There in various parts of the country–town ball,

There in various parts of the country–town ball,

There has been much speculation about the origin of baseball. In 1907 a special commission decided that the modern game was invented by Abner Doubleday, a West Point cadet, at Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1839. One hundred years later the National Baseball Museum was opened at Cooperstown to honor Doubleday.

Historians, however, disagree about the origin of baseball. Some say that baseball comes from bat-and-ball games of ancient times. It is a matter of record that in the 1700s English boys played a game they called base ball. Americans have played a kind of baseball since about 1800. At first the American game had different rules and different names in various parts of the country–town ball, rounders, or one old cat. Youngsters today still play some of these simplified forms of the game. Baseball did not receive a standard set of rules until 1845, when Alexander Cartwright organized the Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New York City.

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The rules Cartwright set up for his nine-player team were widely adopted by other clubs and formed the basis of modern baseball. The game was played on a “diamond” infield with the bases 90 feet apart. The first team to score 21 runs was declared the winner. By 1858 the National Association of Base Ball Players was formed with 25 amateur teams. The Cincinnati Red Stockings began to pay players in 1869.

In 1871 ten clubs formed the National Association of Professional Baseball Players. Five years later the present National League (NL) was organized, chiefly by William Hulbert and Albert Spalding. The American League (AL), organized in 1900 under the direction of Ban Johnson, played its first season in 1901. In the first major league change in 50 years the Boston Braves (NL) moved to Milwaukee in 1953. After the 1953 season the St. Louis Browns (AL) became the Baltimore Orioles.

The Philadelphia Athletics (AL) became the Kansas City Athletics in 1955. In 1958 the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants (both NL) moved to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. The AL was expanded to ten teams in 1961, adding the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators. (The former Washington franchise had moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul as the Minnesota Twins.

) The NL expanded to ten teams in 1962 with the addition of the New York Mets and the Houston Colt 45s (renamed the Astros in 1965). In 1966 the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta, and the Los Angeles Angels moved to Anaheim as the California Angels. In 1968 the Kansas City Athletics moved to Oakland. Both leagues expanded to 12 teams in 1969. The NL added the San Diego Padres and the Montreal Expos–the first baseball team in Canada.

The AL added the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots, which in 1970 moved to Milwaukee as the Brewers. In 1972 the Washington Senators moved to Arlington, Tex., to become the Texas Rangers.

The AL expanded to 14 teams for the 1977 season with the Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays. For the 1993 season the NL added teams in Denver and Miami–the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins. Two changes affected major league play. A number of stadiums replaced grass with artificial turf, which probably benefits hitters. In 1973 AL teams began using a designated hitter to bat for the pitcher, usually the team’s weakest hitter. The historical 1972 player walkout for pension increases delayed opening day until mid-April. A strike that lasted for seven weeks in mid-1981 resulted from a player-management dispute over compensation for athletes who switch teams as free agents.

There was a 22-day owners’ lockout in 1976, and a similar lockout in 1990 delayed spring training for 32 days. Baseball was shaken by its first major scandal when eight members of the Chicago White Sox were accused of accepting bribes to intentionally lose the 1919 World Series to Cincinnati. All eight, including the legendary Shoeless Joe Jackson, were later banned from the game for life. In 1989 another baseball idol, Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds, received a lifetime suspension for gambling (See Rose, Pete). The next year George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, was issued a lifetime banishment (also for gambling).

In the wake of the so-called Black Sox scandal a baseball commissioner was proposed to replace an ineffective three-man commission. Kenesaw M. Landis, a federal judge, exercised absolute authority over all phases of the game from 1920 until his death in 1944.

The first African American to head a major professional sports league in the United States was Bill White, who became the NL president in 1989. The commissioner and both major leagues maintain their headquarters in New York City. (See Softball)

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