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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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