New Jersey Baseball: A Lesson in Our History

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From Alexander Cartwright to Derek Jeter, some of baseball’s most important figures have ties to the Garden State.

Alexander Cartwright is the father of baseball. In 1845, he developed the basic rules of the game as we now know it. On September 23, he organized the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York. The members of the club traveled to Hoboken to practice the game under his new rules at Elysian Fields.

On October 6, 14 members of the Knickerbocker Club took part in the first baseball game. The two sides battled for three innings with Cartwright’s team losing 11-8. Between October 6 and November 18, the club played at least 14 more intrasquad games in Hoboken.

With some practice behind them, the Knickerbockers were ready for their first game against a rival team. On June 19, 1846, at the Elysian Fields, baseball was born.

The New York Nine annihilated the Knickerbockers 23-1 in four innings. However, things were not as bad for the Knickerbockers as they appeared. Most of the New York Nine’s players were originally Knickerbockers who did not like to travel to Hoboken for practice.

On September 13, 1845, Alexander J. Cartwright presented the first 20 rules of baseball. His list includes many rules that are still followed today. The rules created the baseball diamond, placed the batter at home plate, and created the strikeout, force out, and fly out. Three outs made up a half-inning. The ground-rule double and foul territory were also established. A player could no longer get a runner out by throwing the ball and hitting him. Below is a complete list of Cartwright’s rules, a number of which were simply club policies.

1. Members must strictly observe the time agreed upon for exercise and be punctual in their attendance.

2. When assembled for practice, The President, or Vice President in his absence, shall appoint an umpire, who shall keep the game in a book provided for that purpose, and note all violations of the By-Laws and Rules during the time of exercise.

3. The presiding officer shall designate two members as captains, who shall retire and make the match to be played, observing at the same time the players put opposite each other should be as nearly equal as possible; the choice of the two sides to be then tossed for, and the first in hand to be decided in a like manner.

4. The bases shall be from “home” to second base, 42 paces; from first base to third base, 42 paces, equidistant.

5. No stump match shall be played on a regular day of exercise.

6. If there should not be a sufficient number of members of the club present at the time agreed upon to commence exercise, gentlemen not members may be chosen in to make up the match, which shall not be broken up to may afterwards appear; but in all cases, members shall have the preference, when present at the making of the match.

7. If members appear after the game is commenced they may be chosen in if mutually agreed upon.

8. The game to consist of 21 counts, or aces; but at the conclusion of an equal number of hands must be played.

9. The ball must be pitched, and not thrown, for the bat.

10. A ball knocked out of the field, or outside the range of first or third base, is foul.

11. Three balls being struck at and missed and the last one caught is a hand out; if not caught is considered fair, and a striker is bound to run.

12. A ball being struck or tipped and caught either flying or on the first bound is a hand out.

13. A player running the base shall be out, if the ball is in the hands of an adversary on the base, or the runner is touched with it before he makes his base; it being understood, however, that in no instance is a ball to be thrown at him.

14. A player running who shall prevent an adversary from catching or getting the ball before making his base is a hand out.

15. Three hands out, all out.

16. Players must take their strike in a regular turn.

17. All disputes and differences relative to the game, to be determined by the Umpire, from which there is no appeal.

18. No ace or base can be made on a foul strike.

19. A runner cannot be put out in making one base, when a balk is made by the pitcher.

20. But one base allowed when a ball bounds out of the field when struck.