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Baseball: From Child's Play to America's Pastime

In the new book, But Didn't We Have Fun?: An Informal History of Baseball's Pioneer Era, 1843-1870, author Peter Morris explores America's pastime even before it was America's pastime — and long before the days of big clubs, big stadiums and big crowds.

Forget Abner Doubleday, who was widely credited with "inventing" baseball. Morris dispenses with the Doubleday myth very quickly in his book and instead focuses on how baseball evolved out in the fields across the country.

Morris says that baseball was understood as an American pastime in the 1820s and '30s — but it was purely a child's game. By 1870, it was a professional sport.

"If I were to tell you that hopscotch was going to be a professional sport in 30 years and men would earn a living playing hopscotch, you would laugh and you would say well that's ridiculous," Morris tells Noah Adams.

"But that's exactly what happened with baseball."

Morris discusses the rules of baseball in the early years — for instance, players once threw the baseball directly at runners to take them out — and how and why they evolved.

He also describes the way in which these uniform rules were transmitted across the country, the creation of the regulation baseball ball and how luxury box seats of the era sat directly on the playing field.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


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