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Taking You Back in History - The Old Ball Game Part 1: Baseball's Beginnings

By Kathy Brown, Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum/Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society

America's love of baseball began in the east, with the first teams being formed around 1845 in the New York City area. Alexander Cartwright, a New York City bookseller and round ball player, is generally given credit for initiating it there. In 1849, at age 29, he caught gold fever, left his job and his family, and traveled overland to the Gold Rush. Since the easy gold was gone by the time he arrived he only stayed for five months, so it is uncertain if he is the one who brought the game west. Others arriving from the east in 1850, may have sowed the seeds for the game in California.

The earliest reference to baseball being played in the Golden State is found in the California Courier in 1851, “The Plaza (Portsmouth Square) has at last been turned to some account by our citizens. Yesterday quite a crowd collected upon it, to take part in and witness, a game of ball, money taking a hand. We are better pleased at it than to witness the crowds in the gambling saloons which surround the square.”

Rules of Baseball were drawn up in 1857 and changed, along with equipment and uniforms, as the game developed. Clubs began to form in Sacramento in 1859 and were spread throughout Northern California by 1867. Sandlot baseball, as a form of summer exercise and entertainment, developed apace. As the game became increasingly popular all over the US and the west, the Pa