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Alexander Cartwright

Spread The Rules Of The Game

Cartwright did not remain with the Knickerbockers very long. In March of 1849, the 29-year-old bank clerk, like so many other Americans, followed the California Gold Rush in hopes of making his fortune out west. Yet he did not abandon baseball; rather, he took it with him. A kind of Johnny Appleseed of the sport, Cartwright helped spread the game as he traveled across the country by train, covered wagon, and foot. From Pittsburgh to Cincinnati to the Midwest to San Francisco, he taught the sport to locals and encouraged the creation of formal clubs.

Though the game spread first through the northeastern United States, within 15 years baseball had taken root across the country. While Cartwright played a role in its burgeoning popularity, it was the American Civil War (1861-1865) that prompted the game's growth as a national pastime. Union soldiers formed teams and Confederate prisoners picked up the rules of the game; when the soldiers returned home, they took the sport with them.

When Cartwright arrived in San Francisco, the Gold Rush was over; he stayed only six weeks, but in that short time he did much to spread the word about baseball in that city. Deciding to return to New York, he boarded a ship set to sail across the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic oceans. Yet water travel did not suit Cartwright, who fell ill and disembarked at the Sandwich Islands-known today as Hawaii. Regaining his health and falling in love with the lush islands, he decided to stay. Cartwright's wife and children joined him in 1851.

Naturally, Cartwright taught baseball to the islanders and formed Hawaiian baseball clubs—which explains why the sport took hold in Honolulu even before it became established in cities like Philadelphia and Chicago. Cartwright is also credited with giving Honolulu its first volunteer fire department, of which he served as chief for ten years. The enterprising man quickly grew prosperous, becoming one of the Honolulu's leading bankers and merchants, and managing the finances of Hawaii's royal family. Cartwright was also active in local government. Among his contributions as a civic leader were the founding of the Hawaiian city's first library and first major hospital.


1820 Born on April 17 in New York
1842 Marries Eliza Ann Gerrits Van Wie
1845 Organizes first formal baseball club, the Knickerbockers; draws up first set of baseball rules on September 23
1846 Plays in first recognized modern baseball game, between the Knickerbockers and the New York Nine, on June 19
1849 Leaves New York in March to seek gold in California
1849 Leaves California by boat; arrives in Hawaii in late August
1851 Wife and children join him in Hawaii
1852 Introduces baseball in Honolulu
1892 Dies in Honolulu on July 12

Awards and Accomplishments

1938 Inducted into Baseball's Hall of Fame for originating the sport's basic concepts
1953 Acknowledged by the U.S. Congress to be the founder of modern baseball
1956 City of Hoboken, New Jersey, dedicates a plaque to Cartwright for his organization of the first official baseball games at Hoboken's Elysian Fields

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsBaseballAlexander Cartwright Biography - Formed First Recognized Baseball Team, Spread The Rules Of The Game, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments