Friday, March 14, 2008

Early Days of Baseball

"Play ball!" the umpire shouts. The batter steps up to home plate. The pitcher winds up and fires the ball. The batter begins his swing, the bat cracks, and the crowd roars. Another baseball game has begun.

Baseball, America's "national pastime," grew out of a children's game called "rounders" or "town ball." As in baseball, batters tried to hit a ball with a bat and run to a base. But in "town ball," fielders threw the ball at the runners, who were out if they were hit. This was called "plugging" the runner.

Alexander Cartwright, a New York bank teller, formed the first adult baseball team in 1845 and made rules for the game. He set four bases 90 feet apart in a diamond pattern, gave each team three outs per inning, and eliminated "plugging."

Soon many eastern cities had baseball teams. During the Civil War, soldiers taught the game to troops from other states, and baseball spread around the country. The first professional league, the National League, was formed in 1876.

Today, millions of fans still heed the words of the 1908 song, Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Parents still teach their children to catch and throw. And youngsters still dream of smashing game-winning home runs.

The first World Series was played in 1903. The Boston Red Sox beat Pittsburgh's National League team five games to three.

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