Baseball’s inventor inducted
into Hall of Fame
Who is responsible for bringing the game of baseball to the world? For many years, officials in Major League Baseball proceeded with the believe that Gen. Abner Doubleday was the founder of what would become America’s game.
The evidence, however, points to a New York bank teller named Alexander Cartwright. In Spring 1845, Cartwright suggested to some friends that they organize into a formal club to play ball. Versions of baseball had been played long before this time. Games like the English “rounders” or the American “town ball” were popular in the Northern states.
Cartwright’s Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, playing in Hoboken, New Jersey, had a different goal. They wanted to take the children’s game and turn it into an adult passion.
To accomplish this, Cartwright and his group increased the distance between the bases to 90 feet. Then, they created fair and foul territories on the playing field. They narrowed the fair space for a hitter to the area between the foul lines and they reduced the number of defensive players who could be on the field. By 1846, the club was playing with nine to a side, and that was later made an official part of the rules.
Knickerbocker rules outlawed the ability to put out baserunners by throwing the ball at them. This change made it safe to use a harder ball, which led to faster, sharper play.
By 1860, the game was being played as far away as New Orleans and San Francisco. In 1849, Cartwright caught gold fever and he left New York to head to California. He stopped along the way to teach others how to play baseball. In California he came down with dysentery and decided to move to Hawaii to take advantage of the healthful climate of Hawaii. In 1852, he introduced the game to Hawaii.
Cartwright became one of Honolulu’s leading merchants and bankers, founded its library and fire department (he was fire chief for 10 years), and managed the finances of Hawaii’s royal family. He died as one of Hawaii’s most respected citizens. However, his contribution to baseball was all but forgotten until 1938, when a review of his journals prompted his election to the Hall of Fame.