Though baseball has slowly evolved over the years, the same basic rules and principles still apply to today’s game. Each game is divided into nine innings where one team plays defense out in the field while the other team plays offense, or is up to bat. Three outs comprise a side of an inning, so both teams get 27 outs per game.
An out can be achieved if a player strikes out—that is, swings and misses at three pitches—as well as “grounding out,” when the defense throws the ball to beat the batter to first base, and “flying out,” when the defense catches a ball that the batter pops up in the air without touching the ground first.
The batter’s primary objective is to cross home plate. He can do this by either hitting a ball over the outfield fence—a home run—or by simply avoiding getting tagged out. Once a player reaches first base safely, he tries to get to second base, then third base before finally reaching home plate to score a run. In the end of the game, the team with the most runs is declared victorious.
The first record of organized baseball in the United States was in the 1840s, when it was then considered a hobby for the wealthy. That game has slowly transformed itself into what is now known as our nation’s pastime.
Major League Baseball is America’s professional baseball organization. The MLB was officially founded in 1876 but had a drastically different look than it does today. For the league’s first 24 years, the league was made up of only 12 teams, rather than the 30 that exist in 2009.
Though the rules have only been slightly changed, the face of the game has changed greatly over the decades of play. From 1900 to 1919, baseball was a pitcher’s game, as many games were extremely low-scoring and pitchers reigned supreme. Babe Ruth, one of the game’s greatest hitters ever, put the dead ball era to rest when he hit a then-record 59 home runs in 1921.
Major League Baseball remained a whites-only organization until the 1940s, when the league stubbornly allowed African Americans to begin playing on its teams. While many people focus on Jackie Robinson as the first African American to be allowed in the MLB, it was actually the Walker brothers who did it first. Robinson garnered more publicity because he had a terrific career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Today, the MLB is split into two divisions: the American League and the National League. Both the American and National Leagues field an Eastern, Central and Western division. The only noticeable difference between the American and National Leagues these days is that with the National League teams, pitchers must also bat on offense. In the American League, there is a designated hitter spot for one player to bat in the place of the pitcher.
Teams in the American League are Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees (East). The Detroit Tigers, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians make up the Central Division while the Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Texas Rangers are in the West.
In the National League, the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, Florida Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies come from the East while the Chicago Cubs, Saint Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros make up the Central Division. In the West, there are the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In an effort to make baseball more exciting, many players began taking steroids starting in the 1980s. Steroids and other performance enhancing drugs allowed pitchers to throw faster and batters to hit balls farther. While steroids are currently illegal, the MLB turned a blind eye to the issue for several years as television ratings performed well.
Professional baseball suffered greatly in 1994 when every player in the MLB went on strike, arguing that they were not fairly compensated for their work. The strike canceled that year’s World Series, and baseball’s ratings took a big hit that the league had not seen since World War II, when many players were called to fight overseas.
In 1998, Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa, known for being power hitters, raced to break the previous home run record of 61 home runs in one season. Both hitters broke Roger Maris’ record, as Sosa finished with 66 to McGwire’s 70. That record stood for a mere four seasons before San Francisco Giants star Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001.
The New York Yankees is the most highly decorated team in MLB history, with 26 World Series titles under its belt. Not surprisingly, the Yankees have the highest payroll in all of professional baseball on a yearly basis, spending nearly $70 million more per year than the second highest-paying team.
The St. Louis Cardinals are in a distant second place with 10 titles. The Chicago Cubs, one of the more storied franchises in baseball, has not won a World Series since 1908, making it the longest drought for a team to go without winning another championship. The Boston Red Sox held a similar streak of 86 years without a championship before winning it in 2004 and again in 2007.
Baseball betting is slightly different from other sports such as football and basketball in that the majority of the bets are placed on the money line, as opposed to spread betting. When a spread is -140 on 1 team and +120 on another, this means someone must bet $140 to win $100 on the favorite, and $100 to win $120 on the underdog, straight-up, without the points.
Totals – As in other sports, you can bet on the total runs scored by both teams, or each team separately.
Run Line – The run line is similar to betting on football, in which 1.5 runs is either added or subtracted from each teams score at the end of the game. Some sites have exotic betting with 2.5 or 3.5 run lines.
5 inning bets – Some sites have betting on the first 5 innings of a game as opposed to the game as a whole
Pitchers – you can bet on your favorite team’s pitcher, or on the team itself. If you bet on the pitcher,and that pitcher doesn’t start the game, the bet is canceled.