"We have little doubt but that this gentlemanly pastime will capture the interest and imagination of sportsman and spectator alike throughout this country," reads a prophetic statement from Cartwright's 1845 pamphlet entitled "Rules and Regulations of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club," which many historians believe is the first written and codified set of rules for the game.
Where did these rules come from?
The genesis of baseball was not at all spontaneous. In fact, the game that ultimately developed into modern baseball was a modified amalgam of rounders and other children's games that were imported to the colonies prior to the American Revolution.
"For many years, the games of rounders and old Cat have been the sports of young boys," said Cartwright. "Recently, they have, in one form or another, been much enjoyed by gentlemen seeking wholesome American exercise."
In an attempt to make these games more palatable to adults, he rolled them into one game which he called "base ball," a "sport worthy of attention by adults," said Cartwright.
In Cartwright's rules of play, there were some differences from today's modern game. A ball fielded on one bounce was an out; pitching was underhanded; and the game was won by the first team to score 21 "aces" (runs), in however many innings it took.
But even with the differences, Cartwright's rules are generally considered the foundation for the game that is played today.
Who were the Knickerbockers?
Cartwright IV, the great-great-grandson of Alexander Cartwright, was a baseball historian who was born in 1820 and grew up playing early forms of stick and ball games with young friends on fields adjacent to the South Street docks in lower Manhattan.
Then on Sept. 23, 1845, Cartwright formed the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York, which was made up of middle-class clerks, storekeepers, brokers and assorted gentlemen of New York City. According to many historians, it was baseball's first formal organization.
In addition to enjoying sports, Cartwright was close friends with many local firefighters and named the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club after the Knickerbocker Engine Co., a local firefighting unit.
First game of baseball
On June 19, 1846, the first officially recorded, organized baseball match between rival teams played under Cartwright's rules. The New York Nine defeated the Knickerbockers 23 to 1. Cartwright umpired.
The game was played at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, near the site of today's Elysian Park at the intersection of Hudson and 10th streets. The story is that Cartwright rented the property in Hoboken to play baseball for $75 a year.
The final score of that first game was lopsided, with the Knickerbocker team losing 23 to 1 in a four-inning game that was witnessed by what was reported to be a very small crowd, perhaps 50 people at most.
Still rivalry over the first game
While there have been other claims that the sport was first played in Cooperstown, N.Y. (the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame) or Pittsfield, Mass., it is most widely believed that Hoboken was the site of the first organized game, thus earning the city the moniker, "the birthplace of baseball."