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The story of baseball’s first(ish) home run

Baseball in its early days simply wasn’t built for dingers.

During the Civil War, baseball became one of the few distractions soldiers had to forget about the pain and hardships surrounding them. When the war ended in 1865, soldiers took the game home with them to every corner of the country, planting the seed that would take baseball from a regional, mostly disorganized game to the national pastime.

In 1876, William Hulbert launched the National League, arguably giving birth to Major League Baseball in the process. And it was in the NL that baseball’s first shining star, Ross Barnes, took the stage. Though Barnes had already made a name for himself in the short-lived National Association with the Boston Red Stockings, it wasn’t until he moved to the Chicago White Stockings of the NL that he made history, recording the National League’s first home run.

Baseball wasn’t built to handle the homer — originally, balls caught on one bounce counted as an out, which seriously discouraged fly balls. And the very first home run came off the bat of a hitter who would find himself effectively out of baseball within a few years due to illness.