What is Baseball?
Baseball is a team sport played on a field made up of an outfield and an infield, where two teams face-off against each other taking terms batting and fielding. Each team has nine players playing in the game at one-time, with each team having reserve players who can enter the game as substitutions. The team on offense takes turns batting and running the bases in an effort to score runs. The team on defense pitches to the batters and fields the ball to earn outs. The team with the most runs at the end of the game wins.
When Was Baseball Invented?
Baseball was invented sometime during the 18th century. Variations of the game were first played in the Northeastern region of the United States.
Who Invented Baseball?
Abner Doubleday is often incorrectly cited as the inventor of baseball. However, baseball cannot be attribute to a single inventor.
The Basic History of Baseball
Baseball was first played in the 18th century. Though it was created in the United States, it is thought to have been influenced by two English games originally brought over by the colonists: rounders and cricket.
Some of the earliest games were played in schoolyards and on college campuses in the late 1700s. It eventually spread to urban centers as cities became more industrialized in the mid-1800s.
During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers often played baseball. After the war was over, many veterans who learned the game during their service brought this game home with them and introduced it to new communities. This is when the popularity of the game really began to grow and baseball began to be recognized as the “national pastime.”
In these early games, there weren’t any formal rules for players to follow. Different areas of the country often used their own versions of the rules. In 1845, the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club was formed. Alexander Joy Cartwright, a member of the club, created some of the rules associated with modern baseball as we know it today. For example, the club formalized the three-strike rule and banned the practice of throwing a ball at a runner to tag them out. It also recognized the diamond-shaped infield and the use of foul lines. These changes created a faster-paced game, which helped to attract more spectators to the sport.
Several professional baseball clubs and leagues were formed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, many only lasted a short time or eventually folded. The first official professional baseball club in America was formed in 1869 as the Cincinnati Red Stockings. The first professional baseball league was the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, formed in 1871. This was replaced by the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, more commonly known as just the National League (NL), on February 2, 1876. This league originally had eight teams:
- Boston Red Stockings
- Hartford Dark Blues
- Mutual of New York
- Philadelphia Athletics
- Cincinnati Red Stockings
- Chicago White Stockings
- Louisville Grays
- St. Louis Brown Stockings
The NL’s counterpart, the American League (AL), was formed in 1901, and the first World Series was held in 1903. These leagues and the annual World Series championship continue to this day as part of Major League Baseball (MLB). Because the NL was formed in 1876, MLB is the oldest major professional sports league in North America.
Notable Moments in Baseball
Pro baseball experienced its first major scandal in 1919. That year, a handful of key players from the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the World Series in exchange for a sizable payout. The high-stakes gambling plot was eventually revealed in the fall of 1920. The players, who became known as the Black Sox, were banned from pro baseball for life.
During WWII, more than 500 baseball players from the major leagues served in the Armed Forces. With so many players away contributing to the war effort, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was formed in 1943. The league, which was spearheaded by Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley, was based in the Midwest with the first teams located in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana. The league was shut down in 1954.
Beginning in the late 1800s, Black baseball players were excluded from professional baseball. Though the Negro leagues included many incredible athletes, it wasn’t until April 15, 1947 that Jackie Robinson finally broke the color barrier in baseball. He spent his pro career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, playing with them until his retirement in 1956.
Baseball Around the World
Baseball is an undeniably American sport, but its popularity has spread to other countries over the years. The Toronto Blue Jays were established as part of the MLB in 1977, and there are a number of minor league teams in Canada. There are also prominent professional leagues in Japan, South Korea, and Cuba. Some MLB players complete in offseason leagues in Australia, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela.
An international competition called the World Baseball Classic has been held each year since 2006. Baseball was once a part of the summer Olympics, but it was no longer included beginning in 2012.
The Basic Rules & Gameplay of Baseball
What Is the Objective of Baseball?
The objective of the game is to score points, also known as “runs”, by making hits and rounding the bases to get to home plate. Players on defense try to get three outs as quickly as possible to prevent their opponent from scoring. The team with the most runs at the end of the game wins.
What Are the Basic Rules of Baseball?
- Team size – Each team has nine players on the field at a time. In leagues where a designated hitter is permitted, 10 players are included on the roster. Substitutions are permitted, but players who have been replaced cannot reenter the game.
- Innings – There are nine innings in a baseball game. Each team gets a turn on offense and defense during the inning. The inning is over when each team has made three outs. The first half of the inning is called the “top” and the second half is called the “bottom.” If the score is tied after nine innings, extra innings are played until one team has more points than the other once the inning is complete.
- Scoring – Players score by getting around all the bases and crossing home plate. The different bases, in order they must touch, are first base, second base, third base, and home plate. Each run is worth one point.
- Batting– When a team is on offense, they are at-bat. There is a batting order for each team which determines the sequence in which the players get the opportunity to bat. While at bat, players stand in the batter’s box to the left or right of home plate. The ball is thrown by the pitcher, and the batter decides whether to swing the bat at the ball for a hit. There are several potential outcomes from each pitch:
- Ball: The player does not swing and the ball is outside the strike zone. If there are four balls, the batter gets a walk and proceeds to first base.
- Strike: If a player swings and misses at the ball, whether the ball was within the strike zone or not, it is considered a strike. In addition, if the ball crosses over the plate and is within the strike zone, but the player does not swing, it is considered a strike as well. If a batter gets three strikes, they are out.
- Foul ball: The ball is hit outside the field of play. These are counted as strikes, unless the batter already has two strikes. A batter is allowed an unlimited number of foul balls, unless the batter foul the ball on a bunt attempt while already having two strikes. If this is the case, then the foul ball is considered a third strike and the batter is counted as an out.
- Hit: The ball is hit inside the field of play. This is called a fair ball.
- Running the Bases – When a batter hits a fair ball, they can run to first base. If the ball is still in play, they can choose to either stop at first (which is called a single) or continue on to second base (double), third base (triple), or home plate (home run). Those who are still on base after their hit can try to steal a base or wait for a hit to advance along the bases.
- Pitching – The pitcher for each team takes the mound in the center of the infield while their team is on defense. The pitcher throws the ball to the players at bat in an effort to get them out. Pitchers often use strategic throws, such as fastballs, curveballs, or sliders, to increase their chances of striking the batter out.
- Fielding – The team on defense fields the ball. If a batter is able to hit the ball off of the pitcher’s throw, the fielders must catch and throw the ball in an effort to get players called out.
- Outs – Once a team gets three outs, the players switch from offense to defense (and vice versa). A batter is called out when one of the following occurs:
- They get three strikes while at bat, also known as a strikeout.
- They hit a ball, but it is caught before it touches the ground, also known as a flyout.
- The ball is thrown to a baseman who touches the base with their foot while the player is forced to run to that base. This is called a force play or forced out.
- A fielder touches the batter or baserunner with the ball or with their glove that has the ball inside it, while they are not on a base. It is called being tagged out.
- Officiating – Baseball games are called by a team of umpires. In major league games, there typically four umpires:
- One umpire stands behind home plate and calls a ball or strike for each pitch. They also make calls concerning the batter and base runners near home plate. This umpire is typically the chief umpire for the game.
- Three other umpires are base umpires, with one stationed at each of the bases. These umpires are responsible for calls concerning baserunners and any nearby plays.
The Roster of a Baseball Team
Each team has nine players on the field while on defense, each of which is assigned one of the following positions:
- Pitcher: Throws the ball from the pitcher’s mound to each batter. They attempt to get batters out by accruing three strikes.
- Catcher: Crouches behind home plate to catch each pitch. They also guard home plate by trying to tag runners out before they can cross it.
- First baseman: Guards first base. They must stay close to the bag since most outs at this base are forced outs.
- Second baseman: Guards second base. They field balls in the middle of the field and are often involved in double plays.
- Third baseman: Guards third base. They field balls and must be able to throw quickly across the infield.
- Shortstop: Positioned between second and third base in the infield. They are in a demanding defensive position since many hits travel to this area.
- Left fielder: Positioned in left field. This area tends to receive the most hits out of all the outfield positions.
- Center fielder: Positioned in center field. This player covers the most area of any defensive player and gets a high number of fly balls.
- Right fielder: Positioned in right field. Must have a strong arm in order to make long throws.
While on offense, teams do not have designated positions. Instead, they take turns at bat according to the lineup defined in the batting order.
The Basic Equipment in Baseball
The essential equipment for baseball includes:
- Bat: The bat is a smooth, rounded wood stick with a tapered end that acts as the handle. Aluminum bats are sometimes used in amateur leagues.
- Ball: A baseball features a leather exterior with tight stitching. It is 9 to 9 ¼ inches in circumference.
- Glove: Baseball gloves (also known as mitts) are made from leather and feature webbing between the forefinger and thumb.
- Helmet: Players wear a helmet when they are at bat. The helmet includes a bill and coverings for the ears.
- Catcher’s gear: Catchers use a more thickly padded baseball glove. They also wear a helmet with a face and throat guard, a padded chest protector, and lightweight guards covering their knees, shins, and ankles.
- Uniform: Players wear a short-sleeved button-up jersey, long baseball pants, baseball cleats, and a baseball cap.
Baseball is played on a field often referred to as a “diamond.” This is due to the diamond shape that the bases make around the infield. The bases are set along clay paths, and there is a clay pitcher’s mound in the center of the infield. The outfield features grass and extends back from the first, second and third bases.
There are specific dimensions required for the infield in senior leagues, collegiate baseball, and Major League Baseball. The base paths must form a square with 90 feet on each side. The foul lines extend from the outer sides of this square. First, second, and third base are canvas bags. Home base is a flat, rubber slab in the shape of a pentagon. The pitcher’s mound has a long, narrow slab of rubber that is situated 10 inches above home plate and 60 ½ feet away from the back point of home plate.
The outfield, on the other hand, does not need to conform to specific dimensions. Major league ballparks vary widely in overall size. There must be a minimum distance of 325 feet from home plate to the nearest fence or obstruction along both foul lines and 400 feet from home plate to the back of center field for all parks constructed after June 1, 1958.