From SABR member Bill Ryczek at The National Pastime Museum on November 17, 2016:
The 1850s were the decade in which baseball evolved from a game played for fun by children and for exercise by a few grown men to a competitive affair in which teams of adult men competed for victory against other teams of equally serious men. Cordiality, decorous behavior, and hospitality remained an integral part of the game, but by the end of the 1850s, winning was equally important.
One of the reasons for increased competition was the explosive growth in the number of teams in the New York City area. At the beginning of the decade, members of the Knickerbocker Club were gathering together and dividing into teams for intramural activity, and there were a couple of other organizations doing the same. There was little competition because there were very few clubs. By 1859, the field was greatly expanded, and the battle for the title of best nine in New York had become very spirited. Since New York was the only place where serious baseball was played, their best team was considered the champion club of the United States.
Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/game-sport-baseball-1850s
Originally published: November 17, 2016. Last Updated: November 17, 2016.