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A popular sport, in which African-American players have faced challenge, discrimination, segregationist policies, and racism in, is called baseball. The legacy of black participation in baseball is both inspiring and poignant. African Americans first played baseball on Southern slave plantations and in some Northern cities before Civil War. In postwar years, sport grew rapidly in popularity. (Block 67)

Discussion and Analysis

Despite myth of Abner Doubleday's invention of baseball in small upstate New York town of Cooperstown, sport actually had urban origins. Derived from English game of rounder's, “New York game” started in 1840s as the gentlemanly recreation for the group of white-collar professionals. One participant, Alexander Cartwright, first recorded official rules of game in 1845, when original club started competing with others from New York and Brooklyn. Variations of sport were played in different parts of Northeast, but Cartwright's version grew into national pastime. (Sullivan 11)

At first, game spread slowly, to New Jersey when one of New York clubs moved, and to California when Cartwright joined Gold Rush in 1849. It spread faster, though, in 1850s, after New York newspaper reporter Henry Chadwick started reporting box scores as well as team and individual statistics. Within the few years, clubs formed in every major city in Northeast, with three or four apiece in bigger cities like New York and Brooklyn. As interclub and cross-town rivalries developed, clubs formed National Association of Base Ball Players, to resolve disputes and standardize rules. (Gutsmuths 86)

The Civil War era saw expansion and professionalization of baseball. The war itself spread game, as knowledgeable soldiers taught their uninitiated compatriots. Meanwhile, back home in Brooklyn in 1862, an entrepreneur built first fenced in field for baseball and charged admission to spectators.

(It was this park that originated practice of playing “The Star Spangled Banner” at beginning of games, half the century before it was adopted as national anthem.) Soon, promoters and club organizers began paying some of better players, and by end of decade Cincinnati Red Stockings fielded the fully professional team, thereby starting baseball's gradual transition from recreation to big business. At first, gate charges were only 5 or 10 cents.

The National League, with its profit driven model focused on maximizing gate fees, decided to limit its franchises to eight teams in biggest cities, leaving smaller cities to amateur teams and to “minor” leagues. Competing leagues formed, granting franchises to owners in smaller cities, but these leagues and most of their franchises failed. Sometimes remnants of these failures merged into National League, or individual franchises were absorbed. The only lasting challenger was American League, which was recognized as the major league by formal agreement in 1901. Baseball's fastest growth, in both major and minor leagues, was at this time, from 1880s until World War I. This growth was aided by increasing coverage of sport by newspapers nationwide. During 1880s, Chicago newspapers in particular introduced the more colorful and opinionated style of reportage, which supplemented date based methods that had been pioneered in New York earlier. (Mason 02)

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