Contrary to what you may recall from learning sports history, Abner Doubleday did not invent the game of baseball in Cooperstown, New York in 1839. This myth, which was popularized in the early 1900s, has been debunked in the past 30 years.

Many ball and bat games were played in the United States in the early 19th century, but none closely resembled the modern game. The game of baseball as we know it traces its founding to 1845 when the first organized team in the U.S., the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York City (led by Alexander Cartwright), set down written rules. By 1858 the game had become so popular that the National Association of Base Ball Players was formed and significant modifications began to be made in the old Knickerbocker rules.

Organized baseball came to Cincinnati in the 1860's. The Buckeye Base Ball Club and the Red Stockings, the namesake of the Cincinnati Baseball Club and the current Cincinnati Reds professional team, became the dominant teams in the city.

In 1869, as base ball became more popular and competitive, the Red Stockings, under the leadership of captain Harry Wright (who is enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame) decided to put all of his players under contract, thus creating the first all-professional team. The Red Stockings recruited some of the top players in the country, with only one member of the team from Cincinnati. Under the direction of Wright, the players underwent rigorous training and practice, and developed many strategies (such as the relay throw) that we take for granted today.

The Red Stockings played teams from coast-to-coast, and played well. With Wright's skillful management and spectacular collection of talented players (with Harry's brother, George Wright, the superstar of the bunch), the Red Stockings went 57-0 to record the only undefeated season in baseball history and drew an estimated 200,000 spectators. The national attention they brought to themselves and the sport of baseball proved that the American public would support the professional game.

However, the financial strain on the local club was so great that the Cincinnati Red Stockings folded after the 1870 season. But enough other clubs had joined the professional ranks to form the first professional league, the National Association, in 1871. The Cincinnati club never joined this league, but the club did reorganize in 1876 and joined the new National League. The Reds have represented Cincinnati in professional baseball ever since.*

* The only exception is 1881, when the Reds were thrown out of the National League for selling beer at the ballpark and allowing games to be played at their ballpark on Sundays.

 

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