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AMERICA’S PASTIME. A History of Major League Baseball Alyssa Kratz.

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america s pastime


A History of Major League Baseball

Alyssa Kratz


AbnerDoubleday, who served in the U.S. army during the Mexican and Civil Wars, is sometimes credited with “inventing” the game of baseball in 1839, in Cooperstown, New York. According to legend and former star pitcher, Al Spalding, Doubleday invented the word baseball, designed the diamond, indicated fielder positions, and wrote down field regulations and game rules. However, there are no written records which indicate that this is completely true and some believe that baseball did not really have one inventor, but that it evolved slowly over time with the help of numerous people.

Abner Doubleday


A volunteer firefighter and bookseller in Manhattan, Alexander Cartwright is sometimes referred to as the “father of baseball” for those not wanting to believe the myth of Abner Doubleday. He led the establishment of the Knickerbocker Baseball Club (named after the Knickerbocker Fire Engine Company). The Knickerbockers played a type of stick-and-ball game known as “town ball.”


1845- Cartwrightand a committee from his club created rules for a more elaborate game. The original 14 rules were somewhat similar to the English sport of rounders. Three changes devised by Cartwright included the stipulations that the playing field had to be in a diamond-shape rather than a square used in rounders, foul territories were introduced for the first time, and the practice of retiring a runner by hitting him with a thrown ball was forbidden. He’s also credited for introducing flat bases at uniform distances, three strikes per batter, and nine players in the field.

Alexander Cartwright


The New York Knickerbockers

the first official game…


On June 19th, 1846, the first official baseball game was played under Cartwright’s Knickerbocker rules.

The Knickerbockers lost to the New York Baseball Club, or the “New York Nine,” 23-1 in four innings.

 Cartwright umpired the contest and enforced a six-cent fine, payable on the spot, for swearing.


When Did the MLB Start?

For professional baseball's founding year, Major League Baseball uses1869—the year the first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was established. The modern Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves franchises trace their histories back to the National Association of Professional Baseball Players in the early 1870s. The first game in the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs—on Saturday, April 22, 1876 (at the Jefferson Street Grounds, Philadelphia)—is often referred to as the beginning of Major League Baseball.



“Club owners decided to form a league that gave power to the club owners and formally organized the game of baseball into a profitable business. Players would now be contractually obliged to play for one team. The basis for baseball as a business was created…”

The National League is Formed…



In 1893, businessman and baseball enthusiast Ban Johnson created the Western League as a minor league for the National League. In 1901, Johnson changed the league’s name for the Western to the American League and officially announced its intent to operate as a major league.

The American League is Formed…


The 1st World Series

October 1903

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Boston Americans

“With the American League proving its legitimacy as a professional baseball league and rival to the incumbent National League, the two leagues organized a series between the two league champions. The Boston Americans prevailed 5 games to 3 to win the series, making them the first world series champions…”


1st World Series Boycott


Just one year after the first World Series was played, the growing animosity between the two Major Leagues, the American and National League, came to a spearhead when the National League champions, the New York Giants refused to play.

Giants manager John McGraw did not want to play the world series because he did see the American League as a true major league.


1919 - Major League Baseball decides to have all of its baseballs made by a machine instead of hand sewn by human. The result is baseball that were much tighter, creating a much livelier ball that travelled much faster and further.

These new baseballs pave the way for the home run, and the first home run king, Babe Ruth…

End of the Dead Ball Era


Baseball and WW1

The United States entered World War 1 in 1917. During wartime, many major league players served America in the war, hurting the overall quality of many teams.  The U.S. government called for a shortened season (ending on Labor Day) as well as an accelerated World Series to take place immediately after. The Fall Classic was temporarily transformed into a "Late-Summer" version and ran from September 5th to the 11th. In the first of many, the 1918 season was the first to show the effects of wartime on baseball.. America's national pastime carried on smartly while helping to raise money (and the spirits) of concerned citizens everywhere.


Who? 8 players of the Chicago White Sox (Shoeless Joe Jackson, Chick Gandil, Swede Risberg, Buck Weaver, Happy Felsch, Eddie Cicotte, Lefty Williams, and Fred McMullin )

What? These eight players were paid by underground figures to intentionally throw the world series for gambling purposes. Revelations came to public knowledge, resulting in the lifetime ban from baseball of all eight players.

When? 1919 World Series

The Black Sox Scandal


One of Baseball’s Greatest…

Babe Ruth

  • In 1919, while with the Boston Red Sox, Ruth set a single-season home run record of 29 runs. 
  •  In 1920, his first year with the New York, Yankees he hit 54 home runs.
  •  In his second season he broke his own record by hitting 59 home runs, becoming baseball's all-time home run leader.
  • 1927, Ruth hit 60 home runs in a season's time—a record that stood for 34 years.

RECORDS BROKEN IN CAREER: Most years leading a league in home runs (12); most total bases in a season (457); and highest slugging percentage for a season (.847). In all he hit 714 home runs, a mark that stood until 1974.

“The Great Bambino”


One of Baseball’s Greatest…

Lou Gehrig

  • Won the Triple Crown in 1934 when he led the American League in batting average (.363), home runs (49) and runs batted in (165).Cubs). 
  • Set a record by playing in a consecutive streak of 2,130 professional baseball games throughout his career; the record stood until Cal Ripken, Jr. broke it in 1995.
  • Holds the record for most grand slams in a career with 23.

The Luckiest Man

on the Face of the Earth


One of Baseball’s Greatest…

Hank Aaron

Among many other great accomplishments, Aaron is remembered most for breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record. He hit his 715th home run, breaking the record, on April 8, 1974. He dealt with death threats and other distractions, from those who did not want a black man to break the Babe’s prestigious record.

Hank Aaron would hit 755 total home runs in his career. This record stood until 2007…


The Negro League is Formed

The owners of both the American and National Leagues agreed that black baseball players were not allowed to play in either Major League. In 1923, the black players formed the National Negro League and barnstormed around the United States proving that black players were just as talented as their white counterparts.


Owners of baseball clubs saw a great possibility to increase game attendance by holding games at night when people were not at work. Though there was some hesitation to accept night games initially, it quickly became the regular and baseball grew in popularity because of it.

The 1st Night Game

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Cincinnati Reds

May 24th, 1935


Jackie Robinson

Breaks the Color Barrier


In not only one of the greatest moments in baseball history, but in American history, young black player Jackie Robinson becomes the first black Major League player, playing with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He received many death threats and racial slurs from fans, opponents and teammates alike, but persevered and paved the way for a whole generation of non-white baseball players, making baseball a truly American game.


The Shot Heard

‘Round the World


As of August 11th, the Brooklyn Dodgers held a 13 1/2 game lead of the New York Giants for the National League Pennant. The Giants went on to win 37 of their last 44 games, forcing a playoff with the Dodgers for the pennant. With the Giants losing in the bottom of the 9th inning, outfielder Bobby Thomson hit a game winning home run to clinch the pennant for the Giants, completing the greatest comeback in baseball history


Expanding West

After the 1957 season, two of the greatest franchises in baseball history, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers, relocated to the West Coast, becoming the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. This put Major League Baseball on both coasts of the United States and helped to make baseball America's most popular and successful sport…


In the year 1969, St. Louis Cardinal outfielder Curt Flood refused a trade to the Philadelphia Phillies, which started a long legal battle against baseball's reserve clause. Eventually, it was determined by the Supreme Court that professional players were not pieces of property that could be traded by their owners against their wishes and modern day free agency begins.

The Start of Free Agency


1994 Players’ Strike

Due to a disagreement about a proposed salary cap by the club owners, players went on strike in 1994. The 1994–95 Major League Baseball strike was the eighth work stoppage in baseball history, as well as the fourth in-season work stoppage in 22 years. The 232-day strike, lasting from August 12, 1994, to April 2, 1995, led to the cancellation of up to 948 games overall, and the entire 1994 postseason and World Series. The cancellation of the 1994 World Series was the first since 1904; Major League Baseball became the first professional sport to lose its entire postseason due to a labor dispute.

“The strike has been considered the worst work stoppage in sports history and it left the fans and the sports world outraged…”


April 1st, 2000

With many of the game’s superstars coming from all around the world, including Japanese-born speedster, Ichiro Suzuki, the MLB decides to have its opening game of the 2000 season played in Tokyo, Japan. This signifies the MLB's growing trend towards being a truly global game.

Going Global…


October 27th, 2004

For the first time since Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees in 1920, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, breaking the Curse of the Bambino. Entering the playoffs as a wild card team, Boston managed to come back from a 3 game to 1 deficit in the ALCS and beat the Yankees to advance to the World Series where they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in 4 straight games.

The Curse is Broken!


2003-Present: In recent years, the BALCO steroid scandal became very popular in the media, causing the amount of Major League players that have at one or more points used steroids to become apparent and the legitimacy of baseball to be called into question. Many of the game’s former superstars, such as Mark McGuire, have found themselves in the court room testifying about their illegal, performance-enhancing drug use. Barry Bonds has also been connected to steroid use, making his record-breaking home run extremely controversial.

Going into the future, the MLB has become much more strict with its steroid testing after the revelations about Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and many of the game’s great stars of the 1990's. Baseball has returned to being a pitcher-catcher sport, like the way it was for 150 years leading up to the home run explosion of the 1990's.

The Steroid Era


Barry Bonds

Breaks the HR Record




Works Cited

  • Renton, Brittany. "Significant Events within Major League Baseball (compiled by Brittney Renton Feb 18, 2011)." Timeline. TimeToast, 18 Feb. 2011. Web. 05 June 2012. <>.
  • PBS. PBS. Web. 06 June 2012. <>.
  • "Baseball History: 19th Century Baseball: The Game." Baseball History: 19th Century Baseball: The Game. Web. 06 June 2012. <>.
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