Alexander Joy Cartwright


Alexander Joy Cartwright

On June 19, 1846 the first official game of baseball was played, in Elysian Fields, located in Hoboken, New Jersey. Cartwright’s New York Knickerbockers played New York Nine, and got crushed 23-1. The game was played under a code of rules written by Alexander Cartwright, who also served as the umpire. Alexander got the rules from other variations of the game. Games such as rounders, town ball, barn ball, stick ball and soak ball were played before baseball was created. (Soaking means throwing the ball directly at the runner.) The NY Knickerbockers were the first team to play under these rules.

The rules were adopted on September 23, 1845. The rules were as follows:

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 take in members that 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. [This is a major departure from the rules of "Town Ball"

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.

The main difference between the modern game of baseball and his version was that his games decided when one team got 21 points, rather than at end of nine innings. Also, the fly ball could be caught on on bounce, and would still be counted as an out. Another rule change was that pitcher must throw underhand, and his elbow and wrist must be kept straight.

In 1849 Cartwright left Manhatten, and with him he took a baseball, a bat, and copy of the Knickerbocker rulebook. He later wrote a letter to his old teammates saying that he had in his possesion the original ball from the first game ever played!

He wrote this letter 16 years after he left the Knickerbockers:

He wrote this letter 16 years after he left the Knickerbockers:

Dear old Knickerbockers,

I hope the club is still kept up, and that I shall some day meet again with them on the pleasant fields of Hoboken, I have in my possession the original ball with which we used to play on Murray Hill. Many is the pleasant chase I have had after it in Mountain and Prairie, and with many an equally pleasant one on the sunny plains of "Hawaii Nei…." Sometimes I have thought of sending it home to be played for by the Clubs, but I cannot bear to part with it, so linked in is it with cherished home memories.