Unlike professional basketball and American football, interest in baseball has not been sweeping the globe. Declining participation at the amateur level and protracted labor problems at the professional level have thrust "America's Pastime" into an era of uncertainty. Despite this current adversity, baseball will always occupy an important place in American culture. This column starts a three part look at the history of baseball. Most cultures have some sort of stick and ball game, cricket being the most well-known. While the exact origins of baseball are unknown, most historians agree that it is based on the English game of rounders. It began to become quote popular in this country in the early 19th century, and many sources report the growing popularity of a game called "townball", "base", or "baseball". .
Throughout the early part of that century, small towns formed teams, and baseball clubs were formed in larger cities. In 1845, Alexander Cartwright wanted to formalize a list of rules by which all team could play. Much of that original code is still in place today. Although popular legend says that the game was invented by Abner Doubleday, baseball's true father was Cartwright. .
The early 1860s, however were a time of great turmoil in the United States. In those years of the Civil War, the number of baseball clubs dropped dramatically. But interest in baseball was carried to other parts of the country by Union soldiers, and when the war ended there were more people playing baseball than ever before. The league's annual convention in 1868 drew delegates from over 100 clubs. .
As the league grew, so did the expenses of playing. Charging admission to games started to become more common, and teams often had to seek out donations or sponsors to make trips. In order for teams to get the financial support they needed, winning became very important. Although the league was supposed to be comprised of amateurs, many players were secretly paid.