Recently I started reading a very interesting comic about high school baseball. I found that baseball shares so many similarities with cricket. So I tried to look for some information regarding the origins of both the games. I found that both games originated in England. But there is no information about which game was invented first. Is there any source to tell which game was invented first and when?

The bigger question is why did baseball became so popular in USA and not cricket. Also, if baseball was invented in England, why was it never promoted by English in their colonies (like the way they promoted cricket)?


3 Answers 3


First, there is a really good book on the origins of baseball -- Baseball Before We Knew It, by David Block. If you have an interest in the topic I highly recommend it.

It is not so much that one of the two games was invented first, but more likely that they both developed from the same source -- which, Block argues pretty persuasively, was not at all rounders, but probably a folk game such as stool ball (which also made it to America -- we know it was played at Plymouth in the 17th Century by some non-Puritans who got in some trouble for it!).

As that indicates, the English brought their games with them. I don't think it's a matter of "promoting" one game or the other... sometimes something will catch on and others won't. In the case of baseball, after a while there was clearly a certain patriotic interest in supporting a game thought to be "home-grown." But cricket was very popular in the US at times as well. The Wikipedia page about the history of United States Cricket suggests that baseball picked up some popularity during the Civil War because it did not require the same kind of carefully-prepared pitch as cricket.

I wouldn't agree that "the game of baseball (similar to the one we know) would not have existed during the colonial times and would not have been promoted anyway," but perhaps this is just a semantic quibble. Baseball existed in colonial times, as we can see from the 1744 reference in A Little Pretty Pocket Book, which was published in both England and, a few years later, in America. It didn't have the Knickerbocker rules yet, but I think it's fair to call it baseball.

One more thing -- the Protoball Chronology is a fascinating work in progress collecting historical references to "safe haven" ball games including cricket, baseball, stool ball, etc. Anyone curious about the origins of these games should check it out.


Short Answer: Cricket was surprisingly popular in the United States through the entire 19th century. However, baseball was backed and promoted by dynamic marketers like A.G. Spalding. Baseball came to be associated with all-American manly athleticism, while cricket came to be associated with snobbish aristocrats with English pretensions.

Sociologists Jason Kaufman and Orlando Patterson have an article that answers this exact question, so I'll let them explain.

Baseball and cricket were both very popular in the 19th century

Cricket was popular in the US until well after the Civil War. The world's first official international cricket match took place between American and Canadian teams in 1844.

While the increasing popularity of baseball did present a formidable challenge to American cricket, the two games existed comfortably side-by-side throughout the 1850s and 60s. It was not uncommon, in fact, for cricket and baseball teams to challenge one another to matches in their rival’s sport.

The wealthy began to value Cricket for its English pedigree

Though cricket was originally popularized in the United States by working-class immigrants from the British Isles, it later became a sport practiced by only a select few Americans . . . The most distinctive feature of the history of cricket in both the United States and Canada is its elevation to a pastime for elites only.

Savvy marketers promoted baseball

However much Americans enjoyed playing cricket, the sport never developed the kind of infrastructure that leads to a mass fan base: frequent matches with large crowds and intense rivalries. Baseball, however

. . . was later blessed by a cadre of brilliant entrepreneurs determined to make it the “nation’s pastime.” One such person was A. G. Spalding, star player, manager, league organizer, and sports manufacturer. To call Spalding an impresario or a marketing genius would be a bit of an understatement. He engaged in every part of the game, from promoting star players and intercity rivalries to squelching nascent efforts at labor organization among players.

Savvy marketers disparaged cricket as effeminate

Spalding was pretty scathing in his depiction of cricketers. He wrote in 1911:

I have declared that Cricket is a genteel game. It is. Our British Cricketer, having finished his day’s labor at noon, may don his negligee shirt, his white trousers, his gorgeous hosiery and his canvas shoes, and sally forth to the field of sport, with his sweetheart on one arm and his Cricket bat under the other, knowing that he may engage in his national pastime without soiling his linen or neglecting his lady

A baseball player, on the other hand, is manly:

When he dons his Base Ball suit, he says good-bye to society, doffs his gentility, and becomes—just a Ball Player! He knows that his business now is to play ball, and that first of all he is expected to attend to business. . .

And just in case Spalding was too subtle above, he repeats one more time that America:England::Manly:Effeminate.

Cricket is a gentle pastime. Base Ball is War! Cricket is an Athletic Sociable, played and applauded in a conventional, decorous and English manner. Base Ball is an Athletic Turmoil, played and applauded in an unconventional, enthusiastic and American manner.

The end result? "By the eve of the First World War very few were still alive who could recall the days when cricket had a chance to become America’s national pastime.”

  • I love this answer! For years, cricket was seen as the epitome of English "gentility", and the protest "It's not cricket" applied to anything underhand, deceitful, or "ungentlemanly". Not that it was ever exclusively upper-class - there were village cricket teams and Gentlemen v Players matches.
    – TheHonRose
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 2:45
  • From an English perspective, American baseball looks so similar to our game of rounders that it is very hard to believe that they are not in origin the same game. The biggest difference is in when and by whom they are played. Rounders is mostly a children's game
    – Timothy
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 19:15
  • Cricket is also usually a very time consuming game, with multiple formats. The traditional format called the Test, can go on for 5 days, while the more common format ODI is usually atleast 6 hours long. And worse, there is a considerable chance of No Result, Draw, or Abandoned. These factors, imo, make the game unappealing, and has even caused the countries that already play it to alter the game extensively (i.e. leading to shorter 3-hour formats).
    – Samid
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 22:24

The games of cricket and baseball are similar and can be looked at in an evolving type of way. Games similar to cricket were developed and the sport progressed as the rules and concepts changed. Over the course of hundreds of years the sport of baseball was created. To be correct Cricket may have not have even come first. See this reference to Rounders. There were other English games that went by similar rules to cricket and rounders. These games had many different names and variants.

From Origins of Baseball

Since they were folk games, the early games had no official, documented rules, and they tended to change over time. To the extent that there were rules, they were generally simple and were not written down. There were many local variations, and varied names.


Cricket can be dated back to 1550 but games very similar to cricket had been developed in the 13th century.


The following is excluding the myth that Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball:

Quoted from the baseball wikipedia page:

The earliest known reference to baseball is in a 1744 British publication, A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, by John Newbery. It contains a rhymed description of "base-ball" and a woodcut that shows a field set-up somewhat similar to the modern game—though in a triangular rather than diamond configuration, and with posts instead of ground-level bases. William Bray, an English lawyer, recorded a game of baseball on Easter Monday 1755 in Guildford, Surrey

Due to the fact that the first published rules of baseball were written in 1845 by Alexander Cartwright the game of baseball (similar to the one we know) would not have existed during the colonial times and would not have been promoted anyway.

Adoption of Cricket in America

Source (also included a great timeline of colonial cricket

The first recorded American Cricket match was in 1751 in New York and was popular among colonists before that time. However the Revolution came around and had an impact on all things British. From the timeline on the above linked page.

1800: By the time the century drew to a close, cricket’s popularity was soaring. The Britishness of the game was a problem and the American Revolution had an impact on cricket - just like it did on all things British including tea and taxes.

The following statement is my own conclusion and should be regarded as such:

It would seem that America adopted baseball instead of cricket simply due to the fact that cricket was not established a "professional sport". The game continued to evolve and the many variants ended up leading to the game of baseball. By the time the evolution of the game caught up with the need/want of a professional sport baseball had the upper hand.

EDIT: Who gets credit for baseball

Also from the origins of baseball Link

Congress has credited Alexander Cartwright (An American) as the inventor of baseball and he is honored in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But there are plenty of myths (See the Abner Doubleday Entry, as well as this quote)

-From the origins of baseball page

Evolution of the game that became modern baseball is unknown before 1845. The Knickerbocker Rules describe a game that they had been playing for some time. But how long is uncertain and so is how that game had developed. Shane Foster was the first to come up with suspicions of how the origin came into effect.

There were once two camps. One, mostly English, asserted that baseball evolved from a game of English origin (probably rounders); the other, almost entirely American, said that baseball was an American invention (perhaps derived from the game of one-ol'-cat). Apparently they saw their positions as mutually exclusive. Some of their points seem more national loyalty than evidence: Americans tended to reject any suggestion that baseball evolved from an English game, while some English observers concluded that baseball was little more than their rounders without the round.

All in all it seems that due to the lack of evidence and the many many versions of this game it is very difficult to come to a solid conclusion.

  • 1
    Thanks for the response. Especially the link on American cricket history was very informative. So it is correct to say that the current baseball evolved in USA and not in England and Americans took interest in developing the game because they didn't want to play cricket due to its "Britishness". Also, British were completely oblivious of the baseball's evolution after American Independence.
    – kartshan
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 16:21
  • 2
    @kartshan From my understanding of the research it seems that the Americans dropped some interest in all things British during and after the Rev. War. This seperated them even more and with a big ocean between them they both went down their own seperate Cricket/baseball paths. As for giving credit to one country see my EDIT in my answer.
    – sealz
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 16:24

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