First played professionally by the New York Knickerbockers in 1845, baseball is commonly known as America’s “national pastime.” As more and more teams were founded during and after the Civil War, the first professional baseball league was established in 1871. It wasn’t long after that the sport gained nationwide popularity and produced some of the greatest athletes of all time. From the New York Yankees’ Babe Ruth to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson, baseball has a deep-rooted history of breaking records both on and off the field.
On the field, the core players, infielders and outfielders strategically work together to prevent the batting team from scoring runs. As one of the best pitchers of all time, Walter Johnson used his unmatched pitching speed and motion to make over 3,500 strikeouts in his 21-year career. Ideally, pitchers like Johnson try to deliver the ball through the “strike zone,” making the batter swing and miss the pitch. As one of the best catchers, Johnny Bench served as a vital player for the Cincinnati Reds. The 10-time Gold Glove winner made his mark in baseball history by adopting the one-handed catching style. While standing at home base in from the umpire, catching baseballs thrown by the pitcher, catchers like Bench lead the team by directing his teammates on a defensive play.
“The Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig earned his title for playing 2,130 consecutive games. As a skilled hitter, the first baseman Hall of Famer earned his home run title in 1934. Basemen like Gehrig must react quickly to infield plays and demonstrate excellent hand-eye coordination. In between the second and third base, the shortstop covers the most ground and varies positioning depending on the play. Honus Wagner, also known as “The Flying Dutchman,” had the ability and instincts to quickly react to the batter’s actions, making him one of the best shortstops to play the game.
The sport of baseball wouldn’t be the same without arguably the greatest player of all time—Babe Ruth. The Boston Red Sox pitcher-turned-New York Yankees outfielder led the team to seven American League pennants and four World Series victories. From home runs to slugging percentages, “The Bambino” set many top Major League Baseball records. Babe, like other great outfielders, can swiftly move across the field to successfully catch fly balls and accurately throw to an infielder from a long distance.
Burgeoning media mediums, radio and newspaper helped popularize baseball in the 1920’s. With the subsequent rise in fans, new ballparks were built and baseball truly became “America’s Pastime” as the most widely followed (and played) sport in the country.