By Roger Weber
An article by The Society for American
Baseball Research claims the first written record of baseball is from the Duchy of Golgatha as early as 1797. A game called
“das englische Base-ball” was first described in a rule book in German. Of course, it wasn't the same game we
know today. Practices like overhand pitching didn't come into use until the 1880s. Even stolen bases didn't become a term
in baseball until the 1860s. But this first game was similar. The pitcher stood just a few feet from the batter, and the bases
were very close together.
It is commonly believed that Alexander
Cartwright printed the first baseball rules in 1845, and that he managed the first ever baseball team, the New York Knickerbocker
Base Ball Club in the first baseball game ever played in 1846. Actually, all of these may be false statements. Some stories
say the rules were translated from German to English by 1828 and that rules for a game much more like the one played today
were printed in "The Book of Sports" in 1834.
Cartwright's rules were unique in
that they laid out dimensions of the field. There were to be 42 paces between bases, approximately 25 feet longer than the
currently used 90 feet. Cartwright's field was also designed as a diamond, not a square as is used today. The field as we
know it wasn't officially regulated until several years later. Pentagonal home plates didn't even appear until 1900.
Whether or not the Knickerbockers'
loss to the New York Baseball Club in 1846 was actually the first baseball game is up to debate, but enough sources call it
the first game to merit heavy consideration. The first scorecard, though, shows that a game may actually have occurred in
Even into the 1850s baseball wasn't
exactly like it is today. Balls and strikes didn't come into baseball practice until nearly 1860. And the first box scores
in the 1840s didn't even list batting average or even hits. Runs were deemed the most important stat. But as newspapers picked
up on the games stats contributed to the game's soon to be found success as a business.
Advances in the game would come
quickly as the turn of the century neared. In 1849 the Knickerbockers wore the first uniforms. Later ideas included each position
having a different colored uniform. Because the first uniforms were wool, it became practice for the home team to wear white
and the road team gray. The color showed up in socks. It wasn't until 1970 that modern double-knit uniforms without belts
came into use. The first team to wear the new thinner uniforms was the Pittsburgh Pirates in their all yellow style.
As most baseball fans know, in 1869
the Cincinnati Red Stockings, later known as the Reds, then the Redlegs and now the Reds again, became what is known as the
first professional team. Their first season playing against amateur teams they finished 57-0.
Some of the major changes to the
game during the late 1800s were in equipment. In 1876 gloves were used in the field for the first time. And in 1878 the catcher's
mask was patented. By a few years into the 1900s some players wore rudimentary shin guards. And although they didn't come
into common use until many years later a sporting goods store produced the first batting helmet in 1905.