Inventing baseball
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         Hoboken, New Jersey in the summer is hot and steamy. The natives call it “sticky.”
          In 1845 the young men of the town embraced the change from the windy, cold weather of the previous handful of months by heading for the spacious municipal park, the Elysian Field, where they choose sides and engage in an energetic game of “Townball.”
          In 1845 “Townball” was a popular summer sport. Young men chose sides, usually more than nine on a team and played in an area without foul lines. They placed four bases in a square. They used a flat bat and a rudimentary ball. If a batter hit the ball, usually pitched by a member of his own team, the opposing team could declare him out by hitting him with the ball as he ran towards the first base.
          The rules were inexact and poorly thought out.
          Alexander Joy Cartwright, twenty five years old, was a member of the New York Knickerbockers Baseball Club and a well-respected athlete of the times.
          Problem was that Alexander didn’t like the rules of “Townball.” He thought he could come up with a better strategy for the game.
          So, one day, Cartwright told his teammates that he wouldn’t be playing with them on the weekend. He announced, “I’m going to create a better game.”
          For five straight days and nights Alexander Cartwright stayed at his small home and made notes, drew diagrams and created the modern game of baseball that is essentially played today.
          Cartwright’s new game was ready. He contacted his Knickerbocker teammates and had them meet him at the Elysian Field Saturday at 10 am.
          The eighteen members of the team sat on three benches and listened to the twenty five year old Cartwright present the new game of baseball to them.
          “First thing we’re all going to wear the same clothing, you know, like a uniform. We’ll have caps with our club name on them. We’ll have wool shirts and baggy pants and we’ll wear colored silk stockings and we’ll all wear black shoes with metal cleats glued on the bottom so we don’t slip and fall as we do all the time now.”
          Jimmy Flaherty, an eighteen year old mid-outfielder, raised his hand and barked, “C’mon, with ya, Alex, we can’t dress like no ‘Manhattan Sissy Boys.’ The lads on the other teams will laugh us off the pitch.”
          Cartwright stood his ground, “Now, now, Jimmy boy, hold on and wait until you hear the rest, will ya.”
          “Now, I’ve figured out that the run from the home plate to the first base should be ninety feet exactly. Same with the distance from first to second, second to third and third to the home base. All ninety feet from the other. The pitcher shall be of the opposing team and he will begin his pitch from sixty feet, six inches away from the home plate.”
          Benny Benush, the team’s left handed catcher asked, “Hey, Alex, isn’t ninety feet a long way to run after a guy hits the ball. We’ll all be dog-tired if we was to get to first base, especially if’n we have to lug those metal things on the bottom of our shoes and us’n wearing wool shirts and pants, and ain’t people gonna laugh at us for wearing silk stockings?”
          Cartwright listened and then continued. “One of the new rules will be that we will use a new kind of ball – hard and compact, perfectly round. And the bat will no longer be flat. The bats will be round too.”
          Mike O’Neill, known around town as ‘Grinder Mike,’ was the town toughie. Six feet, 4 inches, 265 pounds of easy to anger Irish.
          “Now, Alexander, I’ve listened long enough. First, us guys will have to run from here to hell to get to the base. Then we’ll be wearing sissy clothes, made from wool, with silk stockings no less. Then metal on our shoes to slow us down. And who, praise the Lord, who ever heard of trying to hit a thrown round ball with a round wooden bat. This is all crazy stuff, Alex. Next thing you’ll be telling us that we can’t throw the ball at the runner to get him out.”
          Cartwright, hands on hips, looked straight at big Mike O’Neill and answered, “That’s right Mike. No more throwing at the runner to get him out. You throw the ball to the first baseman who touches the first base with his foot.”
          Laughter rippled through the seventeen team members. Paddy O’Shea joked, “Now, we’ll be a bunch of ‘sissy dancers,’ Alex, toe dancing to get the outs.”
          “Now, you’ve gone too far, Alex,” said Heiny Fortush, the home grown Hoboken infield player. Heiny worked in Manhattan as a tailor. “Alex, you’ve added a lot more running to the game and in those wool shirts and pants, not to mention silk stockings, we’re going to be perspiring all over the place. We’ll hardly smell or look like gentlemen ball players.”
          “Now, now boys,” pleaded Alex, “There’s more to come.”
          “I’ve figured out that we can’t be trusted to make our own calls during the game, so I’m putting guys called umpires on the field with us. We’ll have two or three in every game and they’ll determine if the balls thrown are rightly called balls or strikes and also if a runner is safe or out when running the bases.”
          “What the hell, Alex, first you dress us like a bunch of ‘Maries,’ then you bring in some outsiders to be judges of us. This ain’t gonna be the “Townball” we all know.”
          “That’s right, Louie, we’re going to change the name too. From now on we’re calling our game, “Baseball.
          “Next thing, Alex, you’ll tell us that we can’t chew tobacco, spit all over the place and scratch ourselves you know where.”
          “I’m not changing the game that much, Tony. You chew, spit and scratch all you want.
          Cartwright continued itemizing the rule changes such as three strikes to a batter is an out and three outs constitute an inning.
          It took Cartwright two more hours to explain all the details of the new game to the Knickerbockers. Then he sent a copy of the new rules to the other “Townball” teams in New York and New Jersey. All accepted Alexander Cartwright’s changes. The game of baseball was born.
          Cartwright invited the rival Manhattan baseball club to the Elysian Field to play his Knickerbockers. “The New York Nine” defeated Cartwright’s team 23-1 in the first game played under the new Cartwright rules.
          Cartwright stayed in the East for a few years, then made his way to Honolulu, where he became a notable citizen, creating a library and a fire department.
          Baseball’s founder died in Honolulu on July 12, 1892. He’s buried there.
          There is a street named after him in Honolulu and an Alexander Joy Cartwright baseball field.

 
          Every year, in Honolulu, on the anniversary of Cartwright’s birth, April 17, 1820, a small group of baseball enthusiasts, led by baseball fan supreme, Bob Corboy, gather at Oahu Cemetery to celebrate the life of the founder of baseball.
          The devoted group of mature men bring their gloves, baseball caps and baseballs and play catch. It’s their way of saluting the man who invented the game.