World History > American History > Baseball History
The Misty Origins (?-1844)
- 1475 BC - Date of a hieroglyphic showing Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III holding a baseball-bat-like-object and engaged in a game of seker-hemat, literally "hitting-the-ball."
- 1700 - A certain Reverend Samuel Wilson of Maidstone, England, in a letter decrying the playing of sports on Sunday, records the earliest known reference to "base ball."
- 1791 - A bylaw in Pittsfield, Massachusetts bans the playing of "base ball" within 80 yards of the town meeting house. Discovered in 2005, this law is the earliest known reference to baseball in America.
- 1798 - Jane Austen mentions "base ball" in her novel Northanger Abbey
- 1823 - Long-forgotten New York newspaper The National Advocate records what was for many years the earliest known reference to "base ball" in America, referring to games being played every Saturday at the corner of Broadway and 8th Street in lower Manhattan.
- 1839 - According to the popular legend, Abner Doubleday first dreams up baseball while a cadet at West Point.
The Early Years (1845-1902)
- 1845 - Alexander Cartwright turns his New York Knickerbockers into the first formally organized baseball club. Cartwright's "Knickerbocker Rules" will become the foundation of modern baseball.
- 1846 - The first contests recognizable as the game we now know as baseball are played by Alexander Cartwright and others at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey.
- 1867 - Candy Cummings invents the curveball.
- 1869 - Harry Wright establishes the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, which, thanks to the exploits of star shortstop George Wright (Harry's brother), compiles a record of 56-0 on a nationwide tour against all comers.
- 1876 - The National League is founded by Chicago club owner William Hulbert to clean up the game of baseball and replace the gambling and boozing National Association with a "clean" and "honest" league.
- 1893 - The pitching rubber is moved back 5 feet to a distance of 60 feet, 6 inches.
- 1901 - Ban Johnson, owner of the minor league Western League, changes his league's name to the American League, moves his teams to major cities, and raids the National League for top players, giving baseball two "major" leagues for the first time since the demise of the American Association in 1891.
The Dead Ball Era (1903-1919) - Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson are the best of the best in this era of slap-hitting, base stealing, and rubber-armed hurlers.
- 1903 - The Boston Pilgrims and the Pittsburgh Pirates meet in the first ever World Series, with Boston winning the best of 9 matchup, 5 games to 3.
- 1906 - The 1906 Chicago Cubs have the greatest season in baseball history, compiling an astonishing record of 116-36, only to lose the World Series to their crosstown rivals, the "Hitless Wonders" Chicago White Sox, who had batted only .248 as a team.
- 1908 - Jack Norworth writes "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" while riding on the New York subway, despite never having attended an actual ballgame.
- 1912 - Boston's Fenway Park is constructed, at a cost of $650,000 (the Green Monster will not be added until 1934)
- 1914 - Wrigley Field is constructed, at a cost of $250,000.
- 1918 - Pitching ace Babe Ruth leads the Boston Red Sox to their fifth World Series title, and their last one for the next 86 years.
- 1919 - New rules mandate that baseballs be wound tighter, ending the Dead Ball Era.
The Long Ball Era (1920-1941) - Babe Ruth towers over all others in this homer-happy era that truly transformed baseball into the national pastime.
1930 - Cubs outfielder Hack Wilson pounds out 191 RBI to set the major league record.
1936 - Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson become the first five players elected to the newly created Baseball Hall of Fame.
- May 15-July 17 - Joe DiMaggio of the Yankees gets at least one base hit in 56 consecutive games, establishing a major league record that many consider the most unbreakable in sports.
- September 28 - With his batting average sitting at .3995, and thus set to go into the record book rounded up to .400, Ted Williams refuses an offer from his manager to rest on the final day of the season and goes 6 for 8 in the two games of a double header, finishing the season at .406 and becoming the last man to bat over .400 in a season.
The War Years (1942-1946) - FDR decides that baseball should continue during the War to keep morale up on the home front, but the game loses many of its brightest stars to the front lines.
The Golden Age (1947-1957) - The arrival of black ballplayers brings a new level of skill and excitement to the game. Willie, Mickey, and the Duke make New York the baseball capital of the world.
1955 - After five failed attempts, the Boys of Summer finally defeat the hated New York Yankees and bring Brooklyn its first and last World Series title.
The Small Ball Era (1958-1971) - The invention of the slider in the late 1950s leads to more than a decade of pitching dominance. Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson lead the way.
1962 - The 1962 New York Mets
become the losingest team in baseball history, compiling a record of 40-120.1964
1969 - After having never finished higher than ninth in their first seven seasons and being given a 100-1 shot of winning the World Series by oddsmakers, the "Miracle Mets" win 100 games and defeat the mighty Orioles in five games to become unlikely world champions.
- October 1 - Yankees slugger Roger Maris hits his 61st home run of the season, surpassing Babe Ruth's record of 60, although he does so in his 161st game, thus allowing commissioner Ford Frick to rule that Ruth's 154-game record still stands.
The Time of Darkness (1972-1981) - The establishment of the designated hitter, the acrimony surrounding free agency, those hideous 1970s uniforms, and consecutive dynasties by the A's, Reds, and Yankees make for a dull decade of darkness. Nevertheless, some of the all time greats, like Tom Seaver, Johnny Bench, and Reggie Jackson, leave their marks.
1975 - Pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally defeat baseball's reviled reserve clause by playing the entire season without contracts, opening the way for free agency.
1981 - A midseason players strike shortens the season and forces an unprecedented playoff format in which the winners of the first half play the winners of the second half for the right to go to the World Series.
- October 18 - Having already homered in each of the previous two games, Reggie Jackson becomes "Mr. October" by smashing three home runs on three consecutive pitches in game 6 of the World Series to join the Babe as the only player to homer three times in a World Series contest.
The Feel Good Era (1982-1992) - Unprecedented parity leads to one exciting year after another. Blue collar players like Dale Murphy, Jack Morris, and George Brett are stars.
1989 - The dark underside of the 1980s is uncovered when baseball's owners are found guilty of colluding to keep salaries down, and are made to pay $280 million in damages to the affected players.
The Juiced Ball Era (1993-present) - Expansion-diluted pitching, smaller ballparks, chemically-enhanced players, and Coors Field bring about an unprecedented era of offensive explosion. Sluggers like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds shred the record books.
2001 - Ichiro Suzuki dazzles the baseball world as the first Japanese position player to play Major League Baseball, winning both the American League Rookie of the Year and MVP awards.
2004 - In the BALCO Scandal, a Federal investigation of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative links several baseball sluggers, including Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield, to the use of designer, "undetectable" anabolic steroids, finally inducing Baseball and the Players' Union to agree to a significant steroid testing regime for major league players.
2005 - Retired slugger Jose Canseco publishes a memoir detailing his usage of steroids while an active player in the 80s and 90s and implicating other players, including Mark McGwire, in steroid use. Combined with the ongoing BALCO Probe and leaked grand jury testimony by Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi admitting to steroid use, Canseco's book leads to Congressional hearings and a further strenthening of steroid testing rules and punishments for major league players.