BaseballPublished: | Updated:
Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport that’s played between two teams of nine players, who take turns batting and fielding. The game occurs over the course of plays (at-bats). Each at-bat begins when the fielding team, led by a pitcher, throws a ball that a player on the batting team, led by a batter, tries to hit with a bat. The objective of the team on offense (the batting team) is to hit the ball onto the field of play. Once the ball is in the field of play, away from opposing players, the offensive team’s players can run around four bases (first, second, third, and home). The players run in a counter-clockwise manner and, advancing around all four bases scores a “run.”
The objective of the defensive team (or the fielding team) is to prevent the offensive team from scoring runs. A run is scored when a batter/runner legally advances from home plate (at-bat) to first, second, and third and then touches home plate again (where he started). Major League Baseball (MLB) is the highest level of professional baseball in North America.
The primary objective of the offensive team (batting) is to have their player reach first base safely. This action occurs when the batter hits and ball and reaches first base before the opposing team retrieves it and touches the base. It can also happen via the pitcher “striking out” the batter. The pitcher, in that scenario, can get the batter “out” by throwing three pitches that result in “strikes.” If the batter hits a ball and a fielder either catches that ball before it hits the ground OR tags them with the ball while the runner isn’t touching a base, the runner is out as well.
Opposing teams will alternate between batting and fielding in different innings. The offensive team is “up to bat” until the fielding team records three outs. One turn batting for each team constitutes as an inning. A full baseball game is typically comprised of nine total innings, and the team with the greater number of runs scored wins. However, in certain situations, the game is tied after nine innings, which results in “extra innings” until one team has scored more runs than the other. Each team is permitted one “half-inning” in extra innings, though, so that the team who bats first cannot win as a result of batting one more time than the fielding team.
As a game, baseball was brought over to the United States via immigrants who had played other bat-and-ball games in the 18th century. The modern version of baseball was fully developed in the US. Baseball’s distinctly American origins, along with the ties to escapism during traumatic moments of American history, have led to the description of the sport as “America’s pastime.”
By the early 1800s, there was a game similar to what is now defined as “baseball” being played around North America. The first “official” baseball game took place in 1846 between the New York Knickerbockers and the New York Nine. The Nine won this game by a score of 23-1 in only four innings played. By the time of the Civil War, baseball had begun to popularize around the United States, in large part because it didn’t require a specialized playing surface for the game itself.
The 1850s Baseball Craze
By the mid-1850s, baseball mania was in full swing in the Northeast United States. 1857 saw the first-ever governing body for the sport (the National Association of BaseBall Players) formed. Unfortunately, due to widespread segregation in the United States, the league (along with the later formed National League) banned participation in the sport at the professional level by African Americans. This led to the formation of many smaller “Negro Leagues,” which featured players just as talented as those in the segregated leagues.
Baseball’s Meteoric Growth
The rise of Babe Ruth, now held in almost deity-like esteem by many baseball fans, helped permanently alter the makeup and nature of the sport. Ruth was baseball’s first truly great power hitter (renowned for his ability to hit home runs). Not long thereafter, legendary general manager Branch Rickey developed the league’s first farm system. A farm system was a way for teams to develop players without needing them to be on their official major league roster.
World War II created a shortage of eligible players, which led to Rickey signing the first African American ballplayer (Jackie Robinson) to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. This led to a greater emphasis on signing non-white baseball players in the following years, though integration was a slow roll process.
Following the integration process came an increased amount of power on the player’s end via a player’s union. This dramatically increased player salaries as a result of the free agency system.
Part of what made baseball so much more popular in the US versus a sport like cricket was the ability to play on a non-specialized surface. Though baseball can feel like an equipment-heavy sport, at its core, you only require a glove, a ball, and a bat. At the professional level, you will require other equipment for safety purposes. That equipment includes a helmet (head protection), a cup (groin protection), and some cleats (for base running).
Glove: One of the most important pieces of equipment to play, a glove, is what you’ll need to catch a baseball. In order to limit the number of injuries to your hand, the player should be able to squeeze the glove. You want a decent pocket around the palm, so it is recommended that you “break in” the glove prior to using it.
Cleats: Cleats are important for toe and ankle protection, along with added grip when running around the bases. At a younger level, baseball cleats aren’t as necessary (or they use alternative rubber cleats). At the professional level, players use metal cleats.
Bat: It would be impossible to play baseball without a bat. Typically, wooden bats are used at the professional level to make contact with a ball. At some lower divisions, you might see metal bats being used.
Batting Helmet: Each player at the professional level is required to have a batting helmet. The proper helmet protects your head from injury. You can also use a helmet with additional safety features, such as face masks or jaw guards.
Cup: For male players, a cup is designed to protect the groin from injury, usually due to contact from a baseball.
Duration & Time Stoppages:
Baseball games, unlike other American sports, can vary dramatically in length. Without a true “game clock,” a baseball game is dependent on the number of innings played. Part of the complexity of the sport is that there is no clock. Therefore, games can go on for two hours or far more.
At the professional level, inclement weather or double-headers can shorten a baseball game.
Typically, an inning lasts about twenty minutes each (on average), so an average baseball game lasts about three hours. Pitch clocks have been introduced at the collegiate and professional levels of baseball to speed up the pace of play.
The Pawtucket Red Sox and the Rochester Red Wings, two teams from the Triple-A International League, played the longest game in professional baseball history. It lasted 33 innings, with 8 hours and 25 minutes of playing time. The longest game in Major League Baseball history occurred on May 8, 1984, when the Chicago White Sox beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-6. This is the longest game in MLB history in terms of time. It took eight hours and six minutes, and it had to be completed over two days.
RBI means “Run Batted In.”
If a player has 68 RBI’s on the season, that means he scored a base runner 68 times.
BB, or “Base on Balls,” refers to when a batter advances to first base because of 4 balls, or 4 pitches outside the strike zone.
A “plate appearance” just refers to anytime a player comes to the plate, including walks and other situations that would not be considered an “at-bat.”
Hitting for the cycle means a player has hit a single, double, triple, and home run all in one game. It’s pretty rare, happening only five times in the 2022 MLB season.
The batter gets a hit and advances to first base.
The batter gets a hit and advances to second base.
The batter gets a hit and advances to third base.
A hit or home run that scores the winning run/s and ends the game. Since the home team bats second, this can only be done by the home team during the last inning of a game or during extra innings.
The distance from home plate to first base is 90 feet, and that is the same for 1st base to 2nd, 2nd to 3rd, and so on.