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From ABC-CLIO's History Hub website

National League baseball game, Chicago

Baseball traces its origins to the mid-19th century and has long been known colloquially as America's "national pastime." The phrase was coined in 1856 by the New York Mercury newspaper to describe the sport emerging in the city's boroughs. Alexander Cartwright of the New York Knickerbockers is widely credited with introducing baseball's modern features, including foul lines, the three-strike rule, and the baseball diamond. Beginning in 1845, Cartwright and the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York City played the first formalized games on Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey.

However, the sport did not gain a national foothold until the turn of the century: the major leagues as we know them today began competing for talent in 1900, and the first World Series championship followed a few years later in 1903. Baseball's popularity continued to surge over the next few decades, with star players like Cy Young, Nap Lajoie, and Babe Ruth captivating public interest and filling the stands in new ballparks, from Boston's Fenway Park to Chicago's Wrigley Field.

Use our Perspectives Background Resources in the classroom and library to explore this iconic sport in American history. Scholar interpretations weigh in on the question, "What caused the surge in baseball's popularity in the 1900s?" while a background essay and additional reference content contextualize the sport through the decades. Colorful posters and photographs of early baseball history illustrate how baseball became a meaningful part of American life. An Instruction with classroom-ready discussion questions and activity help students interact more deeply with these engaging resources and bring this topic to life!




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Image Credits

National League baseball game, Chicago: Library of Congress

Select Citation Style: 
MLA Citation
"Baseball's Rise in Popularity in the 1900s." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, Accessed 23 Aug. 2019.
Chicago Citation
"Baseball's Rise in Popularity in the 1900s." In History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019. Accessed August 23, 2019.
APA Citation
Baseball's Rise in Popularity in the 1900s. (2019). In History Hub. Retrieved from
Entry ID: 2072424
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