Baseball as the National Game
“As Base Ball is peculiarly our national game, we are extremely glad to see it exciting attention among our Students,” gushed the Yale Literary Magazine in 1865. Players and fans rightly regarded the improvements and evolution of organized baseball as uniquely American, but the “national game” was more a cultural idea than a geographic reality. Game coverage and box scores appeared regularly in newspapers, teams adopted standard rules, entrepreneurs constructed enclosed ballparks, and college clubs put each other on the calendar. Then in 1867 Washington, D.C.,’s Nationals conducted baseball’s first “western tour,” a wildly successful enterprise that traced the game’s cartographic boundaries without venturing beyond Chicago. The tour sketched out an early road map for potential nationwide competition, and within two years, one of the Nationals’ western victims had gone professional and become the country’s premier team.