Called “America’s Pastime,” Baseball has had an important place in American culture. While the exact origins of baseball are unknown, most historians agree that it is based on the English game of rounders.
A game which began to become quite popular in this country in the early 19th century, and many sources report the growing popularity of a game called “townball“, “base”, or “baseball“.
Baseball is one of the oldest and most popular sports in the United States. It is known as America’s “national pastime” because of its strong tradition. It is competitively played with a hard ball and bat between two teams of nine players each. Even though this sport was developed in the 1800s, it still attracts millions to ballparks and entertains millions through radio and television today.
In 1869, the world’s first openly professional baseball team formed. All previous players were at least theoretically amateur and unpaid. The Cincinnati Red Stockings recruited the best players and no one beat the Red Stockings that year.
The History of Baseball Bats
The history of baseball bats dates back to 1800s. During this period, baseball was in its infancy, and players made their own bats from wood, without any specific shape or size; players experimented with long, short, flat, and heavy bats, and they eventually built a bat with a round barrel.
- No story would be complete with the tale of “Shoeless” Joe Jackson’s Black Betsy. The piece of wood is probably the most famous bat ever because its owner, Jackson, was a feared hitter who was banned from baseball following the 1920 season for allegations over a World Series fix.
- Jackson always denied that, and his bat, like him, grew in legend. It was sold at auction in 2001 for $577,000 to a collector in Pennsylvania. That is the highest price ever fetched for a piece of athletic equipment.
- One note about Black Betsy, it is marked as a Spalding bat, but not made by the company. A friend gave the bat to Jackson in 1918 and later when he made the professional ranks, Spalding finished the bat and stamped it.
Formerly baseball’s all-time home-run king, Aaron played 23 years as an outfielder for the Milwaukee (later Atlanta) Braves and Milwaukee Brewers (1954–76).
He holds many of baseball’s most distinguished records, including runs batted in (2,297), extra base hits (1,477), total bases (6,856) and most years with 30 or more home runs (15).
He is also in the top five for career hits and runs. Aaron also had the record for most career home runs (755) until Barry Bonds broke it with his 756th home run on August 7, 2007, in San Francisco. Aaron’s nickname was “Hammerin’ Hank”.
Ernest L. Thayer (first published in The San Francisco Examiner, 1888)
The Outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day: The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then, when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”
But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.
From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”
“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.
There were saddened hearts in Mudville for a week or even more;
There were muttered oaths and curses –every fan in town was sore.
“Just think,” said one, “how soft it looked with Casey at the bat!
And then to think he’d go and spring a bush-league trick like that.”
All his past fame was forgotten; he was now a hopeless “shine.”
They called him “Strike-out Casey” from the mayor down the line,
And as he came to bat each day his bosom heaved a sigh,
While a look of hopeless fury shone in mighty Casey’s eye.
The lane is long, someone has said, that never turns again,
And fate, though fickle, often gives another chance to men.
And Casey smiled — his rugged face no longer wore a frown;
The pitcher who had started all the trouble came to town.
All Mudville had assembled; ten thousand fans had come
To see the twirler who had put big Casey on the bum;
And when he stepped into the box, the multitude went wild.
He doffed his cap in proud disdain — but Casey only smiled.
“Play ball!,” the umpire’s voice rang out, and then the game began;
But in that throng of thousands there was not a single fan
Who thought that Mudville had a chance; and with the setting sun
Their hopes sank low — the rival team was leading “four to one.”
The last half of the ninth came round, with no change in the score;
But when the first man up hit safe the crowd began to roar.
The din increased, the echo of ten thousand shouts was heard
When the pitcher hit the second and gave “four balls” to the third.
Three men on base — nobody out — three runs to tie the game!
A triple meant the highest niche in Mudville’s hall of fame;
But here the rally ended and the gloom was deep as night
When the fourth one “fouled to catcher” and the fifth “flew out to right.”
A dismal groan in chorus came — a scowl was on each face —
When Casey walked up, bat in hand, and slowly took his place;
His bloodshot eyes in fury gleamed; his teeth were clinched in hate;
He gave his cap a vicious hook and pounded on the plate.
But fame is fleeting as the wind, and glory fades away;
There were no wild and wooly cheers, no glad acclaim this day.
They hissed and groaned and hooted as they clamored, “Strike him out!”
But Casey gave no outward sign that he had heard this shout.
The pitcher smiled and cut one loose; across the plate it spread;
Another hiss, another groan. “Strike one!” the umpire said.
Zip! Like a shot, the second curve broke just below his knee–
“Strike two!” the umpire roared aloud; but Casey made no plea.
No roasting for the umpire now — his was an easy lot;
But here the pitcher whirled again — was that a rifle shot?
A whack! a crack! and out through space the leather pellet flew,
A blot against the distant sky, a speck against the blue.
Above the fence in center field, in rapid whirling flight,
The sphere sailed on; the blot grew dim and then was lost to sight.
Ten thousand hats were thrown in air, ten thousand threw a fit,
But no one ever found the ball that mighty Casey hit!
And somewhere bands no longer play and children have no fun;
And somewhere over blighted lives there hangs a heavy pall;
But Mudville hearts are happy now — for Casey hit the ball!
Let’s Play Ball!
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