Baseball History- The Beginning Stage

Baseball History- The Beginning Stage

People ask me what I do in retirement. For the most part, I research baseball. The St. Louis Cardinals History became my first passion and I have produced a website of over 650 pages called History of Cardinals. I update and research that almost daily. Also, in this research, I have come across all kinds of stuff related to baseball and its history.

This post today and others to follow will be about baseball and its beginning and how it has changed over the years. I hope you enjoy this information and come back for more. The next segment will be in about two weeks when I get into the rules and how they have changed over the decades of baseball.

Feel free to email me (Tom Knuppel) at for any thoughts, questions or other things concerning these posts.


The Beginning of Baseball


    Baseball likely originated from a game that was played in Great Britain called “rounders.” It had several other names but this is the most widely used name. But America wanted its own game. One that they could say was invented and played in the United States first. Herein, lies the rub. It may have been an original but can we be sure? Abner Doubleday is known as the inventor of the game. Let’s look at some facts.



  • During the 1950’s, the game in Massachusetts was played on a square field that had four foot high posts in the ground as bases. Each team had 10-14 players and the umpire would ask those in attendance for help in making the calls. Also, the umpire awarded the win to the first team to score 100 runs.

The first games of baseball by Doubleday were said to be played on a smooth section of a field near Cooperstown, New York in 1839. That was said to be the beginnings of baseball. But there are issues with this story. Abner Doubleday was a young cadet at West Point in 1839 and never got to Cooperstown.

Children have hit balls with bats as long as there have been children, but baseballs most direct ancestor was probably the  British game of cricket. Americans began their variations of the game and called it names such as, “old cat”, “one old cat,’ “two old cat,” “goal ball,” town ball,” “barn ball,” “string ball,” stick ball,” “base,” and “Base Ball.” Even Lewis and Clark while exploring our country tried to teach the game to the Nez Perce Indians.

  • Forest City, located near Cleveland, defeated the Brooklyn Atlantics in five innings in 1870 by the score of 132-1. In another game during the same time frame, Forest City scored 90 runs in the first inning when the rains came while they had bases loaded. The game got rained out. 


Many historians have turned their attention to Andrew Cartwright as possibly making the largest contribution to the invention of baseball. In Cooperstown, NY, where the Baseball Hall of Fame is located, they have given Cartwright the title as “Father of Modern Base Ball.” as can be read on his plaque in the building.

Cartwright was a bank teller in New York and he organized the first team called the Knickerbockers. He wrote a set of rules for the game and set bases 90 feet apart, had teams set a batting order that was static and each half inning ended after three outs.

The bases were made of about anything including rocks. The batter or runner could be out by someone simply hitting them with a thrown ball. Many times, it was squarely in the middle of the back. The first game played under his rules ended when the New York team scored their 21st run (which was called an ace) in the fourth inning (innings ere called a hand). The game ended with the Knickerbockers losing 23-1. The first game was played on Elysian Fields (which they rented for $75 per year) in Hoboken, New Jersey on June 19, 1846.


Cartwright was the pitcher and umpire for this game. His intention was to teach the players the rules he had written. In fact, he was unhappy with a player swearing and fined the player six cents for the tirade. By 1849, the game was common enough that players began wearing uniforms to play the game. It wasn’t until 1857, that the nine inning rule replace the 21 runs to end the game.

Knickerbockers New York Nine
Turney Davis
Adams Winslow
Tucker Ransom
Birney Murphy
Avery Case
H. Anthony Johnson
D. Anthony Thompson
Tryon Trenchard
Paulding Sandy Rantos

One player from the Knickerbockers that stands out is Doc Adams. He was a Graduate of Yale and Harvard Medical School. He loved baseball and was the inventor of the shortstop position. He stated that a fielder was needed to handle short throws from the outfield as other players had to cover their base. He also was instrumental in the elimination of the “bound rule.” Previously, if you caught a ball on one bounce the batter was out. Another rule was the pitching rubber would be 60 ft from the rubber.The person who set up the first field had trouble reading the measuring stick and mistook a 6 for a zero. Therefore, he set it at 60′ 6″. Even though accidental, this has stayed constant through the years. Doc Adams went on to be the President of the Knickerbockers along with being a member of the State Legislature in Connecticut.

The Start of League Play

Games became popular and teams sprung up in many areas of the country. Chicago businessman, William Hulbert, was part of the Chicago White Stockings governing board. He had a plan to get some teams together and schedule regular games. Some teams met in Louisville in 1876 and established the National Association of Baseball and eventually shortened to the National League. That is the reason it is known as the “senior circuit” because it started first. Hulbert is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Eight teams started the league that planned to play a 70 game schedule. The teams were the Chicago White Stockings, Philadelphia  Athletics, Boston Red Stockings, Hartford Dark Blues, New York Mutuals, St. Louis Brown Stockings, Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Louisville Grays. Before the conclusion of the season, the Mutuals and Athletics were expelled for not taking their final trip to the western cities. At each National League game, the cost of admission was 50 cents. However, if you waited until the 3rd inning was over, you could get in for 30 cents.

  • On May 2, 1886, the first National League home run was hit by Ross Barnes of the Chicago White Stockings. He never hit another homer in his career. 


Problems with the Game

The game of baseball had issues. The biggest problem was player movement. Nothing kept them with one team. After a season, there was a raid on the best players by giving them more money. In 1879, the first reserve rule was put in place. Each team could name five players as untouchable. Later, it moved to 11, then 15 and finally the entire roster.

The big test came in 1882 when a new league was formed called the American Association. They had no allegiance to the National League and went after players. Eventually, an agreement was made and rules were set in place in 1883. Abraham Mills, president of the National League got the agreement signed that set up an 11 player reserve list, guaranteed territorial rights, minimum salary ($1,000) and a postseason game between the two best teams of each league. This created the World Series.


  • Old Hoss Radbourn won 309 games in 11 seasons which included a 28-0 shutout for his Providence team over Philadelphia on August 21, 1883. In those early days of baseball, pitchers were to throw underhand and keep their elbow wrist straight. The batters got three missed swings before they were called out. 

Back in the earlier days, Chadwick was concerned that the “seedier” element of man might get involved in the game. Sure enough, people, including players, began betting on the game. The Mayor of New York, William “Boss” Tweed, the corrupt boss of Tammany Hall,  got involved to the detriment of the game. A scandal came about in New York as the mayor gave his catcher, third baseman and shortstop each $100 to throw the game (it was called to “heave” a game in the olden days). These players were banned to play in their league.


  • Did You Know? Abraham Lincoln played baseball in the late 1850’s and early 60’s? Lincoln was playing baseball in 1860 when a messenger showed up to deliver the news. Lincoln insisted he didn’t want to be interrupted and had the guy wait until the game was over. The news was telling him he had been nominated to become President of the United States. Later while President, he could be seen on the White House lawn with a bat an ball in his hand. It is reported that apparently, he skipped cabinet meetings to play on the White House lawn. 


American League

A new league was attempting to form from the outshoots of the American Association. It used the goals of promoting honest competition that wouldn’t use the reserve clause to make up teams and would cater to crowds with low ticket prices. The president of the new league, called the American League, was Ban Johnson. The new league formed on November 14, 1900, and had eight cities with franchises. they were Washington, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo and Baltimore.

They decided on a 140 game schedule and each team was allowed 24 players on their roster. The players for this new league were primarily from the National League. As an example, Cy Young left the Cardinals to play in the American League. The best player in the league was Nap Lajoie who left the National League Philadelphia team to play for the American League Philadelphia squad. He hit .426 for his new team and it caused controversy in Philadelphia. People were not nice to him which caused his trade to the Cleveland Indians. Things got so bad that when the Indians came to town, Lajoie left the team and spent those days at the beach so the chaos didn’t prevail.

In January 1903, the two leagues got together and created an agreement to not allow players to wander from team to team. Also, they realigned the teams in the leagues to create balance. Baltimore player/manager John McGraw discovered a talented second baseman but the problem existed that he was black. Black players were not allowed. So he tried to hoodwink the league and claimed the player, Charlie Grant, was a Cherokee Indian named Tokomoma and should be allowed to play. other executives saw through this ruse and he was not allowed to play in the American or National Leagues.


  • The Deadball Era was just as it sounds. In 1906, the Chicago White Sox hit seven home runs in 154 games. In the World Series of the season, the White Sox and Cubs hit no home runs at all. 


  • Cy Young was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era. In 1904, he tossed 23 straight hitless innings. He tossed two hitless innings on April 25th, six hitless innings on April 30th, a perfect game on May 5th and six hitless innings on May 11th. 


The next section in a few weeks will be The Rules. I will look into how they have evolved and some strange things that have happened under those rules. 












He Put His Hand on My Thigh

Just a note to let you know the for past month Linda and I spent it in Florida. This made it hard to continue my blog but for the most part I kept it going. There were many things in the way such as sun, grandkids games, sun, beach, sitting outside, sun, playing games with the kids, helping with homework and of course sun.

I haven’t written many stories about myself as an adult but today I will do that. A reminder, my recollections aren’t coming in any particlar order. Today I write about my first time in college.

Winston Churchill College

winstonchurchillcollegeThis college recruited me to play basketball. It all started after my senior season of basketball ended and one day coach Chuck Conrady pulled me aside and said he got a letter that a school was interested in me playing basketball for them in college. I asked him what it was called and he said Winston Churchill College. Now I knew my history rather well and stated,”cool, England sounds like a great spot” when he informed me that WCC was located in Pontiac, Illinois.

I took the information home and discussed it with my parents. My dad was saying that sounds good if someone is willing to pay some of your college. We made the appointment and visited their campus. We didn’t get to meet the coach as they were “in transition” of coaches. That is another few words for “we fired one and are now looking for another.” Before we left, we worked out a scholarship deal (Wallace Scholarship)  that was acceptable to both parties and I signed my letter and was now one of the  “Bulldogs.” Just a sentence out of order here is that the best class I took there that I still have use for today was a Speed Reading class that they had all the basketball players take. It has paid off for me. It was taught by the basketball coach’s wife and was really just a measure as to whether you could read or not. It was helpful to me.

The Dorm Area

I was in a single room. There study spot was for every four persons. It had a double and two single rooms in each area. The single next to me was a young skinny black kid from Chicago, Heights. His name was Julian and we had nothing at all in common. He came to WCC to get out of the city. He was really weird and preferred to be by himself. That was fine with me. The other two, in the double, were from the suburbs and both were white and very talkative and they also had a propensity for getting in trouble. The dorm was split in half with the right side for the girls and the left side for the guys. In the middle was a big room and then there was a door to the “house parents” residence. There was probably only about 40 men and 40 women in this living quarters and it was the house parents job to be the psudeo-parent when needed. There names were Jim and Jody and they host a Christmas Party in early December.

“Don’t Eat the Brownies!”

This story involves the guys in the C room (the double) and I suppose me to some extent. These guys were always hitting on this good looking girl and were getting nowhere. They kept trying and she tried to be nice and reject them. She knew I lived in the same study area as they do. I probably had talked to her about twice in my life before this event occurred, oh and her name was Carlotta.  I was walking down the hall between classes when she stopped me and said, ” don’t eat the brownies.” I looked at her with a baffled look and asked her what she just said. She said you will find out tonight and “don’t eat the brownies.” So ok. that evening she came to our studying area and entered with a pan of brownies and knocked on the C room. The two guys opened it and had a large smile on their face as Carlotta was standing there with a large pan of brownies and told them she had baked something “special” for them. She handed the brownies to them and turned around to leave. I was standing behind her about 10 feet away when she walked past me. She walked straight ahead and just before she passed me she smiled at me and winked. The boys asked me if I wanted some brownies and I refused. They closed the door and I thought that was it for the night. As the evening went on they ate about 5 pieces each of the brownies and now they were up and making noise in the bathroom as they each had to “go” again and again. I smiled inwardly and went to bed. The next day I saw Carlotta in the hall and she asked me how things went last night and I told her of the bathroom situation and how it went on all night. She smiled and said, “good”, maybe they will leave me alone now.” I asked her about what was “special” in the brownies and she told me they were baked with care and consideration using Ex-Lax as the main ingredient. The guys never bothered her again.

Christmas Party

I went home many weekends and didn’t stay in the entertainment city of Pontiac. What I could see is the town offered a prison, a high school, a college and a Mr. Quick fast food on the north end of town. Other than that, it was rather plain. I stayed for the Christmas party and it was relatively lame but about 50-60 people were in the house parents residence sitting on the floor and on their furniture. I don’t remember what really went on but eventually I left and went to bed. The next morning I heard a key enter the lock of my door as I was in bed and three members of the administration walked in, looked around, open drawers and snooped throughout my room. The never spoke and then they looked at me and left as they re-locked the door. What the heck! In a few minutes I heard a ruckus in study area and got up to find the admins in and out of the double room carrying wine bottles out and sitting them on the table. The two guys had spotted them under the house parents Christmas tree and stole them, drank them and discarded the bottles. Julian and I were questioned about it and let go as we knew nothing about it. The two thiefs were told that when the semester was over in 2.5 weeks they would not be allowed to re-enter Winston Churchill College.


I went to Winston Churchill College on a basketball scholarship so let me tell you a bit about that. We had several open gyms after a coach was hired. It was the former high school coach at Pontiac. He was white ane he had two black assistant coaches. In open gym I did fine. I could tell I was not the best player on the team but I was probably third best. Another oddity for me, coming from Forman High School, was that all the other players were black. I was the token. Open gyms got more and more volatile as it as apparent I was going to play and somebody would get left out. I was not feeling much love from any of my teammates. Which leads us to this story. It was in october about 1-2 weeks before practice was to begin when a student-faculty touch football game was to be played. I played in it and late in the game as things were going well I was playing wide receiver when I went across the middle of the field, caught the ball and turned upfield when I was hit in the right knee by two players and down I went. I tore my cartilage. The oddity was the two faculty members that “clipped” were the two assistant basketball coaches. My season was done before it started. I had surgery just before Thanksgiving and was enrolled at ICC for the second semester.

Phi Kappa Tau

The college had a onesorority  and one fraternity on campus that didn’t appear to have much of a profile around town. The Phi Kappa Tau was recruiting heavily but couldn’t get many to be considered plus they had a few rules. I was asked several times about joining but was unclear as to what value it would have in my life. Finally, Joe Skowronski, got me to join. He thought of himself as a combo of Fonzie and James Dean. So installation was to take place and it as just weird. I was blindfolded and led around somewhere until the blindfold was taken off. I was in a room with other people and they all had maskes on and holding a lighted candle. I was asked a few questions and I answered them to their acceptability and then I was blindfolded again and led around until outside. When I was free again I was told I had one more thing to do to be accepted. Joe was my sponsor and he told me I had to drive to Odell (about 15 miles away) and steal the town sign at the edge and bring it back within the next 90 minutes. I drove their and with tools they provided removed the sign and was back in plenty of time. But by now I wasn’t happy with the Tau group nor did I like stealing things. I gave the sign to Joe and the whole group was there as the president of the chapter told me I was an official member. I told him I quit. I walked away and never heard from them except for once when Joe stopped me and thanked me for the sign in his bedroom.

Student Government

I went to Pontiac to study Political Science. Since that was my new passion I decided to sign up for a Politics class. In that class on the first or second day they allowed a Student Government speaker to come in and discuss their role at WCC. Each year they were required to elect two freshman to their association. I decided to run but I had no realassociation to people yet. I wanted students to remember my name and who they were voting for. I developed a slogan—- ” Have no Scruples, Vote for Knuppel” – At least now they knew it rhymed with scruples. Four ran for two spots and I won. I was part of the college government. Looking back the meetings were like something you would do in high school as it had very little impact and was mostly social.

Meeting the President

I probably should have gotten to know more people in my time at Winston Churchill College. I was clueless when I got a notice to meet the President of WCC. I went to his office and his wife let me in and they had a chair for me in the middle of the room. There was another chair sitting next to it. I was told to sit down and the president would be there soon. He showed up quickly and introduced himself and then sat in the chair that was smack dab next to me. He as on my right and he said he just wanted to get to know the new students and (this is where I think I know what he said next but he placed his left hand on my thigh) asked how things were around campus. He never moved his hand but I felt his sweaty hand through my jeans and he continued to ask me several more questions. He ended by saying that is all, he nodded to his wife and she led my out the door.

What I didn’t know was the college leader was (let me say it as it was said in 1969) queer. He was rumored to like guys. Several around the college told me he often had young boys over to his house for the weekend and the stories were bizarre. I guess I didn’t make the cut because I was never invited. That’s a big thank you!


*Winston Churchill College was only in existence from 1965-1973. It was privately funded and that became the problem. I was there one semester.


Previous Blogs

Remembering My Time Around Easton

Oh Well, I Will Strike Her Out Anyway”

What Were Our Parents Thinking?

Call the Sheriff

Kilbourne Condom

I’m Still Paying For It

My First School Basketball Team

The History of Me- My Birthday



“Kilbourne Condom”

That title. It’s correct. I am not doing a switch-and-bait on you. But let’s get a bit of a background before we turn to the main event.

After College

After college I worked a few years at Firestone Tire Company in Pekin in various capacitites with the last one as Credit Manager. I decided to leave the company after they wanted to slate me for store manager training. I went to substitute teaching while working on a few requirements including student teaching. I completed those and was ready to teach.

I heard about and applied for a 6th grade teaching position at Balyki that included coaching. Why not? I applied and got an interview. I had never heard of a full school board interview but that is what I had. Most of the questions were led by Donald Conklin and things went smoothly. I thought, and rightfully it turned out so, he was in my corner.

Teaching and Coaching

I was out working for Country Companies (that’s a stroy coming) doing hail adjustment when Linda got the call I was hired and would get an extra $500 for coaching. We were pumped! We talked about how it work for both of us teaching and the things involved. Then it dawned on me the extra $500 for coaching. What was I coaching? I called them and asked that question and they answered it with “all of them”. There it was I was coaching Junior High baseball, basketball and track(without a track).

Year One

The first year went well. I loved teaching and the people I was working with. I had a cozy huge room upstairs with one other classroom and the office. Jim Doolan had the other room and he was the varsity basketball coach so we talked sports. At the conclusion of the season they told me I was a good teacher but they weren’t thrilled with my coaching and were going to find a coaching replacement for me. I had heard rumors that Eric Sarff, a local boy hero, would be available the following year. I didn’t mind as I was umpiring and refereeing now and also working 25 games as an analyst on WDUK radio station.

Tornado Rips School

One week after the first school ended a tornado came through and knocked the school building into disarray. It was totaled. Year two was interesting as we had portable classrooms that were rented from the State of Illinois. I was teaching in a small classroom that was independent of itself with a bathroom. It was kind of fun as you were basically on your own and you had a good view if anyone was coming to your room. The coaching was interesting as they hired a guy from the northern part of the state with no sports background. None. That became evident when he lined the diamond for his first home game. He lined from home-to-first-to-second-to-third-to-home. He was clueless but it wasn’t my concern. I went to umpiring and refereeing( that’s another story) and liked it.


The next year came and lo and behold Eric Sarff was hired to teach and coach (color me not shocked). They moved my classroom to another area and now Eric and I shared rooms next to each other with a bathroom and a hallway connecting the front and a door in the back. We had a good year and it was a fun year. He taught a couple of the subjects and I taught a few and the kids changed classrooms for them. We each had a PE class and the administration didn’t bother us. That was nice.

Kilbourne Condom

One day, for some reason I needed to get some from the back of Eric’s classroom. I told you there was an adjoining backdoor as I went through the door I surprised a young man. He quickly put something from his hand into his pocket with a guilty look. Of course, I confronted him and he kept refusing. I took him to the front of the room and Eric and I took him into the hallway in front and grilled him with questions. Finally, he took something out of his pocket and opened it. It was a condom. He said, ” I was walking to school this morning and found it. I don’t even know what it is.” We looked at each other and kept our professional decorum and then I heard Eric say, ” What did you just say?”

The kid recounts the same mantra and looked innocently at us. Now remember early in the story I told you Eric was the local hometown hero? I almost choked on the next words out of Eric’s mouth as he sternly looked at the kid and said, “how in the Hell can you live in Kilbourne and not know what that is?” The kid said nothing and we sent him back to class.

Our professional decorum went away as he left the hallway.

Look for Kilbourne Part 2 in a month or so.


The Wild West- John “liver eating” Johnson


John “Liver-Eating” Johnson  (born circa 1824 and died 1900)

Rumors, legends, and campfire tales abound about Johnson. Perhaps chief among them is this one: In 1847, his wife, a member of the Flathead American Indian tribe, was killed by a young Crow brave and his fellow hunters, which prompted Johnson to embark on a vendetta against the tribe. The legend says that he would cut out and eat the liver of each man killed. This was an insult to Crow because the Crow believed the liver to be vital if one was to go on to the afterlife. In any case, he eventually became known as “Liver-Eating Johnson”. The story of how he got his name was written down by a diarist at the time.
One tale ascribed to Johnson ,while other sources ascribe it to Boone Helm, was of being ambushed by a group of Blackfoot warriors in the dead of winter on a foray to sell whiskey to his Flathead kin, a trip that would have been over five hundred miles. The Blackfoot planned to sell him to the Crow, his mortal enemies, for a handsome price. He was stripped to the waist, tied with leather thongs and put in a teepee with only one, very inexperienced guard. Johnson managed to break through the straps, then knocked out his young guard with a kick, took his knife and scalped him, then quickly cut off one of his legs. He made his escape into the woods, surviving by eating the Blackfoot’s leg.


Ed Barrow- Major League Manager Born in Springfield, Il

A bit of a deviation from players but this manager from Springfield has some really cool things in his background.


  • Barrow was the first executive to put numbers on player uniforms.
  • He also announced the retirement of Lou Gehrig’s uniform number, the first number to be retired.
  • Barrow was also the first executive to allow fans to keep foul balls that entered the stands.
  • Barrow was also the first to require the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, the United States’ national anthem, before every game, not only on holidays.
  • In May 1950, an exhibition game was played in honor of Barrow, with Barrow managing a team of retired stars.
  • Barrow was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1953.
  • On April 15, 1954, the Yankees dedicated a plaque to Barrow, which first hung on the center field wall at Yankee Stadium, near the flagpole and the monuments to Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Miller Huggins. The plaques later moved to the stadium’s Monument Park.
  • Barrow was an able boxer. He once fought John L. Sullivan in an exhibition for four rounds




Edward Grant Barrow (May 10, 1868 – December 15, 1953) was an American manager and front office executive in Major League Baseball. He served as the field manager of the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox. He served as business manager (de facto general manager) of the New York Yankees from 1921 to 1939 and as team president from 1939 to 1945, and is credited with building the Yankee dynasty.Barrow was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953.

Born in a covered wagon in Springfield, Illinois, Barrow worked as a journalist and soap salesman before entering the business of baseball by selling concessions at games. From there, Barrow purchased minor league baseball teams, also serving as team manager, and served as president of the Atlantic League. After managing the Tigers in 1903 and 1904 and returning to the minor leagues, Barrow became disenchanted with baseball, and left the game to operate a hotel.

Barrow returned to baseball in 1910 as president of the Eastern League. After a seven-year tenure, Barrow managed the Red Sox from 1918 through 1920, leading the team to victory in the 1918 World Series. When Red Sox owner Harry Frazee began to sell his star players, Barrow joined the Yankees. During his quarter-century as their baseball operations chief, the Yankees won 14 AL pennants and 10 World Series titles.

Barrow was hospitalized on July 7, 1953 at the United Hospital of Port Chester, New York and died on December 15, at the age of 85, due to a malignancy. His body was kept at Campbell’s Funeral Home and interred in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York.



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