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Baseball Essay Research Paper Baseball is an

Baseball Essay, Research Paper

Baseball is an immensely popular American game,

known as the “national pastime,” played between two

teams of nine players each. The basic implements used in

the game are a leather-covered ball, wooden bats for

hitting the ball, and gloves for catching it. Baseball is played

on a large scale in Latin America, Japan, and other places

besides the United States, but it is in the United States that

it thrives most both as a participant’s and spectator’s sport.

It is played at its highest level in the United States and two

Canadian cities, where 26 teams make up the American

and National Leagues (each with two divisions, East and

West). Combined, these leagues are called major-league

(professional) baseball. Most players who reach the major

leagues have worked their way up through Little League,

scholastic, college, and minor-league (professional) ball.

The vast majority of major-league players are

American-reared, although since the 1960s the sport has

seen an influx of Latin American players. Following a

regular season of 162 games, the division winners vie for

each league’s pennant; the American and National League

champions then compete in the World Series. Both rounds

of competition employ best-of-seven series of games.

Baseball’s popularity is in part a result of the fact that

almost every American boy plays the game at one time or

another, and the lore of the game is intertwined with

American life. Baseball has supplied the American culture

with a wide range of legendary heroes, as well as books,

magazines, movies, and songs. The game has contributed

hundreds of words and phrases to the American language.

The History of Baseball The popular myth that Abner

DOUBLEDAY invented baseball in Cooperstown, N.Y.,

in 1839, is without foundation. Actually, baseball evolved

from cricket and rounders, with town ball and the New

York game, popular in the eastern United States by the

1820s, as intermediaries. On June 19, 1846, a New York

team defeated the Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New

York, which had drafted (1845) rules establishing the

nine-player team and the four-base diamond. The score at

Elysian Fields in Hoboken, N.J., that day was 23-1 in four

innings. In 1857 a convention of baseball clubs established

the length of a game as nine innings instead of 21 runs. One

year later the first organized league, the National

Association of Base Ball Players, was formed. The first

professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, won 91

and tied 1 of their first 92 games in 1869-70. Their success

helped spread professionalism, and the National

Association of Professional Base-Ball Players operated a

loose league for five years (1871-75) until the owners

formed the National League of Professional Base Ball

Clubs in 1876 and made baseball a business. The

independent American Association (1882-91) prospered

by allowing Sunday games and the sale of beer in the

stadium. Both leagues survived the rival Union

Association’s challenge in 1884, but in 1890 the athletes

formed the Players League, which financially pressed the

National League and mortally wounded the American

Association. In 1892 the eight-team National League

absorbed four American Association teams, but it reverted

to eight teams after 1899. In 1901 the American League

declared itself a major league, invaded National League

cities, and raided the older league for players. The result of

the eventual truce was the World Series, which has been

played every year since 1903–except 1904, when the

New York Giants refused to meet the American League

champions (Boston). The major leagues successfully met

the challenge of the Federal League (1914-15). But further

problems arose with the revelation that eight members of

the Chicago White Sox had conspired to throw the 1919

World Series to Cincinnati. Only the appointment of Judge

Kenesaw Mountain LANDIS as commissioner and the

introduction of a livelier ball saved the game. Landis

enforced strict regulations regarding integrity of players,

and the livelier ball significantly increased the number of

crowd-pleasing home runs. Star players, reared in a

minor-league system that comprised 59 leagues in 1949,

increased baseball’s popularity and caused it to be called

America’s pastime. The annual All-Star Game between

teams composed of the best players in each league was

begun in 1933. The introduction of night baseball (1935)

and the entry to the majors of black players (1947),

previously consigned to all-black leagues, changed the style

of play and expanded the potential talent pool. Then, during

the 1950s, dramatic organizational changes occurred. In

1950 a $6-million World Series television contract made

baseball the financial giant among sports, but baseball

thereby became inordinately dependent on television. In

1953 the National League Boston Braves moved to

Milwaukee, and one year later the American League St.

Louis Browns became the Baltimore Orioles, breaking up a

roster of cities that had remained constant for 50 years. In

1958 the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles and

the New York Giants moved to San Francisco, making

big-league baseball a truly national game. The American

League added two cities in 1961, and the National League

did the same in 1962. In 1969 another expansion by both

leagues necessitated divisional play, the winners in each

division within each league meeting in a best 3-out-of-5

(now 4-out-of-7) championship play-off to determine the

World Series contestants. Finally, the American League

added two teams for the 1977 season. The following teams

are currently active: National League East–Chicago Cubs,

Montreal Expos, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies,

Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Cardinals. National

League West–Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Houston

Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and San

Francisco Giants. American League East–Baltimore

Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit

Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, and

Toronto Blue Jays. American League West–California

Angels, Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals,

Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, and

Seattle Mariners. Baseball’s popularity diminished

somewhat in the 1960s and early ’70s, particularly with the

rise of professional football. But despite its heavy television

coverage–and its heavy schedule of night games, which

precluded the attendance of many children–baseball’s

popularity as a family spectator sport was on the rise again

in the late 1970s and the mid-1980’s. During the 1981

season–from June 12 to August 10–the baseball players

went on strike in order to maintain relatively unencumbered

free agency in the major leagues. When the 1981 season

ended, more than 30% of all major-league games had gone

unplayed, the settlement had not provided a clear victory

for either players or owners, the makeshift playoff system

designed to accommodate the “split season” was

considered less than adequate, and baseball attendance

and television ratings had dropped off, although not

precipitously. Fan interest was again strong in the

mid-1980s, however. Playing the Game Baseball is played

on an area divided into an infield of standard proportions

and an outfield of varied dimensions. The infield is square,

with 90 ft (27.4 m) on each side. The corner farthest from

the outfield fence is home plate, and the other bases–first,

second, and third–run counterclockwise. The pitcher’s

mound, an 18-ft (5.5-m) circle inclining upward toward a

small rectangular rubber slab in the center, lies inside the

square 60 ft 6 in. (18 m) from home plate. The outfield

ends at an outer fence, the distance of which from home

plate varies with the shape of the field. It is usually about 76

to 137 m (250 to over 450 ft). The teams play nine innings,

alternating in the field and at bat, with the home team

batting last. The infielders–first baseman, second baseman,

shortstop, and third baseman–usually position themselves

along the two sides of the square between first and second

and second and third bases. The outfielders–left fielder,

center fielder, and right fielder–cover the respective

portions of the outfield. The pitcher stands on the rubber,

and the catcher crouches behind the batter. The American

League decided in 1973 to allow a 10th player, a

designated hitter, to bat for the pitcher. U.S. colleges also

adopted the rule. The team at bat sends its nine men to the

plate in a specified sequence. Each batter attempts to hit

the pitcher’s deliveries, which the latter tries to vary in

speed and in placement within the strike zone (the area

over home plate and between the batter’s knees and

armpits). Substitutions are allowed throughout the game but

preclude a player’s return. The defending players wear a

leather glove on one hand. The catcher’s glove, the largest

(up to 38 in/96.5 cm in circumference and 15.5 in/39.4 cm

from top to bottom), is round and heavily padded. The first

baseman’s mitt is more flexible and has one compartment

for the thumb and another for the other fingers. The

remaining players use gloves with separate compartments

for each finger and a webbing between the thumb and

index finger. The bat, up to 2.75 in (7 cm) thick and 42 in

(106.7 cm) long, is round and wooden (in amateur games,

aluminum is allowed). The ball consists of three layers: a

cork-and-rubber sphere forms the central core; woolen

yarn is then tightly wound around the core; and a leather

casing is stitched together around the whole. A regulation

baseball is 9-9.25 in (22.9-23.5 cm) in circumference and

weighs 5-5.25 oz (141.7-148.8 g). Each team’s half-inning

consists of three outs. An out occurs most commonly when

a ball is caught before bouncing (a fly ball), when a ground

ball is caught and thrown to first base before the batter

arrives, when a base runner is not touching a base and is

tagged by a fielder holding the ball, when a fielder who has

the ball touches a base other than first when there is a

runner approaching that base and each previous base,

when a player has left a base and is unable to get back

before a caught fly ball is thrown to the base, and when the

pitcher gets three strikes on a batter. A strike is any pitch at

which the batter swings and misses, any pitch that travels

through the strike zone, and any batted ball that lands

outside the straight lines running from home plate through

first base and from home plate through third base to the

outfield fence (called a foul). If the batter already has two

strikes, a foul is not considered a strike unless it is a foul

bunt or a tipped foul caught by the catcher before it

bounces. The team at bat tries to get players on base and

advance them until they round all four bases to score runs.

The team with more runs after nine innings wins. If the

score is tied at the end of nine innings, the teams play extra

innings until one team scores more than the other and both

teams have had an equal number of turns at bat. A batter

reaches base if hit by a pitch, if he or she receives a walk

by taking four pitches (called balls) outside the strike zone,

if a defensive player misplays the ball for an error, if the

catcher interferes with a swing, and if the catcher fails to

catch the pitcher’s throw on a third strike and does not

throw the ball to first base before the batter reaches the

base. But the most common way of reaching base is with a

hit. Hits come in many forms: deliberately gentle bunts to

unreachable parts of the infield, hard-hit ground balls that

travel between infielders, bloopers popped in an arc

beyond the infield but out of the outfielders’ reach, line

drives in front of or between the outfielders, and clouts

smashed over the fence. Both the batter and runners may

advance as far as possible on any hit. A one-base hit is a

single, a two-base hit a double, a three-base hit a triple,

and a four-base hit a home run. The most common kind of

home run is a fair ball over the fence on a fly, but a batter

may also run around all the bases before the fielders can

retrieve a ball hit inside the park and throw it to the plate.

Runners may also advance by stealing a base, on a balk

(improper procedure by a pitcher), on a sacrifice (a bunt

intended to move the runner even though the batter will be

out), or on a sacrifice fly (a fly ball caught by an outfielder

but not returned to the proper base before the runner

reaches it–provided the runner does not leave his or her

original base before the ball is caught). Four umpires, one

near each base, regulate the game, enforce the rules, and

call balls and strikes, foul and fair balls, and safe or out.

The umpires may also eject players from the game for

improper behavior and call a forfeit for serious infractions.

Some amateur games have only one or two umpires; the

Championship Series between the American and National

leagues, and the World Series have six. Baseball has two

basic styles of play. Inside baseball, prevalent until the

1920s, emphasizes speed, defense, and good pitching. The

second style emphasizes power hitting. The New York

Yankees dominated baseball with the latter, winning 29

pennants and 20 World Series between 1921 and 1964.

The use of relief pitchers and artificial turf has returned

inside baseball to favor, but power hitting remains an

appealing factor in the game. Reviewed by Jim Benagh

Bibliography: Alexander, Charles C., Our Game: An

American Baseball History (1991); Angell, Roger, Once

More around the Park (1991); Allen, Ethan N., Baseball

Play and Strategy, 3d ed. (1983); Appel, Martin, and

Goldblatt, Burt, Baseball’s Best: The Hall of Fame Gallery,

rev. ed. (1980); Baseball Encyclopedia, 6th rev. ed.

(1985); Honig, Donald, Baseball: When the Grass Was

Real (1975); James, Bill, The Bill James Historical Baseball

Abstract, rev. ed. (1988) and The Baseball Book 1990

(1990); Kahn, Roger, Good Enough to Dream (1985);

Laird, A. W., Ranking Baseball’s Elite: An Analysis

Derived from Player Statistics, 1893-1987 (1990); Levine,

Peter A. G., Spalding and the Rise of Baseball: The

Promise of American Sport (1985); Mullarkey, Karen,

Baseball in America (1991); Peterson, Robert, Only the

Ball Was White (1970; repr. 1985); Reichler, Joseph L.,

The Baseball Encyclopedia, 6th ed. (1985); Ritter,

Lawrence, The Glory of Their Times, enl. ed. (1984);

Seymour, Harold, Baseball: The Early Years (1960),

Baseball: The Golden Age (1971), and Baseball: The

People’s Game (1990); Sporting News, Official Baseball

Guide (annual).

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