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Origins and Birth of Major League Baseball


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Title: Origins and Birth of Major League Baseball

Origins and Birth of Major League Baseball
The 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings baseballs
first professional team.
  • Artemus Ward
  • Dept. of Political Science
  • Northern Illinois University

Salt print of the 18481850 New York
Knickerbockers. Taken December 1862.
  • We will discuss baseballs origins and its
    journey from an amateurs game to a professional
  • Along the way we will meet key figures and
    discuss the events that led to this
  • Ultimately, control over the game shifted from
    players to owners and by the early 1900s the
    owners had established a collusive monopoly which
    would last for the next 100 years.

Baseballs Origins
  • People have been pitching balls, hitting them
    with bats, and running for as long as there have
    been people. Early forms of baseball included the
    English folk games stoolball in the 11th
    century, forms of cricket in the 13th century,
    and perhaps rounders in the 18th century.
  • The American game evolved from amateur urban
    clubs in the 1840s and 1850s to the modern
    professional major leagues that began in the
  • The first published rules of baseball were
    written in 1845 for a New York (Manhattan) base
    ball club called the Knickerbockers. The author,
    Alexander Joy Cartwright, is often credited with
    inventing the modern game, though he likely wrote
    down rules that had been in existence for years.
  • In 1845, the Knickerbockers began using the
    Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey to play
    baseball due to the lack of suitable grounds in
    increasingly crowded Manhattan. In 1846, the
    Knickerbockers played on these grounds in the
    first organized game between two clubs, losing
    23-1 to a team of cricket players.

A 1744 publication in England by John Newbery
called A Little Pretty Pocket-Book includes a
woodcut of stoolball and a rhyme entitled
"Base-ball." This is the first known instance of
the word baseball in print. The book was very
popular in England, and was later published in
Colonial America in 1762.
1865 championship match between the Mutual Club
of New York and the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn,
attended by an estimated 20,000 fans. Elysian
Fields, Hoboken New Jersey.
Organized Baseball
  • With hundreds of clubs forming, in 1857, sixteen
    clubs from New York City sought to gain control
    of the game. They standardized the rules and
    formed the National Association of Base Ball
    Players (NABBP). By 1862 some NABBP member clubs
    offered games to the general public in enclosed
    ballparks with admission fees. But players were
    never to be paid. It was an amateurs game.
  • During and after the American Civil War
    (1860-1865), the movements of soldiers and
    exchanges of prisoners helped spread the game.
  • In 1869, former Knickerbocker CF Harry Wright
    formed the first openly professional baseball
    team The Cincinnati Red Stockings. Prior to
    this, players were amateurs and were not paid to
    play. But Cincinnati recruited nationally and
    effectively by offering salaries, toured the
    country, were undefeated until June 1870, and
    demonstrated that professional baseball was a
    viable business enterprise. Harrys brother, the
    SS, was the highest paid player receiving
    1,400seven-times the average working mans
  • The Chicago White Stockings (now the Cubs) joined
    the NABBP in 1870 and one year later broke away
    with several other clubs, including Harry
    Wrights new Boston Red Stockings (the dominant
    team of the era as it included several of his
    former Cincinnati playersthe team is now the
    Atlanta Braves) to found the first professional
    league, the National Association of Professional
    Base Ball Players (NA).
  • But the NA was weak. Without an overall
    organization or structure, schedules and
    competition were chaotic. Players moved from team
    to team depending on the salary offered.

The National League
  • In 1876, William Hulbert, a Chicago coal magnate
    and the owner of the White Stockings, initiated
    the establishment of the National League of
    Professional Base Ball Clubs (NL).
  • The NA folded and the new National League has
    been in existence ever since. Indeed it is the
    world's oldest continuously existing professional
    team-sports league.
  • The NL had strong central authority, exclusive
    territories in large cities only, a regular
    schedule of games, set uniform ticket prices at
    50 cents, and banned gambling, drinking, and
    games on Sunday.
  • But most importantly, the NL sought to reduce
    player salariesa considerable expense, increase
    fan interest by keeping players from switching
    from team to team, and impose discipline on
    unruly players. The solution in 1879 the owners
    added a reserve clause to the contracts of the
    five best players on each team, later the best
    eleven, and by 1890 all players. It required that
    they play only for their present employer and
    reserve their services for the following year.
    At first, few complained. To be reserved was to
    be assured of a job for the next season. But some
    likened it to slavery. Those who complained were
    fired then blacklisted. In reality, because
    players under the reserve clause could not
    solicit competitive bids for their services,
    their salaries were artificially depressed.
    Couple that with collusion among the owners to
    set maximum salary limits and it is not
    surprising that players were dissatisfied.
  • For the first time in the history of the game the
    players would serve the interest of the owners.
    For the next 100 years the game was controlled by
    those who owned the field and supplied the ball.
    Players were merely employees.

The Beer and Whiskey League
St. Louis Browns AA Champions 1885-88.
  • In 1882, a rival league, the American Association
    (AA) started play. The AA offered Sunday games,
    alcoholic beverages, and sold cheaper tickets
    everywhere (25 cents versus the NL's standard 50
    cents, a hefty sum for many in 1882).
  • The new AAcommonly known as the beer and
    whiskey leaguedrew huge, lively crowds of
    mostly lower-class and immigrant fans. It
    co-existed with the more sedate, established,
    upper-class NL for ten years and the best team in
    each league often played an end-of-the-season
    exhibition, a kind of precursor to the World
  • But the AA folded after the 1891 season and many
    of its teams were absorbed by the NL.

The Players League
  • Aiding in the demise of the AA was a third league
    born out of the Brotherhood of Professional
    Base-Ball Players, the sports first union.
  • Lasting only one year1890the Players League was
    organized by star player (and Columbia Law School
    graduate) John Montgomery Ward who was
    disenchanted with the heavy-handed tactics of the
    owners. The Players League included a profit
    sharing system for the players and their
    investors. Each club was governed by an 8-man
    board of both players and investors. The league
    was governed by a senate of 16-members split
    evenly between players and investors. Most
    importantly, player contracts had no reserve
  • 80 of NL players flocked to the new league
    including many of its stars such as Dan
    Brouthers, Pud Galvin, Hugh Duffy, and Ed
    Delahanty as well as future influential club
    owners Connie Mack and Charles Comiskey!
  • But the NL owners undermined the Players League
    at every turn. First they sued Ward and other
    players who left the NL but in Metropolitan
    Exhibition Co. v. Ward (1890) the New York
    Supreme Court held that the reserve clause only
    bound players and owners to make future contracts
    without specifying the terms of those contracts
    and therefore were unenforceable. Hence NL
    contracts did not prevent players from signing
    with other leagues.
  • The owners turned outside the law to coercion and
    bribery to thwart the new league. Outdrawn by the
    Players League, the NL distributed free passes to
    fans around town, used propaganda, threats,
    personal intimidation, and financial offers to
    induce the Players Leagues relatively naïve and
    inexperienced financial backers to desert the
  • While Ward failed in his bid against the owners,
    he continued playing finishing his career as the
    only player in history to win over 100 games as a
    pitcher and collect over 2,000 hits.
  • Where there had been three top-level leagues in
    1890, by the start of the 1892 season there was
    only one. The NL operated as a monopoly for the
    rest of the decade setting maximum salaries at
    2,400 and considered setting up a trust whereby
    there would be one common ownership of all 12 NL
    teams. But when the NL contracted to 8 teams in
    1900, there was an opening for new competition.

Monte Ward
Albert Goodwill Spalding
  • He was the finest pitcher of the 1870s. Harry
    Wright paid him 1,500 per year to pitch for the
    Boston Red Stockings.
  • In 1876 he left Boston for Chicago, lured by
    William Hulberts offer of a raise and a percent
    of the gate. He was the first star to use a glove
    in the field to protect his hand.
  • But he stopped pitching entirely at age 27
    finishing with a record of 253-65 for a winning
    percentage of .796 the best in baseball
  • He became a full-time promoter. He opened a
    sporting goods business and began manufacturing
    all the baseballs in the league as well as bats
    and uniforms. Spaulding crushed or bought out his
    competitors and Spaulding became the largest
    sporting good manufacturer in the country.
  • After the death of William Hulbert in 1882,
    Spalding became the principle owner of the White
    Stockings. He moved the team to a new venue West
    Side Park. He built a private box in the new park
    fitted out with a gong to summon servants and a
    new invention the telephone to keep track of all
    his enterprises while he watched the game.
  • In 1888-89 he even took a team of players on a
    global tour to promote the game. Newspapers
    called him the baseball messiah.
  • He led other NL owners in their war against the
    Players League and ultimately won the
    battlethereby shutting the players out of team
    ownership and league governance forever.

The American League
  • Bancroft Ban Johnson was a former law student
    and Cincinnati sportswriter who befriended
    Charles Comiskey, then manager of the Reds.
  • In 1894, with the urging and help of Comiskey,
    Ban Johnson became the president of the minor
    Western League. In 1896, he formulated the plan
    that would eventually see the Western League
    become the American League.
  • Comiskey left the Reds and purchased the Western
    Leagues Sioux City team, moved it to St. Paul,
    and then to Chicago in 1900 where they initially
    took on the old nickname of the citys longtime
    NL team, the White Stockings (at this time the NL
    team was known as the Colts, the nickname of
    their leader Cap Anson, and then the orphans and
    remnants after Ansons departureand of course
    later the Cubs).
  • Following the NLs contraction, Johnson expanded
    his Western League, changed the name to the
    American League, broke his minor-league agreement
    with the NL, and declared the AL a major league
    in 1901, directly competing with the NL who never
    saw Johnson as a threat.
  • In 1900, NL players created their second union
    the Players Protective Association.
  • While it was as ineffectual as Wards earlier
    union, it highlighted the players
    dissatisfaction with the owners.
  • Ban Johnson seized on this disaffection by
    persuading players to join his new American
    League. Of the 182 players on AL rosters in 1901,
    111 were former NL players.
  • The 1901 and 1902 AL seasons were unqualified
    successes. In 1900 Johnson had started raiding NL
    rosters by paying higher salaries, enticing more
    than 100 NL players to join his league and fans
    packed AL ballparks to see the stars who had
    switched to the AL including Cy Young, Rube
    Waddell, and John McGraw.

Ban Johnson
Cy Young
Napoleon Nap Lajoie and the Enforcement of
  • Napoleon Nap Lajoie was a star 2B for the NLs
    Philadelphia Phillies. Connie Mack, the owner of
    the cross-town AL team the Philadelphia
    Athletics, offered Lajoie 24,000 for a
    three-year contract. Phillies owner Colonel John
    I. Rogers responded with a better offer 25,000
    for two years. But Lajoie demanded Rogers pay him
    an additional 500 for the 1901 season and Rogers
    refused. Lajoie then accepted Macks offer and
    jumped to the ALs Athletics for the 1901 season.
  • The Phillies sued asking the state trial court to
    issue an injunction that would order Lajoie to
    fulfill his existing contract with the Phillies,
    which stipulated that he would not play for
    another team. But the trial court decided for
    Lajoie. He played for the As in 1901 and set the
    leagues single-season batting record. But the
    Phillies appealed and the Pennsylvania Supreme
    Court reversed the trial court decision and
    enforced the provision of Lajoies contract that
    he not play for another club. In Philadelphia
    Ball Club, Ltd. v. Lajoie (1902), the Court
    reasoned that a professional baseball playerand
    certainly one of Lajoies talentwas
    presumptively unique and difficult if not
    impossible to replace, a finding that justified
    equitable relief through the issuance of a
    negative injunction. The decision concluded The
    court cannot compel the defendant to play for the
    plaintiff, but it can restrain him from playing
    for another club in violation of his agreement.
  • Lajoie never again played for the Phillies.
    Prohibited by the courts from playing for the
    As, he was traded to the ALs Cleveland club.
    Whenever Cleveland travelled to Philadelphia to
    play the As, Lajoie went on vacation to New
  • Though other state courts followed the Ward
    precedent and denied injunctive relief to the
    clubs that lost players to the rival league,
    Lajoie marked an important turning point in the
    development of the baseball cartel and
    strengthened the reserve clause. The presumption
    was that player services were unique and
    irreplaceable and although courts could not force
    someone to play for a particular team, they were
    willing to prevent that person from selling their
    services elsewhere.

The National Agreement
  • As the bidding war between the two leagues grew
    fiercer and player salaries continued to
    escalate, the AL grew in popularity. By 1902 the
    AL outdrew the NL, 2.2 million to 1.7 million
  • By 1903, the two leagues realized it was in their
    economic interest to compromise. The leagues
    signed The National Agreementthe
    constitution of the sport. The leagues pledged
    to perpetuate baseball as the national game of
    America, and to surround it with such safeguards
    as to warrant absolute public confidence in its
    integrity and methods. The two league presidents
    and a third person selected by the two made up
    the National Commission which would govern the
    business of baseball. The owners gave the
    three-person Commission the power to control
    baseball by its own decrees, to enforce those
    decrees without the aid of law, and to answer to
    no power outside its own. In reality, however, AL
    President Ban Johnson ruled both the commission
    and the game until the 1920s.
  • The National Agreement ushered in an era of
    hegemony for organized baseball. The two leagues
    settled into a peaceful and collusive
    co-existence with eight teams in each league, an
    end-of-the-season World Series between each
    league champion, and most importantly no more
    bidding wars for players. Salaries once again
    became artificially depressed.

Charles Comiskey
  • Soon Ban Johnson battled AL owners including his
    old ally Charles Comiskey. When Comiskey warned
    Johnson that his players may have been bribed to
    fix games for gamblers, Johnson ignored him.
    Johnson continually clashed with the new
    Commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis and
    was ultimately forced out of baseball by the
  • Comiskey, on the other hand, prospered. He was a
    star player and manager in the 1880s and 1890s.
    He is sometimes credited with being the first 1B
    to play behind the bag and inside the foul line,
    which is common now.
  • He became the owner of the Chicago White Sox from
    1900 until his death in 1931 and oversaw the
    building of Comiskey Park in 1910.
  • Notoriously frugal with his players, he made them
    pay to launder their own uniforms, hence the
    Black Sox nickname for their often dirty
  • The substandard wages tempted many of his players
    to talk to gamblers about throwing games for
    money. After eight of his players were accused of
    throwing the 1919 World Series he provided them
    with expensive legal counsel. But ultimately
    supported the decision to ban them for life,
    despite the fact that it decimated his team by
    depriving them of its stars including shoeless
    Joe Jackson.

The Commissioner
  • Hoping to restore public confidence in the sport
    following the 1919 Black Sox Scandal in which
    Chicago White Sox players accepted bribes from
    gamblers in order to throw the World Series, the
    owners named federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain
    Landis commissioner of baseball, to replace the
    three-person National Commission that have
    formerly governed the sport.
  • Landis accepted but on the condition that he have
    absolute power to take any action he deemed in
    the best interest of baseball. The owners agreed
    and Landis first decision was to ban the eight
    White Sox players involved in the scandal.
  • Throughout 1921 Landis came under intense
    criticism for his moonlighting, and congressional
    members called for his impeachment. In February
    1922, Landis resigned his position as a federal
    judge saying that, "There aren't enough hours in
    the day for me to handle the courtroom and the
    various other jobs I have taken on."
  • The owners hoped that after the Black Sox scandal
    passed, Landis would retire to a quiet life as
    the titular head of baseball. But instead, Landis
    ruled baseball with an iron fist for 25 years. At
    times he antagonized the owners and the players
    but historians generally agree that his actions
    were consistent with his best interest of
    baseball mandate and the independence of the

(No Transcript)
  • Baseball was initially a game played by amateurs
    for amusement.
  • As it grew in popularity, private entrepreneurs
    built enclosed parks and charged admission to see
  • To gain control of the game, rules were
    standardized and leagues were formed.
  • In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings began
    paying players to play baseball.
  • Born from the ashes of the first professional
    leaguethe National Associationthe National
    League was formed by the owners and the reserve
    clause was invented, binding players to their
    teams for life and shifting power from the
    players to the owners, a situation that lasted
    for the next 100 years.
  • Although able to quash competition from the
    upstart beer and whiskey and Players leagues,
    the American League was able to become a
    successful competitor the NL. But they soon
    settled their differences and entered into a
    collusive agreement of peaceful coexistence that
    lasts to this day.
  • Major League Baseballs monopoly over the game
    was in place.

  • Abrams, Roger I. 1998. Legal Bases Baseball and
    the Law. Philadelphia, PA Temple University
  • Goldman, Robert M. 2008. One Man Out Curt Flood
    versus Baseball. Lawrence, KS University Press
    of Kansas.
  • Metropolitan Exhibition Co. v. Ward, 9 NYS 779
    (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1890).
  • Philadelphia Ball Club, Ltd. v. Lajoie, 202 Pa
    210, 51 A 973 (1902).
  • Ward, Geoffrey C. and Ken Burns. 1994. Baseball
    An Illustrated History. New York, NY Knopf.
  • Zimbalist, Andrew. 2003. May the Best Team Win
    Baseball Economics and Public Policy. Washington,
    DC Brookings Press.