Monday, April 16, 2007

Batter Up!

We've just started a new season of baseball. I knew baseball was played in camps during the Civil War and decided to do some research into how it was played and how widespread it was during the war years.

I had recently watched the movie, Glory, and noticed a scene near the beginning where a soldier hits a ball with a baseball bat.

Before this, I'd always thought of baseball as a turn-of-the-century sport. So, when did baseball become our national pastime?

I searched a few sites and found these facts.
"Americans began playing baseball on informal teams, using local rules, in the early 1800s."

About mid-century, sixteen clubs sent out delegates to a convention to standardize the rules. "The National Association of Base Ball Players was organized in 1857."

The teams had names like: New York Mutuals, Philadelphia Athletics and Chicago White Stockings.

Prior to the Civil War, baseball competed for public interest with cricket and regional variants of baseball.

"Alexander Joy Cartwright of New York invented the modern baseball field in 1845."

And I always thought it was Abner Doubleday!

The game was based on the English game of rounders.

It seems the Civil War was what introduced the game that started in the Northeastern states, to the rest of the country. "During and after the Civil War, the movements of soldiers and exchanges of prisoners helped spread the game."

The game they played, in that time period, was a bit different from baseball league play today. "High scores were the general rule; for even though the ball was soft, the base runner had to be hit by a thrown or batted ball before he was out. In one game between teams from the 13th Massachusetts and 104th New York, the Bay Staters won by a 66-20 score." Soldiers Blue and Gray ... p. 88

So, it seems the Civil War was, at least, partially responsible for the American pastime of organized baseball.

Sources: Soldiers Blue and Gray by James I. Robertson, Jr.
The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union by Bell Irvin Wiley


Kristin-Marie said...

I didn't realize how baseball evolved! All I ever hear are the statistics and greats, rather than the interesting history.

Denise Eagan said...

Great post, Susan. I remember in John Ransom's Andersonville Diary, he mentioned a "baseball club". I'm thinking about having my characters go to a game in my next book.