Good Ole Baseball

July 2006


From April to October, major league baseball consumes me. When you consider that each team plays 162 regular season games, it’s a lot of time to invest. But I only follow one team and listen to the radio broadcasts on instead of watching the games on television. As I listen, I can get other things done.  Actually, I couldn’t watch the games on television if I wanted to because my television reception only picks up fuzz.


I enjoy the regular rhythm of the game—batters bat in order, pitchers pause between pitches, batters run along designated lines, fielders stay in their designated zones, each team gets 3 outs per inning. It’s so orderly that you can tune the game out for the most part and just wait for the announcer to start shouting. Then you know your team has done something spectacular. I especially love the time-delayed announcement, “This ball is . . . gone!” Conversely, it may turn into “This ball is . . . foul.” The voice either screams “gone” or sinks down to an anguished “foul.” The voice inflection mimics the emotions associated with the announcement. What excitement!


Okay, now for the history lesson. You knew this was coming. Civil War General Abner Doubleday is the urban legend inventor of baseball. Really, no one invented the game; it evolved, like most games. The roots of baseball lie in the game of Rounders brought to the United States by the European settlers. By the 1840s, impromptu games were popping up in vacant fields in the eastern part of the United States. In 1845, Alexander Cartwright established official game rules and helped organize the first baseball club. The first recorded baseball game between two organized teams took place in 1846 when the New York Baseball Club beat Cartwright’s Knickerbockers, 23-1. At the time, the winning team was required to score at least 21 runs to win.


Civil War soldiers would play baseball while at camp. The conditions were perfect for the game to become popular. There were always plenty of men available to play, the men needed to get their minds off fighting, and the equipment could be improvised. Many soldiers’ diaries contained references to baseball games. A famous game between the 165th New York Infantry and the NY Regiment All-Stars was played on Christmas Day 1862 and was watched by 40,000 troops. And of course, Abraham Lincoln enjoyed baseball. It is claimed that he played the game on the White House lawn with boys from the neighborhood. That would be a sight to see—tall, awkward Abe Lincoln running along, entertaining boys half his height and trying to forget the horror of war.