is a bat-and-ball
sport played between two teams of nine players each. The goal is to score runs
by hitting a thrown ball
with a bat
and touching a series of four bases
arranged at the corners of a ninety-foot square, or diamond. Players on one team (the batting team
) take turns hitting against the pitcher
of the other team (the fielding team
), which tries to stop them from scoring runs by getting hitters out
in any of several ways. A player on the batting team can stop at any of the bases and later advance via a teammate's hit
or other means. The teams switch between batting and fielding whenever the fielding team records three outs. One turn at bat for each team constitutes an inning
; nine innings make up a professional game. The team with the most runs at the end of the game wins.
Evolving from older bat-and-ball games, an early form of baseball was being played in England by the mid-eighteenth century. This game and the related rounders were brought by British and Irish immigrants to North America, where the modern version of baseball developed. By the late nineteenth century, baseball was widely recognized as the national sport of the United States. Baseball on the professional, amateur, and youth levels is now popular in North America, parts of Central and South America and the Caribbean, and parts of East Asia. The game is sometimes referred to as hardball, in contrast to the derivative game of softball.
In North America, professional Major League Baseball (MLB) teams are divided into the National League (NL) and American League (AL). Each league has three divisions: East, West, and Central. Every year, the champion of Major League Baseball is determined by playoffs that culminate in the World Series. Five teams make the playoffs from each league: the three regular season division winners, plus two wild card teams. Baseball is the leading team sport in both Japan and Cuba, and the top level of play is similarly split between two leagues: Japan's Central League and Pacific League; Cuba's West League and East League. In the National and Central leagues, the pitcher is required to bat, per the traditional rules. In the American, Pacific, and both Cuban leagues, there is a tenth player, a designated hitter, who bats for the pitcher. Each top-level team has a farm system of one or more minor league teams. These teams allow younger players to develop as they gain on-field experience against opponents with similar levels of skill. (more...)
Nippon Professional Baseball or NPB is the highest level of baseball in Japan. In Japan it is often called Puro Yakyū, meaning Professional Baseball. Outside of Japan, it is often just referred to as "Japanese baseball." The roots of the league can be traced back to the formation of the Greater Japan Tokyo Baseball Club in 1934 and the original Japanese Baseball League. NPB was formed when that league reorganized in 1950.
Nippon Professional Baseball consists of two leagues, the Central League and the Pacific League. There are also two secondary-level professional minor leagues, the Eastern League and the Western League, that play shorter schedules. The season starts in late March or early April and ends in October with two or three all star games in July. In recent decades, the two leagues each scheduled 130, 135 or 140 regular season games with the best teams from each league going on to play in the "Nihon Series" or Japan Series.
Players from the Japan who have gone on to success in North America's Major League Baseball include Hideo Nomo, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Ichiro Suzuki, Akinori Otsuka, Tadahito Iguchi, So Taguchi, Kenji Johjima and Hideki Matsui.
James Rodney Richard (born March 7, 1950) is a former right-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played his entire career, from 1971 to 1980, with the Houston Astros. After leaving high school, Richard was selected by the Astros as the second pick in the first round of the 1969 amateur draft. From the time he made his major league debut with the Astros in 1971 until 1975, Richard had a limited role as an Astros pitcher, throwing no more than 72 innings in a season. In 1975, Richard played his first full season in the majors as a starting pitcher. From 1976 to 1980, he was one of the premier pitchers in the majors, twice leading the National League twice in strikeouts, once in earned run average, and three times in hits allowed per nine innings, winning at least 18 games each year. Richard could throw a fastball over 100 mph and has the fastest recorded slider in the books at 98 mph. On July 30, 1980, Richard suffered a stroke and collapsed while playing a game of catch before an Astros game, and was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery to remove a life-threatening blood clot in his neck. His condition brought a sudden end to his major league career at the age of 30. His 313 strikeouts in 1979 remain an Astros franchise record, and he held the team's record for career strikeouts (1,493) until 1987. In 1981, Richard attempted a comeback with the Astros, but this failed because the stroke had slowed down his reaction time and weakened his depth perception. He spent the next few seasons in the minor leagues before being released by the Astros in 1984. After his professional baseball career ended, Richard became involved in unsuccessful business deals and went through two divorces, which led to him being homeless and destitute in 1994. Richard found succor in a local church and later became a Christian minister.
The Silver Slugger Award
is awarded annually to the best offensive
player at each position
in both the American League
(AL) and the National League
(NL), as determined by the coaches and managers of Major League Baseball
(MLB). These voters consider several offensive categories in selecting the winners, including batting average
, slugging percentage
, and on-base percentage
, in addition to "coaches' and managers' general impressions of a player's overall offensive value". Managers and coaches are not permitted to vote for players on their own team. The Silver Slugger was first awarded in 1980 and is given by Hillerich & Bradsby
, the manufacturer of Louisville Slugger
bats. The award is a bat-shaped trophy, 3 feet (91 cm) tall, engraved with the names of each of the winners from the league and plated with sterling silver
. Designated hitters
(DH) only receive a Silver Slugger Award in the American League because the batting order
in the National League includes the pitcher
; therefore, pitchers receive the National League award instead.
Three players are tied for the most Silver Slugger wins among designated hitters. Paul Molitor won the award four times with three different teams: the Milwaukee Brewers in 1987 and 1988; the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993, when the team won the World Series; and the Minnesota Twins in 1996. Edgar Martínez won the award four times with the Seattle Mariners (1995, 1997, 2001, 2003), and David Ortiz won four consecutively from 2004 to 2007. Don Baylor won the Silver Slugger three times in four years (1983, 1985–1986) as a designated hitter with the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, and Frank Thomas won it twice with the Chicago White Sox (1991, 2000). Harold Baines won the award while playing for two separate teams in the same season; he was traded by the White Sox to the Texas Rangers in the middle of the 1989 season. Aubrey Huff is the most recent winner. Martínez set the records for the highest batting average and on-base percentage in a designated hitter's winning season with his .356 and .479 marks, respectively, in 1995. Manny Ramírez' slugging percentage of .647 is best among all winners at the position. Ortiz hit 54 home runs during the 2006 season, when he won his third consecutive award, and his 2005 total of 148 runs batted in is tied with Rafael Palmeiro's 1999 mark for best among designated hitters.