The First Game
JUNE 19, 1846 –
Baseball, as we know it, was born on this date in history. While some version of the game dates back to Revolutionary War days, and is based on ball games played throughout the centuries, the first base ball game played between two teams under recognizable rules was played in
New Jersey on this date in 1846.
It was the Knickerbockers of New York against the New York Nine at Elysian Field. It wasn’t a close game. The Nine crushed the Knickerbockers 23-1. They played four innings.
Courtesy Lirbrary of Congress
According to many historians, including Leonard Koppett, who wrote a fascinating book, Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, The Knickerbocker Club of New York is credited with “formalizing” baseball rules that resemble what we have today. They were documented by club member Alexander Cartwright (Abner Doubleday was nowhere to be found). Cartwright, a surveyor by trade, also laid out the dimensions of the field. Club members tinkered with the rules and practiced among themselves before the June 1846 game. Among the 20 rules laid down the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club:
There would be four bases in a diamond configuration.
The “batter” placed at “home plate” at the bottom of the diamond, if looking from above.
The game consists of 21 outs.
Three outs made up a half inning.
Runner no longer out by having ball thrown at him
Foul and fair territory established
The bases shall be from "home" to second base, 42 paces; from first base to third base, 42 paces, equidistant.
The ball must be pitched, and not thrown, for the bat.
A ball knocked out of the field, or outside the range of first or third base, is foul.
Three balls being struck at and missed and the last one caught is a hand out; if not caught is considered fair, and a striker is bound to run.
A ball being struck or tipped and caught either flying or on the first bound is a hand out.
A player running the base shall be out, if the ball is in the hands of an adversary on the base, or the runner is touched with it before he makes his base; it being understood, however, that in no instance is a ball to be thrown at him.
A player running who shall prevent an adversary from catching or getting the ball before making his base is a hand out.
No ace or base can be made on a foul strike.
A runner cannot be put out in making one base, when a balk is made by the pitcher.
But one base allowed when a ball bounds out of the field when struck.
After the beating the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club took at Elysian Field, the team stuck to intramural games and didn’t play against competition for another five years.
Koppet’s Concise History of Major League Baseball,
2004, Leonard Koppett