A Brief Outline of the Origins
                    History of the Game

Although various bat and ball games have existed for many centuries
(Townball, Rounders, Cricket, Old Cat, etc.), the version of the game we now
know as baseball is generally credited to
Alexander Joy Cartwright, Jr. who
is believed to have composed a set of by-laws for his club, the
New York
Knickerbockers Base Ball Club in 1845.  Fourteen of those by-laws made up
the rules of the game and included the diamond shaped field, three strikes
and three outs rules, fair and foul territory and elimination of the practice of
‘soaking’, or throwing the ball at a runner to put him out.  This version,
known at the time as the
New York Game quickly became popular and began
to spread across the northeast.  In 1849, Cartwright left New York for
California, and it is said that he took with him balls and bats, teaching the
new game to pioneers, settlers and even Indians along the way.  However,
when he got to California he contracted dysentery and so caught a ship for
China to join his brother in business there But due to violent sea sickness,
he disembarked in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).   After sending for his
family, he spent the rest of his life there where he organized the public
library system and fire department in Honolulu, served as financial advisor to
the Royal family and organized baseball teams among the islanders.
Meanwhile, the game was evolving back in the States.  Cartwright’s original
rules called for a game to end at the end of the inning when one team scored
twenty one runs, and his method of measuring the base path distances (forty
two paces between home and second and forty two between first and third)
led to distances closer to seventy five feet.  In 1857, one of Cartwright’s
Daniel ‘Doc’ Adams oversaw changes calling for the base paths to
be set at ninety feet and he then called for the game to end after nine equal
innings (except for a tie).
The early rules agreed upon by the National Association of Base Ball Players
(established in 1857) continued to hold to the Knickerbockers’ rules saying
that baseballs caught either on the fly or after one bound were to be declared
outs, but the rules allowing the one bound fly were on the way out by the
late 1860s.  Early fielders played without gloves, though these became
common by the 1880s when the ball diameter was reduced by about a half
inch and faster overhand pitching was allowed.
In the early days, there were no called strikes or balls, and pitches were
simply intended to put the ball into play.  But by the 1870s, rules were
written stating that strikes would be called when the umpire felt the ball was
pitched where it might have been struck, and batters were allowed to
advance to first base if enough balls that could not be hit were thrown.  
When balls started being called, the number needed to award first base
varied for a few years, but settled at four by 1889.
For almost the first twenty years of the sport, playing for any compensation
was prohibited, but by 1869, pressure to create teams with highly skilled
professional players led the Cincinnati Red Stockings to openly pay its
members a salary, followed shortly afterwards by other clubs paying their
Baseball had its first celebrity sports reporter with
Henry Chadwick.  His
colorful newspaper descriptions of the games probably did more to increase
the popularity of the young sport than anything else.  He also devoted much
of his time working with the various baseball associations clarifying rules and
suggesting changes to improve the game, while laboring tirelessly to keep
gambling out of the sport and to encourage gentlemanly and sportsmanlike
conduct on and off the ball field.  
Ironically, it was an article written by Chadwick in 1903 stating that baseball
had evolved from Cricket and other English ball games that led the publisher
of his magazine, Albert Spaulding to launch a national search to prove than
an American had actually ‘invented’ the game.  This resulted in a letter from
80 year old Abner Graves stating that he saw the late, former Union General,
Abner Doubleday teaching the game to schoolboys almost sixty five years
earlier in Cooperstown, New York.  This story was shortly proven to be
untrue for a number of reasons, but only after it had been published and
found its way into sports legend and inspired a Baseball Museum and Hall of
Fame being built near where the mythical first game had been held.  But
even though he credited the wrong American, Spaulding had been right in
his feelings about one thing:  Baseball really was an American sport.
Vintage Base Ball in Texas