The History of Baseball extends into several countries. The first reference to a bat-and-ball game was found in a book by British author John Newberry called “A Pretty Little Pocket Book” in 1744.
It was also recorded that the Prince of Wales participated in a “baseball” game in Surrey England in 1749. Baseball didn’t catch in England as much a “Cricket” in later years did.
It did appear that some English immigrants took the game to Canada In the early 1830s a recognizable form of baseball was being played in various parts of North America.
The first official contest in the United States took place in Hoboken, New Jersey. The contests were with “The New York Nine vs the Knickerbockers” the New York Nine prevailed 23-1 in 4 innings.
We will touch on the highlights of the History of Baseball with future articles centering more on baseball stars of the past. For those not too familiar with this fantastic sport you may visit the whatisbaseball.com/what-is-baseball/ or whatisbaseball.com/advanced-baseball-rules-and-strategy/.
The game of baseball is mostly played in the United States and Canada. I will not forget the impact of baseball on Japan. However, most of the emphasis will be on the game in the United States.
By the 1850s a baseball craze hit the New York City area. The journalists in 1856 called the game Our National Pastime or National Game. In1857 The first governing body of baseball was formed, “National Association of Base Ball Players”. In 1876 the more formally structured National League was formed
It wasn’t until 1893 that the American League became a part of Professional Baseball. Thus the names evolved with the National League is known as by the nickname “Senior Circuit” and the American as the “Junior League”.
Nearly all the modern baseball rules were in place by then. The National Agreement of 1903 formalized relations between the National and American Leagues. The National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues represented most of the United States minor professional leagues, also in 1903.
The year 1903 was a big one for professional baseball as the formal organizing of Major and Minor baseball leagues occurred but the first World Series took place that year between the champions of the National and the American Leagues where the Boston Americans defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in 8 games.
In the 1919 World Series, there was a betting scandal where 8 players of the Chicago White Sox conspired to “throw” the Series because of gambling and game fixers. The White Sox were heavy favorites to defeat the Cincinnati Reds but the “Black Sox” pitched poorly, batted poorly and fielded poorly.
This did result in a “tainted” World Series win for the Cincinnati Reds. The eight players in on the scam were suspended for the 1920 season. You might note that the Chicago White Sox did not win a World Series until 2005.
In order to help correct this “gambling” problem, the first major league commissioner was elected in 1920.
William Hulbert a Chicago businessman and an officer in the Chicago White Stockings organization approached several owners of the National Association with a need for stronger central authority and exclusive rights in larger cities.
After several conferences with owners and baseball interested persons, the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs was established on 02 February 1876 with the following charter members:
- Chicago White Stockings (becoming the Chicago Cubs)
- Philadelphia Athletics (this time was expelled from the National League after the 1886 season).
- Boston Red Stockings to be renamed the Boston Braves and nothing to do with the Boston Red Sox.
- Hartford Dark Blues which folded after the 1877 season.
- Mutual of New York (yes, this was a baseball team and not an insurance company), they were expelled after the 1876 season.
- St. Louis Brown Stockings from the old National Association which then folded after the 1877 season.
- Cincinnati Red Stockings which was a new franchise but disbanded after the 1879 season.
- Louisville Grays a new franchise which folded after the 1877 season.
The first game in the new National League was in Philadelphia on 22 April 1876 with the Philadelphia Athletics against the Boston Red Stockings. Boston won 6-5.
The old National Association folded and the teams that didn’t go to the National league, either reverted to minor league team status or disbanded.
You will note that the Philadelphia Athletics and the Mutal of New York teams were expelled after the 1876 season. This was because they had fallen behind in the standings and refused to finish out the season on road trips because of team expenses. This central authority which seems rather harsh today but was needed to keep chaos from ensuing.
The National League operated with only 6 teams in the 1877 and 1878 seasons. Various teams joined and folded over the next few years. By 1880 only The Boston Braves (Atlanta Braves today) and the Chicago Cubs remained of the eight charter members). By 1882 the National League had settled down a bit with none of the eight members folding. They were:
- Troy (Albany New York)
- Worcester (Massachusetts)
In 1883, the New York Gothams (renamed the Giants) and Philadelphia Phillies began National League play. Both of these teams remain today, the New York Giants moving to San Francisco in the fifties.
In 1882 the American Association began with teams in cities where National League didn’t have any. Although rivals, they managed to co-exist together for a World Series (of a sort) in the next 10 years. Some of the “World Series” lasted only 3 games and some years they last 15 games.
During the next 10-15 years, several leagues were formed such as “Union Association” and the “Players League”. Both of these leagues disbanded after one season.
The American Association which would seem to become the American League? Nope, in 1891 the American Association failed and merged with the National League and for the next 10 years was known as the National League and American Association. There were four teams that had moved from the American Association prior to 1891 and they were:
- Pittsburgh joined the NL in 1887.
- Cincinnati joined the NL in 1890.
- Brooklyn Dodgers joined the NL in 1890.
- St.Louis Cardinals joined the NL in 1892
These teams remain in the National League today, some in different cities. There are only two of the original 1876 teams remain and they are Boston Braves (Atlanta Braves) and Chicago Cubs ( the only charter team to remain continuously in the same city). The other two original 1892 teams that are still in the National League are Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Giants (San Francisco Giants).
The National League became a professional major league monopoly with 12 team circuit., but all was not well as the team owners quarreled over a “trust plan” where there would be common ownership of the 12 teams (socialized baseball??).
The trust plan never came into being but a salary cap of $2,400 on all payers in National league. That doesn’t like a fair cap, but salaries were quite low in those days compared to today’s “millionaire” players. Conduct among players was poor with much fighting (in games) going on. There were a lot of obscenities and foul language among players and abuse towards umpires.
A tragic example took place in 1884 during a game in Boston, involving the Boston Beaneaters and the Baltimore Orioles in which a brawl started and two boys set fire to the stadium. The blaze quickly got out of hand and swept through downtown Boston destroying or damaging 100 buildings.
Arguments among the owners were common and the players hated the $2,400 salary cap. Some teams had trouble with the Sunday ordinance against recreational events in their city. All in all the last decade of the 1800s was not a good one for Major League Baseball.
Billy Sunday, a prominent outfielder in the 1880s, became so fed up with the behavior of his teammates that he quit playing in 1891 and became one of America’s finest evangelical Christian preachers.
Billy wasn’t the only one fed up with the behavior of players and owners, much of the fan base began to feel the same way and attendance at the games began to plummet by 1900.
After 8 seasons as a 12 team league, the National league went back to an 8 team league in 1900. The teams dropped from the National League were Cleveland, Baltimore, Louisville (which never has had a major league team since)..and Washington.
In 1900 the Western League changed its name to the American League but was not recognized by the National League at first. The National Agreement expired that year in which the American League was part of. After two years of wrangling and bitter contention, the American League and the National League came to an agreement in the new National Agreement in 1903.
This meant that the National League and the American were not in competition with each other any longer and in the agreement, there would be a postseason series called the World Series in which the Champion of each league would play in the World Series.
The National League owners in 1920, as usual, were in a contentious state. They opposed the American League President and National Commissioner Ben Johnson. They threatened to dissolve the National League and radically reorganize professional baseball. The “Black Sox” scandal added fuel to the fires of discontentment.
On 12 November 1920, the leagues agreed to replace the “National Commission” which was largely ineffective, with a one-man Commissioner who was federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
This helped stabilize both leagues with strict rules of conduct of the players and eliminated the sneakiness of the owners. This lead to a period of 50 some years where the two leagues remained unchanged until the Boston Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee.
The “dead ball” ear ended in the early 1920s with changes in the rules and composition of the ball. Thus beginning the lively ball era.
Strict new rules prohibited the “spitball” and any roughing up the ball by pitchers or other players. These changes resulted in a ball that traveled a much greater distance than in the old “dead ball” did.
The first true power hitter was the legendary Babe Ruth whose feats included 60 home runs in 1927 and a lifetime record of 714 home runs.
These records were not broken until the 1961 season when Roger Maris of the New York Yankees hit 61 home runs. A famous asterisk was added to the official records because Maris hit 61 home runs in 162 game season while the Babe ‘s season was 154 games.
Hank Aaron broke Ruth’s lifetime Home Run achievement with the 715 home run blasted in 1974. No asterisk was needed on Hanks new record.
Hank finished his career with 755 lifetime home runs. He also beat Ruth’s lifetime record of 2,217RBIs (runs batted in), knocking in 2,297 RBIs. The Babe died of cancer in 1948 at the age of 53.
The first elections to Baseball Hall of Fame were in 1936 and Little League was formed in 1939. World War II caused several minor league teams to disband because of a lack of players.
Phil Wrigley the Chicago Cubs owner formed the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League to keep the sport in the public’s eye during the war years.
After the War, in 1947, Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers became the first black player in the major leagues breaking an unofficial prejudiced barrier against blacks.
The History of Baseball continues with the changes of teams in both leagues such as moving, folding, expelled, switching leagues and expansion franchises.
The Original Teams in the National League in 1876
- Athletics of Philadelphia – Expelled after the 1876 season
- Boston Red Stockings – Renamed the Boston Braves.
- Chicago White Stockings – Renamed the Chicago Cubs.
- Cincinnati Red Stockings – Expelled after the 1879 season.
- Hartford Dark Blues – Folded after the 1877 season.
- Louisville Grays – Also folded after the 1877 season.
- Mutual of New York – Expelled after the 1876 season.
- St. Louis Brown Stockings – Folded after the 1877 season
The eight-team lineup established 1n 1900 remained much more stable and stayed in the National League through 2019 but some have moved and some are re-named.
- Boston Beaneaters – Renamed the Boston Braves; moved to Milwaukee and then Atlanta.
- Brooklyn Surprbas- Renamed the Brooklyn Dodgers and moved to Los Angeles.
- Cincinnati Reds – Hasn’t moved or been renamed.
- New York Giants – Moved to San Francisco.
- Philadelphia Phillies – Hasn’t moved or been renamed.
- Pittsburgh Pirates – Hasn’t moved or been renamed.
- St. Louis – Hasn’t moved or been renamed.
Expansions Teams, Relocated Teams and Renamed Franchises
- New Expansion Franchises – In 1962 Houston Colt.45s and New York Mets.
- Renamed – In 1965 Houston Astors.
- New Expansion Franchises – In 1969 Montreal Expos and San Diego Padres.
- New Expansion Franchises – In 1993 Colorado Rockies and the Flordia Marlins.
- New Expansion Franchise – Arizona Diamondbacks.
- Moved from American League to National League -In 1998 Milwaukee Brewers ( helped baseball scheduling problems due to uneven number in both leagues, this changed help resolve season scheduling problems.
- Moved and Renamed – In 2005 the Montreal Expos to Washington renamed the Washington Nationals.
- Renamed – In 2012 Flordia Marlins became the Maimi Marlins.
- Moved -In 2013 the Houston Astros from the National League to the American League to even out the number of teams in each league. Now inter-league scheduling resolved any problems such as they were in 1998 with Milwaukee moving to the National League.
The Original Teams in the American League
- Baltimore Orioles – folded after the 1902 season.
- Boston Americans – Renamed the Boston Red Sox in 1908.
- Chicago White Stockings -Some confusion here, as the National League Chicago White Stockings became the Chicago Cubs. The American League White Stockings was formed in 1900 and was told by the National League that it could not use the name “Chicago” just White Stockings. However, in 1904 the name was officially changed to the Chicago White Sox which it is today.
- Cleveland Blues – Renamed the Cleveland Indians in 1915
- Detroit Tigers – This team was formed in 1894 and never changed its name or location.
- Milwaukee Brewers – In 1902 moved to St. Louis as the St. Louis Browns; then moved again in 1954 to Baltimore to become the Baltimore Orioles.
- Philadelphia Athletics – Moved to Kansas City in 1955; then onto Oakland in 1968. (The nickname Athletics remained the same for both moves)
- Washington Senators – Moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1961 to become the Minnesota Twins.
Expansions Teams, Relocated Teams and Renamed Franchises
- Cleveland Blues – Renamed Cleveland Naps.
- New York Highlanders – In 1913 renamed New York Yankees.
- Cleveland Naps -In 1915 renamed Cleveland Indians.
- Washington Nationals/Senators – In 1957 renamed Washington Senators.
- Los Angeles – In 1965 new expansion franchise. On 02 Sep 1965 renamed California Angeles. In 1966 moved to Anaheim., California.
- Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots – In 1969 were new expansion franchises.
- Seattle Pilots – In 1970 moved to Milwaukee. Renamed the Milwaukee Brewers.
- Washington Senators (new team replacing the team that moved to Minneapolis/ St. Paul) – In 1972 moved Arlington (Dallas/Ft. Worth) and renamed the Texas Rangers.
- Oakland Athletics – In 1973 renamed the Oakland “A’s.
- Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays – In 1977 new expansion franchises.
- Oakland A’s – In 1980 renamed Oakland Athletics.
- California Angeles – In 1997 renamed Anaheim Angeles.
- Tampa Bay Devil Rays – In 1998 new expansion franchise.
- Milwaukee Brews – In 1998 transferred from American League to National League to aid in scheduling problems.
- Anaheim Angeles – In 2005 renamed Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
- Tampa Bay Devil Rays – In 2008 renamed Tampa Bay Rays.
- Houston Astros – In 2013 transferred from National to American League.
- Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim. In 2016 renamed Los Angeles Angeles.
In conclusion with this edition of The History of Baseball, the current list of teams in both The National and American Leagues will now be displayed:
American League East
- Baltimore Orioles
- Boston Red Sox
- New York Yankees
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Toronto Blue Jays
American League Central
- Chicago White Sox
- Cleveland Indians
- Detroit Tigers
- Kansas City Royals
- Minnesota Twins
American League West
- Houston Astros
- Los Angeles Angeles
- Oakland Athletics
- Seattle Mariners
- Texas Rangers
National League East
- Atlanta Braves
- Maimi Marlins
- New York Mets
- Philadelphia Phillies
- Washington Nationals
National League Central
- Chicago Cubs
- Cincinnati Reds
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- St. Louis Cardinals
National League West
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Colorado Rockies
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- San Diego Padres
- San Francisco Giants
Each of these major league baseball teams or MLB has several “farm” teams in smaller cities for conditioning and getting the players ready for major league professional baseball
When a player (pitcher or player) has “matured”, he might be given a shot in the MLB with the home team.. This usually occurs en-mass in Spring Training which usually begins in the Spring of the year around first of March. There, the major leagues hopeful perform their best and are assigned to the level of the farm system according to their ability and attitude and needs of the parent team.
The level of the Farm System may vary with each MLB team but it can be from Class AAA (the highest level of minor league team) to Class A or lower in some cases).
We will discuss further in detail some of the MLB teams and their farm system in later articles.
Also coming up are articles on baseball heroes of the past and present.
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Thanks for Reading. I Hope this was Informative