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.
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.
"Baseball." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/baseball
"Baseball." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved July 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/baseball
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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 games—variously known as “barn ball,” “four-old-cat,” “base,” and “base ball”—entailed 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 circuit—a 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 “gentleman’s” activity. They practiced seriously, wore similar clothing—blue trousers, white shirts, and straw hats—and, 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 rules—such 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 bounce—would be changed as the game developed.
Elysian Fields. The Knickerbocker’s 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 Cartwright’s 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 sport’s 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 women’s 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, “I’d 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 innings—perhaps 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 clubs—New York, Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia, Chicago, Saint Louis, Cincinnati, and Louisville—played a seventy-game schedule, with Hul-bert’s 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 passenger’s 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).
"Baseball." American Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/baseball
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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 Wright’s 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 “gentlemen’s 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 Hulbert’s Chicago White Stockings, led by Albert Spalding and baseball’s first superstar player, Adrian “Cap” Anson.
NATIONAL LEAGUE PENNANT WINNERS
|1876||Chicago||Albert G. Spalding||52-14||.788|
|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|
|1892||Boston||Frank Selee||102 - 48||.680|
|1894||Baltimore||Edward H. Hanlon||89-39||.695|
|1895||Baltimore||Edward H. Hanlon||87-43||.669|
|1896||Baltimore||Edward H. Hanlon||90-39||.705|
|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. Hulbert’s 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 baseball’s “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 America’s Game (Urbana &. j I Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992);
David Quentin Voigt, American Baseball: From the Gentleman’s 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 League’s 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 America’s 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 Gentleman’s Sport to the Commissioner System (University Park & London: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1983).
"Baseball." American Eras. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/baseball-0
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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.
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 4-⅛ 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 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 equipment—and its popularity—began 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
- 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 ⅞ of an ounce (24.80 grams) with a circumference of roughly 4-⅛ 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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 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.
"Baseball." How Products Are Made. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/manufacturing/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/baseball
"Baseball." How Products Are Made. . Retrieved July 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/manufacturing/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/baseball
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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 ). 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.
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.
"Baseball." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/baseball
"Baseball." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved July 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/baseball
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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 games–chiefly popular with boys–evolved 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.
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
"Baseball." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/baseball
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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, “Langdell’s 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 group’s 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 (1820–1892), 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 (1819–1893) 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 (1820–1892) 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 (1861–1865). 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 (1881–1965) signed second baseman Jackie Robinson (1919–1972). 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.
"baseball." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/baseball-0
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baseball, bat-and-ball sport known as the national pastime of the United States. It derives its name from the four bases that form a diamond (the infield) around the pitcher's mound.
Teams consist of nine players who use a leather-covered hard ball, a wooden (in the professional game) or aluminum bat, and padded gloves. Additionally, the batter, catcher, and home-plate umpire wear special protective gear. Teams alternate turns in the field and at bat, the home team batting last. One turn at bat for each team constitutes an inning, and nine innings constitute a game. In the field there are a pitcher, a catcher, four infielders, and three outfielders. The pitcher throws overhand, employing a variety of deliveries (fastball, curve, knuckleball, etc.), from the raised pitcher's mound to home plate, a distance of 60.5 ft (18.4 m). An opposing batter attempts to hit the pitches and safely reach base, while the fielders attempt to put the batter out through various plays. A batter who misses three pitches, or fails to swing at three judged hittable, is out on "strikes" ; but if the pitcher first throws four pitches out of the strike zone, the batter obtains a base on balls, or "walks" to first base. A run is scored every time a batter becomes a runner and crosses home plate after touching each base in the prescribed order. When the fielding team puts out three batters (or runners), the teams exchange places. If the score is tied at the end of nine innings, play continues into extra innings until one team has scored more runs than the other in an equal number of turns at bat.
Stick-and-ball games were in existence as far back as ancient Egypt. However, modern baseball developed from variations of the English game of rounders, from related regional and local games, and from children's games like "one old cat," all of which had evolved through centuries. The traditional story that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in 1839 in Cooperstown, N.Y. has been discredited. Rather, in the 1840s and 50s Alexander Cartwright and Louis Wadsworth of the New York Knickerbocker Club standardized many of the features and field dimensions still in use today, with Cartwright modifying rules used by older clubs to codify fundamental rules for the game in 1845. It is widely thought that the first game of modern baseball was played by the Knickerbockers in the fall of 1845 in a park called Elysian Fields in Hoboken, N.J. During an 1857 convention Wadsworth established the modern standard regarding the number of players and innings. Sportswriter Henry Chadwick wrote (1858) the first rule book, and though the rules continue to change by small degrees, by 1900 the game was essentially that of today.
The Development of Professional Baseball in the United States
In the mid-19th cent. baseball was primarily popular among local clubs in the Northeast, often made up of members of the same occupation. Eventually, competition broadened, and an organization to promote standardized rules and facilitate scheduling, the National Association of Baseball Players, was formed in 1858. The movement of Union soldiers during the Civil War helped to spread the game, and increased opportunities for leisure, improved communications, and easier travel after the war fostered a wider competitive base and increased interest.
In 1869, Harry Wright organized the Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball's first professional team, and took them on a 57-game national tour, during which they were unbeaten. Seeking to expand on the Reds' success, the National Association of Professional Baseball Players in 1871 chartered nine teams in eight cities as the first professional league. In the 1870s a number of competing leagues were formed, including the National League, which soon became the predominant association.
Financial hardships, gambling-related scandals, and franchise upheaval plagued all the leagues, and a players' revolt in 1890, which resulted in a short-lived Players Association, weakened the National League. A competing league, the Western Association, changed its name to the American League in 1900 and placed clubs in several eastern cities. In 1903 the champions of the American and National leagues met for the first time in what became known as the World Series.
Both leagues fought off the challenge of the Federal League in 1914–15, but baseball's popularity and stability were threatened when the 1919 Chicago White Sox conspired to lose the World Series. Club owners then hired Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis as the first baseball commissioner (1920–44) and charged him with resolving the crisis. Landis banned eight members of the "Black Sox" for life (despite their acquittal in a court of law), helping to lift suspicion from the professional game.
The Golden Years
The years between 1920 and World War II were the heyday of Babe Ruth, the game's preeminent legend. Other stars made their names as well: Ruth's durable New York Yankee teammate, Lou Gehrig; the contentious batting champion Ty Cobb; outstanding pitchers like Lefty Grove, Dizzy Dean, and Walter Johnson; graceful Yankee center fielder Joe DiMaggio; and sluggers Hank Greenberg and Jimmie Foxx, among others. Fans flocked to the large stadiums built in the 1920s.
When the Depression threatened spectatorship in the 1930s, night baseball, experimented with a half century earlier, became reality. Beginning in Cincinnati in 1935, organized baseball gradually became primarily an evening event. A network of minor league teams, scattered across the nation in smaller cities and towns, supported the two major leagues with developing talent and fan interest.
Integration of Professional Baseball
During World War II, many major league stars served in the armed forces. By the mid-1940s most had returned to their teams, but major league baseball continued to exclude black players, who, barred by a color line drawn in the 1880s, showcased their skills in separate leagues, especially the Negro National League (1920, folded late 1920s, revived 1933), the Eastern Colored League (1923, folded late 1920s), and the Negro American League (1936). Black players like Satchel Paige, Buck Leonard, Josh Gibson, and Judy Johnson, among the best in baseball, often played before large crowds, "invisible" to the white public. In 1947, Branch Rickey, Brooklyn's general manager, began the integration of the major leagues by bringing Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers. Weathering great pressure and the hatred of many players and fans, Robinson became one of the most electrifying performers in the game, paving the way for other black stars like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron. Integration became a fact of baseball life so quickly that by the mid-1950s there were more African-American players on major league teams than there had been in the Negro leagues at their height of popularity just a decade earlier.
Expansion and Labor Conflict
The locations of major league franchises, stable for 50 years, became unsettled in the 1950s. The Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953, and other teams joined a westward migration made feasible by the expansion of air travel and attractive by population shifts (and, ultimately, by the promise of regional television coverage). The 1957 exodus of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants for California jarred New Yorkers but helped cement the game's nationwide base. In 1961, the two major leagues entered into a period of expansion, gradually adding new teams.
In the 1960s and 1970s, however, baseball's popularity was challenged by disillusionment of the young with established institutions, by the television-spurred boom of the National Football League (television was also presumed largely responsible for shrinkage of the minor-league system), and by divisiveness within the sport over new artificial playing surfaces, indoor stadiums, and rule changes like the American League's 1973 introduction of a designated hitter to bat for the pitcher (the National League never adopted the measure).
Player-club relations were tumultuous in the 1970s. The Major League Baseball Players' Association, formed in 1966, pushed for an end to the reserve clause, a contractual stipulation that bound a player to a club unless he was traded, released, or retired. The clause existed because of baseball's exemption from federal antitrust laws, and it be used to bind a player, against his will, to one team for his whole career; it also served to hold down players' salaries. Although the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the clause three times (1915, 1922, 1953) in 50 years, a mid-1970s arbitrator declared several players "free agents," and thereafter the sport was obliged to allow freer player movement among bidding teams. The Players' Association continued to strengthen the bargaining positions, salaries, and pensions of players through the 1970s and 1980s. Conflict between team owners and players represented by the Association resulted in numerous work stoppages after 1972, the worst of which canceled the final third of the 1994 season, including the World Series.
Despite these distractions, however, the major-league game continued to flourish. As Babe Ruth was held to have carried the game through the post–Black Sox era, the breaking of Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games-played record in 1996 by Cal Ripken, Jr. and the assault on the single-season home-run record by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 were seen as "rescuing" the game from its self-inflicted troubles. By the late 1990s there were 30 teams in six divisions in the major leagues (limited interleague play was introduced in 1997), and attendance and television revenues were high.
In 2001 several records fell once again, as Barry Bonds broke the single-season home-run record and other marks and Rickey Henderson crowned his other accomplishments by setting the career record for runs scored. At the same time, however, a growing anabolic steroid scandal tarnished the game, tainting the achievements of some of baseball's biggest stars (eventually including McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds) and forcing the leagues to introduce testing for steroids in 2003 and to suspend players for their use in 2005. In 2007 the Mitchell report detailed information regarding past use of steroids and human growth hormone by 89 current and former players, and suggested changes in how the major leagues test for performance-enhancing drug use.
Amateur and International Baseball
Baseball's popularity has been spreading in recent decades, but it spread to a number of countries (Cuba, Japan) in the 1860s and 70s. The game is followed with fervent interest in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, other Caribbean countries, and elsewhere. The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) was founded in 1938 and now has 112 member countries; it has organized the Baseball World Cup since its founding. Baseball was made an Olympic sport in 1992, with the IBAF as the governing body, but it and women's fast-pitch softball were dropped beginning with the 2012 summer games. In 2006 the World Baseball Classic debuted, under the auspices of Major League Baseball, its players association, and other professional leagues, and sanctioned by IBAF. The tournament features 16 teams in four pools; Japan won in the inaugural year. Little League, a worldwide organization founded in 1937 for youngsters, continues to sponsor world championships in Williamsport, Pa. College baseball, for many years relatively insignificant, has become a major source of Olympic and professional players, and fan interest peaks each year at the College World Series, held in Omaha, Nebr. Softball, a form of baseball in which a larger ball and a smaller field are required, was one of the most popular recreational sports of the 1990s.
See H. Seymour, Baseball: The Early Years (1960), Baseball: The Golden Age (1971), and Baseball: The People's Game (1990); L. S. Ritter, The Glory of Their Times (1966); D. Voigt, American Baseball (3 vol., 1966–83); R. W. Peterson, Only the Ball Was White (1970); W. Goldstein, Playing for Keeps: A History of Early Baseball (1989, repr. 2009); J. M. DiClerico and B. J. Pavelec, The Jersey Game (1991); G. Ward and K. Burns, Baseball (1994); P. Williams and W. P. Kinsella, When the Giants Were Giants (1994); C. C. Alexander, Our Game: An American Baseball History (1997) and Breaking the Slump: Baseball in the Depression Era (2002); M. E. Lomax, Black Baseball Entrepeneurs, 1860–1901 (2003); B. Snyder, Beyond the Shadow of the Senators (2003); N. Lanctot, Negro League Baseball (2004); H. Bryant, Juicing the Game (2005); F. Vincent, The Only Game in Town (2006); P. Morris, But Didn't We Have Fun? An Informal History of Baseball's Pioneer Era, 1843–1870 (2008); J. Thorn, Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game (2011); S. Banner, The Baseball Trust: A History of Baseball's Antitrust Exemption (2013); R. Weintraub, The Victory Season: The End of World War II and the Birth of Baseball's Golden Era (2013). See also The Baseball Encyclopedia (10th ed. 1996), N. Dawidoff, ed., Baseball: A Literary Anthology (2002), J. Thorn et al., ed., Total Baseball (8th ed. 2004), and L. Cassuto and S. Partridge, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Baseball (2011).
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African Americans have been involved in baseball, or "base ball" as it was first known, since its earliest days. Some enslaved blacks on southern plantations played baseball during their time off from work, and there were scattered African-American amateur baseball players in the Northeast before the Civil War. Games were played in Brooklyn between the Colored Union Club and the Unknown Club in 1860 and also between the Unknown Club and the Monitors in 1862. African Americans also played for the Philadelphia Pythians, founded in 1867 by civil rights activist Octavius Catto and businessman and educator Jacob C. White, Jr. The Pythians sought admission to the National Association of Base Ball Players, but the nominating committee unanimously voted to exclude "any club which may be composed of one or more colored persons."
In the nineteenth century, black teams, which mainly had middle class members, competed with black and sometimes white teams. In 1869, the Pythians played and defeated the white Philadelphia City Items in a series of games, while the Brooklyn Uniques and the Philadelphia Excelsiors were matched for the "Championship of Colored Clubs." There were even interracial contests in New Orleans, where thirteen black clubs played in a tournament in 1875. By the late 1870s, a number of blacks played for white college nines, including Oberlin's Fleet and Weldy Walker, Marietta College's John L. Harrison, and Dartmouth's Julius P. Haynes. In the 1890s, James Francis Gregory served as captain for Amherst's nine, while his brother Eugene pitched for Harvard.
Early Professional Baseball
The National Association of Professional Baseball Players, established in 1871, never formally banned black teams and players, but it and its successor, the National League, formed in 1876, adhered to a tacit prohibition. Seventy-three African Americans competed at various levels of minor-league play during the nineteenth century. John "Bud" Fowler was probably the first black professional ballplayer, pitching for Lynn, Massachusetts in the International Association in 1878. Six years later he played for Stillwater, Minnesota, of the Northwestern League. In 1885 Fowler played for Keokuk, Iowa, in the Western League, and for Topeka of the same league one year later. He was released after pressure from white players led to the exclusion of blacks from that league. Writing of Fowler's predicament, Sporting Life commented: "He is one of the best general players in the country, and if he had a white face would be playing with the best of them … the poor fellow's color is against him. With his splendid abilities he would long ago have been on some good club had his color been white instead of black. Those who know say there is no better second baseman in the country."
In 1883, the Toledo, Ohio, team of the Northwestern League hired catcher Moses Fleetwood "Fleet" Walker. Walker, a minister's son from Steubenville, Ohio, had attended college at Oberlin and Michigan. That season, Adrian "Cap" Anson, player-manager of the National League's Chicago White Stockings, threatened to cancel an exhibition game with Toledo if Walker played, but owner Albert G. Spalding wanted the guaranteed money, so the game was played. The next year, Toledo joined the American Association, a rival of the National League, and Fleet Walker became the first black major leaguer.
Walker faced enormous obstacles. Pitcher Tony Mullane later admitted that Walker "was the best catcher I ever worked with, but I disliked a Negro and whenever I had to pitch to him I used anything I wanted without looking at his signals." In Richmond, Virginia, six fans (using pseudonyms) wrote a letter threatening him with a beating by a mob of seventy-five men if he played. Walker was no longer on the team by then, and the threat went unchallenged. In fifty-one games, Walker batted .263, and he was praised for his catching. At the end of the season, brother Weldy Walker joined Toledo for five games. The two Walkers were the only African-Americans known to have played in the majors before Jackie Robinson.
In 1885 Fleet Walker played for Cleveland in the Western League and then Waterbury in the Eastern League. Two years later he joined Newark of the International League (IL), then just one step below the majors. There were seven African Americans in the IL, playing on six of the league's ten teams. The most notable of these players were pitcher George Stovey of Newark, who set an all-time IL record with 34 wins, and second baseman Frank Grant of Buffalo, considered the best black player of the nineteenth century. Grant batted .366 in 1887, leading the league in doubles, triples, and home runs.
However, black players in the IL faced widespread abuse from racist white players, management, and fans. Ballplayers feared that the presence of blacks would lower the status of their occupation and lower salary levels. They threw balls at African American players, and often spiked them on the base paths. Frank Grant allegedly developed wooden shin guards to protect his legs from injury by white base runners. White teammates gave wrong advice to blacks and shunned them off the field. Some white players even refused to pose with black teammates for pictures. The media reinforced the derogatory public image of black players. Pictures in Harper's Weekly depicted them as lazy and stupid, and The Official Baseball Record referred to them as "coons." In July 1887, the IL league's team owners bowed to pressure from white players, agreeing not to sign additional black players and limiting the active black players to two per team. There were no African Americans in the IL after 1889.
Several all-black professional teams were formed in the early 1880s, including the Philadelphia Orions and the St. Louis Black Stockings. The best of these clubs was the Cuban Giants, founded in 1885 by Frank Thompson, headwaiter at Babylon, N.Y.'s Argyle Hotel and his partner and team manager, S. K. McGovern, a headwaiter and journalist. The club, composed originally of hotel staff, called itself "Cuban" to alleviate prejudice (which was often less pronounced in the case of dark-skinned foreigners) and "Giants" after New York's National League team. The nickname became a common one among black teams, with ball clubs such as the Philadelphia Giants, the (New York) Lincoln Giants, and the Chicago Giants. In 1886 white businessmen Walter Cook and J. M. Bright owned the Cuban Giants. Players earned wages of $48 to $72 per month depending on their position (pitchers and catchers made the most, outfielders the least), good wages in comparison to what other black workers earned. The Cuban Giants played black teams, college squads, and even major league clubs, although the American Association champion St. Louis Browns backed out of a scheduled contest in 1887. In 1889, the Cuban Giants and another black team, the New York Gothams, were members of the otherwise all-white Middle States League. The creation of the six-team Southern League of Colored Baseballists in 1886 marked the first effort to form a black baseball league, but the arrangement lasted only a few games. The nine-team League of Colored Baseball Clubs was organized one year later, but disbanded after only one week.
In 1887, the same year the International League restricted blacks, "Cap" Anson refused to schedule a game with the Newark team of the International League if Stovey played. Newark complied, benching Stovey. At the time, conventional wisdom held that Anson was primarily responsible for pushing blacks out of organized baseball. However, it seems clear that Anson's actions merely reflected widespread white opinion. As Sporting News commented in 1889, "Race prejudice exists in professional baseball to a marked degree, and the unfortunate son of Africa who makes his living as a member of a team of white professionals has a rocky road to travel." That season the Cuban Giants and the Gothams of New York played in the otherwise all white-Middle States League. The last all-black team to play in a white League was the Acme Colored Giants of Celeron, N.Y. in the white Iron and Coal League in 1898. Overall seventy African Americans played in the white leagues in the nineteenth century. The last was Bill Galloway, who played five games in the Canadian League in 1899.
Black Baseball in the Early Twentieth Century
African Americans were big baseball fans and countless black youths played baseball at the turn of the century.
Prominent blacks ranging from activist Ida B. Wells to poet James Weldon Johnson were players or fans. It is not known if any African Americans passed for white and played in organized baseball. In 1901 Baltimore Orioles manager John McGraw tried to pass Charlie Grant as white during spring training, but his ruse was discovered, and Grant was released. Ten years later the Cincinnati Reds signed two Cubans, allegedly "Castilian," though one was dark skinned; and a few years later, the Reds hired another Cuban whose brother played on a Negro team. In 1916 pitcher Jimmy Claxton, of mixed black and Indian ancestry, played two games for the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League before being released.
Chicago established itself as a leading center of black ball with several fine semipro teams, most notably the Leland Giants, the best team in the otherwise all-white City League in the late 1800s. There were several black army teams, including a squad from the all-black 25th Infantry (later famous for its involvement in the Brownsville, Texas incident of 1906), which beat all comers in the Philippines. Collegiate ball clubs existed at Howard University and elsewhere since the era of Reconstruction. In the 1890s, Atlanta became a center of college baseball, with competing teams from local black colleges, including Atlanta Baptist Seminary (now Morehouse College), Atlanta University, Clark University, and Morris Brown College.
Players on the semipro black teams played well over 100 games, and earned up to $100 a month. They played on Sundays in their home city, and on other days "barnstormed," touring out of town, playing other black teams, college squads, town nines, and semipros. They played occasional post-season games against major leaguers and wintered in California. The top clubs included the Cuban Giants, Philadelphia's Cuban X Giants, and the Leland Giants, who went 110–10 in 1907 and vied for "The Colored Championship of the World." In 1911 star pitcher Andrew "Rube" Foster, nicknamed for outpitching New York Giants star Rube Marquard in an exhibition game, founded the outstanding Chicago American Giants with his white partner John Schorling. Three years later, J. K. Wilkinson, a white man, put together the powerful All-Nations team, which included African Americans, whites, Latinos, and Native Americans. In 1920, Wilkinson combined players from the All-Nations team with members of the black 25th Infantry Squad Army team to form the famous Kansas City Monarchs. Top players then included John Henry Lloyd, a shortstop for the Indianapolis ABC's who was dubbed "the Black Honus Wagner," and "Rube" Foster, who one year went 54–1 pitching for the Cuban X-Giants. Another star of that era was "Smokey Joe" Williams of the Lincoln Giants, who compiled a 6–4–2 record against white major leaguers in exhibition games, including a three-hit shutout against the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies in 1915.
The Negro Leagues
There were a couple of unsuccessful efforts to form a black league in the early 1900s. Then in 1920, Rube Foster, who had built the Chicago American Giants into a financially successful enterprise, formed the National Association of Professional Baseball Clubs (popularly known as the Negro National League). Foster's organizational genius and astute understanding of the promotional possibilities inherent in league play, plus his desire to wrest economic power and leadership over black baseball from white booking agents, led him to put together the first lasting Negro league. The league was composed of six teams located in midwestern cities with significant black populations. The association was intended to be entirely black-owned, but the popular appeal of Wilkinson's Kansas City Monarchs led Foster to include that club also. The new league was an almost immediate success, with outfielders like Oscar Charleston of Indianapolis ("the Black Babe Ruth") and John Lloyd, and pitchers like "Smokey Joe" Williams and Wilbur "Bullet" Rogan of the Kansas City Monarchs.
The Negro National League (NNL) was challenged in 1923 by white booking agent Nat Strong, who created the Eastern Colored League with six teams, four white-owned, in eastern cities. After a period of mutual bad feeling and raids on each other's players, the two leagues observed a truce and organized a structure similar to that of white leagues, with champions of the two leagues competing in a black World Series. However, since ball clubs sometimes preferred lucrative barnstorming exhibitions to scheduled league games, teams played uneven numbers of games, so league standings were hard to determine. There was also a third league for black players in the 1920s, the short-lived Southern Negro League, which could not compete financially with the others. A few independent teams, notably Pittsburgh's Homestead Grays, refused to join the Negro Leagues but played exhibition games with league teams. The Eastern Colored League folded in 1928, and some teams were absorbed into the NNL.
The Great Depression took a heavy toll on black baseball. The NNL, already weakened by Rube Foster's 1926 breakdown and his subsequent death in 1930, was unable to meet its debts and folded in 1931. During the following two years, teams disbanded or survived precariously as local semipro or touring barnstorming teams depended on white bookers for survival. Some players went to play in the Caribbean or Mexico.
In 1933, a new Negro National League, containing six teams (later eight), was reformed under the guidance of Gus Greenlee, a prosperous "numbers" (an illegal lottery) king in Pittsburgh who sought a legitimate investment for his money. Greenlee owned the Pittsburgh Crawfords and most of the other teams in the league were also owned by black numbers operators. Starting in 1934 the NNL played two half-seasons, and the winners of each half-season met in the Negro World Series. The Crawfords dominated at first, as the free-spending Greenlee recruited LeRoy "Satchel" Paige, Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, James "Cool Papa" Bell, and Judy Johnson, all future Hall-of-Famers, to play on his team, but other clubs eventually evened the balance of power within the leagues. In 1937, the six-team Negro American League (NAL) was organized. The NAL was mainly white-owned and included the Kansas City Monarchs, who had previously declined to join the revamped NNL. The NNL concentrated on eastern teams, with the NAL operating in the west. The respective league champions met each other in the Colored World Series. However, the biggest event in black baseball in the 1930s was not the Colored World Series but the East–West All-Star game, first played in Chicago in 1933, shortly after Major League Baseball held its first All-Star Game, also in Chicago at Comiskey Park. The annual event routinely attracted crowds of 30,000 to 40,000. This showcase event was covered nationally in the black press, especially the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier, which featured extensive coverage of black baseball. The East–West game became a national social event for black Americans.
In the 1930s, the NNL season began in the south with a brief spring training, followed by barnstorming tours as clubs traveled north. The exhibition games furthered team development and strategy, were a necessary source of revenue, and helped cement the relationship between players and the local black populations. In April or May the teams arrived in their home cities and commenced league play. Black urban populations were not large enough to sustain more than a 70 game season, and the high unemployment rate during the Depression further hurt the gate. Black teams had to be innovative, and around 1932, the Kansas City Monarchs became one of the first teams to use portable lights for night baseball. Night games encouraged a larger black working class audience, appealing to many laborers who could attend games in the evening after work. League games were usually on the weekends, but teams traveled extensively during the week to bolster incomes with exhibitions throughout the season, sometimes playing three or four games per day. Clubs usually traveled by bus or in a caravan of cars, often over bad rural roads. Few black nines owned their own field, which created scheduling problems (although when business picked up in the 1940s, several teams were able to rent major or minor league ballparks.) When the season ended in September, or after the Colored World Series, the better Negro Leagues players went on to play in winter leagues in Mexico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and California.
The Negro Leagues had a hard time surviving the poverty created by the Depression, and problems were exacerbated by mismanagement and poor planning. During the late 1930s the average player made $100 to $150 a month. Since they commonly played without formal contracts, players often jumped teams in search of better pay. In 1937 Gibson, Paige and Bell all left their teams to play in the Dominican Republic for the team sponsored by dictator Rafael Trujillo.
The Negro Leagues games were exciting to watch. While there were power hitters, most notably Josh Gibson of the Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays, runs
were often hard to come by. Games depended, more than in white leagues, on pitching, defense, and speed. Pitchers like "Satchel" Paige of the Kansas City Monarchs worked frequently and were reliant not only on speed but also on trick pitches to beat opposing teams. There was little money for equipment, so scuffed and loaded balls remained in play. The spitball and similar pitches, banned in the major leagues in 1920, remained legal in the Negro Leagues. Speed was also emphasized in Negro League play, and bunts, stolen bases, and hit-and-run plays were common strategies.
Another difference between white and black baseball was showmanship. Black players were conscious of their role as entertainers. Batters might begin their at-bat with their back to home plate, and then turn around to hit the ball. Satchel Paige was known to occasionally call in the outfielders, and then proceed to strike out the side. Paige was so popular that the Kansas City Monarchs raised revenue by loaning out Paige, who earned $37,000 in 1941, to other teams. The Indianapolis Clowns (previously the Ethiopian Clowns), an independent black team whose players clowned and pulled trick plays in the manner of basketball's Harlem Globetrotters, were such a financial attraction that despite their unserious reputation, they were invited to join the Negro American League in 1938.
By the 1940s, Negro League baseball was one of the most successful black businesses of the Jim Crow era. Good players could earn $300 a month, while superstar Josh Gibson got $1,000. The teams were profitable, earning about $5,000–$15,000 each in 1943, and boosted the business of related black-owned enterprises. As a cultural institution, Negro League baseball was ubiquitous throughout black America. The games provided an important source of recreation and local pride, and were choice social events. The barnstorming tradition meant that teams played wherever there was a sizeable black population, and indeed in many places, such as in the Dakotas or the Canadian prairie provinces, the local populace's only contact with blacks was via the black teams that came to town every summer.
Despite the hard life and the rigorous travel and playing schedules that ballplayers had to endure, the leagues had a certain glamour. The players were popular heroes of the first magnitude in northern black communities. Black fans especially idolized them because of their victories over white players in exhibition games. They were also a particularly cosmopolitan group, akin to other black entertainers of the period. These celebrities were equally at home in the small-town rural world of the Deep South, staying in homes of local community members when they visited southern towns, and in the big cities of the North with their vibrant social and cultural life. Also, the many darker-skinned Latinos, such as Martin Dihigo and Luis Tiant, Sr., who played in the leagues gave them an international flavor, buttressed by the sojourns of Negro League stars in Latin America, where they mingled freely with the political and economic leadership of those countries like other celebrities.
The integration of professional baseball, beginning with Jackie Robinson in 1946, plus the coming of televised games, spelled the end of the Negro Leagues. Black fans made it clear that they preferred seeing their heroes compete in the newly integrated major leagues rather than in all-black leagues. As early as 1947, the Negro League teams on the eastern seaboard ("Jackie Robinson country") suffered severe financial losses as black fans deserted the Negro National League. The last East–West classic was played in 1950, and the NNL folded after the following season. The Negro American League, whose franchises tended to be in midwestern states, further from major league ball clubs, continued to play on a reduced schedule. In a move to increase attention in 1953, the NAL's Indianapolis Clowns signed a woman, Toni Stone, who played 50 games at second base and hit .253. During the 1950s, major league teams moved west and NAL teams could not compete financially for talented players. The NAL folded in 1960, and the Indianapolis Clowns returned to their independent status, touring small towns and playing semi-pro teams through the 1980s.
During the 1970s, African American and white interest in the Negro Leagues was awakened, partly by the book and documentary film Only the Ball Was White (1969). The Baseball Hall of Fame created a Negro League Committee, and 24 players out of an estimated 2,600 who played in the Negro Leagues have been inducted, including: Rube Foster, Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson, Buck Leonard, Oscar Charleston, Monte Irvin, Martin Dihigo, Ray Dandridge, and John Henry Lloyd. In 1990, the Negro League Baseball Museum was created in Kansas City, Missouri, and the Negro Leagues Players Association was established in New York.
By the 1930s, major leaguers and baseball experts recognized the skill of Negro Leaguers, especially in exhibition contests against major league baseball players. A movement began in that decade to secure integration, promoted particularly by baseball writers. White journalists West-brook Pegler, Jimmy Powers, and Shirley Povich recognized black prowess in baseball and the accomplishments of other black sportsmen such as Joe Louis and Jesse Owens, and called for integration. Black colleagues, including Wendell Smith of the Pittsburgh Courier, Sam Lacy of the Baltimore Afro-American, and Joe Bostic of the People's Voice (Harlem) were ardent advocates for integration. Communist writers, notably Lester Rodney, the white sports editor of the Daily Worker, also played a role in publicizing the issue. Civil rights activists demanded tryouts for Negro Leaguers, collected petitions, and picketed ballparks.
The Lords of Baseball did not support integration. Commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, a Midwesterner who served from 1920 to 1944, disingenuously maintained that there was no rule against blacks in organized baseball. He was long criticized as an ardent foe of integration, but recent scholarship has suggested that he was not a major factor in blocking integration, which was prevented primarily because of team owners. The baseball magnates worried that fans would lose interest in organized baseball if there was integration, that black players would be opposed by their white colleagues (while some players were racist, a poll of major leaguers in the late 1930s indicated that 80 percent did not object to integration), and that severe social problems would emerge, especially during spring training in the South. Furthermore, in 1943, Larry MacPhail, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, claimed that integration would kill off the Negro Leagues, a valuable source of ballpark rental fees for many major league teams. This assertion was challenged by white Newark Eagles owner Effa Manley, the only female owner in the Negro Leagues, but many other Negro League owners opposed integration, fearing rightly that it would destroy their business.
In 1943, at the annual baseball meetings, African Americans led by Paul Robeson were granted the opportunity to speak to owners about integration, but made no headway. That year, entrepreneur Bill Veeck tried unsuccessfully to purchase the Philadelphia Phillies, and later claimed he would have stocked the team with black players but that Landis had blocked the sale. However, recent scholarship disputes Veeck's assertion.
Ultimately, World War II tipped the balance, causing Americans to reevaluate the meaning of democracy. It was difficult to fight for freedom overseas while neglecting the same principles at home. Furthermore, when the major leagues, faced with a shortage of players, contracted players who would not normally be given a chance to compete, such as teenagers and handicapped players like one-armed Pete Gray, the exclusion of blacks seemed more glaring. Judge Landis's death in December 1944 removed an important obstacle to integration. The new commissioner, former Kentucky governor and senator Albert "Happy" Chandler, was subjected to pressure for integration from labor unions, civil rights leaders, and politicians. On opening day in 1945, one banner outside Yankee Stadium read, "If We Can Stop Bullets, Why Not Balls?" The demonstrations led to several tryouts for black players but no jobs. In Boston, Alderman Isadore Muchnick threatened to block the Red Sox's Sunday baseball license unless they held tryouts for black players. The tryouts were held, but were a sham.
In the summer of 1945, the crucial first step toward integration was taken by President Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He secretly investigated Negro League talent under the guise of scouting for a new Brooklyn Brown Dodgers Negro League team. Rickey knew that the first African American in the majors had to be an excellent all-around athlete who could maintain a high level of performance despite certain abuse and pressure, and decided that the best candidate was Jackie Robinson of the Kansas City Monarchs, a good player though hardly a star. Robinson grew up in an interracial community in California, where he had been an outstanding all-around athlete and an All-American football player at UCLA. Furthermore, he had been an officer in the Army, and was married. After a stressful interview with Rickey, in which he promised not to challenge racist attacks, Robinson was signed on October 33, 1945. Rickey's action was unanimously opposed by other club owners.
In 1946, Robinson played professional baseball for the Montreal Royals, the Dodgers' top farm team. Spring training in Florida proved a trying experience, as Robinson had difficulty finding meals and accommodation and was once even ordered off the field by a local sheriff, but when the club moved north conditions eased. For a time, he was joined by John Wright and Roy Partlow, Negro League veterans, but they were eventually demoted to Trois Rivières, Quebec (Class C). Robinson was enormously successful, leading the Class AAA International League with a .349 batting average and in runs scored with 119. The Dodgers also had two other African-American minor leaguers, catcher Roy Campanella and pitcher Don Newcombe, who played for Nashua, N.H. (Class B).
In 1947, Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers following spring training in Cuba, where race relations were less hostile than in Florida. He encountered discrimination from teammates, who originally petitioned to keep him out. Rickey offered to trade any player who did not wish to play alongside Robinson. Opponents, particularly members of the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals, threatened to strike, but were warned by Commissioner Chandler that any player who protested in that manner would be suspended. Robinson turned out to be a great gate attraction, and had a superb first year, despite being moved to an unfamiliar position, first base. He led the Dodgers to the National League pennant and won the first Rookie of the Year Award. A handful of other blacks also played that year, including pitcher Dan Bank-head for the Dodgers. Larry Doby, one of the Negro Leagues' top prospects, became the first African American in the American League when Cleveland Indians' owner Bill Veeck purchased his contract for $10,000 from the Newark Eagles in the summer of 1947. This purchase was an exception to the general pattern of uncompensated raids that major league clubs were beginning to make on Negro League teams, whose players had no reserve clause binding them to their teams. Later in the season, Henry Thompson and Willard Brown were briefly brought up by the St. Louis Browns to increase attendance, but neither did well and they were demoted after a month.
In 1948, the Dodgers called up Roy Campanella, and late in the season, the Cleveland Indians added forty-two year old pitcher Satchel Paige, a twenty-two year veteran of the Negro Leagues. Paige, like most other black players, took a substantial salary cut to compete in the major leagues. His contribution, however, was less significant than that of Doby, who batted .301 and helped lead the Indians to the World Championship.
The following year, Don Newcombe of the Dodgers was named Rookie of the Year, Jackie Robinson was named National League Most Valuable Player, and he, Doby, and Campanella made the All-Star teams. However, the major leagues had room only for stars and were not
interested in older players, with the exception of Paige. There were blacks in every Class AAA and A league that year. However, many, including Ray Dandridge, an all-time Negro League star who hit .364 for Minneapolis (of the Class AAA American Association), started in leagues beneath their ability.
Within the next few years, lower minor leagues and other areas of organized baseball outside the South also integrated. Even the All-American Girls Baseball League discussed integrating its teams in the years before its demise in 1954. The integration of southern teams in the minors (there were no major league teams in the deep South until 1965) began in 1952 in Florida, the Upper South, and the Southwest, because of blacks' superior play and their ability to attract crowds. A major breakthrough occurred in 1953 when the Class A South Atlantic (Sally) League, which had teams in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama, integrated with three blacks, including Henry "Hank" Aaron with Jacksonville. The Cotton States League integrated in 1954, with blacks playing for Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Meridian, Mississippi. After the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision in 1954, race relations became more hostile in the South, and integrated baseball became a threat to white supremacy. Integration continued, however, though at a slower pace. By 1955, the only high-level minor league without blacks was the Southern Association (AA). Nat Peeples, who appeared in two games for Atlanta, was the only African American to play in the league, which disbanded in 1961. In 1957 Texas League nines were barred by Louisiana law from playing their black players in Shreveport. African-American fans responded by boycotting the league, with the result that the league dropped the Louisiana franchise.
The pace of integration in the major leagues was slow, and as late as September 1953, only six teams had black players. Many whites undoubtedly agreed with St. Louis Cardinals owner Sam Breadon, who in the late 1940s expressed his belief that only a handful of black players could be talented enough to make the major leagues. Teams avoided hiring veteran black ballplayers, and sought only young men with star potential and a clean image. Players considered too proud or "uppity," like Yankee minor leaguer Vic Power, faced great difficulties. Between September 1953 and early 1954, six more teams integrated, but the champion New York Yankees refused to integrate until 1955, when catcher Elston Howard joined the team, and it was not until July 21, 1959, that the last holdout, the Boston Red Sox, brought Elijah "Pumpsie" Green to the majors. Once teams were integrated, they did not go out of their way to assure their black players service at restaurants and hotels. Players of different races were rarely roommates, and teams with more than one African-American player always roomed blacks together.
African Americans in Major League Baseball after 1960
In the years since integration, African Americans have starred in major league baseball. In the National League, the first of the two major leagues to integrate, African Americans soon won five straight Rookie of the Year Awards (1949–1953) and seven straight Most Valuable Player (MVP) Awards (1953–1959). Blacks and Latinos, most of whom had been too dark-skinned for the major leagues before integration, soon revolutionized the game, introducing an emphasis on speed and base running in addition to power hitting. Between 1949 and 2004, white players led the NL in stolen bases just four times, and in the AL only three from 1951–2004. Maury Wills broke Ty Cobb's record by stealing 104 bases in 1962, before his total was exceeded by Lou Brock, who stole 118 in 1974 and a record 938 during his career, which included 3,023 hits. Brock's records were exceeded in turn by Rickey Henderson, who set the single-season mark with 130 steals in 1982 and 1,406 total for his career.
Black African Americans and Black Latinos have won scores of batting titles, home run championships, and MVP awards. They have included four of the top five lifetime home run leaders: Henry Aaron, the all-time leader in home runs (755), runs batted in (2,297), and extra-base hits (1,477); Barry Bonds, seven time MVP, Willie Mays, and Frank Robinson, a Triple Crown Winner (1966) and the first player to win the Most Valuable Player award in both leagues. Among pitchers, in 1968 Bob Gibson attained a 1.12 ERA, by far the lowest since World War I, and is second all-time in World Series wins and strikeouts (holding the single-game World Series strikeout record of 17). Ferguson Jenkins won 284 games and amassed 3,192 strikeouts. By 2005, more than forty players of color had been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Among North American blacks, representation in the major leagues reached its proportionate share of the national population in the late 1950s (12 percent). The first all-black starting team played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1967. The percentage of black Americans in the major leagues peaked at 27 percent in 1975. By 1995, blacks were down to 19 percent, and in 2002 were just 10 percent of all major leaguers. The waning African-American presence in baseball reflects reduced black interest in the sport.
Baseball, like other sports, has been an avenue of African-American social mobility. A study made during the late 1980s of major leaguers born since 1940 found that five-sixths of blacks (83.3 percent) had blue-collar backgrounds while three-fourths of white players came from white-collar backgrounds. Until the 1970s, black players generally earned less than white players of equal ability. By the mid-1980s, African-American players made more money per capita than white players, and race was no longer considered a factor in their compensation.
However, discrimination has continued in many areas. Blacks have long complained of informal team quotas and the fact that mediocre black players were removed from teams, while white nonstarters were retained. Blacks have also been slotted by position. Black pitchers and catchers (positions which are often considered centers of leadership and intellectual challenge) have been disproportionately rare.
Many blacks still consider racism prevalent in the baseball world. In the early 1970s, when Henry Aaron was challenging Babe Ruth's home run record, he received hate mail and racial threats. In the 1980s, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that Boston Red Sox coach Tommy Harper was fired after he complained that the Florida country club, which served as the team's spring training headquarters, excluded blacks. In 1993 Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott was suspended for racial slurs. During the summer of 1998, when new season home run records were set, many blacks questioned whether the achievements of Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa, a dark-skinned Dominican, were being ignored by Americans due to racial factors.
Off-the-field opportunities in baseball have slowly improved. In 1966, Emmett Ashford became the first black umpire in the major leagues. The issue of blacks in management positions got considerable attention in 1987 from an interview with Al Campanis, Los Angeles Dodgers vice president for player personnel, on the ABC-TV show Nightline. Campanis questioned whether blacks had the "necessities" to be managers. The first black manager was Frank Robinson of Cleveland in 1975, who later managed in Baltimore, San Francisco, Montreal, and Washington, D.C. There have been a number of African American managers since, including Cito Gaston, who won the World Series with Toronto in 1992. In 2005 there were four black managers, Willie Randolph of the Mets, Dusty Baker of the Cubs, Robinson of the Expos, and Lloyd McClendon of the Pirates, and one black Latino manager, Felipe Alou of the San Francisco Giants, out of thirty major league baseball teams.
Regarding front office positions, 10 percent of all senior administrators in 2005 were black, including 5 percent of vice presidents. In 1990, Ellen Weddington of the Boston Red Sox became the first black female assistant general manager, and five years later, Bob Watson of the New York Yankees became the first black general manager. Blacks in administration are mainly in community relations (33 percent). The highest ranking black in MLB history was Bill White, president of the National League from 1989 through 1994.
Perhaps best known as the holder of Major League Baseball's single season home run record (seventy-three in 2001), Barry Bonds has crafted one of the finest careers baseball has ever seen. A thirteen-time all star with seven Most Valuable Player awards—four more than any other National League player ever—and two batting titles, Bonds also holds the major league record for most consecutive seasons (thirteen) with thirty or more home runs, bested his own single-season records for on-base percentage (.582 in 2002, .609 in 2004) and walks, and surpassed Rickey Henderson as the all-time most-walked player.
In 2004 alone, Bonds drew 232 walks (120 intentional) while still managing to hit forty-five home runs in fewer than 400 at bats. That he hit with such little protection around him in the line up throughout much of his career made it unlikely that he would see many good pitches. Babe Ruth had Lou Gehrig hitting behind him and Mickey Mantle had Roger Maris. To some, this assessment combined with his numbers make Bonds a clear choice as most dominant offensive force in the game.
Some pundits argue that his offensive stats cannot be compared fairly with those of great players past—such as Babe Ruth—because of the allegations of Bonds using steroids in addition to claims of his playing during "the age of the home run." Like Babe Ruth, Bonds's success does not rest solely on one-dimensional talent, however. Bonds's arm and range in the outfield are excellent and he has frequently stolen extra-base hits from opposing teams because of his athleticism and speed. These talents earned him eight Gold Glove awards. Additionally, Bonds surpassed thirty stolen bases nine times in his career, stealing as many as fifty-two in 1990, though the frequency of thefts has declined. His speed on the basepath made him the charter member of the 500-homer/500-steals club. Manufacturing runs (2,070; seventh most all-time) with walks and steals helped his team to victory just as much as the long ball did.
In 1993 Bonds, along with family members, founded the Barry Bonds Family Foundation. Its mission is to promote and fund programs for African-American youth within San Francisco Bay Area communities. Bonds has been a supporter of several charities including, Homepage for the Holidays, which provides toys and gifts to low-income children on Christmas Day. He has also been involved in the Barry Bonds Bone Marrow Campaign to Celebrate Life and The Field O' Dreams Project.
Black interest in baseball has been declining over the last generation. A 1986 survey found that blacks made up just 6.8 percent of baseball spectators, less than either football (7.5 percent) or basketball (17.0 percent), both of which are professional sports with higher average ticket prices, but sports whose players are predominantly African American. Ironically, as African Americans have become dominant in other major sports, their level of participation in the sport that broke most social barriers has fallen dramatically.
See also Aaron, Hank; Great Depression and the New Deal; Howard University; Mays, Willie; Morehouse College; Paige, Satchel; Pittsburgh Courier ; Robeson, Paul; Robinson, Jackie; Related Maps, Graphs, or Tables in Appendix: African-American Members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, N.Y.; Negro League Teams; Negro League Batting Champions; and First African-Americans Players on Major League Baseball Teams
Adelson, Bruce. Brushing Back Jim Crow: The Integration of Minor-League Baseball in the South. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999.
Ashe, Arthur R., Jr. A Hard Road to Glory: A History of the African-American Athlete since 1946. New York, N.Y.: Warner Books, 1988.
Bankes, James. The Pittsburgh Crawfords: The Lives and Times of Black Baseball's Most Exciting Team. Dubuque, Iowa: William C. Brown, 1991.
Bruce, Janet. The Kansas City Monarchs: Champions of Black Baseball. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985.
Dixon, Phil. The Negro Baseball Leagues, 1867–1955: A Photographic History. Mattituck, N.Y.: Amereon House, 1992.
Holway, John. Voices from the Great Black Baseball Leagues. New York, N.Y.: Dodd, Mead, 1975.
Holway, John. Black Diamonds: Life in the Negro Leagues from the Men Who Lived It. Westport, Conn.: Meckler, 1989.
Lanctot, Neil. Fair Dealing and Clean Playing: The Hilldale Club and the Development of Black Professional Baseball, 1910–1932. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1994.
Lanctot, Neil. Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
Lapchick, Richard. "2003 Race and Gender Report Card." Available from http://www.bus.ucf.edu/sport/public/downloads/media/ides/release_05.pdf.
Lester, Larry. Black Baseball's National Showcase: The East–West All-Star Game, 1933–1953. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001.
Lomax, Michael. Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1860–1901: Operating by Any Means Necessary. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2003.
Overmyer, James. Effa Manley and the Newark Eagles. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1993.
Peterson, Robert. Only the Ball Was White. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1970.
Riess, Steven A. Touching Base: Professional Baseball and American Culture in the Progressive Era. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.
Riley, James A. The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues. New York, N.Y.: Carroll & Graf, 1994.
Rampersad, Arnold. Jackie Robinson: A Biography. New York, N.Y.: Knopf, 1997.
Ruck, Rob. Sandlot Seasons: Sport in Black Pittsburgh. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987.
Rogosin, Donn. Invisible Men: Life in Baseball's Negro Leagues. New York, N.Y.: Atheneum, 1983.
Seymour, Harold. Baseball: The People's Game. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1990.
Snyder, Brad. Beyond the Shadow of the Senators: The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
Tygiel, Jules. Baseball's Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy. New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1983.
Voigt, David Q. American Baseball. 3 vols. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1983.
White, Solomon. Sol White's Official Base Ball Guide. Philadelphia, Pa., 1907. Reprint. Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1984.
donn rogosin (1996)
steven a. riess (1996)
Updated by Riess 2005
"Baseball." Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/baseball-0
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As “America’s pastime,” baseball is inextricably bound to the history of U.S. race relations and racism. At its 1867 convention, baseball’s first national organization, the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP), called for the banning “of any club which be comprised of one or more colored persons” (Peterson 1970, pp. 16–17). It did so based on the patronizing rationale that “if colored clubs were admitted there would in all probability be some division of feeling, whereas excluding them no injury would result to anyone.” (Tygiel, quoted in Hogan 2006, p. vii).
The development of professional major league baseball through the 1880s, however, saw the signing of about twenty black players. Segregation was reintroduced in the late 1880s, and by 1890 no integrated teams remained. This was consistent with the 1896 Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which affirmed separation of white and black social institutions. As a result, the number of African-American teams grew, and in 1920 the Negro Leagues were formed. The segregation of professional baseball lasted until 1947.
Baseball was central to the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. Martin Luther King Jr. called the breaking of the color line by Jackie Robinson and his fellow black ballplayers fundamental to the desegregation of American society (Aaron and Wheeler 1992). At the same time, the abuse Robinson endured reflected the resistance of white Americans to racial integration.
Whereas the primary story line of baseball and racism pertains to African Americans, Latin Americans and Native Americans have played important roles in the history and evolution of baseball. Baseball’s globalization, beginning in the late twentieth century, continued to intertwine issues of race and ethnicity, especially with regard to players from Latin America and Japan.
American baseball, which was probably derived from a form of English baseball, has been documented since colonial times. George Washington played “base ball” with his troops, while the earliest black baseball was played by slaves. The game became increasingly popular during the Civil War, when it was played in army camps and military prisons. By the late 1860s, baseball was becoming organized through the formation of more than 100 professional teams. African-American players were on the rosters of many of these minor league teams, although racist attitudes and Jim Crow laws made it difficult for black ballplayers to play and travel with their teams. Black players often had to eat and sleep on their team busses or stay in the private homes of black families in towns where they played.
One response to this discrimination was the formation of Negro teams and leagues. The Philadelphia Pythians, formed in 1869, was one the first Negro teams. When they were not allowed to join the NABBP, they joined the National Colored Base Ball League, which was the first professional Negro league. Unfortunately, the league ran out of money after two weeks and disbanded.
During the 1860s, black baseball teams formed in northern cities. The first intercity games were played in 1866 between Albany and Philadelphia teams. The Washington Mutuals’ third baseman was Charles Douglass, the son of Frederick Douglass. The first baseball game between black and white teams occurred on September 3, 1869, when the Pythians played the Olympics. The final score favored the Olympics 44-23, but as Hogan notes, “the Pythians were … the real winners of the day, having had recognition from the white sporting community finally bestowed upon them” (Hogan 2006, p. 16).
The first nationally recognized black team was the Cuban Giants. This team evolved from the Keystone Athletics, formed in 1885 as a team of barnstorming all-stars comprising the best players from the Philadelphia Orions and Washington, D.C., Manhattans. They won many games against white teams, but perhaps their greatest accomplishment was playing (although losing to) two major league teams, the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Metropolitans. The team was renamed the “Cuban Giants” to attract white fans. Team members also pretended to speak Spanish in order to pass as Latino.
John W. Jackson, who subsequently took the name Bud Fowler, was the first African-American professional baseball player. Born in Fort Plain, New York, in 1858, Fowler grew up in Cooperstown, New York, the subsequent home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the mythological place of origin of baseball. He joined a white team from New Castle, Pennsylvania, around 1872. He was a gifted second baseman and played for nearly twenty-five years. He was the first of about sixty black players to play on white teams before 1890.
Moses Fleetwood Walker is considered the first black major league ballplayer. Born in 1857—the year of the Dred Scott decision and the formation of the NABBP— “Fleet” Walker’s career and life reflect the history of baseball and race in the late nineteenth century. The son of a medical doctor, he played baseball at Oberlin College, one of the first integrated colleges in the United States, and at the University of Michigan. In 1883, he played for the Toledo Blue Stockings in the Northwestern League (part of the NABBP) and became the first black major league ballplayer when his team joined the American Association in 1884. He was an accomplished bare-handed catcher (catchers did not start wearing gloves until the 1890s). He played only on integrated teams, and his experiences of racial abuse led him to become a part of the Back-to-Africa movement, on which he wrote a major treatise, Our Home Colony (1908). In 1883, Cap Anson, the manager and star of the Chicago White Stockings, threatened to cancel his game against Toledo if Walker played. The Toledo team called Anson’s bluff, however, and the game was played. Unfortunately, this event was the start of Anson’s campaign to get the team owners to ban black ballplayers.
George Stovey, the first great African-American pitcher, played for several white clubs. In 1886 he was the top pitcher for the Jersey City team. He played for the Newark Eagles in 1887, the year the team set an International League record for wins. Frank Grant was probably the most accomplished black baseball player of the nineteenth century. Grant joined the Buffalo Bisons team in 1886 and became the first black to play on the same team in organized baseball for three consecutive seasons. By 1887, approximately twenty black ballplayers were on the rosters of major league teams. Even more significantly, the League of Colored Ball Players, formed in 1887 and sometimes referred to as the National Colored Baseball League Clubs, was considered a legitimate minor league.
In 1887, the baseball owners resumed discussing a “color line” in baseball. Some players were refusing to sit beside black ballplayers, and others balked at playing integrated teams. The owners ultimately bent to these racist attitudes by assenting to a “gentleman’s agreement” not to sign any black ballplayers. Cap Anson again announced that his team would not play any team that had black players on its roster. Because his team drew the league’s largest attendance, the other owners yielded to his economic blackmail. By 1890 there were no longer any black players on major league or minor league teams.
The story of the great Penobscot ballplayer Louis Sockalexis is another episode in nineteenth-century American race relations. Sockalexis, the first Native American to play major league baseball, was signed by the Cleveland Spiders in 1897. Although he played only parts of three years, his prowess as a ballplayer is legendary. Indeed, his accomplishments led to the team being renamed the Cleveland Indians. At the time, team nicknames were sometimes given to celebrate great players. This use of laudatory nicknames contrasts sharply with the practice of using racial caricatures as mascots—such as Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians—who was adopted in 1933. The tension between celebrating ethnicity and dehumanizing ethnic groups through the use of sports mascots came to the fore in 2005 when the National Collegiate Association banned the use of Native American mascots for all schools. Subsequently, Florida State University’s use of Seminoles as its nickname was exempted because the Seminole tribe agreed to this sponsorship.
The Negro National League was established on February 13, 1920, at a YMCA in Kansas City, Missouri. It was founded by Andrew “Rube” Foster, a star pitcher who served as the league’s first president. He undertook the challenge to create a league that would ultimately merge with the white major leagues. The Negro Leagues had great success, with the teams playing before big crowds in major league parks. Negro League teams also played against white teams in barnstorming tours and developed some of the greatest players in baseball history.
The Negro League World Series and All Star “East-West” Game were national events that attracted tens of thousands of fans and national press coverage. In 1924 the first Negro League World Series was played between the Kansas City Monarchs (Negro National League Champions) and the Hilldale Club (Eastern Colored League Champions). Kansas City won the series championship, five games to four. The first East-West Colored All-Star Game was played at Chicago’s Comiskey Park before more than 20,000 fans.
Most major cities east of the Mississippi River had great Negro League teams. The Newark Dodgers merged with the Brooklyn Eagles to form the Newark Eagles in 1936. The Eagles were owned by Abe and Effa Manley. Effa Manley, who was raised by a white mother and an African-American father, was the first woman to operate a professional baseball team. Though her biological father was white, she portrayed herself as black and was an important member of the black community. The Eagles rented Ruppert Stadium from the Newark Bears (a New York Yankees affiliate) for 20 percent of the gate receipts, providing an economic incentive to maintain the segregation of the leagues. The team also produced four Hall of Famers: Larry Doby, Leon Day, Monte Irvin, and Roy Dandridge. Both Doby and Irvin eventually played in the major leagues.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Pittsburgh was the home of two of the Negro League’s most talented teams. In 1935, Gus Greenlee’s Pittsburgh Crawfords’ lineup showcased five future Hall-of-Famers: Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Judy Johnson, and Oscar Charleston. Cumberland Posey’s Homestead Grays won nine consecutive Negro National League titles from the late 1930s through the mid-1940s. They featured former Crawfords stars Gibson and Bell and Hall-of-Fame first baseman Buck Leonard.
From 1936 to 1948, the New York Black Yankees heralded such great players as Clint Thomas, Fats Jenkins, DeWitt “Woody” Smallwood, Barney Brown, “Crush” Holloway, and the powerful George “Mule” Suttles. In 1937, the Negro American League was formed from the best western and southern teams. The league featured some of the greatest players in baseball history, including Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron.
Leroy “Satchel” Paige (1906–1982) is considered by some to be the greatest right-handed pitcher in baseball history. He was certainly the most durable, winning most of more than 2,000 games. He pitched almost daily, and claimed to have won 104 or 105 games in 1934. That same year, he refused a salary offer from Gus Greenlee and the Pittsburgh Crawfords and was banned from the Negro National League. He subsequently joined several Negro League stars to play in the Dominican Republic for the team owned by the country’s president, Rafael Trujillo. Determined to have his professional team win the Dominican championship, Trujillo recruited Paige, Josh Gibson, and Cool Papa Bell. The Negro Leaguers played for one year and then returned to the United States. When Paige was sold to the Newark Eagles in 1938, he left again, this time to play in Mexico. He was again banned from Negro League Baseball, this time for life. In 1948, Paige was signed by the Cleveland Indians and became major league baseball’s all-time oldest rookie at the age of forty-two. Joe DiMaggio called Satchel Paige “the best and fastest pitcher I’ve ever faced.”
Josh Gibson (1911–1947), is considered by some to be baseball’s greatest hitting catcher. He is often referred to as “the black Babe Ruth,” though some baseball historians have commented that Ruth should be considered the white Josh Gibson. Gibson, who is reputed to have hit more than 800 home runs, desperately wanted to be the first black ballplayer in Major League Baseball. Tragically, he died at the age of thirty-five in 1947, the
year baseball was integrated. He was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Negro Leagues Committee in 1972.
The signing of Jackie Robinson in 1945 by Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers marked a new era of integration in baseball, as well as the beginning of the demise of the Negro Leagues. Significantly, Robinson’s signing occurred one year after the death of baseball commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis. A staunch segregationist, Landis had presided over the 1913 trial that convicted Jack Johnson, the black heavyweight boxing champion of violating the Mann Act. He asserted that the integration of baseball was not necessary, because “colored” ballplayers had their own league (Burns 1994).
Jackie Robinson, a stellar college athlete, lettered in baseball, football, basketball, and track and field at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Just as important as his athletic talent, however, was Robinson’s strength of character. While serving in the U.S. Army, Robinson was court-martialed for not going to the back of a public bus while in uniform. He stood his ground and was acquitted.
Robinson first played professional baseball in 1945 with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League. When he signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 23, 1945, he became the first African American to join a major league organization in almost fifty years. Knowing that this was going to provoke racist reactions by many fans and players, the Dodgers assigned Robinson to their Canadian farm club, the Montreal Royals, and they moved the Dodgers’ spring training to Havana, Cuba. Robinson made his major league debut on April 15, 1947. He excelled immediately, stealing two bases in his first game. He won the 1947 National League Rookie of the Year Award, despite the verbal and physical abuse he took all year from fans, players, and managers. Robinson retired in 1957 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962.
Jackie Robinson’s debut was followed shortly by the Cleveland Indians’ signing of Larry Doby, who integrated the American League and won that league’s Rookie of the Year Award. But the breaking of the color line in Major League Baseball also meant the end of the Negro Leagues. The last Negro League World Series was played in 1949 between the Birmingham Black Barons and the Homestead Grays. The Negro National League folded in 1950 after the last East West All-Star game was played, although some Negro League teams played into the 1950s.
The integration of baseball continued very slowly. The final two teams to integrate were the New York Yankees in 1955 and the Boston Red Sox in 1959. Spring training facilities in Florida were not fully integrated until 1962. Wendell Smith, a journalist for the African-American newspaper The Pittsburgh Courier, was a leader in the fight to integrate baseball. His stories on spring training facilities in Florida, where African-American ballplayers had to stay in private residences and could not bring their families with them, brought the story of segregation to the public.
Many African-American ballplayers followed Robinson into the major leagues, some of whom became the game’s greatest stars. Hank Aaron started his professional play with the Negro League’s Indianapolis Clowns at the age of nineteen. He signed with the Milwaukee Braves in 1950 and eventually became Major League Baseball’s all-time home run leader. As Aaron approached Babe Ruth’s record of 714 home runs, he received numerous death threats from racist white fans who feared a black ballplayer bypassing their white hero. When he retired in 1976, Aaron was the last Negro Leaguer playing in the integrated major leagues.
Because his high school had no baseball team, Willie Mays began playing semi-pro ball on his father’s team at age fourteen. He joined the Birmingham Black Barons at sixteen. He was paid the significant sum of $250 per month for just playing home games during the school year. He began his professional career by hitting a double against Satchel Paige in his first at bat. Mays was signed by the New York Giants organization in 1950 and was sent to play for their Trenton, New Jersey, team when one of their southern minor league teams would not accept a Negro ballplayer. He soon joined the Giants, leading them to the 1951 World Series. His total career statistics are among baseball’s best, despite giving up two of his prime athletic years to the U.S. Army.
The movement to induct black ballplayers who played before racial integration into the Hall of Fame began seriously in the 1960s. Baseball researchers began compiling information and statistics on early black baseball in the 1960s, and Robert Peterson’s seminal book Only the Ball Was White (1970) spurred additional research. John Holway’s Voices from the Great Black Baseball Leagues (1975) included interviews with ballplayers and Effa Manley. When the great Boston Red Sox player Ted Williams was inducted into the Hall of fame in 1966, he called for Negro Leaguers to be included in the Hall of Fame balloting process. The Society for American Baseball Research formed a Negro League research group in 1971 (Hogan 2006).
Beginning in 1971, Negro League ballplayers began being admitted to the Hall of Fame. The first group to be inducted included Satchel Paige, Rube Foster, Josh Gibson, Ray Dandridge, Buck Leonard, Leon Day, Monte Irvin, Willie Foster, Cool Papa Bell, Willie Wells, Judy Johnson, Bullet Rogan, Oscar Charleston, Smokey Joe Williams, John Henry “Pop” Lloyd, Turkey Stearnes, Martin Dihigo, and Hilton Smith.
From 1995 through 2001, Hall of Fame electors were given supplemental lists of Jim Crow era players, and several of them were elected. In 2003, Major League Baseball funded a project to research the statistics of preintegration black ballplayers. This has resulted in a comprehensive compilation of baseball statistics, as well as Larry Hogan’s Shades of Glory (2006) companion narrative. In 2005 the National Baseball Hall of Fame determined that there was sufficient knowledge to nominate more than seventy players and administrators from the Negro League and pre-Negro League eras for a special Hall of Fame election. In February 2006, seventeen players and administrators were elected to the Hall of Fame from this list. Among these were Effa Manley, the first woman voted into the hall of fame, and J. L. Wilkinson, the white owner of the Kansas City Monarchs.
The first organized baseball game in Cuba occurred in 1868, only twenty-two years after the invention of the modern game of baseball on the diamond at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1846. In 1878 the first Cuban baseball league was formed. By 1871 Esteban Enrique Bellán, a Cuban who had studied at Fordham University, was playing for the Troy Haymakers, part of the National Association of Professional Baseball Players. Between 1890 and 1911, U.S. teams regularly visited the Caribbean. Racism intervened in 1911, when Ban Johnson, the president of the American League, banned these visits. Several white Cuban players were signed by U.S. teams around the turn of the twentieth century.
The corporate expansion of the Boston-based United Fruit Company into the Caribbean in the early twentieth century and the 1916 U.S. military occupation of the Dominican Republic helped spread the game throughout the Caribbean. Cuba built baseball into a national game, especially after the Revolution of 1959.
Prior to the integration of U.S. baseball, only light-skinned Latinos, primarily Cubans, could play professional baseball in the United States. Players who could not pass as white played in the Negro Leagues. Three Negro League Latino players from this time were
eventually elected to the Hall of Fame: José Méndez (The Black Diamond), Cristóbal Torrienti, and Martin Dihigo. After integration, Latino players increasingly succeeded in U.S. professional baseball. In 1947, only three Latin Americans were playing in Major League Baseball. By 1854, this number had increased to fifty-four, and by 2006, almost 30 percent of the 750 major league players were Latino. The 2005 All-Star game had representatives from eight Latin American countries.
The proper recognition of Latin American ballplayers has been called into question by the omission of Roberto Clemente, a Hall of Fame Player for the Pittsburgh Pirates, from Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team. Clemente, who was of Puerto Rican descent, died in an airline crash while delivering supplies to Nicaragua after the 1972 earthquake in that country. In 2005, partly in response to this controversy, Major League Baseball launched a campaign to recognize great Latin American ballplayers, including those who played in the Negro Leagues. The result was the Latino Legends Team.
The history of baseball in Japan goes back to the late 1800s, when Japanese plantation workers formed company teams. In 1903 a Japanese baseball team came to the United States for the first time, and this was followed by the formation of many Japanese teams in the United States. Kenso Nushida played in the Pacific Coast league as the first Japanese minor league player. Babe Ruth’s tours of Japan with other major league all-stars in the 1930s also spurred an increased interest in baseball.
The popularity of the game among the Japanese is illustrated by the fact that baseball was played in all of the World War II Japanese internment camps. After this unfortunate episode in U.S. history, Japanese Americans played widely on college teams and in Japan. The first Japanese player to play in the major leagues was Masonori Murakami, a pitcher who played for the San Francisco Giants from 1963 to 1965. It took thirty years for the next Japanese player, the pitcher Hideo Nomo of the Los Angeles Dodgers, to play Major League Baseball. Despite notions that Japanese players were not good enough to play positions other than pitcher, the first Japanese position players, signed in the 1990s, had great success. Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, have indeed become all stars, while Kenji Johjima was signed in 2006 as the first Japanese catcher. There have only been a few Japanese-American players, however. Ryan Kurosaki signed in 1975, while in 1977 Lenn Sakata became the first Japanese-American position player in the major leagues.
Baseball has always reflected U.S. race relations. At times it has reinforced racial division, as in the “gentleman’s agreement” that kept owners from signing black baseball players to professional contracts. At other times, it has led the way toward social justice, as the signing of Jackie Robinson demonstrates. The biographies of black ballplayers reveal the injustices of racism. Henry Aaron’s recounting of his Negro League team eating in a restaurant in Washington D.C., and hearing the wait staff break the plates that the players had used reveals the virulent, personal nature of racism (Aaron and Wheeler 1992). Throughout the history of the sport, baseball and American culture have remained intertwined.
Aaron, Henry, with Lonnie Wheeler. 1992. I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story. New York: HarperCollins.
Bjarkman, Peter C. 1994. Baseball with a Latin Beat: A History of the Latin American Game. Jefferson, NC: McFarland Press.
Block, David. 2005. Baseball before We Knew It: A Search for the Roots of the Game. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Burns, Ken. 2005. Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. DVD. Florentine Films and WETA, Washington, D.C.
Einstein, Charles. 1979, Willie’s Time: A Memoir. New York: Lippincott.
Erskine, Carl, with Burton Rocks. 2005. What I Learned from Jackie Robinson: A Teammate’s Reflection on and off the Field. New York: McGraw Hill.
Gould, Stephen Jay. 2004. “The Creation Myths of Cooperstown.” In Triumph and Tragedy in Mudville: Lifelong Passion for Baseball, 190–204. London: Jonathan Cape.
Hogan, Lawrence. 2006. Shades of Glory: The Negro Leagues and the Story of African-American Baseball. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Press.
Lanctot, Neil. 2004. Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
McKissack, Patricia C., and Fred McKissack, Jr. 1994. Black Diamond: The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues. New York: Scholastic.
Naakagawa, Kerry Jo. 2001. Through a Diamond: 100 years of Japanese Baseball. Iowa City, IA: Rudi Publishing.
Nisei Baseball Research Project. Available from http://www.niseibaseball.com.
Peterson, Robert. 1970. Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Regaldo, Samuel. 1998. Viva Baseball: Latin Major Leaguers and their Special Hunger. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Ruck, Rob. 1999. Tropic of Baseball: Baseball in the Dominican Republic. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Simon, Scott. 2002. Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball. New York: John Wiley.
Vignola, Patricia. 2005. “The Enemies at the Gate: An Economic Debate about the Denouement of Negro League Baseball.” NINE: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture 13 (2): 71–81.
Villegas, Jose Luis, and Marcos Bretón. 2003. Home Is Everything: The Latino Baseball Story: From Barrio to the Major Leagues. El Paso, TX: Cinco Punto Press.
White, Sol. 1995. Sol White’s History of Colored Baseball, with Other Documents on the Early Black Game, 1886–1936. Compiled and introduced by Jerry Malloy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Stanton W. Green
"Baseball." Encyclopedia of Race and Racism. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/baseball
"Baseball." Encyclopedia of Race and Racism. . Retrieved July 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/baseball
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Originally an early nineteenth century variation of a venerable English game, baseball, by the late twentieth century, had developed into America's "national pastime," a game so indelibly entwined with American culture and society that diplomat Jacques Barzun once remarked, "Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball."
Baseball lore places the origins of baseball in Cooperstown, a small town in upstate New York, where Abner Doubleday, a West Point cadet and Civil War hero, allegedly invented the bat-and-ball game in 1839. In reality, the sport was neither new nor indigenous. The game that ultimately developed into modern baseball was in fact a modified version of rounders, an English sport imported to the colonies prior to the American Revolution. Early forms of baseball were remarkably similar to rounders. Both games involved contending teams equipped with a ball as well as a bat with which to hit the ball. In addition, both baseball and rounders required the use of a level playing field with stations or bases to which the players advanced in their attempts to score.
Baseball quickly evolved from the sandlot play of children to the organized sport of adults. In 1845, a group of clerks, storekeepers, brokers, and assorted gentlemen of New York City, under the direction of bank clerk Alexander Joy Cartwright, founded the first baseball club in the United States—the New York Knickerbockers, which played its games at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. The club was more a social association than an athletic one, providing opportunities to play baseball, as well as hosting suppers, formal balls, and other festivities. Individuals could become members only through election. By the 1850s, a number of clubs patterned on the Knickerbocker model appeared throughout the Northeast and in some areas of the Midwest and Far West.
The need for codified orderly play had prompted clubs such as the Knickerbockers to draft rules for the fledgling sport. In 1857, a National Association of Baseball Players formed to unite the disparate styles of play throughout the country into a universal code of rules. Initially, the National Association attracted only New York clubs, and so the popular "Knickerbocker" style of baseball predominated. This version of the sport represented a decided evolution from rounders and resembled modern baseball in form. While no umpire as yet called balls or strikes in the Knickerbocker game, a batter was retired when he swung at and missed three pitches. The Knickerbocker rules limited a team at-bat to only three outs, and replaced "plugging," a painful practice by which a fielder could retire a base runner by hitting him with a thrown ball, with "tagging," simply touching a base runner with the ball. Within four years of its founding, the National Association came to include clubs in New Haven, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. These clubs, for the most part, renounced their local variations on the sport and took up the "Knickerbocker" style of play.
After the Civil War, the "fraternal" club game took a decidedly commercial turn. Rather than relying exclusively on club membership to finance their teams, clubs began to earn money by charging admission to games. In order to maximize gate fees, clubs inclined away from friendly games played among club members, and turned more and more to external contests against clubs in other regions. At the same time, to guarantee fan interest, clubs felt increasing pressure to field the most highly skilled players. They began to recruit members based on talent, and, for the first time, offered financial remuneration to prospective players. In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings fielded an entire team of salaried players—the first professional baseball squad in American history.
As more clubs turned professional, a league structure emerged to organize competition. In 1871, ten teams formed the National Association of Professional Baseball Players, a loose confederation designed to provide a system for naming a national championship team. The National League, formed five years later, superseded this alliance, offering a circuit comprised of premier clubs based in Boston, Hartford, Philadelphia, New York, St. Louis, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Louisville. A host of competing leagues arose, among them the International League and the Northwestern League, but it was not until 1903 that the National League recognized the eight-team American League as its equal. Beginning that year, the two leagues concluded their schedules with the World Series, a post-season playoff between the two leagues.
Despite the game's increased commercialization, baseball, in the early years of the twentieth century, developed into the American national game. Players such as Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson as well as managers like Connie Mack and John McGraw approached the game in a scientific manner, utilizing various strategies and tactics to win ball games; in the process, they brought to the game a maturity and complexity that increased the sport's drama. The construction of great ballparks of concrete and steel and the game's continuing power to bind communities and neighborhoods together behind their team further solidified the coming of age of professional baseball. Baseball had achieved a new institutional prominence in American life. Boys grew up reading baseball fiction and dreaming of becoming diamond heroes themselves one day. The World Series itself became a sort of national holiday, and United States chief executives, beginning with William Howard Taft in 1910, ritualized the commencement of each new season with the ceremonial throwing of the first ball.
The appeal of the game had much to do with what many considered its uniquely American origins. "It's our game—that's the chief fact in connection with it: America's game," exclaimed poet Walt Whitman. Baseball, he wrote, "has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere—belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly, as our constitutions, laws: is just as important in the sum total of our historic life." To preserve this patriotic image, baseball administrators such as Albert Spalding and A.G. Mills vehemently dismissed any claims that baseball had evolved from rounders. In 1905, Mills headed a commission to investigate the origins of baseball. The group found that baseball was uniquely American and bore no traceable connection with rounders, "or any other foreign sport." Mills traced the game's genesis to Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown—a sketchy claim, to be sure, as Mills' only evidence rested on the recollections of a boyhood friend of Doubleday who ended his days in an institution for the criminally insane. Still, Doubleday was a war hero and a man of impeccable character, and so the commission canonized the late New Yorker as the founder of baseball, later consecrating ground in his native Cooperstown for the purpose of establishing the sport's Hall of Fame.
Baseball's revered image took a severe hit in 1920, when eight Chicago White Sox were found to have conspired with gamblers in fixing the 1919 World Series. The incident horrified fans of the sport and created distrust and disappointment with the behavior of ballplayers idolized throughout the nation. A young boy, perched outside the courtroom where the players' case was heard, summed up the feelings of a nation when he approached "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, one of the accused players, and said tearfully, "Say it ain't so, Joe." The eight players were later banned from the sport by baseball commissioner Kenesaw "Mountain" Landis, but the damage to the sport's reputation had already been done.
Baseball successfully weathered the storm created by the "Black Sox" scandal, as it came to be known, thanks in large part to the emergence of a new hero who brought the public focus back to the playing field, capturing the American imagination and generating excitement of mythic proportions. In the 1920s, George Herman "Babe" Ruth—aptly nicknames the "Sultan of Swat"—established himself as the colossal demigod of sports. With his landmark home runs and charismatic personality, Ruth triggered a renewed interest in baseball. While playing for the New York Yankees, Ruth established single-season as well as career records for home runs. Ruth's extravagant lifestyle and Paul Bunyan-like appearance made him a national curiosity, while his flair for drama, which included promising and delivering home runs for sick children in hospitals, elevated him to heroic proportions in the public eye. In mythologizing the sport, Ruth restored and even escalated the sanctity of the "national pastime" that had been diminished by the "Black Sox" scandal. Along with Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson, Ruth gained immortality as a charter member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, opened in 1939.
By the 1940s, the heroes of the game came to represent an even more diverse body of the population. Substantial numbers of Italians, Poles, and Jews inhabited major league rosters, and a host of these Eastern Europeans became some of the game's biggest stars. Hank Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio, among many other children of immigrants, became national celebrities for their on-field exploits. In this respect, baseball served an important socializing function. As the Sporting News boasted, "The Mick, the Sheeney, the Wop, the Dutch and the Chink, the Cuban, the Indian, the Jap, or so the so-called Anglo-Saxon—his nationality is never a matter of moment if he can pitch, or hit, or field." During World War II, when teams were depleted by the war effort, even women became part of baseball history, as female leagues were established to satisfy the public's hunger for the sport. Still, the baseball-as-melting-pot image had one glaring omission. A "gentleman's agreement" dating back to the National Association excluded African Americans from playing alongside whites in professional baseball. Various so-called Negro Leagues had formed in the early twentieth century to satisfy the longings of African Americans to play the game, and a number of players such as Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige posted accomplishments that rivaled those of white major leaguers. Still, for all their talent, these players remained barred from major league baseball. In 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Brach Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to a major league contract, ostensibly to end segregation in baseball but also to capitalize on a burgeoning African American population newly migrated to the cities of the North. When Robinson played, blacks across the nation were glued to their radios, cheering him on as a symbol of their own hopes. Robinson was immensely unpopular with many white fans and players, but his performance on the field convinced other clubs of the correctness of Rickey's decision, and, by 1959, every team in baseball had been integrated.
The popularity of baseball reached an all-time high in the 1950s. A new generation of stars, among them Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, and Willie Mays, joined Babe Ruth in the pantheon of American greats. Teams such as the Brooklyn Dodgers, affectionately known as "Dem Bums," won their way into the hearts of baseball fans with their play as well as with indelible personalities such as "Pee Wee" Reese, "Preacher" Roe, and Duke Snider. Baseball cards, small collectible photographs with player statistics on their flip sides, became a full-fledged industry, with companies such as Topps and Bowman capitalizing on boyhood idolatry of their favorite players. And Yogi Berra, catcher for the New York Yankees, single-handedly expanded baseball's already-sizable contribution to American speech with such head-scratching baseball idioms as "It ain't over 'til it's over." By the end of the twentieth century, Berra's witticisms had come to occupy an indelible place in the American lexicon.
The 1950s witnessed baseball at the height of its popularity and influence in American culture, but the decade also represented the end of an era in a sport relatively unchanged since its early days. Continuing financial success, buoyed especially by rising income from television and radio rights, led to club movement and league expansion. In 1953, the Boston Braves transferred its franchise to Milwaukee, and, five years, later, the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers moved to California, becoming the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively. Later, new franchises would emerge in Houston and Montreal. The location of the ballparks in areas geared toward suburban audiences destroyed many urban community ties to baseball forged over the course of a century.
Players also gained unprecedented power in the latter half of the twentieth century and, with it, astronomical salaries that did much to dampen public enthusiasm for their heroes. In 1976, pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally challenged the long-established reserve clause, which owners had, for more than a century, used to bind players to teams for the duration of their careers. Arbiter Peter Seitz effectively demolished the clause, ushering in the era of free agency. For the first time in baseball history, players could peddle their wares on the open market, and, as a result, salaries skyrocketed. In 1976, the Boston Red Sox made history by signing Bill Campbell, baseball's first free agent, to a four-year, $1 million dollar contract. The average annual salary rose from $41,000 in 1974 to $1,000,000 in 1992. In 1998, pitcher Kevin Brown signed the first $100 million contract in sport history, averaging over $13 million per annum. Free agency, by encouraging the constant movement of players from team to team, also did much to sever the long-term identification of players with particular teams and cities, thus further weakening community bonds with baseball.
Polls consistently revealed that fans resented the overpayment of players, but still they continued to attend big-league games en masse. Major league attendance records were broken six times in the 1985 through 1991 seasons. The players' strike of 1994 dramatically reversed this tide of goodwill. The players' rejection of a salary cap proposed by owners resulted in a 234-day labor stoppage during the 1994 season, with the cancellation of 921 regular-season games as well as the World Series. The strike, which ended early in the 1995 season, disrupted state and city economies and disappointed millions of fans. As a result, the 1995 season saw an unprecedented decline in attendance. The concurrent rise of basketball as a major spectator sport in the late 1990s also damaged the drawing power of baseball.
Stellar team performances as well as a number of stunning individual achievements in the latter half of the 1990s brought fans back to ballparks across the country in record numbers. The Atlanta Braves, with their remarkable seven divisional titles in the decade, reminded many of the glory days of baseball, when the New York Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals registered the word "dynasty" in the sport's lexicon. Similarly, the Yankees delivered one of the finest performances by a team in baseball history, logging 114 victories in 1998 and winning the World Series handily. On the players' end, Cal Ripken Jr., in eclipsing Lou Gehrig's mark of 2,130 consecutive games played, brought important positive press to baseball in the wake of its 1994 players' strike. Ripken's fortitude and passion for the game was a welcome relief to fans disillusioned by the image of selfish players concerned primarily with monetary returns. Similarly, Baltimore's Mark McGwire returned the focus of fans to the playing field with his assault on Roger Maris' single-season mark for home runs in 1998. McGwire's record-setting 70 round-trippers that season captured the nation's attention in a Ruth-ian fashion and did much to restore the mythos and romance of the sport, much as the Sultan of Swat's accomplishments had done in the 1920s.
Though professional baseball has had its moments of honor and of ignominy, perhaps the real legacy of the glory days of baseball is still to be found on community playing fields. Baseball is not only beloved as a spectator sport, but is still often the first team game played by both sexes in peewee and little leagues. While modern mothers may shudder to imagine their children imitating the tobacco-chewing ballplayers they see on television, there is an undeniable thrill at the little leaguer's first home run that harks back to the most truly electrifying quality of baseball—that moment when skill meets desire, enabling the ordinary person to perform magnificent feats.
Creamer, Robert. Babe: The Legend Comes to Life. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1974.
Goldstein, Warren. Playing for Keeps: The History of Early Baseball. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1989.
Rader, Benjamin. Baseball: A History of America's Game. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 1992.
Seymour, Harold. Baseball: The Early Years. New York, Oxford University Press, 1960.
Voigt, David. American Baseball. Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1966.
"Baseball." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/media/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/baseball
"Baseball." St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. . Retrieved July 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/media/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/baseball
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Despite having to endure labor strikes, scandals, and the rise in popularity of football and basketball, baseball—America's National Pastime—has managed to maintain its allure and produce an array of legendary larger-than-life heroes. Among Americans' most prized cultural traditions are still "baseball, hotdogs, and apple pie."
The origin of baseball has long been a subject of controversy. What is certain is that the game initially was played in the United States before the mid-nineteenth century; in the 1840s, the New York Knickerbockers, the first baseball team in the United States, played in Madison Square in Manhattan, New York, and at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey. During the following decade, teams began sprouting up throughout the Northeast, and even in the Midwest and the Far West. After the Civil War (1861–65), teams started charging admission to games. In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first team to field a complete squad of salaried players.
Meanwhile, the rules of the game kept changing and evolving. In 1876, the eight-team National League came into being. The rival American League, also consisting of eight teams, was formed in 1901. At the conclusion of the 1903 season, the top team from each league began meeting each other in the World Series. Thus was born the sport's modern era. Concrete ballparks that seated thousands of fans were constructed in the major league cities. Among the game's early, colorful personalities: outfielders Ty Cobb (1886–1961; see entry under 1900s—Sports and Games in volume 1) and Tris Speaker (1888–1958); second baseman Napoleon Lajoie (1874–1959); pitchers Cy Young (1867–1955), Christy Mathewson (1880–1925), and Walter Johnson (1887–1946); and managers Connie Mack (1862–1956) and John McGraw (1873–1934).
The game was almost destroyed in the wake of the 1919 World Series, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to accept bribes and throw the series to their opponents, the Cincinnati Reds. The sport's savior was Babe Ruth (1895–1948; see entry under 1910s—Sports and Games in volume 1), nicknamed The Bambino and The Sultan of Swat, a pitcher-turned-home-run-hitter who during the 1920s became baseball's most illustrious personality. A slew of celebrated ballplayers made the majors during the 1920s and 1930s and established impressive records. Rogers Hornsby (1896–1963) hit over .400 three times, and in 1924 compiled a record .424 batting average. Lou Gehrig (1903–1941) played in 2,130 straight games. Ruth smashed 60 round-trippers (home runs) in 1927 and amassed 714 home runs for his career. The 1934 All-Star game saw pitcher Carl Hubbell (1903–1988) strike out Ruth, Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx (1907–1967), Al Simmons (1902–1956), and Joe Cronin (1906–1984) in succession. All were future Hall of Famers. The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, a shrine to the game's greatest players, opened in 1939. The 1941 season was highlighted by two stellar accomplishments: Joe DiMaggio (1914–1999), a classy and elegant centerfielder, hit in 56 straight games; and Ted Williams (1918–), perhaps the greatest hitter the sport has ever seen, became the last major leaguer to date to hit over .400.
Since the nineteenth century, African Americans had been banned from playing major and minor league baseball. Another milestone for the sport came in 1945, when Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey (1881–1965) signed Jackie Robinson (1919–1972; see entry under 1940s—Sports and Games in volume 3) to a contract. Robinson debuted with the Dodgers two years later. This event transcended baseball, becoming one of the milestones in the evolution of the fight for equal rights for African Americans.
During the 1950s and 1960s, a new generation of baseball stars emerged, including slugging outfielders Willie Mays (1931–), Mickey Mantle (1931–1995), and Hank Aaron (1934–); outfielder Roberto Clemente (1934–1972), the initial great Latin player; and fireballing pitcher Sandy Koufax (1935–). The 1950s also saw the relocation of the first National and American League franchises since 1903, with the Boston Braves, Philadelphia Athletics, and St. Louis Browns becoming, respectively, the Milwaukee Braves, Kansas City Athletics, and Baltimore Orioles. At that time, St. Louis was the westernmost major league city; the 1958 season saw the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants resettle on the West Coast, in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Then in 1961, the American League added two new franchises, the Los Angeles (later California and Anaheim) Angels and Washington Senators, with the original Senators relocating to Minnesota. The following year, the National League added the New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s (later Astros). In 1972, the "new" Washington Senators moved to Arlington, Texas, to become the Texas Rangers. Four teams were added to the major leagues in 1969; two in 1977; two in 1993; and two in 1998.
The cliche that records are made to be broken is ever the case in baseball. In 1961, slugger Roger Maris (1934–1985) hit 61 homers, breaking Babe Ruth's single season mark. In 1974, steady Hank Aaron topped Ruth's career total of 714 homers; Aaron eventually retired with 755 round-trippers. Pete Rose (1941–), whose nickname is Charlie Hustle, ended his career with 4,256 hits, topping Ty Cobb's 4,189. In 1973, sturdy hurler Nolan Ryan (1947–) struck out 383 batters, the single season mark; during his twenty-seven-year career he amassed a record 5,714 strikeouts, and also pitched seven no-hitters.
Despite these individual accomplishments, baseball is a team sport. Of all major league baseball teams across the decades, the New York Yankees have been the most dominating by far. During the twentieth century, the Bronx Bombers won approximately one out of every four World Series played, including five in a row between 1949 and 1953 and four in a row from 1936 to 1939.
The 1994 season saw the venerable sport suffer through another crisis: a player strike, which not only shut down the season in August but canceled the World Series. Fans by the millions lost interest in the game at the major league level. Two events helped rekindle its popularity. In 1995, Iron Man Cal Ripken (1960–) broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak; he voluntarily ended his streak three years later, at 2,632 straight games. Also in 1998, sluggers Mark McGwire (1963–) and Sammy Sosa (1968–) battled each other to break Roger Maris' season home-run record. Both of them did, with Sosa ending the year with 66 round-trippers and McGwire topping him with 70. McGwire's record did not last long, however, as Barry Bonds (1964–) of the San Francisco Giants set his own record in 2001 with 73 homers. The 1990s also saw the emergence of a new generation of baseball heroes, including Ken Griffey Jr. (1969–), Alex Rodriguez (1975–), Pedro Martinez (1968–), Nomar Garciaparra (1973–), and Derek Jeter (1974–).
Finally—and, perhaps, most tellingly—baseball is not played just at the professional level. Among the rites of childhood are the tossing, hitting, and catching of baseballs in sandlots and little leagues across America and around the world.
For More Information
Edelman, Rob. Baseball on the Web. New York: MIS Press, 1998.
The Editors of Total Baseball. Baseball: A Biographical Encyclopedia. New York: Total Sports, 2000.
Hernandez, Keith, and Mike Bryan. Pure Baseball. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.
Neyer, Rob, and Eddie Epstein. Baseball Dynasties: The Greatest Teams of All Time. New York: Norton, 2000.
Pietrusza, David, Lloyd Johnson, and Bob Carroll. The Total Baseball Catalog. New York: Total Sports, 1998.
Rader, Benjamin. Baseball: A History of America's Game. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992.
Thorn, John, Pete Palmer, and Michael Gershman, eds. Total Baseball. 7th ed. New York: Total Sports, 2001.
"Baseball." Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/culture-magazines/baseball
"Baseball." Bowling, Beatniks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of 20th-Century America. . Retrieved July 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/culture-magazines/baseball
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Baseball is a sport that encompasses more than the usual athletic features of performance, competition strategy, and player training and preparation. In the United States, baseball is a part of the social fabric. Baseball is part athletic endeavor and part folklore, defined as much by its place in American culture as by the game itself.
Baseball, played on a triangular shaped playing surface, is believed to have evolved from the English game of "rounders." Rounders was a variation of the sport of cricket, sharing the common features of bases being run by the offensive team and a thrown ball being batted to produce a score. By 1869, it is believed that Abner Doubleday was the first to codify the rules of what would become modern baseball. The recognizable modern elements of baseball include nine players in the field and a diamond-shaped field consisting of home plate and three bases 90 ft (27.4 m) apart. The essence of the game is the confrontation between pitcher and batter, 60.5 ft (18.4 m) apart, with an inning represented by three batters being called out.
Professional baseball and amateur play alike grew in popularity into the early 1900s. The National League was founded in 1876; the rival American League was formed in 1901. The first World Series, named not to signify a world championship, but in honor of the competition sponsor, the New York World newspaper, was first played in 1903. Every small town in America had baseball diamonds and teams. The cloud of illegal gambling and an effort to rig the outcome of the 1919 World Series, known as the "Black Sox" scandal, so named for the Chicago team at the epicenter of the controversy, was regarded as a national disgrace.
The rise of players such as Herman "Babe" Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and the New York Yankees team in the 1920s returned baseball to a positive public light. Baseball was the unquestioned favorite team sport in the United States until the 1950s. Major league baseball was in turn supported by a vast minor professional league structure, from where prospective major leaguers were developed. The nature of the game changed after World War II, as the infamous baseball "color line," an unspoken but well-enforced prohibition against African-American players competing in major league professional baseball, was first crossed by Jackie Robinson, a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Other baseball icons were created in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Henry (Hank) Aaron. Like the game itself, baseball heroes occupied a place in popular culture unlike other American athletes; there was a name recognition that was bigger than the sport itself.
Until World War II, baseball was only played to any significant degree in North America (the game had enjoyed significant growth in Canada in parallel progression to that in the United States). The wartime presence of U.S. servicemen in countries such as Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic served to introduce the game to those regions. Today, each of those countries has thriving baseball cultures, with a noticeable presence in the American major leagues. However, baseball is not on the same plane as sports such as soccer, cricket, rugby, or basketball in terms of global sport status. The sport has enjoyed official status an Olympic medal sport since 1992; the International Olympic Committee has determined that the Beijing Olympics of 2008 will be the last such baseball competition.
One enduring international baseball championship has been the Little League World Series, a competition for teams of youths aged 12 and under. Teams from various parts of the world participate in regional play downs for the opportunity to advance to the World Series, held each year in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, at a specially configured stadium.
Modern American professional baseball, which for more than a century was said to be as "American as Mom and apple pie," has undergone significant stresses in recent years. The stoppage of league play in 1994, and the corresponding cancellation of that year's World Series, due to a dispute between the owners of the major league teams and the players union had a significant impact upon the popularity of the game. The widely held concerns regarding whether major league players were routinely taking anabolic steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs, which concerns were the subject of seemingly unending media coverage as well as a United States Senate review, impacted upon the popularity of the game; in the 60 years since the end of World War II, baseball, while remaining popular in absolute terms, has fallen from first place to fourth in American sports culture behind professional football, college football, and professional basketball as a spectator sport.
Baseball has developed a number of variations over the past century. In the United States, baseball is the generic term applied to all varieties of the game. There are different types of competition that involve the batted ball as the chief manner of scoring against an opponent. Baseball, occasionally referred to as "hard ball," is the traditional game, as played in the United States major leagues and throughout the world.
Softball is a distinct form of baseball. The field of play is smaller, and the four bases are 60 ft (18.2 m), as opposed to 90 ft (27.4 m), apart. The ball is larger in circumference and is of a less dense composition than that of a baseball, which makes it much more difficult to hit as hard or as far as a baseball. The pitcher stands 40 ft (12.2 m) from the batter, and the pitch is delivered underhand, in a windmill motion. This game is the most popular women's baseball in the world.
Lob ball, or slow pitch, is similar in its rules and field of play to softball, with the key exception being the speed and trajectory of the ball when it is pitched to the batter. The game is designed to encourage the batter to hit the ball, whereas in all other forms of baseball the pitcher employs the opposite tactic. Lob ball came to prominence in the 1970s in North America as a less-taxing, more recreational and participatory form of baseball.
There are a number of reasons as to why baseball has endured as a part of American sporting culture, and to a lesser degree, as an international game. The first is the absence of time constraint in the competition. Baseball and cricket (from which baseball owes some derivation) are the only team sports where there is no time limit within which the game must be completed. The inning and the "at bat" (the period spent by an individual batter facing a pitcher in an inning) are not regulated by time, but by the result achieved—a hit, a walk, a strike out, or an out in the field. For these reasons, a team can, at least in theory, always come from behind to win a game.
Baseball is also one of the few sports where there is a series of one-on-one encounters that make up the competition. Unlike other team sports, such as football, basketball, soccer, or rugby, in which the team must function in a harmonious unit to achieve a goal, both offensively and defensively, there is a typical baseball sequence: pitcher versus batter; fielder versus runner, when the ball is hit in the field of play; and fielder versus runner, when a base runner attempts to advance on a hit or by a steal. Baseball teams must work together in the field to succeed, however, it is these individual encounters that are at the heart of the game.
Baseball is also noteworthy in the sense of what type of athlete will be most successful in the sport. While hitting a fast moving, spinning baseball with power is aided by the development of powerful muscles, particularly in the arms, shoulders, wrists, and core (lower abdominals, trunk, and thighs), many highly successful hitters rely on exceptional hand-eye coordination, anticipation, and speed to make regular contact with the ball and generate hits.
Defensively, the position of catcher has often lent itself to a larger athlete, due to the often physical contact required of the position. A bigger player is able to better withstand collisions at home plate and foul tips, where the batted ball is directed at high speed backward at the catcher. (It was these dangerous balls that led to the catcher's protective equipment being dubbed the "tools of ignorance.")
In other areas of the game, there is a decided premium on speed and agility. Defensive players such as shortstops, second basemen, and outfielders, and particularly the center fielder, cannot be effective unless they are able to cover significant distances and make split-second decisions as to where the ball must be thrown.
Baseball also combines a unique pairing of objects making contact that gives more dimension to the game. The object of the sport is to strike a round ball with a round bat, contact that frequently produces unusual movement by the struck ball. Baseball has been the subject of many learned dissertations concerning the application of physical principles, such as what causes a pitch to curve (Magnus effect of subtle differences in air pressure on the thrown ball), why an aluminum bat will cause a baseball to travel further than a wooden bat (different coefficients of restitution in aluminum versus wood), or how an outfielder is able to track down a high fly ball (relationship between eyes and the inner ear/balance function).
No sport has adherents that follow the flow of the play with a greater fascination with playing statistics than does baseball. To its devotees, the absence of time limits and the essential battle between batter and pitcher give baseball a cerebral quality.
"Baseball." World of Sports Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 18, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/sports-fitness-recreation-and-leisure-magazines/baseball
"Baseball." World of Sports Science. . Retrieved July 18, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/sports-fitness-recreation-and-leisure-magazines/baseball