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The First Innings - 174

In 1842, a group of young professionals began meeting regularly to play baseball on a field at 47th Avenue and 27th Street in Manhattan. Three years later, they formed the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, evidently at the suggestion of Alexander Cartwright, the owner of a book and stationery store who had once been a volunteer fireman with the Knickerbocker Engine Company. A four-man committee was appointed to draft a constitution and by-laws. Cartwright and the committee's president, Daniel L. "Doc" Adams, did most of the work on the by-laws, which became baseball's first formal rules.

The rules called for four bases in a square, 42 paces (about 126 feet) on each diagonal. The batter was placed at the fourth base, which was renamed "home." "Soaking" was eliminated; a runner had to be tagged or forced out. The batter was out if his batted ball was caught on the fly or on first bounce.

The new rules also established three strikes for an out and three outs in a half-inning. A game lasted until one team scored twenty-one runs, or "aces" as they were then called.

In most histories, Cartwright has replaced Doubleday as the inventor of baseball, but it's impossible to know how much he actually contributed to the rules. However, he did draw the diagram of the new diamond.

The first recorded game under these rules, between teams made up of Knickerbocker members, was played on October 7 at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, NJ, a short ferry ride from Manhattan. On June 19, 1846, the Knickerbockers lost 23-1 to a team known as the New York Club in what is considered the first real baseball game. (Not as bad as it sounds; most of the players on the New York Club were actually members of the Knickerbocker Club.)

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