely. A century later, the reserve clause would be broken and players' salaries would explode.

By the late 1880s, baseball resembled the modern game. Baseball parks began to be built, and the two leagues played a series to determine the world champion. The distance between the mound and home plate lengthened to fifty feet; overhand pitching became the norm; four balls, not seven, made a walk; a strike zone was de-fined; and most players wore gloves, thus reducing errors. Players like Cap Anson and King Kelly had become stars, popular culture celebrated the sport in poems such as "Casey at the Bat," and periodicals devoted exclusively to baseball, such as The Sporting News, appeared. In 1890, players rebelled against the salaries imposed by the owners and formed a union and a new league. However, the players' league lasted only one year and helped kill the American Association.

Lack of competition in the twelve-team league, the dominance of pitching, and the poor reputation of players like John McGraw hurt baseball in the 1890s and attendance declined. But in 1893 the distance between home plate and the pitcher was increased to its present sixty feet six inches and as a result hitting improved. In 1899, Ban Johnson, a former sports editor who influenced baseball until the 1920s, transformed a minor league into the American League. It won acceptance as an equal from the National League in 1902, creating a rivalry that has endured. The first modern World Series was held in 1903. Major stars, such as shortstop Honus Wagner of the Pirates, and superlative teams—like those managed by McGraw in New York and Connie Mack in Philadelphia—arose. After 1909, ten ballparks were either built or remodeled, replacing wooden structures prone to fire with steel, and were located near public transit stations to attract the growing urban middle class. Wrigley Field and Fenway Park, for example, were built during this period. In 1910, in a reflection of the importance of baseball, President William Howard Taft threw out the first ball of the season, establishing a tradition that has continued ever since.

Despite the play of stars like Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Grover Alexander, and Walter Johnson, attendance began to decline in 1909, for no clear reason. Even so, baseball continued to attract wealthy investors, and in 1914 the Federal League was founded. Although the new league lasted only two years, it lured away many players from the other two leagues, doubled many players' salaries, and hurt most owners. Attendance revived in 1916, but World War I reduced baseball's appeal and more than two hundred players went into the service. The 1919 season might have been cancelled had the war continued. Baseball rebounded well from the war and doubled the attendance of the previous year as the nation embraced a return to normalcy. In addition to enjoying fine pennant races, baseball audiences were thrilled by Babe Ruth, a superb pitcher for the Red Sox, who, after being moved to the outfield, hit twenty-nine homers, a record that had stood since 1884.

Yet in retrospect, 1919 proved to be a disastrous year for baseball when in 1920 it was found that eight White Sox players had conspired with gamblers to lose the 1919 World Series to the underdog Cincinnati Reds. Rumors of a fix appeared even before the series began, but White Sox owner Charles Comiskey, who underpaid his talented players, ignored them. Five of the eight players were clearly guilty of throwing the series. The newly appointed baseball commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned all eight for life. The ban included Shoeless Joe Jackson, a marvelous hitter, who was probably not involved. Landis's autocratic rule, which lasted into World War II, helped save baseball, as did the outlawing of trick pitches like the spitball.

Another factor that restored popularity to the game was Babe Ruth's superlative performance as a New York Yankee during the 1920s. The slugger, from a Baltimore home for wayward boys, hit fifty-four home runs in 1920 and transformed the game. While he also hit .376, it was Ruth's power and personality that attracted millions of fans. His personal home run total was greater than the team totals of all but one of the fifteen other teams and his slugging percentage was the best ever until Barry Bonds broke his record in 2001. The next year, he hit fifty-nine homers. It was not until the 1970s that Henry "Hank" Aaron broke his home run total record. The Yankees became the first team ever to draw one million fans in a season and did so six more times in the 1920s, allowing them to build Yankee Stadium in 1922. More generally, baseball's new emphasis on the home run, as opposed to a dependency on pitching and defense, changed the game dramatically. Pitchers won thirty or more games seventeen times between 1900 and 1920, but not once in the 1920s. In addition to homers, eight players hit over .400 between 1920 and 1930. Only Ted Williams, in 1941, has done so since.

The era from 1920 through 1930 was a great one for baseball. The Yankees began one of their many dynasties, the Philadelphia Athletics under Connie Mack may have been the best team ever, and Branch Rickey, through his invention of the farm system, made the Cardinals a strong franchise despite not having much money. There were also many stars besides Ruth, including Lou Gehrig, Al Simmons, George Sisler, Hack Wilson, and Rogers Hornsby, probably the greatest right-handed hitter ever.

Not surprisingly, the Great Depression and World War II hurt baseball severely. Attendance declined so much that many teams faced collapse, often selling off good players just to survive, while many stars had to serve in the war. Hard times, however, bred innovation to maintain fan interest. The All-Star game, the Hall of Fame, and the Most Valuable Player award were invented in the 1930s. Night baseball, pushed by Larry MacPhail, and radio broadcasts, especially with Red Barber in Cincinnati, became popular. Among the great players of the 1930s, Hank Greenberg, a Jew, and Joe DiMaggio, an Italian American, illustrate the important role minorities have played in baseball. African Americans, however, were conspicuous by their absence.

Blacks, of course, had continued to play baseball at all levels after whites barred them from organized baseball in the 1880s. But none of the black leagues lasted very long until the 1920s, when Andrew "Rube" Foster, formerly a great pitcher, helped establish the Negro National League with teams in the Midwest and East. A rival league survived for only five years. As with the majors, black teams did well in the 1920s but only a few prospered in the 1930s. By World War II, the idea of integration had surfaced, largely from a desire to exploit black talent and interest in baseball. While most African Americans wanted baseball to integrate, many realized it would kill the Negro leagues, an integral part of their society. In 1945, Branch Rickey, now of the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed the twenty-six-year-old Jackie Robinson to a contract with the minor-league Montreal Royals, thus breaking the color barrier. In 1947, Robinson played for the Dodgers and won the Rookie of the Year award. Later in the same year, Larry Doby of the Indians integrated the American League, but it lagged behind the senior circuit in signing black players until the 1960s.

The end of World War II, the return of baseball's stars, and good pennant races increased attendance dramatically up through 1949. To exploit this success, the Mexican League tried to lure players away with large salaries in 1946 but the effort failed. Prompted by talk of a players' union, the owners established a minimum salary and a pension plan in 1946, halting unionization for another twenty years. Baseball faced other problems by the late 1940s, however. The Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees, with stars like Robinson, Mickey Mantle, and Willie Mays, proved too dominant up through 1956 for the sport's health. Television hurt attendance, particularly in the minor leagues, and owners feared using it to broadcast games. And baseball had not followed the population flow into the South, West, and the suburbs; franchises had not moved out of the East and Midwest for almost a century.

In 1952, the Boston Braves decided to move to Milwaukee, thus beginning a shift of franchises that has consistently annoyed the cities, such as Boston and then Milwaukee, which were abandoned, enthralled those that got teams, and led to a dilution of talent. Soon the St. Louis Browns became the Baltimore Orioles, the Athletics moved to Kansas City and then to Oakland, and the Dodgers went to Los Angeles and the Giants to San Francisco. In the early 1960s, expansion occurred in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, New York, and Houston, followed in 1969 by the first international team, the Montreal Expos, then eight years later by the Toronto Blue Jays. Having more teams prompted baseball to divide the league into divisions in 1969, with playoffs to determine World Series opponents.

Sports became a phenomenal business in the 1960s. Baseball's attendance increased by more than 60 percent during the decade, even as basketball and football grew tremendously, competing for both athletes and customers. The influx of great black athletes into baseball began to slow in the 1960s, partly replaced by an expansion in the number of Hispanic players, such as Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal, and Tony Oliva. Baseball itself also changed after the pitcher's mound was raised in 1962; defense, pitching, and speed came to dominate, with players like Maury Wills, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and Lou Brock replacing the sluggers as heroes. In addition, relief pitching became more important, further weakening the offense. In 1973, to increase run production and attendance, the American League introduced the controversial designated hitter, who could replace the pitcher as a batter.

Money proved the most significant problem for baseball, however. After World War II, the owners controlled both baseball and the commissioner. In 1966, the players' association hired Marvin Miller, formerly of the United Steel Workers of America, to help them bargain. Often helped by weak commissioners and inept owners, Miller and the players changed labor relations dramatically. After a brief strike in 1972, their pension plan greatly improved and they won the right to arbitration in disputes with the owners. In 1975, five years after the Cardinals' Curt Flood unsuccessfully challenged the reserve clause, two players, with Miller's counsel, successfully evaded the clause by letting their contracts lapse. Thereafter, players could become free agents and bargain for higher salaries, which they quickly did. In 1981, another strike occurred as owners tried but failed to regain their control of baseball.

Regardless of labor difficulties, baseball enjoyed great success from the late 1970s into the 1990s, with competitive races and great players like Reggie Jackson, Mike Schmidt, Tom Seaver, George Brett, Nolan Ryan, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, and Cal Ripken Jr., who broke Gehrig's consecutive game record. Until later in the decade, when the Yankees prevailed, no team dominated. As attendance rose, with increased leisure time, expansion continued even as franchises became incredibly expensive. Strikeouts increased dramatically as more players tried for home runs and the importance of relief pitching increased. In 1955, only three players struck out 100 times; in 1998, seventy-three players matched that total. But home runs also increased and spectacularly so in 1998 and 1999, when Mark McGuire hit 70 and 65 and Sammy Sosa 66 and 63 to shatter Roger Maris's mark of 61 in 1961. In 2001, Barry Bonds surpassed McGuire's record by hitting 73. For his part, Sosa hit over 60 for the third time, becoming the first player ever to achieve such a feat.

Labor troubles also remained part of baseball with another strike in August of the 1994 season. It was a bitter struggle that wiped out the World Series and only ended at the start of the 1995 season, with both sides far apart and the public angry. Attendance dropped by 20 million from 1993 and was regained only by 2000. The appeal of baseball remained, however, as enthusiasm for minor league teams revived and new parks in Baltimore, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and Cleveland renewed interest. But baseball faced serious problems, such as increased competition for the entertainment dollar, high ticket prices, excessively long games, declining television audiences, the weakness of small market teams with poor finances, and the need to import more and more talent, now from Japan, to play the national pastime.


Rogosin, Donn. Invisible Men: Life in Baseball's Negro Leagues. New York: Atheneum, 1983.

Rossi, John P. The National Game: Baseball and American Culture. Chicago: Ivan Dee, 2000.

Seymour, Harold. Baseball: The Early Years. New York: Oxford University Press, 1960.

———. Baseball: The Golden Age. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.

Solomon, Burt. The Baseball Timeline. Rev. and updated ed. London and New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2001.

Thorn, John, Pete Palmer, and Michael Gershman, eds. Total Baseball. 7th ed. Kingston, N.Y.: Total Sports Publishing, 2001.

Tygiel, Jules. Past Time: Baseball as History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Voigt, David. American Baseball. 3 vols. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1983.

White, G. Edward. Creating the National Pastime: Baseball Transforms Itself, 1903–1953. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Zimbalist, Andrew. Baseball and Billions: A Probing Look Inside the Big Business of Our National Pastime. New York: Basic Books, 1992.


See alsoBlack Sox Scandal ; College Athletics ; Sports .

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Beginnings. Notwithstanding the myth that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in 1839 in Cooperstown, New York, the modern game is not the invention of an individual but the product of an evolutionary process. American children played various versions of the game now known as baseball as early as the eighteenth century. All such gamesvariously known as barn ball, four-old-cat, base, and base ballentailed hitting a ball with a stick, and most could trace their origins to the English games of rounders or cricket. The most popular version of the game in the northeastern states was derived from rounders and called town ball, probably because it took place on town-meeting days. Towns or villages often played against one another, and the rules varied considerably with the circumstances and the players.

Town Ball. As few as eight or nine could play on a side, but some town ball games boasted as many as twenty or thirty men on a team. The most commonly used ball was made of string, stitched down to keep it from unraveling, or else of handsewn leather stuffed with wool, bits of rubber, or string. Town-ball players wore no gloves, but the soft handmade balls rarely hurt, no matter how hard they were thrown. The game was played on a square infield without foul lines. Since any hit was fair, a batter had only to make contact with the ball to put it in play. He then had to touch the poles staked at the bases in their proper order to score a run, but the runner was allowed to run into the outfield and wait until the opposition was distracted to continue his circuita tactic called lurking. A runner could only be called out by being plugged or soaked, that is, hit by the thrown ball. Sides changed whenever someone was thrown out, but scores often ran high. Although town ball had begun as a casual pastime, by the end of the 1830s the game was becoming more serious and more competitive.

The New York Game. An important step in the evolution of baseball, or the New York game, as it was soon to be called, was taken in 1842, when nine prosperous businessmen and lawyers banded together to form the exclusive New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club. These men were dedicated to turning the sport into a gentlemans activity. They practiced seriously, wore similar clothingblue trousers, white shirts, and straw hatsand, led by Alexander J. Cartwright, gradually changed and codified the rules. They decided that nine players would play on a diamond-shaped field and that three outs would constitute an inning. In an important change from rounders, Cartwright described how a base-runner must be tagged and wrote that in no instance is a ball to be thrown at him. Other rulessuch as the setting of twenty-one aces (runs) as the goal of the game, the requirement that the pitcher throw underhand, and calling a batter out if his hit ball was caught on the first bouncewould be changed as the game developed.

Elysian Fields. The Knickerbockers first baseball game against another team was played on 19 June 1846 in a meadow in Hoboken called the Elysian fields, where they lost 23-1 to the New York Nine. Gradually, other baseball clubs or fraternities formed in the city, composed mostly of clerks from banks, shops, and count-inghouses, but there were also clubs of policemen, firemen, schoolteachers, bartenders, actors, doctors, and clergymen. Interest in the game grew as clubs began to schedule contests against rivals. In the years 1849-1851 teams began to create their own colorful and distinctive military-style uniforms. During the 1850s these baseball clubs also organized their own social activities, such as picnics, dances, and formal dinners.

Organization. The popularity of the game led the Knickerbockers to call a convention in May 1857, where it was decided that Cartwrights rules be modified so that nine innings rather than twenty-one runs determine the length of the game. A second convention on 10 March 1858 saw the creation of the sports first league, the National Association of Base Ball Players. The twenty-five-member teams would become less and less exclusive as competition intensified and gambling on games became more widespread. The first game of the National Association, between rivals from New York and Brooklyn, was also the first occasion of fans paying to see a game. Some fifteen hudnred fans paid fifty cents apiece, the gate paying for the cost of preparing the field that was the Fashion Race Course for baseball.

Soldiers. The Civil War helped to nationalize the game of baseball as New Yorkers spread the gospel of their game. On Christmas Day 1862, for example, a game between two teams organized from the 165th New York Volunteer Infantry attracted forty-thousand spectators. Soldiers often played informal games while waiting in camp for their marching orders. One private from Ohio discussed the popularity of the game in the middle of war. Over there on the other side of the road, he wrote home to his family, is most of our company, playing Bat Ball and perhaps in less than half an hour, they may be called to play a ball game of a more serious nature. Southern prisoners of war learned the game in northern prisons, and Yankees brought baseball to Confederate prison camps, where they sometimes played with their captors.

Postwar Popularity. Both Confederate and Union soldiers brought the game back home with them after the end of the war and interest grew exponentially. The annual convention of the National Association of 1867 drew representatives from 237 clubs, many of them from mid western states such as Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. Baseball was gaining in popularity on college campuses as well, and even a few women began to play. They are getting up various clubs now for out-of-door exercise, wrote home Annie Glidden from Vassar College in 1866. They have a floral society, boat clubs and base-ball clubs. I belong to one of the latter, and enjoy it highly, I can assure you. Public disapproval soon led to the disbanding of such womens clubs.

Barnstorming. Although interest in baseball was becoming national, rivalries remained local because few amateur clubs had the resources or desire to travel beyond their regions. The first team to barnstorm the country was a group of government clerks and college students, who represented the Nationals of Washington, D.C. Leaving the capital in July 1867, they toured the Midwest, traveling some three thousand miles and trouncing many of the teams of the region. Washington suffered only one loss on the entire trip, to the Forest City Club of Rockford, Illinois. Pitching that day for Forest City was seventeen-year-old Albert G. Spalding, who had learned the game from a Civil War veteran.

The Red Stockings. One of the teams the Washington Nationals had humiliated on their tour was the Cincinnati Red Stockings. In 1869 a group of Cincinnati businessmen decided that the only way their city could have a team they could be proud of would be to field professional players. Although the practice of nominally amateur clubs surreptitiously paying a few players had been going on for years, the Red Stockings were the first avowedly professional team. Only Charles Gould, the first baseman, was from Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Reigns. The talented, well-disciplined Red Stockings were a revelation to the two hundred thousand fans who saw them that summer of 1869. They traveled nearly twelve thousand miles from coast to coast and played every prominent club without losing a game. The one blemish on their record resulted from their game with the Haymakers of Troy, New York, who quit in the sixth inning with the score knotted at seventeen because of an argument about a foul tip. When the Red Stockings returned to Cincinnati with a record of sixty-five wins and one tie, club president Aaron Champion declared, Id rather be president of the Cincinnati Reds than of the United States! The Red Stockings continued their winning streak into the next season as they toured the deep South. It was finally snapped at ninty-two by the Brooklyn Atlantics, who beat them 8-7 in eleven inningsperhaps the first extra-innings game.

The National Association. The success of the Red Stockings created an appetite among fans for professional play. In a 17 March 1871 meeting in a New York saloon, the representatives of ten teams established the first professional league, the National Association of Professional Baseball Players. The original members included the Boston Red Stockings, Chicago White Stockings, Cleveland Forest Citys, Fort Wayne Kekiongas, New York Mutuais, Philadelphia Athletics, Rockford Forest Citys, Washington Nationals, and the Washington Olympics. The Brooklyn Eckfords, who had attended the meeting, on reflection decided that the new league was too unstable and not worth the $10 required for membership. However, when the Fort Wayne Kekiongas dropped out during the first season, Brooklyn replaced them. Each team was to schedule a best three-of-five series with the others, the team with the best record winning the honor of flying the championship streamer, or whip pennant, at its ballpark for the next year. The National Association lasted five years, with the Boston Red Stockings dominating the last four seasons after the Philadelphia Athletics claimed the first pennant.

The National League. With the National Association fast losing public support because of gambling scandals, disreputable fan behavior, and its inability to enforce discipline on its member clubs, Chicago businessman William A. Hulbert saw an opportunity for reforming professional baseball. In 1875 Hulbert had accepted the presidency of the Chicago White Sox of the National Association and set about contracting the best players from the eastern clubs to play for his team, most notably Albert G. Spalding, then the star pitcher for Boston. In discussions with Spalding, Hulbert became convinced that the National Association was too undisciplined to survive and decided to propose a National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs, which could exercise much firmer control over the game. Calling a meeting of National Association teams at noon on 2 February 1876 at his suite in the Grand Central Hotel in New York City, Hulbert laid out his plans for a stronger, more disciplined organization: the entrance fee was raised from $10 to $100; membership was limited to cities with populations of at least seventy-five thousand to ensure adequate gate receipts; liquor and bookmaking were banned at ballparks; there would be no tolerance of players involved with gambling. The era of Major League Baseball had begun.

The Early Years. The first years of the National League were especially difficult ones. In the inaugural season the charter clubsNew York, Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia, Chicago, Saint Louis, Cincinnati, and Louisvilleplayed a seventy-game schedule, with Hul-berts Chicago team taking the pennant. The stability of the league was threatened, however, when its biggest market clubs, Philadelphia and New York, refused to make the long road trips west to play return games with the clubs that had traveled east. Hulbert saw to it that both teams were expelled. In 1877 Boston won the championship. Four Louisville players were found guilty of taking bribes from gamblers and were suspended for life. Such strong actions ensured the credibility of the National League and its long-term survival. Professional baseball was on its way to becoming a permanent fixture of American life.


The decimation of buffalo herds by white hunters, railroad crews, settlers, and soldiers is well recorded in the annals of American history. However, the rail passenger in the Great West also contributed to the destruction, Elizabeth Custer, wife of Lt. Col. George A. Custer, described one disturbing scene while traveling by rail in the late 1860s:

I have been on a train when the black, moving mass of buffaloes before us looked as if it stretched on down to the horizon. Everyone went armed in those days, and & [it] was the greatest wonder that more people were not killed, as the wild rush for the windows, and the reckless discharge of rifles and pistols, put every passengers life in jeopardy. & I could not for the life of me avoid a shudder when a long line of guns leaning on the backs of seats met my eye as I entered a car. When the sharp shrieks of the train whistle announced a herd of buffaloes the rifles were snatched, and in the struggle to twist around for a good aim out of the narrow window the barrel of the muzzle of the firearm passed dangerously near the ear of any scared woman who had the temerity to travel in those tempestuous days.

Source: Geoffrey C. Ward, The West: An illustrated History (Boston: Little, Brown, 1996), p. 261.


Dean A. Sullivan, Early Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1825-1908 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995);

Hy Türkin and S. C. Thompson, The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball, eighth edition, revised by Pete Palmer (South Brunswick & New York: A. S. Barnes, 1976);

Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, Baseball: An Illustrated History (New York: Knopf, 1994).

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Early Professionalism. Since its beginnings in the 1830s, baseball had been played by loosely organized amateur clubs in the Northeast. In 1858 these teams organized the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP). In 1869 Harry Wright, a transplanted Englishman and former cricket player, organized the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first publicly proclaimed professional baseball team. Wright, who earned $1,200 as a player and team captain, recruited many of the best amateur players, paying them salaries of $600 to $1,400. After completing the 1869 season with a record of 58 wins and 1 tie, in 1870 the Red Stockings lost several games and experienced great financial strain from the salaries of their top players. The team disbanded after 1870, and Wright took his best players to Boston and organized a new team. In 1871 professional teams formed the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NAPBBP). The formation of the NAPBBP, following the demise of the NABBP in 1870, signaled the end of the influence of amateurism on baseball in the United States, as the NAPBBP set the rules of the game and established a selection process for a national champion. In 1871 the Philadelphia Athletics defeated the Chicago White Stockings for the NAPBBP pennant. The most dominant NAPBBP team was Harry Wrights Bostonians, who posted a record of 227 wins and 60 losses and won four consecutive pennants from 1872 to 1875.

The Rise of the National League. In 1876 William A. Hulbert, president of the Chicago White Stockings, founded the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs. With the National League (NL) Hulbert established a profitable organization and pioneered the business and bureaucratic structures that would characterize professional team sports into the twentieth century. The NL, which consisted of teams from Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Hartford, Louisville, Philadelphia, Saint Louis, and Indianapolis, maximized owner profits by restricting each city to only one team and limiting the owners ability to trade players freely through the reserve clause. Originally a gentlemens agreement, the reserve clause became a set rule in 1879. The reserve clause permitted team owners to reserve their five best players from trade negotiations with other teams. By the 1880s the owners applied the reserve clause to their entire rosters. Hulbert, who served as president of the NL until his death in 1882, ruled the league with an iron hand, throwing out teams that threatened the integrity of the league and the moral image of professional baseball. He expelled Philadelphia and New York from the league for refusing to complete their final road tours in 1876, and Saint Louis and Cincinnati in 1880 for selling beer and playing games on Sunday. The top team in the NL was Hulberts Chicago White Stockings, led by Albert Spalding and baseballs first superstar player, Adrian Cap Anson.


1876 Chicago Albert G. Spalding 52-14 .788
1877 Boston Harry Wright 31-17 .646
1878 Boston Harry Wright 41-19 .683
1879 Providence George Wright 55-23 .705
1880 Chicago Adrian C. Anson 67-17 .798
1881 Chicago Adrian C. Anson 56-28 .667
1882 Chicago Adrian C. Anson 55-29 .655
1883 Boston John F. Morrill 63-35 .643
1884 Providence Frank C. Bancroft 84-28 .750
1885 Chicago Adrian C. Anson 87-25 .777
1886 Chicago Adrian C. Anson 90-34 .726
1887 Detroit William H. Watkins 79-45 .637
1888 New York James Mutrie 84-47 .641
1889 New York James Mutrie 83-43 .659
1890 Brooklyn William McGunnigle 86-43 .667
1891 Boston Frank Selee 87-51 .630
1892 Boston Frank Selee 102 - 48 .680
1893 Boston Frank Selee 86-44 .662
1894 Baltimore Edward H. Hanlon 89-39 .695
1895 Baltimore Edward H. Hanlon 87-43 .669
1896 Baltimore Edward H. Hanlon 90-39 .705
1897 Boston Frank Selee 93-39 .685
1898 Boston Frank Selee 102 - 47 .677
1899 Brooklyn Edward H. Hanlon 88-42 .603
1900 Brooklyn Edward H. Hanlon 82-54 .647

The Challenge of the American Association. Hulberts NL had such a monopoly on baseball by the early 1880s that the only way new teams could emerge was through the formation of rival leagues. In 1881 sportswriters Alfred H. Spink from Saint Louis and Oliver P. Caylor from Cincinnati organized the American Association of Base Ball Clubs (AA) to challenge the National League for the baseball dollar. The American Association, with teams in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Louisville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Saint Louis, catered to the working class by charging a low admission price of twenty-five cents, playing games on Sunday (the only day off for most workers), and selling beer. In 1882, after the first year of play by the American Association, the National League recognized the threat to its baseball monopoly and quickly reestablished teams in New York and Philadelphia. More important, the National League worked out a truce, the National Agreement, with the American Association and the Northwestern League, a minor league that operated in Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, to mutually recognize the reserve clause and territorial rights of each team. Internal problems, however, undermined the stability of the American Association. Brooklyn and Saint Louis not only battled for the American Association pennant but for administrative control of the league. After a Saint Louis representative became president of the American Association in 1890, Brooklyn and Cincinnati resigned from the Association and joined the National League. After a poorly attended 1891 season, the American Association disbanded, and four teams joined the National League.

Players Revolt. In the 1880s baseball players organized for increased salaries and reform of the reserve clause. Although the 1880s were a prosperous decade for major league baseball, team owners held salaries at the levels of the previous decade and, to further maximize their profits, imposed a salary cap. The salaries of baseball players averaged $1,750 annually, nearly three times the wages of typical industrial workers. However, unlike the industrial worker who could (in theory at least) freely market his skills, baseball players were bound to specific teams by the reserve clause, and were unable to freely sell their skills to the highest bidder. In response to the players demands for higher salaries and reserve-clause reform, John Montgomery Ward, a star player with the New York Giants and a law graduate of Columbia University, founded the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, the first baseball players union, in 1885. Within two years Ward presented the National League with a player contract, which the National League accepted, but without abandoning its salary structure. In 1889 the National League imposed a salary cap of $2,500, and angry players called for a strike, but Ward advised against it, presenting the league with the ultimatum that it abandon its salary cap or face competition from a brotherhood league in 1890. That year he formed the Players League (PL), with teams in seven of the cities with National League teams. Players and owners shared the wealth in the Players League. Despite limited success in luring some players away from the National League, including the entire Washington team, the Players League collapsed after the 1890 season, with the National League buying back many of its former stars. Moreover, the National League assured the failure of the Players League through threats and bribes to its financial backers.


During the late nineteenth century major league baseball became racially segregated. In 1867 the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP), which governed amateur baseball, barred African Americans, maintaining that only whites could uphold baseballs gentlemanly character. Owners of professional teams in pursuit of winning records, however, signed contracts with skilled African American players. While the first African American professional baseball player was John Bud Fowler in New Castle, Pennsylvania, in 1872, the first to play in the major league was Moses Fleetwood Walker, who joined Toledo of the International League in 1884. Unfortunately he and his brother Welday only played one season. Racial tensions hit baseball in 1887, when a white player for Syracuse (International League) refused to stand in the team picture with an African American teammate. Afterward International League owners decided to discontinue signing African Americans, but permitted existing players to remain on the teams. Also that year Adrian Cap Anson, manager of the Chicago White Stockings, refused to let his team play an exhibition game against Newark (International League) because its starting pitcher, George Stovey, was an African American. This event led major league owners to release their African American players and agree not to sign any more to contracts. African Americans formed their own professional baseball teams and leagues, with the first being the Cuban Giants in New York in 1885. The team chose the name Cuban Giants because they wanted the public to think they were Cuban rather than American. In 1887 the League of Colored Baseball Clubs organized, with teams in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Pittsburgh, Norfolk, Cincinnati, Baltimore, and Louisville, The Cuban Giants defeated the Pittsburgh Keystones in the first Colored Championships of America in 1888.

Sources: Arthur R. Ashe Jr., A Hard Road to Glory: A History of the African-American Athlete, 1619-1918 (New York: Amistad Press, I 1988);

Benjamin G. Rader, Baseball: A History of Americas Game (Urbana &. j I Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992);

David Quentin Voigt, American Baseball: From the Gentlemans Sport to the Commissioner System (University Park London: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1983).

National League Troubles. Despite the demise of both the Players League in 1890 and the American Association in 1891, the 1890s brought more troubles to the National League. As a result of buying out many of the players and teams of the Players League and the American Association, the National League accumulated great debts, which the league could not settle because of a national economic depression, poor attendance, public disillusionment with the game, and increased competition from other forms of public entertainment. Fans refused to attend games at home or on the road involving teams with poor records, such as Louisville and Saint Louis, which consistently occupied last place in the final standings. Even the New York Giants, the mainstay of the National League, failed to field a strong team in the 1890s. To increase fan interest and profitability, the team owners wrestled with the decision to reduce the number of teams or form two six-team divisions. In 1899 the league returned to an eight-team circuit comprising of Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Saint Louis. Moreover, the NL navigated the troubled 1890s without a leader, as Albert Spalding, who led the league against the Players League in 1890, had retired as president of the Chicago White Stockings. Indeed the National Leagues troubles would continue into the twentieth century, until a new agreement in 1903 created a stable league structure.


Benjamin G. Rader, Baseball: A History of Americas Game (Urbana & Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992);

Harold Seymour, Baseball: The Early Years (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960);

David Quentin Voigt, American Baseball: From the Gentlemans Sport to the Commissioner System (University Park & London: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1983).

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The baseball traces its origin to the game of the same name. Modern baseball evolved from the English game of "rounders" in the first half of the 19th century. Alexander Cartwright of New York formulated the basic rules of baseball in 1845, calling for the replacement of the soft ball used in rounders with a smaller hard ball.

Despite its uncomplicated appearance, the baseball is in fact a precision-made object, and one that has often been the subject of heated controversy throughout its history. Although baseballs have changed very little in this century, either in terms of their physical dimensions or raw materials, some observers have suggested that the balls have secretly been "juiced up" to increase the output of crowd-pleasing homeruns during periods of lagging attendance at major league baseball games. The manufacturers of baseballs and Major League Baseball have steadfastly denied such allegations, however, and no proof of any covert alterations in the ball's design or composition has ever been produced.

An official Major League baseball consists of a round cushioned cork center called a "pill," wrapped tightly in windings of wool and polyester/cotton yarn, and covered by stitched cowhide. Approximately 600,000 baseballs are used by all Major League teams combined during the course of a season. The average baseball remains in play for only five to seven pitches in a Major League game. Each ball must weigh between 5 and 5.25 ounces (141.75-148.83 grams) and measure between 9 and 9.25 inches (22.86-23.49 centimeters) in circumference to conform to Major League standards.

Such uniformity was nonexistent in the early years of baseball's history, when balls were either homemade or produced on a custom-order basis as a sideline by cobblers, tanners and other small business owners. In 1872, the modern standard for the baseball's weight and size was established. The production of balls became more consistent during the remainder of the decade, thanks largely to the demands made on manufacturers by the newly formed National League, the first professional baseball league.

At the turn of the century, the baseball had a round rubber core. This gave way in 1910 to the livelier cork-centered ball, which was itself replaced two decades later by the even more resilient cushioned cork model. The baseball has undergone only one significant change since that time, when a shortage in the supply of horses in 1974 prompted a switch from horsehide to cowhide covers.

Raw Materials

A baseball has three basic parts: the round cushioned cork pill at its core, the wool and poly/cotton windings in its midsection, and the cowhide covering that makes up its exterior.

The pill consists of a sphere, measuring 13/16 of an inch (2.06 centimeters) in diameter, made of a cork and rubber composition material. This sphere is encased in two layers of rubber, a black inner layer and a red outer layer. The inner layer is made up of two hemispheric shells of black rubber that are joined by red rubber washers. The entire pill measures 4- inches (10.47 centimeters) in circumference.

There are four distinct layers of wool and poly/cotton windings that surround the cushioned cork pill in concentric circles of varying thickness. The first winding is made of four-ply gray woolen yarn, the second of three-ply white woolen yarn, the third of three-ply gray woolen yarn, and the fourth of white poly/cotton finishing yarn. The first layer of wool is by far the thickest. When wrapped tightly around the pill, it brings the circumference of the unfinished ball to 7-3/4 inches (19.68 centimeters). The circumference increases to 8-3/16 inches (20.77 centimeters) after the second winding has been applied, 8-3/4 inches (22.22 centimeters) after the third, and 8-% (22.52 centimeters) after the fourth.

Wool was selected as the primary material for the baseball's windings because its natural resiliency and "memory" allow it to compress when pressure is applied, then rapidly return to its original shape. This property makes it possible for the baseball to retain its perfect roundness despite being hit repeatedly during a game. A poly/cotton blend was selected for the outer winding to provide added strength and reduce the risk of tears when the ball's cowhide cover is applied.

The baseball's outer cover is made of Number One Grade, alum-tanned full-grained cowhide, primarily from Midwest Holstein cattle. Midwest Holsteins are preferred because their hides have a better grain and are cleaner and smoother than those of cattle in other areas of the United States. The cover of an official baseball must be white, and it must be stitched together with 88 inches (223.52 centimeters) of waxed red thread. Cowhides are tested for 17 potential deficiencies in thickness, grain strength, tensile strength and other areas before they are approved for use on official Major League baseballs.

The Manufacturing

The production of a baseball can be viewed as a process of placing successive layers of material (rubber, fabric and cowhide) around a rubbery sphere not much bigger than a cherry. These materials are placed around the small sphere in three distinct ways: the rubber is molded, the fabric is wound, and the cowhide is sewn. The placement of materials around the sphere is done under carefully controlled conditions to ensure that consistent size, shape and quality are maintained.

Baseball," wrote Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens), "is the very symbol, the outward and visible expression of the drive and push and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming nineteenth century." Baseball initially evolved into a favorite American sport because it was faster paced and more physical than its English predecessors, cricket, town-ball, and rounders. Though cricket was played wherever English immigrants congregated in the United States, Americans seemed to prefer the more aggressive character of baseball. Initially played by gentlemen in fashionable clothing, the game and its equipmentand its popularitybegan to change once rules were written down in the 1840s. In particular, the game gained tremendous popularity after the Civil War. The ball itself was changed at least twice in that century: the first ball was too lively (scores sometimes exceeded 100 runs); the second was too dead (a scoreless 24-inning game convinced many that hitters were disadvantaged).

A. G. Spalding made headline news in 1888-89 when he led a widely popular tour of American baseball players that played demonstration games in countries around the world. By the turn of the century, Spalding was marketing four baseballs in boy's size and eight in regulation size, each costing from four cents to one dollar.

William S. Pretzer

Molding rubber

  • 1 Two hemispheric shells of black rubber, each approximately 5/3 of an inch (.39 centimeter) thick, are molded to a sphere of rubberized cork measuring %, of an inch (2.06 centimeters) in diameter. The two small openings that separate these shells are sealed with red rubber gaskets.
  • 2 Next, a layer of red rubber roughly 3/32 of an inch (.24 centimeter) thick is molded to the black rubber encasement. The entire "pill" is then molded into a perfect circle weighing approximately of an ounce (24.80 grams) with a circumference of roughly 4- inches (10.48 centimeters). Once the pill has been molded, a thin layer of cement is applied to its surface. This layer keeps the wool yarn in place on the pill at the start of the first winding operation.

Winding fabric

  • 3 Wool yarn, stored under controlled fabric temperature and humidity conditions, is wound around the pill. This is done by computerized winding machines that maintain a constant level of very high tension to eliminate "soft spots," and create a uniform surface. After each step in the winding process, the ball is weighed and measured by computer to assure that official size requirements have been met. The wool yarn is wound so tightly that it has the appearance of thread when a baseball is dissected. Three layers of wool are wound around the baseball: the first, 121 yards (110.6 meters) of four-ply gray yarn; the second, 45 yards (41.13 meters) of three-ply white; and the third, 53 yards (48.44 meters) of three-ply gray.
  • 4 A layer of 150 yards (137.1 meters) of fine poly/cotton finishing yarn is wrapped around the ball to protect the wool yarn and hold it in place. The wound ball is then trimmed of any excess fabric and prepared for the application of the external cowhide covering by being dipped in an adhesive solution.

Sewing hide

  • 5 The cowhide covering is cut into two figure-8 patterns. Each pattern covers half the wound ball. Before they are stitched to the wound ball, the cowhide coverings are dampened to increase their pliability. The insides of the coverings also receive a coating of the same adhesive that was applied to the wound ball.
  • 6 The two figure-8 coverings are stapled to the wound ball, then they are hand-sewn together using 88 inches (223.52 centimeters) of waxed red thread. There are 108 stitches in the sewing process, with the first and last completely hidden. An average of 13 to 14 minutes is required to hand-sew a baseball.
  • 7 After the covers have been stitched together, the staples are removed and the ball is inspected. The ball is then placed in a rolling machine for 15 seconds to level any raised stitches. The baseballs are then measured, weighed and graded for appearance. Acceptable baseballs are stamped with the manufacturer's trademark and league designation.

Quality Control

A statistically representative sample of each shipment of baseballs is tested to measure Co-Efficient Of Restitution (COR), using Major League Baseball's officially sanctioned testing procedures. Essentially, the COR is an indication of the resiliency of a baseball.

The COR test involves shooting a baseball from an air cannon at a velocity of 85-feet-a-second (25.90-meters-a-second) at a wooden wall from a distance of eight feet (2.43 meters), and measuring the speed with which the ball rebounds off the wall. Major League COR specifications stipulate that a baseball must rebound at 54.6 percent of the initial velocity, plus or minus 3.2 percent.

A baseball must also retain its round shape after being hit 200 times by a 65-pound (29.51 kilograms) force. As proof of its strength, a baseball must distort less than 0.08 of an inch (.20 centimeter) after being compressed between two anvils.

The Future

The size of baseballs and the raw materials used to make them are likely to remain unchanged in the foreseeable future. Also, few, if any, changes are expected in the process by which baseballs are manufactured.

Attempts have been made to automate the process of sewing cowhide covers on baseballs, but none has been successful. Automated machines that have been experimented with have exhibited two serious problems: first, they have been unable to start or stop the stitching process without manual assistance; and second, they have been unable to vary the tension of their stitches, something that is essential if the two figure-8 coverings are to fit securely on the wound ball without tearing.

It is also probable that the controversy about juiced-up balls will continue as long as the game of baseball is played and fans seek an explanation for fluctuations in the homerun output of favorite teams and players.

Where To Learn More


Cleary, David Powers. Great American Brands. Fairchild Applications, 1981.

Danzig, Allison and Joe Reichler. The History of Baseball. Prentice Hall, 1959.

James, Bill. The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. Villard Books, 1986.

Seymour, Harold. Baseball: The People's Game. Oxford University Press, 1990.

Thorn, John and Bob Carroll, eds. The Whole Baseball Catalog. Fireside Books, 1990.


"Batter Up for a Baseball Factory Tour," Southern Living. November, 1989, p. 34.

Suzy Fucini

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Although certain laws have protected citizens from various forms of monopolistic practices for decades, the legal decisions surrounding "America's favorite pastime" have allowed it to remain exempt from most forms of government intervention. Through the years, Major League Baseball (MLB) has escaped measures that would have ended its exclusive control over contracts and copyrights and its all-around monopoly on professional U.S. baseball. Meanwhile, as contracts and team expenditures have come to run well into the millions of dollars, many have come to see baseball as less of a sport than a business—and a business that should be regulated. The United States still reveres baseball, but fans, players, and owners all hope that government decisions will save it from labor strikes and a host of other ills. The government, however, continues to do little other than let baseball remain a special, nationally protected institution.

The professional growth of baseball—and some of its headaches—followed a natural economic progression. Much of the sport's origin is shrouded in myth, but it is thought that it got off to its humble start sometime in the nineteenth century. The first organized contest probably happened on June 19, 1846, between two amateur teams: the New York Nine and the Knickerbockers. In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, a professional team, paved the way for other franchises to come into existence. In 1871, the National Association of Professional Baseball Players was born. The ensuing days belong to popular remembrance. Abner Doubleday formed the National League in 1876, and baseball has existed somewhere between game and profitable enterprise ever since.

From its early days, the courts have failed to see baseball as posing a threat to the laws of business. The monumental sherman anti-trust act of 1890 (15 U.S.C.A. § 1 et seq.)—a statute prohibiting monopolies—forbids undue restraint of trade on commerce between states. In 1920, an appeals court ruled that the fact that baseball operates on an interstate level was part of its unobjectionable nature as a sport (National League of Professional Baseball Clubs v. Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore, 50 App. D.C. 165, 269 F. 681). It stated, in general reference to other forms of trade and commerce, that "the Sherman Anti-Trust Act … does not apply, unless the effect of the act complained of on interstate commerce is direct, not merely indirect or incidental." Baseball, the court found, did not pose a threat to the economy of the world of sports.

The National League case stemmed from allegations made by the Federal League's Baltimore Terrapins. In the early 1900s, the struggling Federal League had sought to become a venture of the major leagues and had competed with other major league franchises. But the National and American Leagues bought out many of the Federal teams, sometimes player by player, with offers they could not refuse. The Terrapins, one of the last surviving vestiges of the Federal League, sued the National League. Representatives of the Terrapins argued that MLB owners had treated the Terrapins with scorn, offering them only $50,000 in settlement for damages incurred by the buyouts. In court, the Terrapins argued that MLB had violated antitrust laws and had participated in monopolizing ventures.

The case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (National League, 259 U.S. 200, 42 S. Ct. 465, 66 L. Ed. 898 [1922]). In 1922, the Court made a classic decision. In an opinion written by Justice oliver wendell holmes jr.,

the Supreme Court declared baseball to be, first and foremost, a sport and not a business. In Holmes's words, baseball activities were "purely state affairs." The decision gave baseball the unique status of being the only official professional sports organization to be exempt from antimonopoly laws. In effect, the decision protected baseball as a national treasure.

The National League decision was reaffirmed in 1953 with Toolson v. New York Yankees, 346U.S. 356, 74 S. Ct. 78, 98 L. Ed. 64. In a brief statement, the Court ruled against the plaintiff, minor league player George Toolson. Toolson's arguments were based on the complaint that baseball was a monopoly that offered him unfair contract deals. The Court said Congress alone had been given the right to exercise powers that could break up the structure of baseball's professional organization.

The controversial issue in Toolson was baseball's reserve clause. This clause stood as the earliest symbol of the sport's underlying business nature. It stated that once a player had accepted a contract to play for a certain team, the player was bound to serve that team for one year and must enter into a new contract with the same team "for the succeeding season at a salary to be determined by the parties to such contract." It

was agreed that if a player violated the reserve clause, the athlete would be guilty of "contract jumping" and would be ineligible to serve in any club of the leagues until formally reinstated.

The reserve clause guaranteed players little more than an income. Players attacked it. In the 1970s, Curtis C. Flood, center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, brought charges against Bowie K. Kuhn, acting commissioner of baseball. The issue was a player's free agency, which Flood had requested and Kuhn had denied. Free agency is the freedom to negotiate a contract with any team, basically a release from the reserve clause. Taking his case to the Supreme Court, Flood argued that the reserve clause unfairly prevented him from striking deals with other teams that would pay him more for his services. The Supreme Court decided on June 19, 1972, that it did not have the authority to act (Flood v. Kuhn, 407 U.S. 258, 92 S. Ct. 2099, 32 L. Ed. 2d 728). Only baseball's acting commissioner could designate free agency.

Player discontent, as a reaction to the decision, set the stage for more free agency bids, and arbitration between players and owners began in 1973. In January 1976, Andy Messersmith's success in obtaining free agency ushered in a new era of high stakes: players could now dictate certain terms of employment, and hence came the dawn of multimillion-dollar contracts.

Money was also at issue in a case related to another aspect of the game. After more than a century of professional play, in 1986, televised broadcasts of baseball and the copyright laws surrounding them came into question. Players felt that the terms of their employment did not include their performances for television audiences. They insisted that the telecasts and the profits being derived from them were being made without their consent. In Baltimore Orioles v. Major League Baseball Players Ass'n, 805F.2d 663 (7th Cir. 1986), major league clubs sought a declaratory judgment that they possessed an exclusive right to broadcast games. The major league players argued that their performances were not copyrightable works because they lacked sufficient artistic merit. Refusing to cut into the control of MLB over the airwaves, the federal appellate court ruled that the telecasts were indeed copyrightable works and that clubs were entitled to the revenues derived from them.

Throughout these cases, decisions about the economy of baseball have been left to the players and owners. For this reason, baseball has been referred to as an anomaly in relation to the nation's antitrust laws, and its exemption has been called "an aberration confined to baseball" (Flood). The push for congressional action to eliminate this exemption reached a fever pitch with the baseball players' strike of 1994–95. The strike left many in baseball, including fans, disenfranchised. Senator Howard M. Metzenbaum, an Ohio Democrat who headed the subcommittee on antitrust laws, led the fight to remove the antitrust exemption from baseball. However, the 234-day strike ended in an agreement between owners and players, in which owners promised to pay "luxury taxes" on clubs with high payrolls. Congress was spared the necessity of acting.

Local communities, however, faced the possibility of losing their MLB franchises as the economics of baseball changed dramatically in the late 1990s. Major market teams, many of them now owned by corporations rather than wealthy individuals, drove up player payrolls. This hurt smaller market teams and teams owned by individuals who either lacked resources or the desire to match salaries. The Minnesota Twins, unable to secure a new, publicly funded baseball stadium, threatened to move to another state in 1997. The state of Minnesota sought unsuccessfully to probe the team's finances and that of MLB, but in the end the Twins could not secure a sale or move of the team.

Unable to stem rising costs, the baseball league proposed contracting two teams before the 2002 season. Under contraction, MLB would buy out the owners and distribute the players to other teams through a draft. The league argued that contraction would strengthen the financial well-being of the sport. The owners, however, needed to move quickly if contraction was to happen before the 2002 season.

The Montreal Expos and the Minnesota Twins were rumored to be the teams selected for contraction. In Minnesota, the operators of the Metrodome, where the Twins play their home games, sued the Twins and MLB, asking a state court to order the Twins to play the 2002 season. They sought to either win on the merits or delay contraction for a year. The judge issued a preliminary injunction and the Twins appealed, arguing that they did have an obligation to pay the rent for the season, but they could choose whether or not to play the season. The Minnesota Court of Appeals, in Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission v. Minnesota Twins Partnership, 638 N.W.2d 214 (2002), upheld the injunction, which meant that contraction became impossible for the 2002 season. The baseball league later abandoned the concept of contraction, at least for the near future.

further readings

Burk, Robert F. 1994. Never Just a Game. Chapel Hill, N.C.: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

Helyar, John. 1994. Lords of the Realm. New York: Villard Books.

Kovaleff, Theodore P. 1994. The Antitrust Impulse. New York: Sharpe.

Lewis, Michael. 2003. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. New York: Norton.

Sands, Jack, and Peter Gammons. 1993. Coming Apart at the Seams. New York: Macmillan.

U.S. Congress Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law. 1993–94. Baseball's Antitrust Exemption: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Zimbalist, Andrew S. 1992. Baseball and Billions: A Probing Look Inside the Big Business of Our National Pastime. New York: Basic Books.

Zimbalist, Andrew S., and Bob Costas. 2003. May the Best Team Win: Baseball Economics and Public Policy. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.


Sports Law.

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Baseball, an American invention, is part of American culture and national identity and for many boys, playing baseball is a male rite of passage. Although the game of baseball as it is known today is uniquely American, it derives from the popular English children's bat-and-ball game called rounders. In the American colonies various versions of bat and ball gameschiefly popular with boysevolved such as round ball, goal ball, one old cat, town ball, and base.

As early as the 1700s there are also references to men playing forms of baseball. A diary entry of a soldier from the American Revolution, who served under General George Washington at Valley Forge in 1778, talks about exercising in the afternoon by playing at base. A 1787 notice forbids Princeton College students from playing stick and ball games on the common.

Credit for the game of baseball as it is known today, however, goes to Alexander Cartwright, a bank clerk, who established the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York in 1845 and wrote down the first official set of rules. These rules also became know as "New York rules." By 1857 there were almost fifty clubs within and around Manhattan. These baseball clubs were organized around occupational, ethnic, and neighborhood affiliations. That year, the Knickerbocker Club with fifteen other New York area clubs formed the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP). Many of these New York City area clubs also formed junior boys' teams. By 1860 there were enough junior boys' teams to form a national association. The era of informal boys' games had evolved into the era of formally organized clubs. Boys continued to play informal pick-up games of baseball in rural areas in open fields, in urban areas in vacant lots, and in the street.

The Civil War, rather than curtailing the development of baseball, became instrumental in democratizing and spreading the game throughout the country. Veteran soldiers, having played the game during the war, brought the game back to their hometowns. At the end of the war in 1865 the National Association of Base Ball Players membership included ninety-one clubs from ten states. The upper-class amateur gentlemen's club game of the Knickerbockers had evolved into the people's game. However, this democratization had its limits. In 1867 the NABBP banned black players, setting a precedent for segregated teams that remained in place for eighty years.

As baseball became more popular, rivalries between city and town teams placed greater emphasis on winning than sportsmanship, leading to an influx of gamblers and to star players being paid off the record. The first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was formed in 1869. In 1869 and 1870, the team barnstormed across the country playing against local amateur teams, winning 130 of the 132 games they played. Their popularity led to the formation of other professional teams. In 1871 the National Association of Professional Baseball Players was formed and in 1881 the American Association followed. The 1880s mark the golden age of baseball and by 1890 there were seventeen white and two black professional leagues. The era of professional baseball had arrived. Although professional baseball was confined primarily to urban areas, every town and city had amateur and semi-professional teams that drew large crowds. Watching baseball games became a major form of entertainment. Professional team owners even encouraged women to come to the games in the belief that the presence of ladies would attract more male fans and curtail their rowdy behavior.

Baseball was also flourishing in the public schools. Grammar school boys often played at recess and high schools were developing their own teams. At private boys' boarding schools baseball was a part of the athletic program. By the end of the century boys at Exeter, Andover, Groton, St. Marks, and other elite schools were playing interscholastic ball. Boys also played baseball at private military academies such as the Virginia Military Institute. Even though baseball was considered a boys' game, some girls at Miss Porter's, an elite private girls' school in Connecticut, as early as 1867 also played the game.

With the development of the playground movement first in Boston in 1885 and then in other cities, baseball became a popular playground sport. Settlement houses, boys clubs, and the YMCA developed baseball programs to keep boys off the street and out of trouble. Through playing baseball it was hoped that boys would learn sportsmanship and would become good citizens. Baseball was also seen as a way to Americanize immigrant groups.

Although baseball-type games had been played at men's colleges as early as the late 1700s, it was in the 1850s and 1860s that baseball became an integral part of men's college life. The first intercollegiate game was played between Williams and Amherst Colleges in 1859. Although the general belief was that strenuous physical exercise was unhealthy for women, a few women's colleges such as Vassar, Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Wellesley allowed girls to play baseball as early as 1866. However, by the 1930s, softball had replaced baseball in girls' sports programs. By the 1980s, there were 1,600 college men's baseball programs associated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

In the 1900s, in the public's mind baseball represented all that was good about America. Baseball served as a model for children's moral development. Therefore the Black Sox Scandal of 1919, over the fixing of the World Series, was a national disgrace. The scandal so deeply affected the American public that when Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis became Commissioner of Baseball in 1921, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat wrote that if Landis could keep baseball on a high ethical plane, it would be more important than anything he could do on the federal bench.

The golden era of sport in the 1920s produced baseball's first superstars, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Lou Gehrig. Games were broadcast over the radio to millions of people. It was during this time that organized youth baseball got its start. In 1925 the American Legion started their junior baseball program to give more boys an opportunity to play and as a means of teaching them good sportsmanship and citizenship. With the financial support of major league baseball, American Legion baseball competition began in 1926. In 1928 the issue of girls playing became an explosive one when it was discovered that Margaret Gisolo was a member of the Blanford, Indiana, team. Although Margaret was allowed to finish the season, the next year the rules were changed to allow boys only to play. Later leagues were careful to specify that only boys could join. In 1939 Carl Stotz founded Little League Baseball with the purpose of developing citizenship, sportsmanship, and manhood. PONY (Protect Our Nation's Youth) Baseball, Inc. was formed in 1951 and the Babe Ruth League in 1952. Not until 1974 after a lengthy court battle were girls allowed to play Little League baseball. After that the other leagues also permitted girls to play. Even with that change relatively few girls play baseball today.

American Legion and Little League Baseball continue to be popular programs. In 2000 American Legion Posts sponsored 5,300 baseball and other athletic teams throughout the United States. By 1999 Little League baseball was being played in 100 countries. Baseball became an Olympic sport in 1992.

See also: Interscholastic Athletics; Organized Recreation and Youth Groups; Sports; Title IX and Girls Sports.


Berlage, Gai. 1994. Women in Baseball: The Forgotten History. West-port, CT: Praeger.

Crepeau, Richard. 1980 Baseball: America's Diamond Mind. Orlando: University Presses of Florida.

Rader, Benjamin. G. 1999. American Sports: From the Age of Folk Games to the Age of Televised Sports, 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Seymour, Harold. 1990. Baseball: The People's Game. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ward, Geoffrey, and Ken Burns. 1994. Baseball: An Illustrated History. New York: Knopf.

Gai Ingham Berlage

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Legal Education and Professionalism

Legal Education and Professionalism


Law School. The nature of legal education in the last decades of the nineteenth century changed significantly. In 1878 there were over three thousand students in American law schools; only 703 of them had college degrees. The law was viewed by many as a practical trade, not a learned profession. Justice Samuel Miller stated in 1879 that with the accelerated pace at which modern human beings are propelled, under the influence of railroads, telegraphs, and the press, it is ... absurd to spend . . . four collegiate years in the study of dead languages and theoretical mathematics. Most law schools did not require a college degree, and most had less stringent requirements than colleges. In 1899 Cornell required that students in its law school meet the same admission standards as students in its undergraduate college, requesting a high-school diploma for admission. Because of this reform, the entering class for that year shrank from 125 to sixty-two pupils. Many law schools required twelve to eighteen months of study, with the expectation that students would then apprentice themselves to a practicing lawyer.

The Harvard Method. Harvard University instituted the most fundamental changes in legal training. Traditionally law teachers would be practicing attorneys who would lecture on various legal principles. Under the leadership of Christopher Columbus Langdell, dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895, gradually implemented longer periods of study, eventually requiring three years to earn a degree. Langdell also replaced the teaching lawyers with full-time law professors. Instead of legal textbooks, students would read cases, and from them try to understand the underlying legal principles. Professors would not lecture but would question the students, using a Socratic dialogue to draw out the principles of the law. For Langdell and proponents of the Harvard case method, the law was a science, not a trade or a species of handicraft. As Harvard president Charles Eliot explained, Langdells method resembled the laboratory method of teaching physical science, although he believed that the only laboratory the Law School needed was a library of printed books.

The American Bar Association. At the same time as the case method defined law as a science, some lawyers began a move to raise the standards of their profession. In 1876 Lewis Delafield, president of the American Social Science Association, called for the formation of a professional association of lawyers. He believed that the law was a public calling, and that lawyers should have both a good character and learning. His ideal was for a student to attend law school, followed by a year of work in a law office, and finally a public examination by impartial judges before admission to the bar. In January 1878 Connecticut judge Simeon Baldwin, who taught at Yale, also proposed the establishment of a national bar organization, and on 21 August the American Bar Association was formed at Saratoga, New York. About one hundred lawyers, mainly from the eastern states, attended the first meeting, and by the end of the year the ABA had 201 members from twenty-nine states. Baldwin drafted the groups constitution, with its object to advance the science of jurisprudence, promote the administration of justice and uniformity of legislation throughout the union, uphold the honor of the profession of the law, and encourage cordial intercourse among the members of the American Bar. Prospective candidates had to be nominated by full members and had to have at least five years of good standing with their respective state bar associations.

Controversy. In 1891 the ABA charged that the case method introduced by Harvard University made young lawyers focus too much on what happened in court, not enough on keeping clients out of court. To the ABA, the case method encouraged litigation, rather than settlement, of cases. By the middle of the decade, ten American law schools used the case method, while fifty-seven continued to rely on lectures and textbooks. Yale University most vigorously opposed the case method. Theodore Dwight of the Yale Law School believed that reading cases in a haphazard way leads to mental dissipation .... Law decisions are but a labyrinth. Woe to the man who busies himself with them without a clue . . . to guide him. It would be better, opponents of the case method argued, to present the legal principles first, and turn to the cases, if necessary, as supporting evidence.

Triumph of the Case Method. The Harvard method of studying law gradually converted the skeptics. In 1886 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., whose criticism of the old method of teaching had helped bring on the changes at Harvard, reported that he had tried the case method with great skepticism, but after a week or two, when the first confusing novelty was over, I found that my class examined the question proposed with an accuracy of view which they never could have learned from textbooks, and which often exceeded that to be found in the textbooks. I, at least, if no one else, gained a good deal from our daily encounter. By 1895 Harvard had replaced Columbia as the largest American law school, with over four hundred students and ten professors. By 1920 virtually every law school in the country used the case method.


Robert Stevens, Law School: Legal Education in America from the 1850s to the 1980s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983).

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Baseball, a stick-and-ball sport played with four bases arranged in a diamond, was first organized in the mid-1800s in the United States. In June 1846 two amateur teams of nine players played each other in a ball game on the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City. The game was umpired by U.S. sportsman, Alexander J. Cartwright (18201892), who established the rules of play. The game is similar in some ways to the English games of Cricket and Rounders. A legend grew up that baseball's beginnings on U.S. soil dated to 1839 when U.S. Army officer Abner Doubleday (18191893) invented the game in Cooperstown, New York. Though Doubleday helped popularize games resembling modern baseball, there is little evidence that he developed the game that people in the United States know today, which became a favorite pastime during the late 1800s.

The first baseball club, the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, was organized by Alexander Cartwright (18201892) in 1842 in New York City. By 1845 the team developed a set of twenty rules which included specifications for where the bases are to be positioned, how runners can be tagged as out, and defined a field of play, outside of which balls are declared "foul." The so-called "New York Game" spread in popularity after the 1846 Hoboken match. By 1860 there were at least fifty ball clubs. Pick-up games were played in fields across the country. Union soldiers helped spread the game during the American Civil War (18611865). Its popularity increased during the last three decades of the nineteenth century.

The first professional baseball team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings formed in 1869. In 1876 the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs was founded; it included teams in Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Hartford, Louisville, New York, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. By the 1880s the sport became big business: an 1887 championship series between St. Louis and Detroit drew 51,000 paying spectators. The American League was formed in 1901 and two years later the American and National leagues staged a championship between their teams. In 1903 the Boston Red Socks beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first World Series.

During the early decades of its existence as an organized sport, baseball reflected the racism of U.S. society by excluding African American players. When one all-black team applied for admittance in 1876 the National League adopted an unwritten "gentlemen's agreement" denying entry to any baseball club with black players. For the most part this exclusionary clause was effective in segregating baseball, but African American players occasionally found positions in the minor leagues.

The unfairness of excluding excellent players solely because of their skin color occasionally led to challenges of the color line. Catcher Moses Fleetwood ("Fleet") Walker was actually the first black player to break into the major leagues. In 1883 Fleet and his Toledo teammates (Toledo then had a team that belonged to the American League) won the pennant. Still most black baseball players were relegated to the Negro leagues. Because of their limited audience, the Negro leagues had difficulty in establishing themselves. However in 1920 Rube Foster, a talented black pitcher and manager for the Chicago American Giants, formed the Negro National League. A number of African American teams and leagues were formed in the 1920s and the Negro leagues flourished for about 25 years, mostly in Mid-western cities. The Negro leagues fielded some excellent players, including Satchel Paige, Ray Dandridge, and John Henry "Pop" Lloyd. Paige was so devastating as a pitcher that he would often call his outfielders in and have them sit down in the infield while he retired the side. The color line was definitively broken when in 1947 Brooklyn Dodger Manager Branch Rickey (18811965) signed second baseman Jackie Robinson (19191972). Although he had to put up with ostracism from many of his teammates and cat-calls from the crowds Robinson eventually won acceptance and respect. Once Robinson became a hero to the general audience, African American players were signed by other major league teams, and the Negro leagues died.

The rise of organized professional sports is tied to the greater affluence that an industrialized society provided. People now had more money to spend, and an overall increase in leisure time as the workweek declined allowed baseball to become the national sport. Played on an open field, the game recalled the nation's agrarian roots. But with standardized rules, reliance on statistics, and the larger audience provided by radio and television, baseball looked forward to a modern, industrialized future.

See also: Amusement Parks, Bicycles

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base·ball / ˈbāsˌbôl/ • n. a ball game played between two teams of nine on a field with a diamond-shaped circuit of four bases. It is played chiefly in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, and East Asia. ∎  the hard ball used in this game.

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baseballall, appal (US appall), awl, Bacall, ball, bawl, befall, Bengal, brawl, call, caul, crawl, Donegal, drawl, drywall, enthral (US enthrall), fall, forestall, gall, Galle, Gaul, hall, haul, maul, miaul, miscall, Montreal, Naipaul, Nepal, orle, pall, Paul, pawl, Saul, schorl, scrawl, seawall, Senegal, shawl, small, sprawl, squall, stall, stonewall, tall, thrall, trawl, wall, waul, wherewithal, withal, yawl •carryall • blackball • handball •patball • hardball • netball • baseball •paintball • speedball • heelball •meatball • stickball • pinball • spitball •racquetball • basketball • volleyball •eyeball, highball •oddball • softball • mothball •korfball • cornball •lowball, no-ball, snowball •goalball •cueball, screwball •goofball • stoolball • football •puffball • punchball • fireball •rollerball • cannonball • butterball •catchall • bradawl • holdall • Goodall

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