Bovada, one of the biggest and most reputable sportsbooks around, has an entire section of their website dedicated to the history of betting on major league baseball games. While the site isn’t overly extensive, it’s still interesting to browse through the different types of games and odds available from the 1800s to present day.
It’s fairly common for bookmakers to set the line in plays that require outs or runs to be scored. However, some sportsbooks also offer a series of games where two teams battle it out for bragging rights with no runs or outs being registered. These types of plays are generally known as prediction contests or wagers, and have been part of sportsbooks forever. For instance, in 1869 the New York Knickerbockers and the Cincinnati Red Stockings played two game series that are considered some of the first sporting events to be covered by journalists. The first game was played on December 2nd and featured a wager on the outcome. The second game was played a day later and had no wager attached to its outcome.
The line in that game was 4, and the baseball world at the time considered that to be incredibly generous on the part of the bookmakers. Nonetheless, the Red Stockings came out on top in that game as well as in the next two games as well. For those interested in the history of betting lines, Bovada’s site is a must-read, as it delves into great detail about each version of the wager and how it all came to be.