Baseball is a sport which needs no introduction in the USA. Although the sport is seeing a decline as far as viewership and game attendance are concerned, baseball is still a widely popular sport.
And although attendance at Major League games has been on a decline since 2012, and the sport has nowhere near the following and popularity of rivalling leagues like NFL and NBA, almost nine per cent of Americans still have baseball as their favourite sport.
To put it in perspective, 68.5 million American fans attended Major League games last year. And even if that’s a significant decrease compared to the 80 million viewers that tuned in two years prior, it goes to show that baseball still has a substantial following.
Popularity outside the US
Baseball has ventured outside American soil and become widely appreciated in countries like Canada, Japan, Mexico and Korea. Particularly in Japan, baseball has become hugely popular. The rules are somewhat similar to MLB rules, but in Japan, the game’s played on a smaller field and strike zone, and with a smaller ball.
Baseball’s international spread has resulted in several national professional leagues, as well as international leagues such as the World Baseball Classic and WBSC Premier 12. The latter consists of the world’s 12 highest-ranked national teams. Last year, medals were handed out to USA, Mexico, Japan and South Korea, which again goes to show the game’s prominence in Asia.
History of baseball
At one time, the roots of baseball were surrounded by a bit of controversy.
Most experts would agree that baseball has its roots in old bat-and-ball games that were played in England during the 1700s. Immigrants then brought these games to North America where the games were modified and eventually became the sport we know as baseball today.
According to an article published by British sportswriter Henry Chadwick in 1903, baseball can be traced back to the 1700s. During that time, the game was called Rounders, and the first reference to baseball was made in a children’s book published in 1744.
However, at one point, Chadwick’s claims were disputed by American baseball executive, Albert Spalding. According to Spalding, baseball began on American soil.
To settle the dispute, Chadwick and Spalding set up a commission headed by Abraham Mills, the fourth National League of Professional Baseball Clubs. The commission also included six other sports executives. After a few years of “research”, the commission declared that Abner Doubleday, a United States Army officer, had invented the game. This myth has been heavily debunked ever since -a lot of research has been done, and as far as we can tell, baseball did indeed originate in England.
The first reference to baseball in the United States
The first American reference to baseball appears in a law made in Pittsburgh in 1791. The law prohibits people from playing the game near the town’s new meeting house.
In the 1830s the game quickly gained popularity around the United States. In the beginning, amateurs played a friendly version of the game, using home-made equipment. During this time, the game was often referred to as Town Ball.
Somewhere around the 1860s, the popularity of the game led to semi-professional leagues. And by the end of the 1800s, the National League was created, followed by the American League in 1901. The sport saw a breakthrough in the 1850s as it became incredibly popular in the New York metropolitan area. In 1903, the first World Series was held between the champions of the two leagues, and two years later the tournament turned into an annual event.
1876 is a particularly important year in baseball history, as it marks the inception of Major League Baseball – the largest baseball league in Canada and the US.
How baseball is played
In baseball, the objective is to score more rounds than the opposing team. You need to hit the ball thrown at you as hard as possible, sprint and round all four corners of the field before being tagged out.
The game is played between two teams with nine players each. Similar to Cricket, the game time is divided into innings. An inning is about 20 minutes long, and a baseball game has nine innings. This means that a regular MLB game takes around three hours to complete. And the team with the highest score when all innings are played wins.
The field is split into two sections – the infield and the outfield. The fields are separated by a diamond shape with four bases that are 90 feet apart.
The pitcher stands in the middle of the infield. From here, the pitcher throws the ball at the batter standing at the home plate. The other three plates are known as the first, second and third base. And the batter must touch all three to score a run.
To score, the batter must make it around all four bases, before the opposing team manages to catch the ball and throw it to the base the batter’s running to. When a player hits the ball so hard it goes out of the field, he or she scores a mandatory point. And this is, of course, known as a home run.