Of all the sports played in America, it is baseball that has most captured the public imagination and become most associated with the nation’s psyche. In 1866, Charles A. Peverelly wrote, “The game of baseball has now become beyond question the leading feature of the outdoor sports of the United States. . . It is a game which is peculiarly suited to the American temperament and disposition; . . . in short, the pastime suites the people, and the people suit the pastime.”
However, the origins of the sport are in fact British and derived from a popular childhood game called Rounders. While legend has it that baseball was invented by a former Civil War general named Abner Doubleday, a theory popularized by early twentieth-century American politicians who joined forces with Albert Spalding, it was more likely derived from Rounders by a man named Alexander Cartwright.
On June 19, 1846 for the first time, the game formulated by Cartwright was played at Elysian Field in Hoboken, New Jersey by the Knickerbocker Club from New York City and the New York Nine. The game was officiated by Abner Cartwright himself and the popularity of the game continued to skyrocket with more and more clubs and teams forming. In 1869, the first professional team, the Red Stockings, was fielded in Cincinatti, Ohio. The first league, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Clubs was formed in 1871 and this was just the first of many that were to follow.
Over time, the baseball game has evolved and changed, but from the start it was a popular spectator sport with crowds coming out to follow their team. These spectacular lithographs are captivating images of the sport in its infancy and, like the game, have an enduring appeal.
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