Baseball - Informational Text and Activity Pack


Often referred to as America’s “National Pastime”, baseball is one of the most popular major league and recreational sports in the United States and Canada. While baseball has its roots in similar sports in England, the game as we know today is a uniquely American sport.

Origins of Baseball

It is difficult to draw a direct line from modern American baseball to one specific game played previously elsewhere. What is clear is that baseball likely has roots in England. The modern English bat, ball and running games “rounders” and “cricket”, with similar characteristics to American baseball, have their origins in earlier English folk games. Early forms of baseball in the United States were known by several names. These include “stool ball”, “round ball”, “goal ball” and simply, “base”.

Americans began playing baseball on informal teams, using local rules, in the early 1800s. Alexander Cartwright (1820-1892) of New York invented the modern baseball field in 1845. Cartwright and the members of his New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, devised the first rules and regulations that were accepted for the modern game of baseball. Others of the time had also written rules for the game, but the rules created by Cartwright and the Knickerbockers became the most popular and accepted.

The first recorded baseball game was held in 1846 when the Knickerbockers played the New York Baseball Club. The game was held at the Elysian Fields, in Hoboken, New Jersey. In 1858, the National Association of Base Ball Players, the first organized baseball league, was formed.

Professional baseball started with the first professional team in 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. In 1876 the National League was formed with eight professional teams. Then in 1901 another baseball league, the American League, was formed. There were eight teams in the original American League as well.

During the regular season, a team played only against other teams within its league. Today, while the majority of games still takes place between teams in the same league, there are many regular season games between teams from both leagues.

Major League Baseball Today

Each Major League Baseball team has a 25-man roster and a 40-man roster. The 25-man roster has the players that can play in games and travel with the team. The 40-man roster has all the players from the 25-man roster as well as an additional 15 players that are on a major league contract and could be called up to play with the team at any time. After September 1st, the 40-man roster becomes the main roster and any of the 40 players can play.

There are 15 American League teams and 15 National League teams. Each league is divided into three divisions; East, Central, and West. The Major League Baseball season is the longest of the major American sports at 162 games. The season starts in April and ends in early October.

Playoffs and the World Series

Originally, the team with the most wins in each league won that league’s “pennant”, or flag, and became the league’s champion. Today, pennant winners are decided in post-season playoff series between the winners of each division in a league. Ten teams, five from each league, get into the playoffs with the two non-division winners (called wild cards) playing a one game elimination. The first match-ups are best of five games, meaning the first team with 3 wins moves on. The next match-ups are best of seven games.

Starting in 1903, the American League and the National League agreed to have their two championship teams play each other in the World Series. In the World Series the winners of the pennants of each league play up to seven games. The team that is the first to win four games becomes the World Series Champion, or more simply, the World Champion for that year.

Baseball Fun Facts

  • An official MLB baseball has 108 stitches. Each ball is stitched by hand.

  • In an MLB game, a ball is used an average of 6 pitches.

  • The first team to put numbers on its uniforms was the New York Yankees.

  • Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. didn't miss a game in 16 years. He played in 2,632 consecutive games from April 30, 1982 to Sept. 19, 1998.

  • Pitcher Nolan Ryan played 27 seasons in major league baseball and struck out more batters in his career than any other pitcher.

  • The National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum is located in Cooperstown, N.Y. It was created in 1935 to celebrate baseball's 100th anniversary.