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baseball, 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.
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 Landis 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 Ruth, the game's preeminent legend. Other stars made their names as well: Ruth's durable New York Yankee teammate, Lou Gehrig; the contentious batting champion Ty Cobb; outstanding pitchers like Lefty Grove, Dizzy Dean, and Walter Johnson; graceful Yankee center fielder Joe DiMaggio; and sluggers Hank Greenberg and Jimmie Foxx, 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
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 Sox era, the breaking of Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games-played record in 1996 by Cal Ripken, Jr. and the assault on the single-season home-run record by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa 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 Bonds broke the single-season home-run record and other marks and Rickey Henderson crowned his other accomplishments by setting the career record for runs scored. At the same time, however, a growing anabolic steroid 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
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).
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.
S. V. GLIAZER