Baseball is known as the great American pastime. But the game didn’t emerge fully formed for amateur and professional leagues. It developed over years of trial and error, and was the result of hard work. These 5 facts helped shape the game we enjoy today.
1. A 17-Year-Old Makes the First Louisville Slugger
Image via Flickr by Lou & Traci plus
Many of baseball’s greatest players have preferred using Louisville Slugger bats. According to legend, the first one was created by a 17-year-old kid named John Hillerich, whose friends called him “Bud.”
Bud’s father owned a woodworking shop in Louisville, and the profession had exposed the young man to plenty of skills. After watching the Louisville Eclipse, a major league team that no longer exists, Bud approached Pete Browning, who was in the middle of a hitting slump.
Back at the wood shop, Bud crafted his slugger prototype from a single piece of wood. The following game, Browning used the bat and victoriously emerged from his slump. The Louisville Slugger has been a favorite ever since.
2. The Knickerbockers Popularized Today’s Baseball Rules
Baseball started to gain popularity in the 19th century. At the time, it went by several names and lacked a uniform code of rules. This made it difficult for teams to compete against each other.
To make the game easier to understand, Alexander Cartwright, who owned the Knickerbockers, published a set of rules for his team. It took a few years, but eventually most teams adopted the rules. This not only brought the team together, but made it possible for players and fans to blame blind refs for every bad call.
3. Giants Have More Hall of Famers Than Any Team
There’s a simple reason why San Francisco Giants tickets always seem to sell out. The team has had more Hall of Fame players than any other baseball club. With 23 Hall of Famers in the team’s history, it obviously knows how to pick and attract some of the world’s best players.
Image Credit: Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns on Amazon
4. Jackie Robinson Becomes First Black Player in the Major League
On October 23, 1945, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player to sign with a minor league baseball team, the Montreal Royals. Not long afterward, in 1947, he broke major league baseball’s color barrier in his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. This solidified him as a standout talent in a sport dominated by Whites.
Prior to this breakthrough, Black players joined teams in segregated organizations such as the Negro Eastern League and National Negro League.
5. A Woman Struck Out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig
A lot gets made of Babe Ruth’s 60-home-run 1927 season and Lou Gehrig’s 1,995 RBIs, but no one talks about the woman who struck them both out.
During a 1931 exhibition game, Jackie Mitchell, who pitched for the Chattanooga Lookouts, faced both Ruth and Gehrig, who played for the Yankees. She struck out Ruth, who became irate until his teammates removed him from the plate. Next up was Gehrig, whom she also struck out.
What surprising facts do you know about baseball’s history? Show off your trivia knowledge and educate the rest of the world about this great sport.