You likely have heard the traditional historical tale of the invention of American Baseball being from Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, New York, in the summer of 1839. Interestingly enough, there is much more to learn about the history of baseball as it was developed in the United States.
The history of baseball development goes way back to the 18th century here in America. There appear to be two direct games it was pulled from: rounders, a children’s game brought to America by the earliest colonists, and cricket.
Baseball or “base ball” has been found in various historical records for many years before the Doubleday origin story. The earliest reference to American baseball appears to be in March 1786 from a Princeton student diary, John Rhea Smith “A fine day, play baste ball in the campus but am beaten for I miss both catching and striking the ball.”
Even more, there are references to the 1760s at Harvard campus descriptions where “Sidney Willard wrote, “Besides eatables, everything necessary for a student was there sold, and articles used in the playgrounds, such as bats, balls, etc. … Here it was that we wrestled and ran, played at quoits and cricket, and various games of bat and ball.’”
And there were soon some laws throughout the country where towns had to outlaw the playing of baseball-like games from the streets to eliminate disruption of city events. Some of these are “a 1791 bylaw in Pittsfield, Massachusetts banned the playing of ‘any game of wicket, cricket, baseball, batball, football, cats, fives, or any other game played with ball’ within 80 yards of the town meeting house to prevent damage to its windows. Worcester, Massachusetts outlawed playing baseball ‘in the streets’ in 1816.”
Different games were played in schoolyards and college campuses across the colonies during the American Revolution. They were even more popular with the growth of industrialized cities in the 19th century when men were heading there to seek work.
One of the first baseball clubs was founded in 1845, the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club. This included Alexander Joy Cartwright, a volunteer firefighter and bank clerk who set up rules for the basis of modern baseball. The first game with these rules would be played in 1846 against a team of cricket players beginning the new American baseball tradition.