The evolution of baseball from older bat-and-ball games is difficult to trace with precision. American baseball historian David Block, suggests that the game originated in England; recently uncovered historical evidence supports this position. He argues that rounders and early baseball were actually regional variants of each other, and that the game's most direct antecedents are the English games of stoolball and "tut-ball". Block discovered that the first recorded game of "Bass-Ball" took place in 1749 in Surrey, and featured the Prince of Wales as a player. This early form of the game was apparently brought to Canada by English immigrants.
By the early 1830s, there were reports of a variety of uncodified bat-and-ball games recognizable as early forms of baseball being played around North America. In 1845, Alexander Cartwright, a member of New York City's Knickerbocker Club, led the codification of the so-called Knickerbocker Rules. While there are reports that the New York Knickerbockers played games in 1845, the contest long recognized as the first officially recorded baseball game in U.S. history took place in 1846, in Hoboken, New Jersey: the "New York Nine" defeated the Knickerbockers, 23–1, in four innings. With the Knickerbocker code as the basis, the rules of modern baseball continued to evolve over the next half-century.
In the mid-1850s, a baseball craze hit the New York metropolitan area, and by 1856, local journals were referring to baseball as the "national game". A year later, the sport's first governing body, the National Association of Base Ball Players, was formed. The more formally structured National League was founded in 1876. The National League's first successful counterpart, the American League, which evolved from the minor Western League, was established in 1893, and virtually all of the modern baseball rules were in place by then. The National Agreement of 1903 formalized relations both between the two major leagues and between them and the National Association of Professional Base Ball Leagues, representing most of the country's minor professional leagues.
Widely known as America's pastime, baseball is well established in several other countries as well. As early as 1877, a professional league, the International Association, featured teams from both Canada and the US. The first formal baseball league outside of the United States and Canada was founded in 1878 in Cuba. The Dominican Republic held its first islandwide championship tournament in 1912 and the professional baseball tournaments and leagues began to form in other countries between the world wars, including the Netherlands (formed in 1922), Australia (1934), Japan (1936), Mexico (1937) and Puerto Rico (1938).
After World War II, professional leagues were founded in many Latin American countries. Since the early 1970s, the annual Caribbean Series has matched the championship clubs from the four leading Latin American winter leagues: Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. In Asia, South Korea (1982), Taiwan (1990) and China (2003) all have professional leagues. Many European countries have professional leagues as well. Competitions between national teams were administered by the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) from its formation in 1938 until its 2013 merger with the International Softball Federation to create the current joint governing body for both sports, the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).