March 7, 2010

Evolution of Games Day

(Baseball and Monopoly Edition)

Over the years, games and sports have changed and multiplied. It's really hard to say when most games or sports began – because when, for example, did baseball become baseball? All the earlier or similar games—cricket and rounders, town ball and softball, the New York Game—had some but not all of the features of today's baseball.

For example, the reason we call the person who throws the ball to the batter a pitcher is because pitching underhand, like pitching a horseshoe, was mandatory – and throwing (overhand) was illegal! Yes, that's right, according to the Knickerbocker rules written by Alexander Cartwright in 1845 (arguably the first version of true baseb
all), “The ball must be pitched, not thrown, for the bat.”

Those rules also specified that a game consisted of 21 counts, or a
ces, but that there had to be an equal number of hands.


Counts? Aces? Hands?

Are we suddenly talking about a card game here?

Well, the terms for the game grew out of card game vocabulary. A h
and meant a team's turn at bat. Back in the early days of baseball, there were no such thing as innings, and the team at bat would change with every “out.” A trip around all four bases was called an ace, and the winning team was the first team to bring 21 players home. A game could have gone like this:
Team A is up. First batter is out.
Team B is up. In just 30 minutes, 21 batters make hits and score.

Game over.
But, then again, a game could go on and on and on. What if each team kept getting the other team out? What if the teams got stuck at 5 to 8, and it seemed like neither team was EVER going to get to 21?

On this date in 1857
, the group that later became the National Association of Base Ball Players met and decided on some new rules. One of these rules was that a game would consist of 9 innings (each inning consisting of both teams having their turn at bat until such time that 3 “outs” are made) unless special circumstances such as a tie score or bad weather should lengthen or shorten a game.

Now for our other game...

On this date in 1933
, Charles Darrow is said to have created and trademarked the game of Monopoly. This real-estate game modeled on the resort
Atlantic City (New Jersey) featured most of the familiar aspects of the game mass marketed by Parker Brothers from 1935 on.

It immediately became the best selling game in America and quickly became the best-selling game in the world, now sold in over 100 countries and 37 languages (German version shown). The official Hasbro website claims that more than 5 BILLION little green houses have been “built” since 1935.

However, the story that Charles Darrow, while out of work in Germantown, Pennsylvania, during the Great Depression, thought up this game and fiddled around with board layouts and rules while playing with his family and friends—that story is just plain wrong.

The real history of the creation and evolution of the game is complicated. In 1903 a wo
man named Elizabeth Magie created a game called “The Landlords Game” (show here, right.) She had familiar four corners: Mother Earth Collect $100, Gaol (an old word for jail), Public Park, and Go To Gaol. There were four railroads, one per side of the board, and the rest of the spaces were properties to be purchased or fines to be paid. Magie was granted a patent for her game in 1904, and her game sold fairly well in the northeast. When her patent expired, Magie made some changes and two versions of rules and received a new patent in 1924. One version remained “The Landlords Game,” and the second set of rules (played on the same board) was named “Prosperity”; the rules of the latter game were very similar to Monopoly's rules.

The game grew in popularity and began to be called “Auction Monopoly” or just “Monopoly.” During this time game boards were made by hand, and many people customized theirs with the local names of properties. Different versions of rules were also created and even copyrighted. One man, Dan Layman, sold his version of Auction Monopoly to Electronic Laboratories (in Indiana). He renamed this game “Finance” because his lawyers said that “Monopoly” was in the public domain and could not be protected. This version was the first to be mass-produced.

Another man, Louis Thun, wanted to get a patent on his version of Monopoly, but his lawyers did a patent search and found Elizabeth Magie's 1904 patent. The lawyers advised Thun not to try for a patent, saying, “Patents are for inventors and you didn't invent it.”

According to, a group of people living in Atlantic City made some customizations of their game, which they called “Monopoly,” including naming all the streets after their town. It was there that Darrow first met the game when he was invited to Charles Todd's house for Monopoly night. Darrow asked for a copy of the rules, which Todd's secretary typed up for him; Darrow reportedly never spoke to Todd again.

Charles Darrow did make a few minor changes to the rules, and he made some additions to the board, including the familiar color-coding stripes and the cartoons. There might have been something about him that enabled Darrow to take a well-received game and make it into a monster hit...but Charles Darrow definitely did not invent the game!

Charles Darrow became rich from the game of Monopoly, and the company Parker Brothers of course profited as well. Lest you think that Elizabeth Magie didn't receive any compensation from her invention (aside from the moderate sales she herself made), Parker Brothers did pay her $500 for the rights to The Landlords Game and manufactured it under its original title, with the original rules; the company manufactured a few hundred sets and then stopped. Parker Brothers bought all the games Louis Thun had produced, for $50 per game, and the company also bought rights to the game Finance for $10,000. Another game that had evolved from The Landlords Game was called “Inflation.” When Parker Brothers sued the makers of Inflation for patent infringement, there was a countersuit; Parker Brothers settled with that company for another $10,000.

Kind of makes you want to go play with lots and lots of play money, doesn't it?

Did you know...?
  • Neiman Marcus sold a Monopoly game entirely made out of chocolate. Everything from board, game pieces, to money could be eaten. (But it cost $600, so...)
  • In the 1970's, a Braille edition of Monopoly was produced for the first time.

Play baseball. Play Monopoly.

Does anybody have a baseball-Monopoly game?

Monopoly-style games...
Never go out of style!

Here are a few of the themed games that are essentially Monopoly:
Solar Quest – rocket around the solar system collecting planets and moons and collecting rent
Disney Pixar Monopoly

Sponge Bob Square Pants Monopoly

Pirates of the Caribbean Monopoly
Horse Lover's edition

Transformers Monopoly

A Christmas Story Monopoly

M & Ms Monopoly
Dog Lover's edition

James Bond 007 Monopoly

Elvis Monopoly

Nintendo Monopoly

Clone Wars Monopoly

Superman Monopoly

Monopoly Electronic Banking edition

Monopoly Here and Now edition

Star Trek, Seinfeld, Beatles, and Wizard of Oz editions

Many, many, MANY other editions

and New York Yankees Monopoly
--there we go! It's the baseball Monopoly we were looking for!!!

Make a version of Monopoly
especially for your town or around a theme you enjoy.

Have a Monopoly-theme party.

Have some baseball fun
at the FunSchool website. There are puzzles, a quiz, coloring pages, and several games. (NOTE: The top two games on the game list didn't work for me, but the bottom two did.)

The Exploratorium website has some interesting baseball science for older kids.

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