The sport of baseball is played between two teams, each consisting of nine players. The teams alternate between batting and fielding every inning of the game. The team with the most points at the end of nine innings wins.
The rules of baseball are simple: the players on the batting team must hit a ball that is thrown to them by members of the fielding team. The batter tries to touch each of four bases in order around the diamond-shaped field, which is anchored by home plate. If a runner makes it to each of the bases without being tagged out, that player scores. A batter can get three strikes before being declared out, and a batter can also walk to first base if they do not swing at all of the pitches that miss their mark within the “strike zone” (a region roughly between the batter’s shoulders and his or her knees above home plate).
In a time when a nation was still recovering from the bloodshed of its Civil War, baseball became a national craze. Soldiers on both sides of the conflict brought the game home with them and it remained popular as a diversion throughout the years that followed.
A few of those soldiers would become famous baseball stars, like Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson. But, for most, baseball was just a way to earn a living. In the 1850s, African Americans began playing professional baseball on Southern plantations. But, it wasn’t until Jackie Robinson broke through the color line in 1947 that the major leagues would begin to open their doors to Black players.
After World War II, the popularity of baseball exploded. In fact, attendance records for the sport reached 70 million in 1953. But by the late 1970s, attendance started to decline. Many baseball fans were growing tired of the same old routine, and a slew of scandals tarnished the image of the game.
Then, the game’s future was threatened by the advent of television and other distractions. But the owners of the game’s two biggest leagues had a plan to save it: They would create a rival series to compete with the World Series.
The new event would feature the best teams from each of the national leagues. And it would take place on a giant stage: the World Series would be played on a huge stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The competition would also help bring the game’s salary structure into the modern era, with player contracts that spelled out mechanisms to end cross-league raids of rosters and the hated reserve clause. In addition, the games would feature prominent players with names that made them instantly recognizable. And, they would be paid well. These changes helped put baseball on the map for a whole new generation of fans. They also paved the way for more minor leagues to spring up across the country and for a professional league to be established in the South.