Baseball is back!
It may only be temporary. We don’t know. Many fans are holding their breath. Though baseball may not be as popular as it used to be, it has a long and proud tradition. Fans are forever debating who invented the game and when. Most say it was Alexander Cartwright and company in 1846, but there are a string of documented references to “a game of base”, “base ball”, or even “baseball”, and descriptions of various other games which resemble baseball as we now know it going well into the Middle Ages.
The earliest known appearance of the word “baseball” in America came in a Pittsfield, Massachusetts town bylaw from 1791. It restricted the playing of “any game of wicket, cricket, baseball, batball, football, cat, fives, or any other game played with a ball” within 80 yards of the city meeting house.
It must have filled the young baseballers’ hearts with glee to know the city of Pittsfield thought they could sock one at least 240 feet with enough force to shatter a window. The bylaw was, indeed, prompted by the desire to protect the building’s windows. And the glass available in the 18th century was not of the same quality as what we have today, so if a lad were to launch one that far, sure, baseball became a hazard. And as we all know, most rules made to prevent this or that from happening were made because this or that has happened before.
So who knows?
It is likely that these 18th century urban wall-bangers were the reason the baseball field was later relegated to parks and other open areas rather than directly adjacent to City Hall. Notably, when Alexander Cartwright and his Knickerbocker Club played the first game under the rules they wrote in 1846, it was at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, a picturesque, pastoral expanse of land across the Hudson River from Manhattan.
It is also possible the bat-and-ball games these kids played were a catalyst for the growth of Property & Casualty, as well as Liability insurance in America. P & C had only been widely known in the colonies since the mid-1700s. The 1791 bylaw raises the question of whether the City of Pittsfield held solid commercial property insurance. Of course, any responsible policyholder practices preventive measures to supplement their insurance. The bylaw was just that.
Because things happen.
Especially when one kid has a ball and another kid has a stick.
Today, pro baseball teams’ liability insurance is often supplied by a complicated web of specialized companies. Oddly, it is very difficult to find information on how the actual structure of a Major League Baseball stadium is insured, or how much the coverage costs. As of 2020, though, there are three Major League ballparks named after insurance companies, perhaps a nod back to those carefree days when baseball was just a game and all you had to worry about was who hit the fly ball that smashed the window.