From Ohio History Central
Photograph of a young boy in a baseball uniform holding a baseball bat. The photograph was possibly taken in Cairo, West Virginia, ca. 1890-1910.
Baseball originated before the American Civil War in the eastern portion of the United States. During the Civil War, it became popular among soldiers serving in the Union army, and it grabbed the nation's fascination after the war. It remains unclear when baseball first appeared in Ohio, but the first game probably occurred before the Civil War. On July 9, 1859, a Cleveland newspaper reported that a game occurred in Ashtabula County. The first team to one hundred "scores" was declared the winner. It is unclear whether or not the game resembled modern baseball.
The first teams to clearly utilize rules similar to modern-day baseball originated in the late 1860s. Cleveland had a team, the Forest City Club, by 1865. That year they played the Penfield Club of Oberlin, Ohio. Oberlin won sixty-seven to twenty-eight. Defense clearly was not a priority in early games. The games could also be violent. In the Oberlin-Cleveland game, one player lost three teeth and another one sprained his arm. By the end of 1866, more than a dozen clubs operated in Cleveland. In Cincinnati, the Live Oak Baseball Club, the Buckeye Baseball Club, and the Cincinnati Baseball Club all adopted more modern rules in 1866. Columbus also had a team -- the Capital Club. The Forest City Club of Cleveland defeated the Capital Club seventy-two to forty-four in 1866. Several thousand spectators were in attendance.
Cincinnati boasted the first professional baseball team in United States history, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. The team was named after the red stockings that the players wore with their uniforms. It was founded in 1867, and the team had four paid players on the roster in 1868. By 1869, every player on the team was paid, including George Wright, the shortstop, who earned the highest salary of 1,400 dollars. From September 1868 until June 1870, the Red Stockings never lost a game. The Brooklyn Atlantics finally defeated the Red Stockings on June 14, 1870, by a single run in eleven innings. The Red Stockings ceased to exist after 1870. Other cities began to support professional teams, offering Red Stockings players more money than the Cincinnati club could afford to pay.
In 1881, the Cincinnati Red Stockings were reformed and joined with numerous other teams, including the Forest City team of Cleveland, to create the National Association of Professional Baseball. In 1886, this association became the National League. In 1892, the Western Association was formed in Cincinnati. This association eventually became the modern-day American League.
Ohio has continued to play an important role in professional baseball. Ohio boasted two professional teams, the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds, for much of the twentieth century. The Indians won the pennant in both 1948 and 1954 and then experienced several decades of poor showings. During the 1990s, the Indians' performance on the ball field improved dramatically, causing northern Ohioans to flock to the ballpark. The Indians also played an important role in integrating professional baseball, hiring Larry Doby, the first African American to play in the American League. The Indians also hired African Americans like Satchel Paige as a player and Frank Robinson as manager. The Reds dominated the 1970s, winning the National League pennant in 1970, 1972-1973, 1975-1976, and 1979. The team flourished with players like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and Joe Morgan. During the 1990s, the team struggled.