Just in time for the start of the World Series today, we happened upon these vintage photos from the beginnings of baseball. Part of a collection at the New York Public Library, the photos were collected by A.G. Spalding, a former pitcher and entrepreneur who was a major force in the professionalization and commercialization of baseball in the 19th century. "You get some funny instances, these baseball players essentially before a backdrop of a Victorian garden, the sort of humorous fakery of a ball suspended on a string."
"From the number of balls it took to walk a batter to the distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate, baseball was a very different sport in its early days. There were fewer umpires, which meant that players often stole across the field from first base to third while no one was paying attention. Gambling was rampant. Safety measures were virtually nonexistent: Fielders didn’t wear gloves, batters didn’t wear helmets, and catchers didn’t wear masks. Spectators frequently fired pistols into the air to distract fielders trying to catch balls."