- There are many ways to gauge the changes in baseball throughout its over 130 years professional existence.
- Obviously, from the earliest days to today’s modern game there have been many baseball rule changes but baseball changes extend way beyond just matters related to sport – Baseball has grown up and transformed as much as the United States has during the league’s existence.
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How baseball has changed begins in many ways with how it began. As an amateur sport it was a loose organization of rules and it became more and more sophisticated as time passed. After the league began in 1876, the rules had already been being adapted for the previous 20 years. During the first 15 years of existence, the league brought the base-on-balls rule from 9 total pitches to 4 non-strike pitches, the convention used today, along with rules about ball construction, statistics, the size of the batter box and materials used for bases. These were the early years of rule and game development.
In the next phase of existence, as baseball become populated with stars and it grew in popularity the need to track and distinguish between players become more important and baseball rules changes came with it. Most significantly, in 1917, earned run statistics were defined and began being recorded. This was the first of many changes in baseball that focused on the pitching strategy. In successive years, rules were changed to ban the spitball (1920), changed again to ban any moistened pitch (1968); and then in rapid succession the strike zone was shrunk, the pitcher’s mound was lowered, and the save rule was changed two more times.
The most major way that baseball has changed over the years is, of course, the erasing of the color line that split baseball into the Major League and the Negro League. When Jackie Robinson first set foot on a Major League Field in 1947 it not only marked a coming of age for the sport but for the country as well. The changes that came from fans celebrating players of all race undoubtedly sped the segregation changes that finally came about 20 years later in the country at large.
One of the major ways how baseball has changed over the years is that as money escalated in other industries so too it arrived to baseball with advent of televised games. Immediately, night games became increasingly more prevalent to catch viewers at their home after work. Free agency was fought for and introduced in the 1970s which drove up player contracts and ended an era when teams had a player’s rights for their career unless they decided otherwise. The money throughout the system has only increased and with it the construction of new stadiums has replaced all but two original ballparks and the number of teams has roughly doubled form 16 to 30.
The core of the game has thankfully remained untouched. Each player argues that the era that preceded it was more difficult and more authentic and all of them may be right. But even as it has morphed and changed it has remained the American Pastime.