Baseball is one of the biggest crowd pullers in US sports. We explain the most important facts about this exciting tactical game from America.
Baseball originated from various bat-and-ball games brought to North America by English immigrants in the mid-18th century. The first official baseball club in the USA, the New York Knickerbockers, was founded in 1845. In the same year, Alexander Cartwright's rulebook, known as the Knickerbocker Rules, was published, establishing the rules of the modern baseball game.
In 1858, several baseball clubs founded the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP) – the first national umbrella organization with uniform rules. At that time, the strongest teams were located mainly around New York City. However, baseball did not become one of the most popular US sports until after the end of the American Civil War.
The founding of the world's first professional baseball league under the name National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NAPBBP) followed in 1871. Five years later, it was replaced by the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs (later National League). Finally, the American League was founded in 1901.
In 1903, the National League and American League champions competed for the World Series title for the first time. The two major leagues are still organized by the association Major League Baseball (MLB), which is one of the so-called "Big 4" of American professional sports.
Baseball is a complex sport with plenty of rules and particularities. To be able to follow and enjoy a match well, you should familiarize yourself with the most important facts, rules, and routines beforehand.
The baseball pitch includes two areas, the fair territory, and the foul territory. However, the actual game takes place in the Fair Territory. It is a quarter-circle-shaped area with foul lines that are 90 m to 120 m long. The foul territory is the area outside the foul lines.
The area of the fair territory is divided into infield and outfield, with most of the play taking place in the infield. This is the square at the top of the quarter-circle. The 90-foot (27.43 m) edges of the infield are marked by the home plate and the three bases.
Due to its characteristic layout, the baseball field is also known as the "diamond" in American jargon.
A baseball game requires special equipment, which consists of the following items and clothing:
The baseball has a diameter of 7.4 cm and a circumference of 22.8 cm to 23.5 cm. It must weigh at least 141.7 g and no more than 148.8 g. Traditionally, its outer skin consists of two pieces of white leather sewn together with red thread. The inside has a cork core, which is wrapped thickly with threads.
If a professional baseball player hits a home run into the crowd during an MLB game, the crowd gets to rejoice twice because balls hit into the stands can be kept by spectators as souvenirs.
The most important piece of equipment for the offense team is the baseball bat. It is made of wood, aluminum alloys, or, in rare cases, carbon. In the professional league MLB, however, only wooden baseball bats are allowed.
The players of the defense are equipped with leather gloves that allow catching the ball easily and painlessly. The size and texture of the gloves vary depending on the player's position: for example, players in the infield, with the exception of the first baseman, wear smaller gloves than those in the outfield. The catcher, on the other hand, uses a heavily padded, fingerless glove called a mitt, which helps him catch the pitcher's hard-thrown shots.
Batters or runners protect themselves with helmets made of plastic or fiberglass. A special feature of batting helmets in baseball is that they also cover the ear on the side facing the pitcher.
Most field players wear a baseball uniform consisting of a jersey, pants, shoes, socks, and a cap. Traditionally, baseball teams wore white jerseys with logos and ornaments in the respective team colors for home games and gray jerseys for away games. However, nowadays, other colors are also common among jerseys for away games.
The catcher and the plate umpire sit directly behind the hitting player (batter) in the crouch and therefore wear additional protective equipment. This includes a face mask, helmet, chest protector, genital protector, as well as knee and shin guards. The catcher also has a heavily padded catcher's mitt.
A match in baseball has no time limit: it is played until all segments of the game are completed or until the winner is determined.
The game segments in baseball are called innings, and each inning is made up of two half innings. In the first half inning, the away team is always the batting team and has the opportunity to score. In the second half inning, the home team gets to bat.
Each team is allowed to bat in its offensive half inning until three players are eliminated (out). In the MLB professional league, a match comprises a total of nine innings.
Depending on whether a team has the right to bat or not, the offense team or the defense team comes into play.
The defense team is made up of nine players, each of whom has their own position on the field and some of whom have different duties. The defensive positions in baseball are called pitcher, catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, left field, center field, and right field.
While there are always nine players on the field at the same time for the defense team, several batters come into the game one after the other for the offense team. Their exact number depends on the duration of the inning and the team's success in the respective inning. However, a maximum of nine different batters can be used per inning.
A baseball game is supervised by several referees, called umpires. The term "blue" also entered into common usage because umpires in baseball traditionally wore blue shirts.
Every team of umpires has one main referee, the plate umpire. He always stands behind the home plate and has the final say in decisions. In the lower leagues, he is usually assisted by a second umpire. MLB games usually feature a four-man team – the plate umpire plus an umpire at each base. In play-off games, two additional umpires are placed on the foul lines.
The offensive team has the right to bat and is able to score points. The batters of the offense face the pitcher of the defense team individually and in a fixed order which is called a batting order or lineup. In doing so, the rotation principle is followed: only after all nine batters have had their turn hitting, the first player is on again. The teams must determine their batting order before the game and communicate it to the umpire.
Baseball is an extremely tactical game that allows for a variety of different moves. In order to follow the course of a match, you should know these basic game routines:
The duel between batter and pitcher is at the heart of every baseball match. The pitcher's task is to throw the baseball from a distance of about 18 m in such a way that the batter cannot hit it or can only hit it poorly (strike). The area into which the pitcher is allowed to throw is called the strike zone. It covers the 43 cm of the home plate and the area between the chest and knee height of the batter. If the pitcher makes three throws into the strike zone that the batter is unable to hit, the batter is eliminated (strikeout).
A foul by the batter is also considered a strike. This is the case, for example, if the batter hits the ball badly and it then does not land on the playing field (e.g., outside the sidelines or behind home plate). The ball counts as a foul as soon as it has touched the ground outside the field. It is also important to know that fouls can never result in a strikeout. If the batter hits a foul after two strikes, the game situation remains unchanged, and the pitcher must repeat his throw.
If the pitcher's throw misses the strike zone and the baseball is not hit by the batter, this is known as a ball. If the pitcher throws four balls against a batter, the batter is allowed to go to first base. If the first or more subsequent bases are already occupied by other players (base loaded), they may also advance one base (walk).
The most exciting game situations occur once the batter hits the baseball into the playing field. The batter now becomes a runner and runs towards first base. If he reaches it, this is called a single. If he even reaches second or third base at once, he achieves a double or a triple. The goal of a runner is to make a run, that is, to pass all three bases and return to home plate.
As soon as a field player of the defense catches a batted ball in the air, the runner is out (fly out). The same applies if a defensive player picks up the ball from the ground, throws it to the player at first base, and the latter arrives there before the runner (ground out). Another way to eliminate a runner is the tag out: if a runner who is not on a base is touched by a defense player with the ball, he is also out.
If a runner reaches a base before the defense team can eliminate him, he is safe. He can continue his run from the base as soon as the next batter scores a hit. A runner can also try to pass several bases at once. However, players running in front of him may not be overtaken, and only one runner is allowed to be on a base at a time.
The home run is one of the best-known terms in baseball. This fortunate event for the offensive team occurs when a ball is hit so well by the batter that it flies over the outfield fence or is extremely difficult to bring under control. In this case, the defensive team cannot reach the ball, or it is extremely hard to retrieve it. All runners in play can now finish their runs without being disturbed. In the best case – when all the bases are loaded – a home run means four points at once for the offensive team.
A team receives one point for each successfully completed run. In the end, the team that has scored the most points after nine innings wins. If there is a tie after the nine innings, additional innings are played until a winner is determined. There is no such thing as a tie in baseball.
In the USA, children already play baseball in schools, and it is also a popular college sport. The most talented baseball players join the North American professional baseball league MLB.
Major League Baseball, or MLB for short, is the most widely attended sports league in the world. Around 70 million spectators watch the matches of the MLB teams every season. This high number of visitors is mainly due to the fact that each of the teams plays no less than 162 matches in the regular season alone. This means that a total of more than 4,800 MLB games are scheduled each year.
Major League Baseball is divided into the National League (NL) with 15 US teams and the American League (AL) with 14 US teams and one Canadian team. Furthermore, the NL and AL each are divided into three divisions: East, Central, and West. In professional baseball, the teams remain permanently in their leagues. However, teams may move to another city, and the composition of each division may change.
The most successful teams in the North American professional baseball league to date are:
|New York Yankees||Record for most World Series appearances (40), 27 World Series wins (including five consecutive World Series wins 1949-1953 and four consecutive World Series wins 1936-1939), Record for most American League pennants (40), 18 times East Division winner|
|St. Louis Cardinals||19 World Series appearances, 11 World Series wins, 19 National League pennants, 13 times Central Division winner|
|San Francisco Giants||20 World Series appearances, 8 World Series wins, 23 National League pennants, 8 times West Division winner|
|Oakland Athletics||14 World Series appearances, 9 World Series wins, 15 American League pennants, 16 times West Division winner|
|Boston Red Sox||13 World Series appearances, 9 World Series wins, 14 American League pennants, 10 times Eastern Division winner|
The MLB baseball season includes the preseason, the regular season, and the postseason or playoffs.
Preseason or Spring Training is the name given to the preparatory games in professional baseball. They always take place from early February to late March or early April. During this time, clubs have the opportunity to mold a team and assess the performance of their players. Junior players can also be assigned and tested during this time. At the end of the preseason, each baseball club determines a 25-man squad with which it will compete in the regular season.
The regular season, the actual baseball season, begins at the end of March or the beginning of April and runs until the end of September or the beginning of October. Since the baseball season covers exactly the months in which the other major sports, American football, basketball, and ice hockey have their summer break, baseball games are usually well attended.
MLB is divided into three divisions of the American League and three divisions of the National League, each consisting of five teams. During the regular season, each baseball team plays 76 games within its own division, 66 interdivisional games, and 20 interleague games. The teams' workload is therefore enormous, with each MLB team having a full 162 games scheduled for the season.
In July, right in the middle of the season, a special highlight of baseball takes place: the All-Star Game or Midsummer Classic. This is when two special selection teams from the American League and the National League compete against each other. The composition of the teams is determined by the fans, team managers, as well as the MLB players themselves.
The winning teams of the six divisions and the next three best teams in each league are eligible for the playoffs in the postseason after the regular season. First, the best teams from the National League and the American League compete against each other in a KO system.
In the final, the World Series, the winner of the National League and the winner of the American League will meet. The World Series is a best-of-seven series, which means a maximum of seven games can be played. However, as soon as a team wins four games, it is immediately crowned World Series winner, and no further games are scheduled.
Like each of the four major US sports, baseball has produced many superstars. The most successful players are honored at the Baseball Hall of Fame in the small town of Cooperstown in New York State.
If you want to be able to have a discussion about baseball with your American friends, make sure you know the following five legends of the sport.
|George „Babe” Ruth (MLB player 1914 - 1935; Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Boston Braves)||one of the most successful home run hitters of all time, held the home run record with 714 in his career from 1935 to 1974, 2x All-Star, 7x World Series winner; In George Ruth's honor, back number 3 is no longer assigned by the New York Yankees.|
|Hank Aaron (MLB player 1954 - 1976; Milwaukee / Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers)||one of the most successful home run hitters, held the home runs record with 755 in his career from 1974 to 2007, 21x All-Star, 1x World Series winner; In Hank Aaron's honor, back number 44 is no longer assigned by the Atlanta Braves and Milwaukee Brewers.|
|Jackie Robinson (MLB player 1945 - 1956; Brooklyn Dodgers)||first African-American player on a major league team and symbolic figure for racial integration, 6x All Star; Since 1997, his back number 42 has not been assigned to any player in the entire MLB.|
|Lou Gehrig (MLB player 1923-1939; New York Yankees)||7x All Star, 6x World Series winner, played 2,130 consecutive games; In Lou Gehrig's honor, the back number 4 is no longer assigned by the New York Yankees.|
|Mickey Mantle (MLB player 1951-1968; New York Yankees)||20x All-Star, 7x World Series winner; In Mickey Mantle's honor, back number 7 is no longer assigned by the New York Yankees.|
Are you a big baseball fan and don't want to miss any of your favorite teams? Even outside the USA, you can bring the highlights of the American professional league MLB live to your home via various streaming providers.
The British streaming provider DAZN has established itself as one of the most important platforms for sports broadcasts. Its wide range of sports includes soccer, tennis, basketball, boxing, handball, American Football, wrestling, cycling, motorsports – and of course, baseball.
DAZN shows a large number of MLB season games live, as well as the World Series in its entirety and in full length. Access to the world at DAZN is available as an annual subscription for $ 149.99 ($ 12.50 per month) or as a monthly subscription with a flexible cancellation option for $ 19.99.
In the United States, all MLB games can be viewed via the streaming service of the channel MLB.TV. You can get a yearly subscription for all games for $ 94.99 or a single-team subscription for $ 74.99. Before you decide whether to subscribe or not, you can first do a seven-day trial for free.
In addition, MLB.TV offers one free game of the day, which you can watch without a subscription.
On American free TV, you can also watch some selected MLB games. These are usually broadcast on FOX, TBS, FS1, or ESPN. However, there are differences in the programs, depending on which region of the USA you are currently located.
Do you want to cheer on your favorite team in style on your next TV night with friends? We recommend the following online stores to stock up on MLB jerseys and accessories:
MLB's 30 teams are located all over the United States and Canada – perfect if you want to cheer on your favorite team at a local game in the USA and combine the sporting highlight with a sightseeing tour or a road trip through America.
Here's how to get to MLB games:
|Arizona Diamondbacks||Chase Field||Find tickets|
|Atlanta Braves||SunTrust Park||Find tickets|
|Baltimore Orioles||Oriole Park||Find tickets|
|Boston Red Sox||Fenway Park||Find tickets|
|Chicago Cubs||Wrigley Field||Find tickets|
|Chicago White Sox||Guaranteed Rate Field||Find tickets|
|Cincinnati Reds||Great American Ball Park||Find tickets|
|Cleveland Guardians||Progressive Field||Find tickets|
|Colorado Rockies||Coors Field||Find tickets|
|Detroit Tigers||Comerica Park||Find tickets|
|Houston Astros||Minute Maid Park||Find tickets|
|Kansas City Royals||Kauffman Stadium||Find tickets|
|Los Angeles Angels||Edison International Field||Find tickets|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||Dodger Stadium||Find tickets|
|Miami Marlins||Marlins Park||Find tickets|
|Milwaukee Brewers||Miller Park||Find tickets|
|Minnesota Twins||Target Field||Find tickets|
|New York Mets||Citi Field||Find tickets|
|New York Yankees||Yankee Stadium||Find tickets|
|Oakland Athletics||Oakland-Alameda||Find tickets|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Citizens Bank Park||Find tickets|
|Pittsburgh Pirates||PNC Park||Find tickets|
|San Diego Padres||Petco Park||Find tickets|
|San Francisco Giants||At&T Park||Find tickets|
|Seattle Mariners||Safeco Field||Find tickets|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Busch Stadium||Find tickets|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Tropicana Field||Find tickets|
|Texas Rangers||Globe Life Park||Find tickets|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Rogers Centre||Find tickets|
|Washington Nationals||Nationals Park||Find tickets|
You want to dive deeper into the world of US sports? No problem, our articles on American Football, basketball, and ice hockey are waiting to be read by you.
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