Brief history recap from 1876 to 1900
(Pre – Promotion/Relegation)
There were 8 teams that joined the NLB and became the first 8 professional baseball clubs in the United States, they were the Boston Bees, Chicago Rogues, Cincinnati Red Legs, Hartford Oaks, Louisville Spires, New York City Hawks, Philadelphia Quakers and the St. Louis Stars.
The new professional league agreed to a schedule of 60 games per club, the uneven schedule didn’t brother owners they just thought 30 games at home and 30 away was a fair number. It was also agree to that the club finishing the season with the most wins won the league championship.
Clubs own the rights to their players and could either offer them a contract or release at the end of each season.
The first season went off without a problem as the New York City Hawks won the inaugural National Championship with a record of 40 wins and 20 losses, the Cincinnati Red Legs were 2nd with a record of 37-23.
The New York City Hawks would go on to win 6 of the first 11 National Championships.
At the start of the 1878 season the Hartford Oaks and Louisville Spires both withdrew from the league due to financial problems, the National League officials decided to leave the league at 6 clubs and kept the schedule at 60 games but now each team would play one another 12 times a season.
The Cincinnati Red legs were the first team to relocate as they moved to the city of Pittsburgh (due to low attendances) and became the Allegheny Pirates for the 1879 season.
Two clubs were voted into the National League before the 1880 season which were the Albany Woodcutters and the Columbus Jets, to keep it that every team plays one another 12 times the season was increased to 84 games.
The Philadelphia Quakers were the first club to win back to back National Championships in 1881 season, it was their 3rd in 4 seasons.
The New England Baseball Association formed for the 1882 season and became the next best league to the National League. The league was a semi professional league with all players still needing proper work to make a living, it was known as a “Minor League” compared to the NLB which was known as a “Major League”.
There was 6 clubs that joined the NEBA, the biggest being the Boston Bees who had struggled to sign top talent and were losing money. There best players left and joined other NLB teams. The other 5 clubs were the Hartford Lions, Portland Sailors, Providence Roosters, Springfield Rifles and the Worcester Hearts. Each team would play 60 games. The Providence Roosters built a strong roster and took home the inaugural NEBA Championship.
The Lexington Pioneers joined the National League, they had travelled all over the country playing exhibition games and had played against most of the NLB teams already.
The 1883 season saw more change with the Chicago Rogues withdrawing from the league due to travel expenses,an amateur club called the Detroit Chiefs stepped up to join the league. The St. Louis Stars owner saw more money was to be made on the east coast and moved the club to Baltimore but kept the Stars name. The NYC Hawks won a record 4th National Championship.
Another season and another lost team, the Albany Woodcutters pulled out of the league a month before the 1884 season and the other owners quickly voted in the Buffalo Bisons to keep the league at 8 teams. The NYC Hawks win their 3rd National Championship in a row.
The Boston Bees had been sold and the new owner wanted back into the league, he managed to convince 5 of the 8 owners expand the league to 10 teams for the 1885 season. The other club was the Chicago White Stockings, well known as the best club in the west. The league schedule increased to 108 games to help generate more revenue for each club. The Philadelphia Quakers took out the National Championship that year, they equaled the NYC Hawks on 4 championships each.
With there “big” club gone the NEBA decided to change their name to the North East Baseball Association to hopefully bring in more clubs. Former NLB club the Albany Woodcutters joined the NEBA and won the League Championship that season, the Worcester Hearts also relocated to Manchester becoming the Monarchs.
In the 1886 season, the National League increased it’s schedule to 126 games, and the NYC Hawks continued to dominate winning a league best 6th Championship.
The Providence Roosters joined the NBL for the 1887 season after winning their 2nd Championship in the NEBA, while the Buffalo Bisons decide to move into the NEBA. The first Championship Series was played between the 2nd place Lexington Pioneers and the 1st place Providence Roosters (85 wins, record at the time), the Pioneers dominated and won the series 4-0 for their first National Championship.
The Midwest Baseball Association (MWBA), a Minor League, was formed and lead by the Bill Conner Jr, owner of the Chicago Rogues. The Rogues along with the Milwaukee Bears, Indianapolis Capitols and the Cincinnati Buckeyes planned a 36 game schedule to be played between one another. Indianapolis won the Championship as they beat Chicago in a one game playoff as both clubs finished on 20 wins and 16 losses.
The Boston Bees left the National League for a second time before the 1888 season to re-join the NEBA and the Baltimore Stars move didn’t work out for their owner as he went bankrupt and the club folded.
The league owners voted yes to keeping the league at 8 teams and also to increase the season to 140 games. The Championship Series was a rematch with Lexington defeating Providence again, this time 4 games to 1.
The Albany Woodcutters folded from the NEBA, with Boston returning the league managed to still stay strong. Portland won their 2nd League Championship.
The MWBA increase it’s schedule to 60 games with the addition of two new clubs in the St. Louis Browns and Minneapolis Millers. The championship trophy stayed in Indianapolis as they dominated again.
The Columbus Jets struggled on and off the field and pulled the pin at the start of the 1889 season which allowed the very popular amateur team known as the New York Gothams join the National League. The Lexington Pioneers continued to prove why they were picked to join the NLB as they made it a three peat of Championships.
The Manchester Monarchs won a record 46 games and also their 1st League Championship in the NEBA, while the Indianapolis Capitols also 3 peated in the MWBA.
The Allegheny Pirates have not found success on the field since the move and the fans are starting to not show up, since the lost of the Bees the Boston market had been starved of National League Baseball so the owner packed the name up and headed for Boston for the 1890 season, and changed the name to the Yanks.
Providence becomes the first club to win a league championship in both the NEBA and NLB with their 4-3 series win to stop Lexington from winning 4 in a row.
The Buffalo Bisons moved to Syracuse and won the NEBA league championship.
The Chicago Rogue finally won some hardware as they took home the MWBA trophy.
The professional baseball landscape changed majorly for the 1891 season, the Midwest Baseball Association disbanded after the Indianapolis Capitols and St. Louis Browns were accepted in as National League teams.
The National League grew from 8 teams to 12 with the two MWBA teams and two amateur clubs in Cleveland and Washington. The league also split into two divisons, Eastern with the New York City Hawks, Brooklyn Gothams (formerly the New York), Boston Yanks, Providence Roosters, Philadelphia Quakers, and the Washington Maroons and the Western with the Chicago White Stockings, Lexington Pioneers, Detroit Chiefs, St. Louis Browns, Indianapolis Capitols, and the Cleveland Green Sox.
The two divisional winners playoff in a 7 game series for the National Championship. Lexington once again played above the rest winning the Western Pennant and getting a 5th straight trip to the Championship Series but were out played by a star studded Eastern Pennant winner in the Brooklyn Gothams who won 4-0 for their 1st Championship.
In the NEBA the Springfield Rifles folded after a mass player walk out, and the 6th spot was taken up by the New Haven Knights (who won the championship). The league increased from 60 to 90 games meaning players only really need part time work in the off-season to live happily.
Indianapolis Capitols won the National Championship of the 1892 season, beating a very good Brooklyn team 4-2. It was their first National League title but 4th Championship including 3 MWBA titles.
Founding club Philadelphia Quakers were sold and moved to Baltimore were they would be know as the Cannons from the 1893 season. Indianapolis and Brooklyn met again in the Championship Series but this time it was the Gothams who their second National Championship.
The NEBA took a hit when the Boston Bees owner pulled the pin a week before the season started. This left the league with only 5 teams and the schedule was reduced to 60 games.
The Brooklyn Gothams made a 4th straight trip to the Championship Series at the end of the 1894 season and met Western Pennant winners the Cleveland Green Sox, it will go down as one of the best series ever with Cleveland winning game seven by one run to win their first NLB Championship.
The NEBA bounced back from the year before and added the Philadelphia Brewers baseball club to the mix and put the schedule back up to 90 games. The Hartford Lions relocated the club to Scranton and became the Miners. Syracuse won the League Championship.
After a lack of success and poor revenue totals the Detroit Chief were voted out and folded before the 1895 season, the Cincinnati Buckeyes from the disbanded MWBA applied for a NLB license and it was granted. The Gothams got back to the Championship Series again for a record equaling 5th time and got revenge against the Green Sox with a 4-2 series win.
The NEBA changed it’s name to the American Baseball Association (ABA) after a 5-1 owners vote (Scranton voted against as they didn’t want to become a national level competition but decided to stay in the league). The ABA held it’s first championship series (best of 5) and the Portland Sailors won their 3rd Championship beating the Scranton Miners 3-1.
The Milwaukee Bears became the 4th former MWBA team to join the NLB for the 1896 season, as they replaced the Boston Yanks who moved to the ABA. The Bears went into the Western Division while the Cleveland Green Sox moved to the Eastern Division. The Brooklyn Gothams made a record 6th straight appearance in the Championship Series this time beating the Cincinnati Buckeyes 4-3 for their 3rd National Championship.
The Boston Yanks and Newark Eagles joined the ABA and the schedule was increase to 96 games. It was the Syracuse Bisons (3rd title) who won the ABA, beating the New Haven Knights three games to one.
As the 1897 season came to an end it was another appearance in a championship series for the Brooklyn Gothams (7 straight Eastern Division Pennants), but Cincinnati was ready after a heartbreaking series lose last season. They won the 1897 Championship Series easily winning four games to nil.
Syracuse were starting to become the Gothams of the ABA but they don’t lose Championship Series, the Bisons took home their 4th Championship.
The league had found a winning formula, attendance was great, clubs were profitable but they were still looking for ways to improve and talks started about a Baseball Union for clubs along with a promotion/relegation system during the 1898 season. The Cincinnati Buckeyes once again rolled through the season and Championship Series winning it four game to none again as they brushed off the Eastern champs Cleveland.
Scranton Miners got their first trophy in the ABA as they beat the Manchester Monarchs 3-1.
The 1899 season rolled around and the Chicago White Stockings finally showed up. They dominated the league on their way to their first Championship against Cleveland.
The Syracuse Bisons continued to win, beating New Haven in the championship series for a league best 5th Championship.
The Association of American Professional Baseball Clubs (AAPBC) was formed before the 1900 season and all 12 National League teams signed up. The ABA teams voted to join the AAPBC in 1901 and become the 2nd Division league to the NLB. This also turned the then Minor League into a 2nd Major League competition.
The New York City Hawks won their 1st Championship in 14 seasons (7th in total) as they beat the 1899 Champions the Chicago White Stockings 4-2.
The Syracuse Bisons put their hand up to be added to the National League after their 6th League Championship in the ABA.
The 1901 season would change the history of baseball forever…