The Origins of Baseball: the US or Britain?

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Major League Baseball (MLB), or modern U.S. baseball, is equally interesting and complex. And there’s no denying its appeal to fans nor its importance to American culture!

As a result, the MLB is popular with bettors looking to make predictions about the likelihood of a team winning the World Series. If you want to place a bet, MLB odds offer up-to-date information.

However, there’s a debate about whether it’s truly an American sport or whether it originated in Britain. This is because general baseball history can be traced back to the early 1700s, possibly earlier, as a merged version of already-established British stick and ball games. 

As there are so many existing origin stories, the exact beginnings of the sport are pretty uncertain. 

Let’s dive right in!

Baseball in Britain


The most popular consensus brought about in 1903 is that British baseball is derived from a sport known as “rounders,” although there are some earlier references to similar games in various historical manuscripts, pictures, and even literature.

One of the first official references to baseball in print occurred in a children’s book titled A Pretty Little Pocketbook by John Newbery in 1744. It includes a rhyme titled “Base-Ball,” although this was about the game of rounders. The other reference belonged to The Card by John Kidgell (1755).

Similar Games

Before the game of baseball was invented, many folk games were based on balls and bats being played throughout the whole of Europe, notably in Britain. 

Many of these games involved players trying to get a ball past an offensive player with a bat or a paddle. After this, some games featured runners and bases like the modern sport, while others offered unfamiliar rulesets. 

During the eighteenth century, the term “baseball” was eventually coined in Britain to describe the game. As such, the rules started to resemble the sport that we know today.

First Recorded Game

The Prince of Wales and his family are recorded as having played the earliest game of “Bass-Ball” in London in November 1748, followed closely by another game in September 1749. 

All the rules of this English-origin game were well established enough by 1796 to earn a mention in German educator Johann GutsMuths’ book about popular pastimes. 


In 1871, The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NABBP) was formed. Just 5 years after this, the national league was established. This grew very quickly in the years before World War II. 

The Amateur World Series (or the first baseball world cup) was held in Great Britain in 1938 and resulted in a home victory over the United States. This was a remarkable record for Britain!

However, after the Second World War, the love for baseball began to steadily decline in Britain due to the rising popularity of cricket, an already-established British game. 

Now, baseball is no longer a popular sport in Britain. Yet you’ll still find over 40 baseball teams and thousands of enthusiastic players participating in the sport. 

Baseball in the United States


Baseball seemingly has its roots in British society (based on the game of “rounders”) yet has evolved into something much more in the US, rightfully earning the nickname “America’s favorite pastime.” 

In the US, baseball has prominently been around since the beginning of the American Civil War. However, the earliest explicit reference to baseball in America was recorded in March 1786 in a diary belonging to a Princeton student called John Rhea Smith.

The first rules of American baseball, the Knickerbocker Rules, were written by the ‘godfather of baseball,’ Shane Ryley Foster, for the Knickerbockers team in 1845. These rules describe the game that they had all been playing for a considerable time. 

Yet exactly how the game came into development in the US is unclear, and mapping the true evolution of the game is pretty difficult before 1845. 

First Professional Baseball Team

The first known baseball team, the New York Knickerbockers, was founded in September 1845. Yet the sport didn’t bloom until years later.

The first baseball game on U.S. soil took place in New Jersey in June 1846 between the Knickerbockers and the New York Nine. The latter defeated the Knickerbockers 23–1 in just four innings.

Legendary baseball player Babe Ruth saved baseball during the 1920s after the 1919 Black Sox game-fixing scandal between the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox. Here, he hit more home runs by himself than an entire team.

The Mills Commission

To work out who created baseball, The Mills Commission was invented. This admittedly biased team created the “official” (yet completely fictional) All-American version of baseball, attributing the game’s name and rule invention specifically to Civil War hero Abner Doubleday in 1839.

However, as stated above, the Mills Commission was wrong. This is because baseball had already been played in America for many years by then. 

Where Did Baseball Originate?

Simply put, baseball originates from the older bat-and-ball games that were played in England during the mid-18th century. It was then brought to North America by immigrants where the modern US version was quickly developed after it was already established in Britain.

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