- Paul S. Boyer
- and Ronald Story
Americans had played bat-and-ball games for decades when, in 1845, Alexander Cartwright of New York devised the rules—foul lines, nine innings, three outs, ninety-foot basepaths—that created modern baseball. Cartwright's game quickly became popular with young clerks and urban craftsmen. By 1860, baseball had spread throughout the Northeast, and by 1870 to the rest of the nation.
The first teams were amateur, organized by men's clubs, the games ending with dinner and drinks. Some players earned good money from ambitious clubs, which charged admission in order to pay the players. The first wholly professional team was the Cincinnati (Ohio) Red Stockings of 1869, whose manager, Harry Wright, hired every player. Taking advantage of the burgeoning railroad system to tour the country, they challenged and defeated all teams they faced that year. In 1876, entrepreneurs formed the National League (NL), with salaried players and profit-seeking owners.
A version of this article originally appeared in The Oxford Companion to United States History.