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Just as the English had cricket and the Germans their turnvereins (gymnastic clubs), a sporting newspaper declared as early as 1857 that Americans should have a “game that could be termed a ‘Native American Sport.’ ” A powerful confirmation of baseball as the sport to fill that need came in 1907 when a special commission appointed by A. Spalding, a sporting goods magnate who had formerly been a star pitcher and an executive with a baseball team, reported that baseball owed absolutely nothing to England and the children’s game of rounders.
Teams alternate positions as batters (offense) and fielders (defense), exchanging places when three members of the batting team are “put out.” As batters, players try to hit the ball out of the reach of the fielding team and make a complete circuit around the bases for a “run.” The team that scores the most runs in nine innings (times at bat) wins the game.Novelists and filmmakers frequently have turned to baseball motifs.After the mid-20th century, at the very time baseball at the grassroots level had begun a perceptible descent, baseball fiction proliferated.In the winter, baseball fans participated in “hot stove leagues,” reminiscing about past games and greats and speculating about what the next season had to offer.The World Series, inaugurated in 1903 and pitting the champions of the American and National Leagues in a postseason play-off, quickly took its place alongside the Fourth of July and Christmas as one of the most popular annual rites.