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read this article in a book, thought I'd share...


Professional Base Ball

On May 17, 1857, the Knickerbocker Club of New York City invited rival clubs from around their region to a meeting. The reason: to draw up a standardized set of rules for the new sport they all played – base ball. Twenty-five clubs attended and by the end of the meeting they had become the National Association of Base Ball Players. The sport had only recently emerged from various similar traditional games being played around the country – cricket, “rounders,†and “townball†– but by 1868 more than 100 teams were members of the National Association.

One of the Association’s original principles had been that baseball should remain a purely amateur sport. It didn’t. In 1862 Albert Reach of the Brooklyn Eckfords became the first professional player when he was paid $25 to join the Philadelphia Athletics. As the game’s popularity grew, rivalries between the different teams became so intense that paying players, though still against the rules, became commonplace. In 1869 the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first all-professional team, traveling the country challenging – and demolishing – all comers. (They won 65 straight games that year.) Other clubs followed suit and two years later the original organization rewrote its charter to become the first “major league†– The National Association of Professional Baseball Players.

The National League

As attendance continued to climb and even more tams got into the act, baseball started to generate substantial revenue. And people involved in the sport started to realize that the NAPBP might be more suitably run my businessmen than by players. By 1875 many of the teams found themselves in a pickle. Why? That year, seven of the 13 teams in the league ran out of money and were unable to finish the season. The owners had to do something. In December, 1875, they held a secret meeting and formed the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs with rules specifically tailored to benefit the owners, not the players – the era of big-business baseball had begun.

The new League had a board of five directors who were empowered to enforce the new rules and dole out punishments for teams and players that broke them. The reserve clause, prohibiting players from going to another team for better pay, was implemented at this time, and salary caps were put in place. Other rules: both liquor and gambling, which had coexisted with baseball since its early days, were no longer allowed. The board of directors began fining team and banning players for “conduct in the controversion of the objects of the league.â€

In 1880 the board of directors ejected the entire Cincinnati Reds team for “the selling of spirituous liquors on league grounds.†Cincinnati owner Justus Thorner responded by quitting the league and forming his own: the American Association – and it was a success. By 1883 the National League was forced to deal with them, so the two leagues (along with a third, the Northwestern League) met to draw up a “National Agreement,†establishing many of the rules that are still in place today, as well as prompting cooperation between teams and leagues. The American Association wouldn’t last (it was gone by 1891; the Reds went back to the National League in 1890), but the National Agreement gave the game a foundation, and business continued to grow.

The American League

The Players weren’t happy with all the new changes in the game. They resented the loss of power that had come with the rise of club ownership and wanted to maintain the right to sell their talents to the highest bidder. So they tried – twice – to start up separate, player-controlled organizations: the Union Association of 1884 and the Player’s League of 1890. It didn’t work – both folded within a year for lack of finances. Baseball players had become contracted property to commercial teams. (It wouldn’t be until free agency came into being in 1976 that players would regain some control over their fates.)

By 1900 there were 14 leagues signed on to the National Agreement with the National League he undisputed leader in terms of prestige and revenue. In 1901 another successful group, the Western League, changed its name to the American League and declared itself the National League’s equal. The older league refused to recognize the claim, so the new league withdrew from the National Agreement. They began raiding National League teams for players, luring away top stars with higher salaries, and placing teams in National League cities. The upstarts were gaining popularity; recognition by the National League seemed inevitable.

“The World Championship Seriesâ€

At the end of the 1903 season the owners of the National League Champion Pittsburgh Pirates and the American League leading Boston team (known variously as the Pilgrims, Puritans, or Red Sox) agreed to compete in a best of nine game inter-league, championship series. After falling behind three games to one, the Boston team came back to win the next four games…and the first “World Championship Series,†and the win sent a message to the baseball establishment: The American League was here to stay.

The following year the New York Giants won the NL pennant and refused to play the Red Sox, who had repeated their AL title. The Giants manager, John McGraw, told reporters, “Why should we play this, or any other American League team, for any post-season championship? When we clinch the National League pennant, we’ll be champions of the only real Major League.â€

Fans didn’t like his attitude, and the next year, when the Giants again won the NL pennant, the public demand for the post-season series was so strong that they were compelled to play. But New York owner John T. Brush insisted on crafting a set of rules for post-season play and box office revenues – the same rules that are in use today. It is the “Brush Rules,†for example, that established the length of the series at seven games rather than nine.

After this second World Series, the two leagues buried the hatchet for good and drafted a new National Agreement establishing the American and National as the ‘Major Leagues†and all others as the “Minor Leagues.†And compared to most other professional sports, the game of baseball has changed very little since.

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Book Cited:

Bathroom Readers' Instit. "The Birth of the Major Leagues." Uncle John's Slightly Irregular Bathroom Reader. Ashland, Oregon: Bathroom Readers' Press, 2004. 202-204.

Its this book with a whole bunch of randam trivial info, pretty good.

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Pick up Baseball by Ken Burns 10 DVDs, it's the history of baseball through the 80s. Wonderful interviews, or go to the library and pick up the companion book. A great adition to anyone's personal book collection.

A definite MUST BUY for every hardcore Baseball fan. I have the 9-VHS set that I got about 10 years ago.

I think it would be interesting if Burns made another installment focusing on the 90's and the 21th century (the Homerun boom/Steroid era, Cal Ripken's 2131, the 1994 Strike, Red sox coming back from 3-0 in the 2004 ACLS, how the 2001 World Series helped NYC deal with 9/11, the reign of Bud Selig, Barry Bonds under scrutiny, etc.)

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