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History of Baseball

Baseball is thought to be a direct descendant of cricket, rounders, and town ball, though the game's origins are uncertain. Alexander Cartwright published the first known list of rules in 1845 to meet the demands of the already popular sport, and today's rules of baseball have evolved from them.

Professional Baseball
Professional baseball began in the United States around 1865, and the National League was founded in 1876. Several other leagues formed and failed, but the American League, formed in 1893 as the Western League, did succeed. While rivals who fought for the best players, the two major leagues began playing a World Series in 1903.

Compared to modern times, games in the early part of the 20th century were lower scoring and pitchers were more successful. This period, which has since become known as the "dead-ball era", ended in the 1920s with several rules changes that gave advantages to hitters and the rise of the legendary baseball player Babe Ruth, who showed the world what power hitting could produce.

Segregation in Baseball
During the first half of the 20th century, a "gentlemen's agreement" effectively barred non-white players from the major leagues, resulting in the formation of several Negro Leagues. Finally in 1947, Major League Baseball's color barrier was broken when Jackie Robinson was signed by the National League's Brooklyn Dodgers. Although it was not instantaneous, baseball has since become fully integrated.

The middle of the century led baseball to the West of the United States and also became a time when pitchers dominated. Scoring became so low in the American League, due to pitching dominance, that the designated hitter was introduced; this rule now constitutes the primary difference between the two leagues.

Strikes and Lockouts
Despite the popularity of baseball, the players became unsatisfied, as they believed the owners had too much control—a stance that many baseball fans found objectionable. A series of strikes and lockouts began in baseball, affecting portions of the 1972 and 1981 seasons and culminating in the infamous strike of 1994 that led to the cancellation of the World Series. The popularity of baseball diminished greatly as a result, and fans were slow to return until the home run race of 1998 between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Since then, baseball has enjoyed another surge in popularity in America. The thrilling playoffs of 2004 were highlighted by the Red Sox's epic comeback against the Yankees and resulted in what some have called the "New Golden Age" for baseball.

Professional Baseball Leagues Outside of the United States
Professional baseball leagues began to form in countries outside of America in the 1920s and 1930s, including the Netherlands (formed in 1922), Japan (1936), and Australia (1934). Today, the whole of Europe (1953), Italy (1948), Korea (1982), Taiwan (1990), and mainland China (2003) all have professional leagues as well. Competition between national teams, such as in the World Cup of Baseball and the Olympic baseball tournament, has been administered by the International Baseball Federation since its formation in 1938. As of 2004, this organization has 112 member countries.

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