Spring has sprung and the games have begun. While football is watched by more Americans, baseball is still revered as the national pass time.
For starters, it has been around a remarkably long time. The first published mention of baseball happens in 1791 at Pittsfield, Mass. Fearing broken windows, fearful Pittsfield pass a law banning baseball from playing within 80 yards of the town’s Meeting house.
For historic perspective, 1791 is also the year when our Bill of Rights is ratified, when Vermont is admitted as the 14th state and when Mozart is born. But it is New York city, 1845, the game we know as baseball is delineated and codified — and not by Abner Doubleday. That is myth, surely helped along by the fine folks of Cooperstown, N.Y.
Founding father credit goes to a 25 year old volunteer fireman and baseball nerd named Alexander Cartwright. He is also an anal retentive who meticulously writes down all the rules that we use today. How many strikes and balls, how many players on the field, the diamond shape of the field, Cartwright details it all.
One year later, the first recorded baseball game happens at Elysian Fields, Hoboken, New Jersey, between the Knickerbocker Club, Cartwright’s team, and the New York Nine.
Baseball is the only sport to have a universally recognized song, Take Me Out To The Ballgame.
It is the only game embedded in our speech. We say it’s in the ballpark or what’s the ball park figure?
We talk of people being big league or bush league.
We cover all the bases.
Someone throws you a curve.
We knocked it out of the park or hit a home run when we do well on a test.
Politicians play hardball.
Politicians are heavy hitters or get softball questions.
A nutty idea comes out of left field or it’s off base.
A weirdo is called a screwball.
We touch base with friends and colleagues.
It’s a whole new ball game when situations change.
We get to first base or score on a first date.
Baseball is timeless and limitless. The game has no clock on it, no time limit. As one player put it, It ain’t over till it’s over. This stick-and-ball game is a powerful existential influence in our lives. No wonder it is the national pastime.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED — Baseball is just one of the compelling lectures from the Great Courses audiobook, Turning Points in American History.