When the summer months roll around, and you are driving around the neighborhood, it is a common sight to see a group of kids playing baseball in a park, or batting some balls on the street. Who hasn't had a baseball come careening through and break their one of home windows? A Such is the plight of many a home owner when there is a baseball lying around.
I have selected some choice printmaking gems on the national past time, because I live in Chicago and the annual Cross-town Classic is being played between the beloved northside's Cubs and the southside's White Sox. This is a brutal rivalry to be sure, but also good-natured and requiring tolerance of each other's obsessive need to wear black and white, or red and blue in the face of the perceived rival/enemy. Our house is a split home so the jabs are frequent about the other person's "poor team will have to lose Again", etc.
Whatever your personal favored team, I have rounded up a few prints by our inked up brethren, so enjoy the game, and...Go Cubs!
For anyone unfamiliar to the game of Baseball, it is played between two teams of nine players each, who take turns batting and fielding. The batting team attempts to score runs by hitting a ball that is thrown by the opposing team's pitcher with a bat swung by the batter, then running counter-clockwise around a series of four bases. A run is scored when a player advances around all four bases. A game is composed of nine innings, and the team with the greater number of runs at the end of the game wins. If scores are tied at the end of nine innings, extra innings are usually played. In the United States and Canada, professional Major League Baseball (MLB) teams are divided into the National League (NL) and American League (AL), each with three divisions: East, West, and Central. The major league champion is determined by playoffs that culminate in the World Series.
Baseball evolved from older bat-and-ball games played in England from the mid-18th century. This game was originally brought (by immigrants) to North America. By the late 19th century, baseball was widely recognized as the national sport of the United States. Baseball is currently popular in North America, Central and South America, the Caribbean and East Asia.
A French manuscript from 1344 contains an illustration of clerics playing a game with similarities to baseball. Consensus once held that today's baseball is a North American development from the older game rounders, popular in Great Britain and Ireland. Rounders and early baseball were actually variants of each other, and that the game's most direct antecedents are the English games of stoolball and "tut-ball".
The earliest known reference to baseball is in a 1744 British publication, A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, by John Newbery. It contains a rhymed description of "base-ball" and a woodcut that shows a field set-up somewhat similar to the modern game—though in a triangular configuration, and with posts instead of ground-level bases. The first recorded game of "Bass-Ball" took place in 1749 in Surrey, and featured the Prince of Wales as a player. Rounders was also brought to the United States by Canadians of both British and Irish ancestry. The first known American reference to baseball appears in 1791, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
The first officially recorded baseball game in U.S. history took place on June 19, 1846 in Hoboken, New Jersey: the "New York Nine" defeated the Knickerbockers, 23–1, in four innings. In the mid-1850s, a baseball craze hit the New York metropolitan area. By 1856, local journals were referring to baseball as the "national pastime" or "national game." A year later, sixteen area clubs formed the sport's first governing body, the National Association of Base Ball Players. The game's commercial potential was developing: in 1869 the first fully professional baseball club, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, was formed and went undefeated against semipro and amateur teams. The first professional league, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, lasted from 1871 to 1875.
The more formally structured National League was founded in 1876. In 1884, African American Moses Walker (and his brother Welday) played in the American Association. By the early 1890s, a gentlemen's agreement in the form of the baseball color line effectively barred black players from the white-owned professional leagues, major and minor. Professional Negro leagues formed, but quickly folded. Also in 1884, overhand pitching was legalized. In 1887, softball, under the name of indoor baseball or indoor-outdoor, was invented as a winter version of the game. The National League's first successful counterpart, the American League, which evolved from the minor Western League, was established that year.
The World Series, pitting the two major league champions against each other, was inaugurated in the fall of 1903. Motivated by dislike for owner Charles Comiskey and gamblers' payoffs, members of the Chicago White Sox conspired to throw the 1919 World Series. The Black Sox Scandal led to the formation of a new National Commission of baseball. The first major league baseball commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, was elected in 1920. That year also saw the founding of the Negro National League; the first significant Negro league, it would operate until 1931. For part of the 1920s, it was joined by the Eastern Colored League.
The rise of the legendary player Babe Ruth, the first great power hitter of the new era, helped permanently alter the nature of the game. A new Negro National League was organized in 1933; four years later, it was joined by the Negro American League. The first elections to the National Baseball Hall of Fame took place in 1936. In 1939 Little League Baseball was founded in Pennsylvania. By the late 1940s, it was the organizing body for children's baseball leagues across the United States.
With America's entry into World War II, many professional players went to serve in the armed forces. Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley led the formation of a new professional league with women players to help keep the game in the public eye – the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League existed from 1943 to 1954. The inaugural College World Series was held in 1947, and the Babe Ruth League youth program was founded. In 1947, Robinson broke the major leagues' color barrier when he debuted with the Dodgers; Larry Doby debuted with the American League's Cleveland Indians later the same year. Latin American players started entering the majors. In 1951, two Chicago White Sox, Venezuelan-born Chico Carrasquel and black Cuban-born Minnie Miñoso, became the first Hispanic All-Stars.
No major league team had been located west of St. Louis until 1958, when the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants relocated to Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. Regular-season interleague play was introduced in 1997.
In 2001, Barry Bonds established the current record of 73 home runs in a single season. In 2007, Bonds became MLB's all-time home run leader, surpassing Hank Aaron.
In 1847, American soldiers played what may have been the first baseball game in Mexico at Parque Los Berros in Xalapa, Veracruz. The first formal baseball league outside of the United States and Canada was founded in 1878 in Cuba. The Dominican Republic held its first islandwide championship tournament in 1912. Professional baseball tournaments and leagues began to form in other countries between the world wars, including the Netherlands (1922), Australia (1934), Japan (1936), Mexico (1937), and Puerto Rico (1938).
The Japanese major leagues have long been considered the highest quality professional circuits outside of the United States. After World War II, professional leagues were founded in many Latin American countries, most prominently Venezuela (1946) and the Dominican Republic (1955). In Asia, South Korea (1982), Taiwan (1990) and China (2003) all have professional leagues.
Many European countries have professional leagues as well, the most successful, other than the Dutch league, being the Italian league founded in 1948. In 2004, Australia won a surprise silver medal at the Olympic Games.
After being admitted to the Olympics as a medal sport beginning with the 1992 Games, baseball was dropped from the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
And lest we ever forget the famous phrase said my Tom Hanks' character from " A League of Their Own"...