Baseball is probably the one sport which is most clearlyidentified with “being American.” Former President
Herbert Hoover once stated that baseball is the greatest
of all team sports. For the past 150 years, baseball
has become so intertwined in all aspects of American
daily life that the baseball strike of 1994 seemed almost
unthinkable. Who could imagine summer without
hot dogs and soft drinks at the ball park or a warm
summer evening spent cheering a favorite team to victory?
HISTORY OF THE GAME
Baseball, however “American” it may seem to us today, did not originate in America. Itprobably began in England witha game called “rounders.” The term “baseball” dates
from 1744, when a book on sports described and illustrated a batter holding a bat with a
catcher in position behind the batter and a pitcher ready to throw a ball. This English
book was reprinted in America around 1762.
In 1845, an American amateur baseball player named Alexander Cartwright, along with
other early baseball players, wrote the rules of the game. Many of these rules are still ineffect today.
Baseball came to be dominated by professional players some time around 1869, when
the first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was organized. Later, many
regional leagues were started, then dissolved. At this point in history, baseball was not a
very lucrative business, and few teams were able to make money. In the late 1880s, the
National League attempted to limit the salary that players could accept to a maximum of
During the early period of league formation, rules for transferring players from one
league to another were created. There were also strict rules for recruiting minor league
players for the major leagues. At present, all major league teams maintain minor leagueteams called “farm clubs” where players are trained and eventually transferred to a major
In 1903, the first World Series was held. It was held every year since until the baseball
strike of 1994. Today, baseball, despite the impact of the strike, continues to be a highlyorganized
and lucrative sport. The salaries of baseball players are the highest of all athletes
who play team sports.
HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED
THE RULES OF THE GAME
In baseball, two teams of nine players compete with one another on a baseball “diamond”
which in reality is a square field. The teams are comprised of a pitcher, catcher, a
first, second and third baseman, a shortstop, and left, center and right fielders.
A catcher stands behind the batter and signals
the pitcher as to what type of ball to throw. Each
game is made up of nine innings. If the home
team is ahead (that is, if it has scored more runs)
at the end of the middle of the ninth inning, the
home team wins.
The baseball field has four bases which are
spaced ninety feet apart from each other. Thebatter’s box, the area where the batter stands, islocated 60 feet and six inches from the pitcher’s
mound. The two foul lines run the length of the
field and define the playing area.The batter’s objective is to get a hit. Once the ball is hit,the batter (now called the “runner”) must get to first
base before the ball is caught by the first baseman.
Once the ball is caught, the runner is tagged or
the first baseman touches first base before the
runner touches it. If the batter can get to first
base safely, it is called a “single.”A “double” occurs if the batter can run to second
base, and a triple occurs when a batter
makes it to third base. A home run means that the
batter runs around all the bases and reaches home
plate ahead of the ball. The batter can also hit a home
run by hitting the ball over a wall or fence in the outfield.The defensive team in the field tries to keep the offensive team’s batters from scoring.
One way of getting a batter out is to pitch three strikes. A strike occurs when the batterswings and misses or doesn’t try to hit a ball that is pitched within the strike zone. If a
batter already has two strikes and hits a ball into foul territory, the foul does not count as
a strike. A foul ball counts as a strike under all other conditions.If a pitcher throws a ball that does not cross home plate between the batter’s armpits and
knees (the strike zone), the pitch is “a ball.” When a pitcher throws four balls to any onebatter, the batter is able to go to first base without having to hit the ball—technically
called “a walk.”
Once the ball is hit and is in
the air, the players in the field
attempt to catch the ball before
it hits the ground. If a fly
or line ball is caught, the batter
is automatically out. A
ground ball, when caught, is
thrown to a base in order to
get the runner out.
Baseball players can also slide
into a base to keep from beingtagged out. Sliding is more
difficult than it appears to be and requires practice to be done properly. The body falls to
the ground in a controlled manner by a fall backward on the outer surface of the knee
and lower leg, or just by diving head first.
All games have at least one umpire to call balls and strikes. Major league games have
four umpires, one at each base.
The pitcher is considered the most important defensive player
on a team. This position is the most physically demanding
spot on the team as well as the position with the most control
over the game. A pitcher needs excellent control over the ball
in order to throw the ball where he or she aims it. Pitchers
have been known to throw the ball 100 miles per hour.
Various styles of throwing the ball may be used to achieve
different results. For example, a curve ball swerves from a
straight line to the left or right, depending on which arm thepitcher is using. A fast ball is just that—a ball thrown extremely fast. A “slider” is a cross between a fast ball and a curve ball
and seems to “slide” away from the batter.
OUTFIELDERS AND INFIELDERS
Long or high balls, or ground balls that go past the infield, are caught by one of the three
outfielders. Outfielders must have superior throwing ability. The center fielder is generally
the fastest of the three outfielders since he or she has the most area to cover. Centerfielders must also have a “strong arm,” as they
must throw balls to third base and home plate.
Some of the most famous names in baseballwere outfielders—among them Babe Ruth, Ty
Cobb, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Mickey
The job of the infielder, the player who is on
the bases and the shortstop, is to try to prevent
balls from going into the outfield. These players
also attempt to throw or tag out the batteronce a ball has been hit. In particular, the short
stop has the most demanding position and must have a strong throwing arm and quick
The history of baseball is full of famous infielders, including Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby,
Jackie Robinson and Ernie Banks.
The position of catcher is considered to be veryimportant. The catcher is the “brains” or strategy
planner for the game. His or her judgment
in choosing pitches can determine the best defensive
play for the rest of the team.
The catcher is thought by many to be the hardest-
working member of a team. He or she has
to know all the weaknesses and strengths of
the pitchers. He or she covers third or first base
when no one else is on base, and wears more
equipment than any other player.
A tenth starting player in the American League, minor leagues and many amateur leagues
is a player used only to bat. This player has no defensive role and bats instead of the
weakest hitter (usually the pitcher).
KEEPING SCORE IN BASEBALL
The box score (records of both individual players and games) is kept by an officialscorer. Also, newspapers and baseball clubs keep detailed records of the players’ batting
averages, fielding averages and pitching records.
Batting averages are calculated by taking the number of hits and dividing that figure bythe number of times a player is at bat. If a batter “walks,” it is not counted as a time at
bat. Nor is it counted as a hit. Fielding averages are figured by taking the total put-outs
and assists and dividing them by the total number of put-outs, assists and errors.An error occurs when a player gets to first base because the defensive player did not
catch the ball or, having caught the ball, threw it poorly to another player.
Pitching records indicate the number of games won and lost and earned-run averages
(total earned runs allowed, divided by the number of innings pitched, then multiplied by
THROWS IN BASEBALL
Developing a good throwing technique is an important skill in baseball. Throwing is the
most complicated of all the baseball skills to execute effectively. It calls for speed, accuracy
and long hours of practice. Good throwing takes into account the following steps:
The first step in learning a correct throwing technique is a proper grip. The
player should grip the ball by placing the index and middle fingers over one
of the four long seams on the baseball. The inner side of the thumb is
placed on the underside of the ball in line with the middle finger. The
ball and the point where the index finger and thumb meet shouldform a “V” shape. The ball is held loosely, almost in the fingertips.
Learn the proper stance for throwing. As the player prepares to
throw the ball, his or her elbow should be up, shoulders level,
and wrist cocked with fingers behind and on top of the ball.
As the ball is released from a point over and in front of theplayer’s head, the player’s fingers should be behind the
ball.Remember that a player’s arm does not work alone inthrowing the ball. The player’s entire body needs to be
propelled forward in order to build arm speed for the
throw. The player needs to take an exaggeratedly long step forward toward
the target. The length of that step, however, depends on how far the ball hasto travel. For example, an outfielder’s step will be long because he has to
throw the ball up to 300 feet away.
Follow-through is important! The technique of throwing does not end when
the ball is released from the hand. If there is no follow-through, the ball willlose a great deal of speed and accuracy. The throwing arm should continue
to move downward across the front of the body and behind the left hip if
the right arm is being used. Both feet should be parallel to the target and
pointing toward it.
Players need to take special care of their arms because of the intense workout the arm
gets in a game of baseball. Warm-up exercises should always be done before practice or
a game. Many players ruin their chances at a pro or amateur career in baseball by abusingtheir arms. Watch that arm—it is your most valuable asset in the years of baseball
playing ahead of you!
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHINGBaseball is played with very simple equipment—a ball, a bat
and a glove. Bats are no more than 2-3/4 inches in diameter
and 42 inches long. They can be of any weight. The baseball
itself weighs about five ounces and is covered with
two strips of white horsehide stitched together with
a small inner core of cork or rubber.
All players on a team use gloves. A standard
baseball glove may not exceed 12
inches in length and 8 inches in width.
The first baseman and catcher usually
wear gloves that are thicker than those
of the other players.
BASEBALL NOTES AND NEWS
As many people remember, 1994 went down in baseball history as a lost season. It was
the year of the first season-ending strike in the history of a sport that has long beenregarded as America’s “National Pastime.” The repercussions of the strike were farreaching.
For the first time in 90 years, there was no World Series. The strike lasted 34
days and covered 669 games cancelled. Owners lost over $400 million in revenues.
When the players returned, there was no mistaking the change in atmosphere. Fans felt
misused and misinformed, and the grandstands were all but empty in many fields. Even
by early 1999, the stands were still not up to pre-strike attendance levels.
Bleachers were full, however, during the 1999 World Series. What else could it be for aNew York Yankees team that is surely one of the greatest in Major League Baseball
history? Roger Clemens and the Yankees put the finishing touch
on another dominant season by beating the Atlanta Braves
4-1 in the fourth game for a record 25th World Series
championship. Yankee pitcher Mariano Rivera, who had
two saves and a victory in the Series, was selected
For the 2000 World Series it was the New York
Mets and the New York Yankees, battling it out inwhat was referred to as the “subway series.” Although
a new millennium, it was the same New York Yankees.The Yankees won their
third straight World Series title and fourth in five years by beating the New York Mets 4-
2 in game five.
In 2001 it was the Arizona Diamondbacks and the New York Yankees who faced off for
the World Series championship. The Arizona Diamondbacks became the fastest expansionteam in hitory to win baseball’s ultimate prize; they dethoned the three-time defending
champion New York Yankees with a stunning and dramtic 3-2 victory. In only
their fourth year of existence, the Diamondbacks rose to the championship by rallyingfrom a 2-1 deficit in the ninth inning. It was Luis Gonzalez’s, single off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera that drove in the winning run. The championship is Phoenix’s first in
any of the four major team sports.“Iron Man,” Cal Ripken, announced his retirement after 21
years as an Oriole. His fabulous career ended on September
30, 2001 at the Yankee Sadium.
Baseball is also an Olympic sport. The team from the United
States defeated Cuba to win the Gold Medal in the 2000
Sydney Olympic Games. Before the Games began, the coach
for team USA, Tommy Lasorda, promised America it would
know the USA baseball team members when all was said
and done. Now, with gold medals draped around their necks,players like Doug Mientkiewicz and Ben Sheets are coming home to find Lasorda’spromise was true.
WHAT TO DO:
The following questions will help you to have a greater appreciation and understanding
of baseball. Write your answers in the spaces below the questions. If there is not enough
room, write on the backs of these sheets. Be neat, spell correctly, and write in complete
1. Baseball is often identified as the great American sport, yet it didn’t begin in America. How and where did this gameoriginate?
2. What are some of the physical benefits to be gained from playing baseball?3. What are “farm teams” and how are they used?
4. How many people make up a typical baseball team and what positions do they play?5. What is a“single”? a “double”?6. When does a “ball” occur?
7. How is a good slide into a base performed?
8. Why is the pitcher considered the most important defensive player on the team?
9. Name at least four factors involved in performing a good throw:
10. What are some of the effects of the baseball strike in 1994? In your opinion, will
baseball ever return to its pre-1994 status as the most popular spectator sport in
Short Answer Questions:
1. The batter stands in it. It is 60 feet 6 inches from the pitcher
2. They are the players who try to prevent ball from going into the outfield
3. Weight in ounces of a baseball
4. Nickname for a baseball field
5. The number of bases
6. If the ball is not pitched in the strike zone and the batter does not swing, it is called this
7. The player who gives signals to the pitcher to tell him what type of pitch to throw
8. Most consider him to be the most important defensive player
9. Wrote the rules of baseball in 1845
10. A hit that gets the batter to first base safely
11. The first pro baseball team was the Cincinnati Red _____
12. What baseball used to be called in England
13. They are the players who are responsiblefor catching long fly balls
14. A cross between a fast ball and a curve ball
15. Another word for a minor league team
16. The distance in feet between the bases
17. A hit that gets the batter to second base safely18. This player takes a position in the batter’s box
19. When the batter swings at a pitch and misses it
20. A method of touching the base without being tagged out