Baseball has started many debates since the game rose to prominence in the late 1800s. Among the most debated issues is the individual responsible for initially setting down the rules to the game. While Abner Doubleday was originally credited with the achievement (a fact that is still commonly believed), the first organized game of baseball was most likely led by Alexander Cartwright in 1845. Whatever its origins may be, baseball has since had a long and storied history.
Major League Baseball
The National League dates back to 1876, and others quickly attempted to profit from its early popularity and success by creating leagues of their own. The American Association was formed in 1881, followed by the Union Association in 1884 and the Players' League in 1890. All of these leagues eventually folded. It wasn't until American League Commissioner Bancroft Johnson declared his to be a "Major League" that the National League signed a 1903 partnership agreement with the A.L. Major League Baseball was eventually formed as two eight-team leagues.
The Dead Ball Era
The early 20th century came to be known as the "Dead Ball Era" because of record lows in hits, runs and home runs. The Dead Ball Era ended with the emergence of Babe Ruth in 1919. Ruth set a Major League record with 29 home runs in 1919 and followed the performance with an astounding 54 in 1920, which was more than any other American League team hit (as a whole) that year. Ruth's dominance and bigger-than-life personality caused him to become a baseball legend.
The sport of baseball mirrored much of society by segregating black and white players in its early days. As a result, a number of Negro Leagues operated between 1920 and 1960. Many Negro League players have been inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, with Josh Gibson and Satchel Paige among the most well-known. On April 15th, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He won the Rookie of the Year Award that year. Robinson's number 42 has been retired by Major League Baseball, and Jackie Robinson Day has been celebrated since 2004.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are, by far, the most successful franchise in Major League Baseball history--their 27 World Championships dwarf the 10 won by the St. Louis Cardinals (as of May 2010). The Yankee dynasties were overwhelming during the middle of the 20th century--they won 16 championships between 1936 and 1962, led by the likes of Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra, whose 10 championships are the most by an individual player.
Baseball rose to prominence again in the late 1990s, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa began their historic chase of Roger Maris's record of 61 home runs in a season. As the number of home runs hit at this time rose at a stunning rate, accusations flew that players were using performance-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball officially banned steroids in 2002. Since then, many star players, including McGwire and Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez, have admitted to steroid use.
- Photo Credit baseball field image by Dave from Fotolia.com
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