Unlike professional basketball and American football, interest in baseball has not been sweeping the globe . Declining participation at the amateur level and protracted labor problems at the professional level have thrust "America's Pastime" into an era of uncertainty. Despite this current adversity, baseball will always occupy an important place in American culture. This column starts a three part look at the history of baseball.
Most cultures have some sort of stick and ball game, cricket being the most well-known. While the exact origins of baseball are unknown, most historians agree that it is based on the English game of rounders. It began to become quote popular in this country in the early 19th century, and many sources report the growing popularity of a game called "townball", "base", or "baseball".
Throughout the early part of that century, small towns formed teams, and baseball clubs were formed in larger cities. In 1845, Alexander Cartwright wanted to formalize a list of rules by which all team could play.
Much of that original code is still in place today. Although popular legend says that the game was invented by Abner Doubleday, baseball's true father was Cartwright.
The first recorded baseball contest took place a year later, in 1846. Cartwright's Knickerbockers lost to the New York Baseball Club in a game at the Elysian Fields, in Hoboken, New Jersey. These amateur games became more frequent and more popular. In 1857, a convention of amateur teams was called to discuss rules and other issues. Twenty five teams from the northeast sent delegates. The following year, they formed the National Association of Base Ball Players, the first organized baseball league. In its first year of operation, the league supported itself by occasionally charging fans for admission. The future looked very bright.
The early 1860s, however...