Baseball has been a popular pastime since the 1840s, when journalists described it as a craze. It wasn't until the 1940s, however, that the sport truly gained traction. Joe DiMaggio's fifty-six game batting streak was a major factor in its rise to fame. The country was in the midst of a war, and people needed an escape.
The All-American Women's Professional Baseball League was founded, and attendance at girls' games increased until there was little distinction between them and the men's games. Television also played a role in baseball's popularity. Nighttime games became more common, and schedules were conditioned by broadcasting. Today, baseball is still considered America's pastime and is one of the most popular sports in the United States. In the 1880s, before racial segregation became the norm, black players competed with whites in professional baseball. The opening of the baseball training season marked the arrival of spring, playing in the regular season meant summer, and the World Series marked the arrival of fall.
The first known American reference to baseball appears in a 1791 municipal regulation in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Abner Doubleday is often credited with inventing baseball in Cooperstown, New York during the summer of 1839. Baseballs were expensive at this time, so a single ball was often used for an entire game. Irish and German Americans excelled both in baseball and other commercial entertainment venues. Attendance as a percentage of population declined at all levels of baseball, and hundreds of semi-professional and amateur teams withdrew. The history of baseball in Canada has remained closely linked to that of sports in the United States. In the 1990s, player strikes, free agency, disparities in competition, and rising costs added to major league baseball's problems.
The unifying power of baseball in the United States became evident in the 1930s when a group of businessmen from Cooperstown established the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The first known reference to baseball is in a 1744 British children's publication. Around the middle of the 20th century, baseball's claim to be America's sport was based on more precarious grounds than before. Despite playing high-quality baseball, players often made various forms of antics that perpetuated stereotypes about blacks to attract spectators. In a country comprising many ethnic and religious groups without a monarchy or aristocracy, playing, watching and talking about baseball games became one of the great common denominators of the nation. Instead of researching its origins thoroughly, a commission asserted that Abner Doubleday had invented it in Cooperstown in 1839. The Knickerbocker rules were considered vague and were exploited due to their popularity.