A Brief History of Major League Baseball
Preface: This is just the script for a video I have been working on for a little over a month now. It has been taking me much longer than I expected to make, so in the meantime here's the script. Also sorry about the grammatical errors, nobody wanted to edit this monster blog.
With the 2020 MLB season underway, let’s take a look back at the last 144 years of professional baseball in America and see the evolution of Major League Baseball.
Our story begins on February 2nd, 1876 with the formation of the National League of Professional Base Ball clubs, better known as the National League. The league was formed after other professional leagues had failed, mainly the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players or NA. They decided to use New York rules. The rules of baseball me and you know today.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, there were countless baseball leagues and associations. Lots of these early teams started in other leagues and then came to the MLB. Complete records of old clubs are very difficult to find and I’m lazy so we are just going to focus on when they joined the MLB
The league started with 8 teams. Two of the franchises were new, Cincinnati Red Stockings (not to be confused with the current Cincinnati Reds) and the Louisville Grays. While the other six were part of the defunct NA, The New York Mutuals, The Athletic of Philadelphia (not to be confused with the current Athletics team in Oakland), The Hartford Dark Blue, the St. Louis Brown Stockings, and two teams that are still around today, The Chicago White Stockings, now the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Stockings, now the Atlanta Braves.
Besides Philadelphia and New York, all of the team's nicknames were chosen by reporters based on the team's uniform. The teams were initially just called themselves by their city and adopted the nicknames as the season went on.
The first game in the New National League took place on April 22, 1876, in Philadelphia between the Athletic of Philadelphia and Boston. Boston won 6-5
The Chicago White Stockings won the first NL pennant when they finished their regular season 52 and 14. 6 games better than the St. Louis Browns.
Towards the end of the season, the Athletic of Philadelphia and the New York Mutuals were running out of money so instead of traveling to away games, they played against other league’s teams in their area. For their actions, they were expelled from the league. Setting a precedent that teams must be loyal to their contracts, the schedule, and the league.
With the New York City market open, the Hartford Dark Blues move to the Big Apple and change their name to one of the MLB’s most confusing… The Brooklyn Hartfords. Although supposedly the Brooklyn Hartfords were famous Author Mark Twain's favorite.
At the end of the 1877 season, the Louisville Greys were running out of money so they traded all of their best players, actually pretty much gave all their best players to the St. Louis Brown Stockings asking for only a share in the wealth when they won the Pennant. But for their actions, both teams were expelled from the league. Imagine if teams were still banned from the league for cheating now? That offseason the Brooklyn Hartfords also disbanded.
But three new teams joined the League and kept the total number of teams at 6. The Indianapolis Blues, the Milwaukee Greys, and the Providence Greys. With teams being named from the colors of their uniforms you would think two teams both being named the greys could have been avoided. The Cincinnati Red Stockings also changed their name to just the Reds.
The Indianapolis Blues and the Milwaukee Greys folded after the 1878 season. While the Cleveland Blues, Buffalo Bison, and Troy Trojans all joined the League for the 1879 season.
The following season the Worcester Ruby Legs entered and the original Cincinnati Reds folded.
In 1881, the Detroit Wolverines joined the National League bringing the total number of teams back to an even eight.
No new teams joined for the 1882 season but the Chicago White Stockings pulled off the league's first three-peat winning the 1880, 81, and 82 pennants. Both Worcester Ruby Legs and the Troy Trojans fold after the season ends.
In 1883, the Boston Red Stockings decided that they wanted to come up with a nickname not based on their jersey. The owners settle on the Boston Beaneaters after Boston Baked Beans. The club wasn’t sponsored by any bean companies. The owners just must have really liked beans. More importantly, two new franchises joined the league for the 1883 season both of which are still playing today. One is the New York Gothams, now known as the San Francisco Giants and the other being the Philadelphia Phillies. Originally just Philadelphia the term Phillies as a shorter name for the city by sportswriters and the team soon adopted it as their official nickname. The Philadelphia Phillies have had the same name for the longest of any professional team in the U.S.
The St. Louis Maroons entered the league for the 1884 season while the Cleveland Blues folded at the end of the season. That offseason The New York Gothams changed their name to the New York Giants. The club got this nickname after their manager, Jim Mutrie referred to his players as “My Giants” after a win over the Philadelphia Phillies. I always thought the club was named the giant skyscrapers in New York but I guess they aren't.
After the1885 season, both the Providence Blues and the Buffalo Bison folded.
For the 1886 season, the Washington Nationals (Not the one we know today) entered as well as the Kansas City Cowboys: this is the farthest west any franchise had been in the league so far. But they folded after that season along with the St. Louis Maroons.
For the 1887 season, two new teams entered the league. The Indianapolis Hoosiers and Allegheny. The latter of which we know today as the Pittsburgh Pirates. Allegheny is the town across the river from Pittsburgh where the team used to play.
No new teams entered in 1888 but the Detroit Wolverines folded.
The next season, the Cleveland Spiders entered the League while the Washington Nationals and the Indianapolis Hoosiers folded. Bringing the total number of teams to 6.
For the 1890 season, two new franchises entered the league. A new Cincinnati Reds team. This one is the one we know today. Like most teams at the time, they got their names from the color of their socks. The other being the Brooklyn Bridegrooms which we know as the Los Angeles Dodgers. They got the nickname bridegrooms when several players all got married within a month. Over in Chicago, The White Stockings started to rebuild their team with rookies and young players so the newspapers started to refer to them as the colts and the team soon adopted it as their nickname.
The following season Allegheny moved across the river to Pittsburgh. For that season, they signed a player named Lou Bierbauer. Bierbauer had played for the Philadelphia Athletics, a team in the Athletic Association, the season before. But the Athletics forgot to put him on the reserve list. When Pittsburgh signed Bierbauer, the newspapers called the team the Pirates. Pittsburgh liked the drama so much they adopted Pirates as their nickname.
Four new teams entered the league for the 1892 season. The Louisville Colonels, The Washington Senators, the Baltimore Orioles, but not the ones that are around today, and one franchise that is still around today, The St. Louis Browns who are known as the Cardinals now.
For the first time in league history, there were no new teams, teams folding, or changes in team names in 1893. There were no changes until 1898 when the Chicago Colts’ manager Frank Selee left the team. Without a leader, sportswriters referred to the team as the orphans. The St. Louis Browns and The Cleveland Spiders were both owned by the same man, Frank Robinson. Robinson sent his best players to St. Louis and his worst to Cleveland. The St. Louis Browns changed their name to the Perfectos because their team had so many good players now and the Cleveland Spiders went 20 and 134. Which still stands as the worst record in a season.
For the 1899 season, the Brooklyn Bridegrooms changed their name to the Superbas and in St. Louis Perfectos had new red uniforms that in an article by the St. Louis Republic, a spectator commented on the team’s new uniform “What a lovely shade of cardinal.” The team’s uniforms also resembled cardinals of the catholic church. The team adopted Cardinals as their nickname that season.
At the end of the season, 4 teams folded: the Cleveland Spiders, the Louisville Colonels, the Washington Senators, and the Baltimore Orioles. These were the latest teams to fold in Major League Baseball.
In 1901, the American League became a professional sports league. At first, a direct competitor to the National League. Many significant players signed with this new league since they didn't have a salary cap like their older counterpart. Fans loved the new league too. It was seen as more laid back than the National League plus their stadiums were allowed to sell alcohol. With the American League came 8 new teams. The Baltimore Orioles, now known as the New York Yankees. The Boston Americans, now known as the Red Sox. The Chicago White Stockings, now White Sox. The Cleveland Blues, now the Indians. The Detroit Tigers. The Milwaukee Brewers now the Baltimore Orioles, the Philadelphia Athletics, now in Oakland. And the Washington Senators now the Minnesota Twins.
The first American League game took place on April 24th, 1901 when Chicago defeated Cleveland 8 to 2 and would go on to win the first American League pennant.
The Chicago White Stockings took their soon-to-be city rival, Cubs, currently The Orphans’ old name. Baseball writers shortened Stockings to Sox to fit on their paper's headlines. The team would adopt Sox as their official nickname in 1904. And yes they wore white socks.
How the Detroit Tigers got their name is more up to debate. Some fans believe the club got their nickname from their socks that were black with orange stripes. While others say the team was named after Michigan's oldest Military unit, the Detroit Light guard, who were nicknamed the Tigers. The team had to get the units’ permission before making it their official nickname.
The Philadelphia Athletic’s full name was the Athletic baseball club of Philadelphia, which was shortened to just Athletics and the A’s. A name they've kept as the teams traveled across the country. New York Giants Manager John McGraw referred to the team as a white elephant. The team has used it as their logo since.
After one season, the Milwaukee Brewers moved to St. Louis and changed their name to the Browns. And over in Chicago with a new leader, the papers start calling the young, inexperienced team the cubs rather than the depressing orphans. At the end of that season, the Pittsburgh Pirates won the National League pennant by the largest margin of wins in the history of the NL, finishing 27 and a half games ahead of the Brooklyn Superbas.
For the 1903 season, the two leagues officially merged into the MLB. One organization that housed both leagues. It was also agreed that each league's champion would face off against each other to determine the World Champion. But before the season started, the Baltimore Orioles headed north to New York, and the papers started to refer to the team as the New York Highlanders since their stadium was physically on high ground. At the end of that season, the Pittsburgh Pirates won their third consecutive NL pennant while the Boston Americans won their teams’ first American League one. The two teams faced off in the first ever world series. Boston won the best of nine series 5 to 3 to become the first world champion.
The 1904 World Series never happened though. The Boston Americans repeated as American League champions and the New York Giants won the National League. But Giants manager John McGraw refused to play against the American League. He didn't believe that the American League was good enough to play against the national team, even though the American League team won the World Series in the previous year. He referred to them as a minor league.
For the 1905 season, the Cleveland Blues changed their name to the Naps after their player/manager Napoleon Lajoie and the Washington Senators started to use the name Nationals but they would switch between the two regularly. The New York Giants won the 1905 NL pennant and agreed to play the World Series. They won the best of seven series against the Philadelphia Athletics 4 to 1.
There were no changes in the 1906 season but in 1907 the Beaneaters changed their ridiculous name to the Doves. In the early 1900s, they changed their name a lot to attract more fans. The following season their intercity counterparts changed their name from the Americans to the Boston Red Stockings. Almost immediately the papers shortened their name to Red Sox like what they did to the Chicago White Stockings. It isn't clear when the club started using it as their official nickname. The name had been used by the Cincinnati Reds before they joined the National League. The Red Sox did wear red socks. That season the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. They won't win again until 2016
In 1911, the Boston Doves changed their name to the Rustlers. But over in Brooklyn, the city had installed trolleys. The pedestrians had to run and jump out of the way of the trolley, they were known as the trolley dodgers. The baseball team dropped the trolley and adopted dodgers as their nickname.
After just one season the Boston Rustlers changed their name to the Braves. Boston's owner, James Gaffney, was one of the “braves' ' on the corrupt New York's political machine Tammany Hall which had a native American chief as its symbol. Fenway Park opened in 1912 in Boston Massachusetts. It’s the oldest ballpark in the MLB.
In 1913, the New York Highlanders changed their name to the Yankees. The name was first used by baseball editor Jim Price in 1904. How the team got its iconic name is up to debate. One theory is the Yankees were another name for Union Soldiers in the Civil War, The union was the north and the Baseball club is north of the Giants and Dodgers. Another theory is that they played in the American League and Yankee is just another term for an American. While the last is simply that they were named after the song Yankee Doodle Dandy.
In 1914, the Brooklyn Dodgers changed their name to the Robins after their manager Wilbert Robinson.
In 1915, when Nap left Cleveland the owner, Charles Somers told baseball writers to rename his team. They came up with the Indians. The name referenced the nickname the defunct Cleveland Spiders were given when native American Louis Sockalexis played for them. Plus the Boston Braves were reigning World Series champions.
In 1916 The New York Giants won 26 consecutive games, the most in MLB history. The American League record is 22 wins by the Cleveland Indians in 2017.
In 1918, the Red Sox won their 5th World Series but that off-season they traded George Herman Ruth, Better known as Babe Ruth and the Curse of the Bambino began.
In 1919, Babe Ruth hit 29 home runs, killed the dead ball era, and kicked off what is known as the live ball era. That season also saw the Black Sox scandal where 8 Chicago White Sox players including Shoeless Joe Jackson were banned from baseball for supposedly throwing the World Series to the Reds in exchange for money.
On May 1, 1920, The Boston Braves and the Brooklyn Robins played a 26 inning game. The most innings in any MLB game. it only took 3 hours and 50 minutes to play. The game ended in a tie when the game was called because it had gotten too dark out.
On July 18, 1921, Babe Ruth hit a 575 foot home run to dead center at Navin Park in Detriot. By far the longest measurable home run although there are legends he hit some over 600 feet. The second farthest home run belongs to Reggie Jackson who in 1971 hit a 539 foot bomb also in Detriot
In 1923, the New York Yankees won the World Series over John McGraw's New York Giants. It'd be their first of 27 the most of any team.
In the 1927 season, the Yankees were known as murderers row with their lineup of incredible players and their leader Babe Ruth who hit 60 home runs, beating his own previous record.
There were no changes until 1932 when the Brooklyn Robins changed their name back to the Dodgers
On July 6th, 1933 the first All-Star game was held. Of the 36 players that were selected, 20 of them are now in the Hall of fame.
The Boston Braves changed their names to the Bees for the 1936 season
The first Hall of Fame class was selected in 1936. It consisted of Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, and Babe Ruth. The Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York didn't open until 1939.
On June 19th, 1939 the New York Yankees announced that their star Lou Gerig was retiring. On the fourth of July, Gehrig gave his iconic “Luckiest man alive speech.” He finished his career playing 2,130 consecutive games. He died two years later of ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
In 1941, Joe Dimaggio got a hit in 56 straight games - a record that still stands today. Ted Williams finished the season with a batting average of .406, no one since has batted over .400. The Boston Bees also changed their name back to the Braves.
In 1943, the Philadelphia Phillies tried to change their name to the Blue Jays but fans just ignored it.
In 1947, Jackie Robinson started at first base and broke the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers
On October 3rd, 1951 in New York's famed Polo Grounds, Bobby Thompson of the New York Giants hit a three-run home run to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers and win the National League pennant. It became known as the shot heard round the world.
For the 1953 season, the Boston Braves moved out to Milwaukee. With McCarthyism and the red scare, the Cincinnati Reds changed their name to the Redlegs.
The following year, the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles. Becoming the third team to use the name. The oriole is the state bird of Maryland and the team's colors match the Coat of arms for Lord Baltimore.
In 1955, the Philadelphia A’s headed east to Kansas City and the Washington Nationals changed their name to the Senators again.
In 1958, two New York teams moved out to California. The Dodgers found a home in Los Angeles and The Giants settled in in San Francisco.
In 1959, the Cincinnati Redlegs changed their name back to the Reds.
1961 is known as the beginning of the Expansion Era in Major League Baseball. First, the Washington Senators move to Minnesota and change their name to the Twins after the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. A new Washington Senators team entered the league, the franchise that's now the Texas Rangers, the oldest team to not have won a World Series. And a new team in Los Angeles named the angels. The team gets its name from the English translation of Los Angeles which is the angels. So the name of the team really is The The Angels Angels. That year, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record when he hit his 61st but since Maris had 8 more games that season than Ruth, the record was not recognized.
The following season another two teams entered. The Houston Colt .45s are now called the Astros and the New York Mets. The team came up with 10 ideas for a nickname and let the fans vote. The options were Avengers, Bees, Burros, Continentals, Jets, Mets, NYBS, Rebels, Skyliners, and Skyscrapers. The name Mets won but 2nd place was the Empires and third was the Islanders neither of which were suggestions. The New York Islanders did become an NHL team a decade later with the same colors. Speaking of the colors, the Mets colors were taken from the two New York teams that had left for Cali a few years before. Blue from the Dodgers and Orange from Giants. The name metropolitans had been used by a team in the 19th century. The team suggested Mets over Metropolitans because the latter was a mouth full and wouldn’t fit well on headlines.
In 1965, the Houston Colt .45s changed their name to The Astros. Houston was home to the Johnson Space Center. Ya know “Houston we have a problem” The team's new stadium was also named the Astrodome. At the time, it was one of the most advanced baseball stadiums ever built. Across the street from the Astrodome was a theme park called Astroworld. Also, the colt firearms company really didn't like the team using its name.
In 1966, the Los Angeles Angels became the first team to change the location part of their nickname without actually moving anywhere when they changed it to the California Angels. This is the birth of what would soon become the worst team name in baseball. Also, the Milwaukee Braves headed south to Atlanta.
In 1968, the A’s head east and make their home in Oakland
Four new teams entered the league for 1969. The Kansas City Royals. They got their name from a Name The Team contest. 547 fans submitted the name Royals but a man named Sanford Porte won and was awarded a trip to the All-Star Game. Porte submitted the name because “Kansas City's position as the nation's leading stocker and feeder market and the nationally known American royal livestock and horse show. Royalty stands for the best for another reason.” Also, two former negro league teams had the name before. The Montreal Expos entered the league, now known as the Washington Nationals. The San Diego Padres entered the league. The team got their name from the Spanish word for father or priest. The region had a history of catholic missionaries, the first in California was opened in San Diego. The name was first used by a minor league team in 1937 with an 18 year old Ted Williams on the team. The Seattle Pilots also entered the league.
The following season, the Seattle Pilots packed up their bags and headed to Milwaukee and changed their name to the Brewers after all the breweries in Milwaukee. The name had been used by various teams since the 1800s.
For the 1972 season, the Washington Senators moved to Arlington and changed their name to the Texas Rangers after the law enforcement organization formed by Stephen F. Austin in the 1820s.
On opening day of 1974, Hank Aaron blasted his 714th career home run, tying him with Babe Ruth and on April 4th he hit number 715 putting himself alone at number 1 on the all-time home run list. He would finish his career with 755.
Two more teams entered the league for the 1977 season. The Toronto Blue Jays got their name from a team contest. There were over 30,000 entries with 4000 unique suggestions. The name Blue Jays was selected. The team was probably going to go with a blue-themed name anyways because the team’s majority owner was Ontario based Labatt breweries and they wanted a tie-in to their beer Labatt blue and most of Toronto’s professional teams used blue as their primary color. The city of Seattle was also granted a new MLB team. A name for the team contest was held with over 600 unique suggestions. The winning suggestion was The Mariners. A man named Roger Szmodis won; he said he chose the name Mariners for the “natural association between the sea, Seattle, and her people.” The team was going to award Szmodis season tickets but they weren't able to find him. No one has. He disappeared off the face of the earth and hasn't been heard from since.
On May 5th and 6th of 1984, The Chicago White Sox and The Milwaukee Brewers played a 25 inning game that lasted 8 hours and 6 minutes. The longest MLB game ever. The Sox won 7 to 6.
The next change to the league was in 1993 when two new teams entered the league. The Colorado Rockies, who got their name from the mountain range that runs through Colorado. The name was used by a defunct NHL team before and when the new team announced they'd be using the name, fans were upset and suggested they use the name Bears instead but the team reassured the fans that they would have more success than the hockey team did. Down in Miami, the new team settled on the name Florida Marlins after the fish that is found off the shores of the state.
The 1994 season was cut short on August 12th by a players strike over contract disputes. The whole second half of the season was canceled including the playoffs and for the first time since 1904, the World Series. The strike ended just a few days before the opening day of the 1995 season.
On September 6th, 1995 Cal Ripkin Jr. played his 2,131st consecutive game beating Lou Gehrig's record. He would end the streak on September 20th, 1998 at 2632 consecutive games.
For the 1997 season, the Disney Company bought the California Angels and changed their name to the Anaheim Angels. Interleague play also started this year. For the first time ever, American League and National League teams played each other in regular-season games.
The following year, the Milwaukee Brewers became the first team to switch leagues moving from the American over to the National. Two more joined the league bringing it to the 30 that there are today. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who got their name from a Name the Team contest. There were over 7000 unique suggestions. They chose Devil Rays from the manta rays that live off the coast of Florida. Originally, they wanted sting rays but it was already trademarked by the Hawaiin Winter League. The other team was the Arizona Diamondbacks. The team also got their name from a Name the Team contest. Other names the team considered were the Scorpions, Coyotes, Rattlers, and Phoenix. The team settled on Diamondbacks because it's a pun on the name of a snake and a baseball diamond. During the season, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled for the most home runs in a regular season, both beating Roger Maris’s record. Maguire finished with the new record of 70 home runs and Sosa finished second with 66.
In 2001, the Mariners were led by Rookie of the year and MVP, Ichiro Suzuki to win 116 regular-season games. The most in MLB History. Barry Bonds also broke Mark McGwire’s record for most home runs in a single season with 73.
On June 3rd, 2002 Sports Illustrated released an article featuring an admission for former National League MVP Ken Caminiti talking about his steroid use. Since then many of baseball’s best have either admitted or have been speculated to use performance-enhancing drugs.
The Boston Red Sox won the 2004 World Series and finally broke the Curse of Bambino after 86 years.
For the 2005 season, the Montreal Expos headed from Canada to America’s capital, Washington DC, and changed their name to the Nationals. The name had been used interchangeably with the Senators by past teams. The Anaheim Angels also changed their name to the worst name in baseball: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
On August 7th, 2007, Barry Bonds hit his 756th career home run, passing Hank Aaron for the number 1 spot on the list. He would end his career with 762.
For the 2008 season, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays dropped the Devil and became just the Rays. The team made the change because of efforts by Christian groups and to refer to sun rays in the sunshine state.
For the 2012 season, the Florida Marlins changed the team's name to the Miami Marlins in hopes that the city would build them a new stadium.
In 2013, the Houston Astros moved from the National League to the American League bringing both leagues to 15 teams. As of the beginning of the 2020 MLB season, this is the MLB that we all know and love.
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