New York Knickerbockers
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The New York Knickerbockers were one of the first organized baseball teams which played under a set of rules similar to the game today. The team was founded by Alexander Cartwright, considered one of the original developers of modern baseball.
Origins and rules
While a member of Knickerbocker Engine Company No. 12 of the New York City Fire Department, Alexander Joy Cartwright became involved in playing town ball (a similar game to baseball, and an older one) on a vacant lot in Manhattan. In 1845, the lot became unavailable for use, and the group was forced to look for another location. They found a playing field, the Elysian Fields, a large tree-filled parkland across the Hudson River in Hoboken, New Jersey run by Colonel John Stevens, which charged $75 a year to rent. In order to pay the rental fees, Cartwright organized a ball club so that he could collect the needed money. The club was named the "Knickerbockers", in honor of the fire company where Cartwright was a member. The Knickerbockers club was organized on September 23, 1845. The first officers were Duncan F. Curry, president, William R. Wheaton, vice-president, and William H. Tucker, secretary-treasurer.
Creating a club for the ball players called for a formal set of rules for each member to adhere to, foremost among them to "have the reputation of a gentleman". Cartwright formalized the Knickerbocker Rules, a set of twenty rules for the team:
- Members must strictly observe the time agreed upon for exercise, and be punctual in their attendance.
- When assembled for exercise, the President, or in his absence, the Vice-President, 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.
- The presiding officer shall designate two members as Captains, who shall retire and make the match to be played, observing at the same time that the players opposite to each other should be as nearly equal as possible, the choice of sides to be then tossed for, and the first in hand to be decided in like manner.
- The bases shall be from "home" to second base, forty-two paces; from first to third base, forty-two paces, equidistant.
- No stump match shall be played on a regular day of exercise.
- 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 a match.
- If members appear after the game is commenced, they may be chosen in if mutually agreed upon.
- The game to consist of twenty-one counts, or aces; but at the conclusion an equal number of hands must be played.
- The ball must be pitched, not thrown, for the bat.
- A ball knocked out of the field, or outside the range of first or third base, is foul.
- Three balls being struck at and missed and the last one caught, is a hand out; if not caught is considered fair, and the striker bound to run.
- If a ball be struck, or tipped, and caught, either flying or on the first bound, it is a hand out.
- A player running the bases 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.
- A player running who shall prevent an adversary from catching or getting the ball before making his base, is a hand out.
- Three hands out, all out.
- Players must take their strike in regular turn.
- All disputes and differences relative to the game, to be decided by the Umpire, from which there is no appeal.
- No ace or base can be made on a foul strike.
- A runner cannot be put out in making one base, when a balk is made by the pitcher.
- But one base allowed when a ball bounds out of the field when struck.
It is likely that Cartwright picked some of his twenty rules based upon his previous experience in town ball play in Manhattan. The original rules of play at the vacant lot in Manhattan were not documented so it cannot be said which rules were Cartwright's own invention. Most likely, Cartwright's rules are based upon the Manhattan rules that he converted at his own discretion. The twenty rules differed in some respects from other early versions of baseball and from rounders, the English game commonly considered the immediate ancestor of baseball. "Two of these rules — the one that abolished soaking [putting a runner out by hitting him with a thrown ball] and the one that designated a foul as a do-over — were revolutionary, while the others gave the game a new degree of uniformity."
First "officially recorded" game and subsequent history
The formation of the Knickerbockers club across the Hudson River created a division in the group of Manhattan players. Several of the players refused to cross the river on a ferry to play ball because they did not like the distance away from home. Those players stayed behind and formed their own club, the "New York Nine".
The first "officially recorded" baseball game between two different teams was played on June 19, 1846 at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken. The two teams, the "Knickerbockers" and the "New York Nine" (also known as the New York Baseball Club), played with Cartwright's twenty rules. Cartwright's team, the Knickerbockers, lost 23 to 1 to the New York Nine club in four innings. Some say that Cartwright's team lost because his best players did not want to make the trip across the river. Cartwright was the umpire during this game and fined one player six cents for cursing. The lineups for the teams:
However, there were several other recorded games prior to this. On October 6, 1845 the Knickerbocker Club played a 3 inning game between its own members, and on October 22, 1845 the "New York Club" beat the "Brooklyn Club" 24 to 4, with the box score included in the next day's morning newspaper.
Over the next few years, the rules of baseball spread throughout the country. Baseball was becoming a popular sport with Americans and drew spectators by the thousands. Cartwright's rules would soon become part of the rules of the National Association of Base Ball Players in 1857. These rules slowly evolved into today's rules of baseball.
One century later, the Knickerbockers name itself was adopted by an NBA team in New York, although it is more commonly known by its shortened form, the Knicks.