Did modern baseball spontaneously arise from the genius of the American people? Did professionalism arise simply from a desire to turn baseball into a business? Did William Hulbert, organizer of the National League, really "save" baseball? These are three of the questions examined in this work about early baseball's role in American culture. Beginning with an introduction to the sport as achievement and expression, the author takes a close look at the early demand in New York for "the best against the best" in baseball and argues that this demand was contradictory to society's equally persistent demand that displays of "the best against the best" be locally accessible. This work offers insights into how baseball operated in its early days, with special attention paid to the National Association and how the National League came into being.