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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.

Basic Rules

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.


Early History

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 DoubledayDoubleday, Abner,
1819–93, once credited as originator of baseball and Union general in the American Civil War, b. Saratoga co., N.Y., grad. West Point, 1842. The A. G.
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 invented baseball in 1839 in Cooperstown, N.Y., has been discredited. Rather, in the 1840s and 50s members of the New York Knickerbocker Club standardized some of the features still in use today, modifying rules used by older clubs to codify fundamental rules for the game. 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. In 1857 the Knickerbockers' Daniel L. "Doc" AdamsAdams, Doc
(Daniel Lucius Adams), 1814–1899, American baseball player and team executive, b. Mont Vernon, N.H., grad. Yale (1835), Harvard Medical School (1838). After working in his father's medical practice and in Boston, he moved to New York City.
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 presided at a convention during which the modern standards regarding the number of players and innings and the dimensions of the infield were adopted; the Knickerbockers' Louis WadsworthWadsworth, Louis Fenn,
1825–1908, American baseball player, b. Litchfield, Conn., grad. Washington College (now Trinity College), Hartford, 1844. After practicing law in New York City and presiding as a judge in New Jersey, he followed (1850s and early 60s) his passion for
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 also was an influential presence at the convention. Sportswriter Henry ChadwickChadwick, Henry,
1824–1908, Anglo-American journalist who helped popularize baseball in the United States, b. Exeter, England. Moving to Brooklyn, N.Y., with his family in 1837, he was a cricket reporter for the New York Times
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 edited (1860–81) the first published guide to the game, 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 LandisLandis, Kenesaw Mountain
, 1866–1944, American jurist and commissioner of baseball (1921–44), b. Millville, Butler co., Ohio, grad. Union College of Law (now Northwestern Univ. law school), 1891.
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 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 RuthRuth, Babe
(George Herman Ruth), 1895–1948, American baseball player, considered by many the greatest of all baseball players, b. Baltimore. Early Life

When he was seven years old his parents placed him in St.
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, the game's preeminent legend. Other stars made their names as well: Ruth's durable New York Yankee teammate, Lou GehrigGehrig, Lou
(Louis Gehrig) , 1903–41, American baseball player, b. New York City. He studied and played baseball at Columbia, where he was spotted by a scout for the New York Yankees.
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; the contentious batting champion Ty CobbCobb, Ty
(Tyrus Raymond Cobb), 1886–1961, American baseball player, b. Narrows, Ga. In 1905 he joined the Detroit Tigers as center fielder and in his 24 years in the American League was one of the most spectacular and brilliant players in the history of the game.
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; outstanding pitchers like Lefty GroveGrove, Robert Moses
(Lefty Grove), 1900–1975, American baseball player, b. Lonaconing, Md. A left-handed pitcher, he played for the Philadelphia Athletics (1925–33) and Boston Red Sox (1934–41).
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, Dizzy DeanDean, Jerome Herman
(Dizzy Dean), 1911–74, American baseball player, b. Lucas, Ark. His name was originally Jay Hanna Dean. A colorful right-handed pitcher, Dean performed brilliantly (1930–37) for the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League.
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, and Walter JohnsonJohnson, Walter Perry,
1887–1946, American baseball player, b. Humboldt, Kans. He began playing with the Washington Senators of the American League in 1907. A right-handed pitcher, he won 417 games while losing 279 before he retired from active play in 1927.
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; graceful Yankee center fielder Joe DiMaggioDiMaggio, Joe
(Joseph Paul DiMaggio) , 1914–99, American baseball player, b. Martinez, Calif. One of the most charismatic of 20th-century sports figures, "Joltin' Joe" joined the New York Yankees of the American League in 1936 and quickly rose to stardom, winning the
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; and sluggers Hank Greenberg and Jimmie FoxxFoxx, Jimmie
(James Emory Foxx), 1907–67, American baseball player, b. Sudlersville, Md. Foxx played for the Philadelphia Athletics (1926–35), the Boston Red Sox (1936–42), the Chicago Cubs (1942–44), and the Philadelphia Phillies (1945).
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, 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 PaigePaige, Satchel
(Leroy Paige) , 1906–82, American baseball player, b. Mobile, Ala. He began pitching in 1924, joined his first professional team two years later, and became a star in the Negro leagues during the 1930s.
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, Buck LeonardLeonard, Buck
(Walter Fenner Leonard), 1907–1997, African-American baseball player, b. Rocky Mount, N.C. Beginning in 1933, he played semiprofessional ball with the Baltimore Stars and the Brooklyn Royal Giants.
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, Josh GibsonGibson, Josh
(Joshua Gibson) 1911–47, American baseball player, b. Buena Vista, Ga. A catcher and the long-time batterymate of Satchel Paige, Gibson was called "the Babe Ruth of the Negro Leagues.
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, and Judy JohnsonJohnson, Judy
(William Julius Johnson), 1899–1989, American baseball player, b. Snow Hill, Md. His father, a boxing coach, wanted him to be a prizefighter, but he started playing semipro baseball in 1919 and was the third baseman for the Negro National League's Hilldale
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, among the best in baseball, often played before large crowds, "invisible" to the white public. In 1947, Branch RickeyRickey, Branch,
1881–1965, American baseball executive, b. Stockdale, Ohio. As manager or executive, he was with the St. Louis Browns (1913–15), the St. Louis Cardinals (1917–42), the Brooklyn Dodgers (1943–50), and the Pittsburgh Pirates (1950–59).
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, Brooklyn's general manager, began the integration of the major leagues by bringing Jackie RobinsonRobinson, Jackie
(Jack Roosevelt Robinson), 1919–72, American baseball player, the first African-American player in the modern major leagues, b. Cairo, Ga. He grew up in Pasadena, Calif., where he became an outstanding athlete in high school and junior college.
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 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 MaysMays, Willie Howard, Jr.
("Say Hey" Willie Mays), 1931–, American baseball player, b. Fairfield, Ala. He began his professional career at 17 with the Black Barons of the Negro National League.
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 and Hank AaronAaron, Hank
(Henry Louis Aaron), 1934–2021, U.S. baseball player, b. Mobile, Ala. A durable outfielder and consistent hitter noted for his powerful wrists and explosive swing, Aaron joined the Negro Leagues' Indianapolis Clowns at 18, but he was soon acquired by the Boston
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. Integration became a fact of baseball life so quickly that the remaining Negro Leagues began to fold in 1948 and 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. The records of those leagues's players were not classified as major league statistics, however, until 2020.

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 SoxBlack Sox scandal,
episode in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox, the American League champions, were banned from baseball in 1921 for having conspired with gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series to the Cincinnati Reds.
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 era, the breaking of Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games-played record in 1996 by Cal RipkenRipken, Cal, Jr.
(Calvin Edward Ripken, Jr.), 1960–, American baseball player, b. Havre de Grace, Md. The son of a long-time coach and manager in the Baltimore Orioles organization, he joined the team in 1981 as a third baseman.
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, Jr. and the assault on the single-season home-run record by Mark McGwireMcGwire, Mark David
, 1963–, American baseball player, b. Pomona, Calif. A muscular first baseman who was a college and Olympic (1984) star, McGwire broke into the American League as Rookie of the Year in 1987 with the Oakland Athletics, hitting a record 49 home runs for a
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 and Sammy SosaSosa, Sammy
(Samuel Kevin Sosa Peralta) , 1968–, Dominican baseball player. An outfielder and designated hitter, he broke into the major leagues with the Texas Rangers and then the Chicago White Sox (both American League; AL) in 1989, moving to the Chicago Cubs (National
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 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 BondsBonds, Barry Lamar,
1964–, American baseball player, b. Riverside, Calif. Bonds grew up surrounded by baseball; his father, Bobby Bonds, was a San Francisco Giants outfielder (1968–74), and the great Willie Mays was his godfather. Bonds left Arizona State Univ.
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 broke the single-season home-run record and other marks and Rickey HendersonHenderson, Rickey Henley,
1958–, American baseball player, b. Chicago. An outfielder with the Oakland Athletics (1979–84, 1989–93, 1994–95, 1998), New York Yankees (1985–89), Toronto Blue Jays (1993), San Diego Padres (1996–97, 2001), Anaheim
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 crowned his other accomplishments by setting the career record for runs scored. At the same time, however, a growing anabolic steroidanabolic steroid
or androgenic steroid
, any of a group of synthetic derivatives of testosterone that promote muscle and bone growth. Used to treat uncontrolled weight loss in wasting diseases, anabolic steroids have also been taken by bodybuilders and athletes seeking
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 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. Softballsoftball,
variant of baseball played with a larger ball on a smaller field. Invented (1888) in Chicago as an indoor game, it was at various times called indoor baseball, mush ball, playground ball, kitten ball, and, because it was also played by women, ladies' baseball.
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, 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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a sport using a ball and a bat that is reminiscent of the Russian game lapta. It appeared in the USA during the early 1800’s. The first official match was played in 1820 in New York. In 1845 the first professional club was formed.

Baseball is popular in the USA, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and Japan. The game is played by two teams of nine members on an area in the shape of a diamond with 90 ft (27.4 m) sides and “bases” (“homes”) at each corner. The players of the offensive team stand in turn at a base. By means of a bat they return a ball that is thrown to them, and while it is in flight they run from one base to another. The players of the defensive team attempt to catch the ball and “tag” the running opponent with it. When this has been done three times, the teams change places. The team having the greatest number of points (the largest number of runs around all the bases to their “home”) after nine such sessions is the winner. Also widespread in the USA, Japan, the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, and elsewhere is softball, a simpler version of baseball that can be played indoors and on small fields; also popular are such varieties of baseball as cricket in England, pesäpallo in Finland, and o’ma in Rumania.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(plasma physics)
A machine used in controlled fusion research to confine a plasma; consists of a linear magnetic bottle sealed by magnetic mirrors at both ends, and has current-carrying structures, which resemble the seams of a baseball in shape, to stabilize the plasma.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


traditional American sport and pastime. [Am. Sports: EB, I: 850]
See: America
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a team game with nine players on each side, played on a field with four bases connected to form a diamond. The object is to score runs by batting the ball and running round the bases
2. the hard rawhide-covered ball used in this game
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005