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Baseball, outdoor team sport which derives its name from the 4 bases on the playing field. Called the “national pastime” in the United States, it is also popular in Japan, Latin America, and Canada. Invented, according to legend, by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1839, it appears rather to have evolved from the game of rounders which was played by New England colonists. Popular with Union troops during the Civil War, it was played nationally by the late 1880s.

Baseball is played on a large field between 2 opposing teams each consisting of 9 players: a pitcher, a catcher, 4 infielders, and 3 outfielders. The field consists of the infield, outfield, and foul territory. The infield is square, with a base at each corner—home plate, first, second, and third base. The foul lines extend from home plate past first base on one side and past third on the other, separating fair (infield and outfield) from foul territory. The pitcher's mound stands near the center of the infield. The outfield is the large area between the infield and the walls or fences farthest from home plate. While one team positions itself in the field, the other team bats. The pitcher, standing on the pitcher's mound, throws the small, hard ball (about 9 in/23 cm in circumference) over home plate, within an area between the batter's knees and shoulders (the strike zone)—sometimes at speeds over 90 mph (145 kmph). The batter attempts to hit the ball with the bat, a long rounded piece of wood or metal up to 42 in (107 cm) long and 2.75 in (7 cm) in diameter. A pitch outside of the strike zone is called a ball; 4 balls pitched to the batter allow the batter to “walk” to first base. A pitch counts as a strike if the batter fails to swing at a good pitch, swings and misses, or hits the ball foul (except when there are already 2 strikes); 3 strikes and a batter is out. If the ball is hit into fair territory, the batter runs to first base. The batter is out if the ball is caught without a bounce (fly), if it is thrown to first base before the batter gets there, or if the batter is “tagged” with the ball by a fielder. As new batters walk or get hits, earlier batters move around the bases. A batter reaching home plate scores a run. When 3 batters are out, the teams switch position. When each team has had a turn at bat, an inning is complete. A team wins by scoring the most runs within 9 innings. In the case of a tie, extra innings are added.

Players in the field wear padded leather gloves to catch the ball. All players wear shoes with spiked soles so they can start and stop quickly. Batters wear plastic batting helmets to avoid injuries. Catchers wear metal face masks, padded chest protectors, and shin guards. Most major league games have 4 umpires (game officials). The home plate umpire decides whether a pitch is a ball or a strike as well as whether runners attempting to reach home plate are safe or out. The other umpires rule on plays near as well as in the outfield. There are 2 major baseball leagues; the American League (founded 1900), with 14 teams, and the National League (founded 1876), with 12. The teams in each league are divided into Eastern and Western Divisions. These teams play a 162-game schedule between April and September. The 2 divisional champions in each league meet in a playoff after the regular season, and the first team to win 4 games in each playoff is the league champion. The American and National League champions then play in the World Series. The first team to win 4 games in this series wins the world championship. In addition to major and minor leagues, the game is played in amateur leagues and college and high school associations, as well as by neighborhood teams of all age groups. Originally restricted to boys, baseball is now played by girls as well.

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