Today is the anniversary of an important day not only in the history of the Tampa Bay Rays, but in the history of baseball and to a lesser extent, the history of the United States of America. Today, April 17th, is the birthday of Alexander Cartwright, the man who invented baseball.
Much is unclear, but what we do know is that in 1845, Cartwright wrote down the first codified rules of baseball, which had previously been a spin-off off cricket and rounder played at parks and mens clubs, and in 1846, the first documented game played under these rules was played. Over time, the sport grew in popularity expanded all over the country until the first major league, the National Association, was founded in 1871. The National League came into existence in 1876, replacing the National Association, and there were several other failed major leagues (most notably the American Association, but also the Union Association and the Players’ League) before the American League began play in 1900 and became a second major league in 1901. (The Federal League was a third major league from 1914 to 1915.) With the codified rules, maybe none of that would have ever happened, or at least it wouldn’t have happened at that rate. Picture it this way: if Major League Baseball began play in 1920, around when the National Football League first came into existence, maybe Cy Young, Honus Wagner, and Ty Cobb would have never played professional baseball. The ramifications of what was such a minor action at the time, writing down the rules of some backyard game, still resonate today.
In 2012, we are celebrating the 15th year of major league baseball in Tampa Bay. It took 127 years of major league baseball for a team to come our way. We have to appreciate what we have: a consistently contending MLB team that captivates us game after game, season after season. Maybe none of that would have happened if it were not for the contributions of Cartwright.