Madison Square Park: where baseball was born

Cooperstown, New York has traditionally been credited as the birthplace of baseball.

Hoboken also vies for the honor; the first professional game was played there.

But some historians say the southwest corner of Madison Square Park (right, in 1860) is where America’s pastime got its mid-19th century start.

“Our modern game of baseball was born in New York City in 1845,” writes Lynn Curlee, author of Ballpark: The Story of America’s Baseball Fields.

“A 25-year-old clerk named Alexander J. Cartwright organized a group of his friends as the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club. Taking elements from older games, the young men developed a set of written rules, many of which still stand today.”

Still called the Knickerbocker rules, they establish the nine-inning game and mandate the ball should be pitched, not thrown, among other things.

Cartwright and his Knickerbockers practiced the game according to these new rules in and around the park, specifically Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street and then the Murray Hill Grounds at 34th Street and Park Avenue, making it the real birthplace of baseball in some eyes.

[Photo: The Knickerbockers and Excelsior clubs in 1858, from the NYPL Digital Collection]

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9 Responses to “Madison Square Park: where baseball was born”

  1. Marc Says:

    “Although they had practiced in Manhattan , in places like Madison Square Park, this first real game was played on a grassy lot, poetically called the Elysian Fields, in a park overlooking the Hudson River in Hoboken New Jersey” ~ Lynn Curlee, author of Ballpark: The Story of America’s Baseball Fields. http://books.google.com/books?id=G608HiVBTrkC&pg=PT9&lpg=PT9&dq=alexander+cartwright+baseball+madison+square+park&source=bl&ots=IY4MG06w-y&sig=CIkvS-8h57Ud07fFrAjycMoS-SU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Tc0MUOO1EoL20gHxoLSYBA&ved=0CEsQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=alexander%20cartwright%20baseball%20madison%20square%20park&f=false

  2. Robert Goldberg Says:

    does not matter where but that it did start; and it evolved into the wonderful, magical game it is today; the best of any of the games.

  3. Joe R Says:

    John Thorn, in his book “Baseball in the Garden of Eden” went into great depth about both Madison Square Park and Elysian Fields in Hoboken. He made it clear that the teams that played in Hoboken had already been playing for a few years in MSP. The teams moved across the river to play because the area around MSP was getting rapidly developed and crowded. The main distinction of the first game in Hoboken was that it was played with written rules.

  4. Lady G. Says:

    I didn’t know Abraham Lincoln played Baseball? ;D Great photo and piece of history I never new. That’s pretty cool.

  5. Rich T Says:

    Pitched not thrown”? What’s the diff?

  6. wildnewyork Says:

    Good question. I always thought pitching was more deliberate and involved more skill than throwing. But my Little League days are long over.

    • Joe R Says:

      In the early days – again according to “Baseball in the Garden of Eden” – the ball was tossed lightly to the batter. The intention was to get him to hit! The strike zone and the count of balls to strikes hadn’t been codified yet.

  7. Madison Square Park Reflections « While at the Zoo Says:

    [...] is also a suggestion that the southwest corner of Madison Square Park is where America’s pastime, baseball, got its mid-19th century start.game.. Whatever the history – enjoy today’s [...]

  8. Reflections on a Winter Day – Madison Square Park | While at the Zoo Says:

    […] is also a suggestion that the southwest corner of Madison Square Park is where America’s pastime, baseball, got its mid-19th century start.game.. Whatever the history – enjoy today’s […]

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