The History of Major League Baseball
Many people enjoy eating cracker jacks and hotdogs, while cheering on their favorite team in a Red Sox, Angels, or Yankees tie. While baseball may seem like an American staple, there once was a time when baseball wasn’t popular. In fact, it can be difficult to trace back the origins of baseball, as various forms and versions of it have been played throughout history, spanning centuries.
In America, the game of baseball traces its lineage back to a combination of cricket and rounders, two games that were both brought to the U.S. by European settlers. There is also the popular myth that Union soldier Abner Doubleday invented the modern game of baseball. While this myth is wide-spread, there is no actual proof that it’s true. Even Doubleday himself never made any claims to having anything to do with the popular game’s origin.
Even though the origins of the game of baseball are somewhat of a mystery, the origination of formal rules is not. It all started in 1838 in Philadelphia, with the New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club. This club was comprised of roughly thirty young men who would regularly get together to play baseball. These young men are credited with establishing rules that are still in use today—diamond-shaped field, making the “balk” illegal, introducing foul lines, three-strikes-and-out for a batter, and the runner must be tagged or thrown out. The first game played under these official rules was held on June 19, 1846, in Hoboken, New Jersey. The New York Knickerbockers played against the New York Base Ball Club, with the Knickerbockers losing 23-1.
It wasn’t until 1869 that the first,“all-professional” baseball team was officially formed. The first team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings, who were financed by a group of Ohio investors. Each player received a salary, with the highest paid player receiving $1,400 per season. A year later, the team was moved to Boston. The Red Stockings and eight other teams from Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, Cleveland, Troy (New York), Fort Wayne (Indiana), and Rockford (Illinois) formed the National Association of Professional Ball Players.
Five years after the association was formed, it was struggling. In the winter of 1876, the owner of the Chicago White Stockings, William A. Hulbert, poached five of the best players from the league from two other teams and formed the National League. The National League was comprised of teams from Boston, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Hartford, New York, Philadelphia, and Louisville. The owners of these teams ruled their newly formed league with an iron fist. Players who complained about salaries were often fired and even blacklisted from playing baseball.
For many years, The National League dominated all other leagues, including the American Association and Player’s League. The National League was able to hold on to its monopoly until the turn of the century. In 1900, Byron “Ban” Johnson formed the American League from four teams. He was able to pick up players that were unemployed and raided the National League’s team rosters. More and more players made the transition to the American League. As a result, the National League was forced to submit. In 1903, a National Agreement was set up, which established a National Baseball Commission. This commission was made up of the president of each league and a permanent chairman. And this was the birth of Major League Baseball and the reason you can buy a Yankee tie.