Much mythology surrounds the beginnings of baseball, but the origins stretch back to kids games played in the 18th century, with the game most resembling baseball first established in New York in 1845.
Setting the Record Straight
As part of Great American Folklore for more than 100 years, Abner Doubleday has taken his place alongside such heroes as Paul Bunyon and Johnny Appleseed.
Doubleday has been long taken for granted as the "Father of Baseball," but the truth of the matter is that there probably is not just one "Father," but rather the game has evolved from such other "stick-and-ball" games as the Irish's rounders and England's cricket that were known to be played in the U.S. in the 18th century.
Doubleday was said to have created the game in 1839, in a rural Cooperstown, New York cow pasture, but records show he was enrolled at West Point at the time. He never claimed to have any major influence over the sport, which is supported by the fact that among his possessions at the time of his death were a goodly number of personal letters and documents, none of which mentioned the game.
The persona of the "Father of Baseball" was largely created by Al Spalding, one of the premier pitchers in the game in the fledgling years of the first professional baseball league, and a successful sporting goods manufacturer after he left the game.
After much discussion, speculations, and arguments, Spalding formed a panel of baseball experts in 1907, including himself, two U.S. Senators, two former stars of the game, and two former presidents of the National League. Spalding apparently did not want the whole truth to get out, but rather a "fairy tale" version where a future war hero from a quaint small town, would slow down long enough to invent "America's Pastime."
Origins of Modern Baseball
According to historians, a group of men who formed the the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club were the first to codify the rules for baseball in 1845. The club was organized by Alexander Cartwright and clubmembers William R. Wheaton and William H. Tucker are credited with formalizing the rules, 20 in all, which included creating the diamond-shaped infield, foul lines, and the three-strike rule. The Club is also created the first recorded baseball uniforms. The Knickerbockers played the New York Nine in 1846 using these new rules---going down in history as the first baseball game played under official, modern rules and the beginning of a new American pastime.