This Week in H’burg is a weekly column featuring photos and fun facts from local photographer Pierre Ratté. Each week we’ll feature a new photo from Ratté along with a fact about the subject matter of the photo.
If you build it, they will come; what a beautiful theme from “Field of Dreams.” April 1 was opening day for Major League Baseball (MLB) in 2021, and the beginning of many dreams for fans rooting their teams on. The history of baseball’s beginning and those all-American dreams is a little hard to tease out. In 1744, the term "base-ball" appeared in a British children’s book. Many versions of a game with a diamond shaped field with a bat and ball are recorded in ensuing years.
Oliver Wendall Holmes noted, he played a good deal of ball at Harvard in 1830. The game he played was probably “rounders," a precursor game played in the late-1700’s and early 1800’s. The modern game of baseball seems to have had its start in 1845, when the New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club formulated a set of rules, many of which survive to the present day. The key rule establishing the difference between rounders and baseball was a player was out in rounders if a fielder threw the ball and the ball hit the runner; whereas in baseball, the fielder tagged the runner with the ball. This rule difference led to the use of a “hardball” rather than a “softball.”
Fun facts: In 1876, volunteer clubs formed the National League of Professional Clubs. In 1881, the American Association was formed from clubs not included in the National League. In 1903, the first World Series was played after much squabbling between the leagues. In 1933, the first all-star game was played. Nighttime baseball started after WWII, but the Cubs’ Wrigley Field did not have a night game until 1988. Wrigley Field is the second oldest ballpark. Built in 1914 for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League, it became the home of the Cubs in 1916. The history of baseball is almost as old in Japan as it is in the U.S. Japanese baseball started in 1872, and is that country’s most popularly attended sport. Reportedly, many of the early fields in Japan did not have a second base, due to size restrictions in crowded urban settings. Even today, the Japanese game of baseball is played with a smaller ball, smaller strike zone and playing field; five professional Japanese teams have fields smaller than would be allowed in Major League Baseball.