Notes on the
National Pastime

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The first organized league of baseball teams, the National Association (of Base Ball Clubs), was formed in 1857.
In 1898 the Cleveland Spiders won 20 games and lost 134, 83.5 games out of first place with a .130 winning percentage, which remains to this day an (unenviable) record.
At Chicago's Grand Pacific Hotel on January 28, 1901, Ban Johnson announced an eight-team American League: the Baltimore Orioles (John McGraw, manager), the Boston Somersets (Charles W. Somers, owner), the Chicago White Stockings (Charles Comiskey, owner), the Philadelphia Athletics (Connie Mack, owner/manager), the Cleveland Blues, the Detroit Tigers, and the Washington Nationals. Each team would play a 140-game schedule and have a 14-man roster. The new league, said Johnson, would accept the work-rule demands of the Players Protective Association, which meant no salary cap, and just about all the great players in the National League exceptHonus Wagner jumped leagues.
Ohio-born Cy Young's real name was Denton True Young. In 1890, while playing for a minor league team in Canton, he was nicknamed "Cyclone" -- Cy, for short -- because he could destroy backstops with his rocketing fastball.
In September 1903, Pittsburgh (NL) owner Barney Dreyfus and Boston Red Sox (Somersets) owner Henry J. Killilea agreed to a best-of-nine series at the end of the season -- the first World Series. Cy Young threw the first pitch of the first game, 1 October 1903, at Boston's Huntington Avenue Grounds in front of a crowd of 16,242. (The Pilgrims beat the Pirates five games to three.)
Rube Waddell was the prototypical "eccentric left-handed pitcher." Consider this description by Hall-of-Fame historian Lee Allen regarding Waddell's 1903 season: "Rube began the year sleeping in a firehouse in Camden, New Jersey, and ended it tending bar in a saloon in Wheeling, West Virginia. In between those events he won 21 games for the Philadelphia Athletics, played left end for the Business Men's Rugby Football Club of Grand Rapids, Michigan, toured the nation in a melodrama called The Stain of Guilt, courted, married and became separated from May Wayne Skinner of Lynn, Massachusetts, saved a woman from drowning, accidentally shot a friend through the hand, and was bitten by a lion." NOTE: In 1904 Waddell would register 349 strikeouts, a record that would stand until Sandy Koufax struck out 382 in 1965.
The real name of legendary Philadelphia Athletics owner/manager Connie Mack was Cornelius McGillicuddy.
Center fielder Ollie Pickering's most enduring contribution to the national pastime is the coining of the term "Texas Leaguer" to refer to a single that is lobbed softly over the infield; Pickering hit seven straight bloop singles while playing in the Texas League.
Michael (27 Men Out) Coffey's evocative description of old-timey baseball: "It was a different game in 1890...than the one we know today -- pitchers threw from a flat, squared off area, like a box (hence the still-current phrase 'back to the box' to describe a ball tapped back to the pitcher). They'd only recently started throwing overhand, underhand delivery being the rule till the mid-1880s. The front of the pitcher's box was 50 feet from home plate, which itself was square and not five-sided. Pitchers were not confined by a rubber, allowing them to run, hop, jump, and skip before releasing the ball. The catcher was bare-handed and stood far behind the batter to return the pitch, unless runners were on base. There was one umpire, who moved to the infield when there were men on base, the better to adjudicate across the big pasture. Players wore all-woolen uniforms, though you wouldn't say they were uniform, settling mostly for the same colored sock or top jersey; gloves were for protecting the palm (and some players wore one on each hand, and some...wore none); bats were more like long clubs (some over three and a half feet long); the ball was rubber, yarn, and leather; the ballparks were made of hazardous wood, risking fire and collapse; the outfields were more likely ringed by spectators and horse carriages than walls or fences."
In 1876, the inaugural National League season, the Chicago White Stockings set a team record by hitting .337. That record still stands.
In 1884 the Chicago White Stockings hit 142 home runs as a team. That year the only major league team to have as many 40 homers was the Columbus Buckeyes of the American Association.
The 1892 Boston Beaneaters were the first major league team to win 100 games in a season, going 102-48. But its the Chicago Cubs who hold not only the major league record for the highest single-season winning percentage, but also the second, third and fourth highest as well. The Cubs were 67-17 (.798) in 1880, 52-14 (.788) in 1876, 87-25 (.777) in 1885, and 107-45 (.704) in 1907.
The first official All-Star Game occurred at Comiskey Park on July 6, 1933 in connection with the Chicago Exposition. But an all-star game actually took place on July 24, 1911, when the Cleveland Naps (Indians) took on a collection of All Stars in the Addie Joss Benefit Game. The contest featured such baseball celebrities as Nap Lajoie, Cy Young, Sam Crawford, Frank "Home Run" Baker, and Shoeless Joe Jackson. The Joss All Stars won 5-3. There was, however, an even earlier "all-star" match, on November 21, 1861, a Grand Match at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, NJ, at which an all-star team from Brooklyn beat an all-star team from New York by a score of 18-6. This, at least, was the first game played for a trophy.
The first "world series" occurred in August of 1865. On August 3, the Brooklyn Atlantics clashed with the New York Mutuals in the Grand Match for the Championship of the United States at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, NJ. The Atlantics won, 13-12. Later that month the Atlantics won the second game, 40-28 and became organized baseball's first national champions.
Baseball's first organized team was the New York Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, the brainchild of shipping clerk Alexander Cartwright. It was formed on September 23, 1845 and had 28 original members. Cartwright drafted the first written rules of modern baseball. Another member, Daniel Lucius "Doc" Adams, invented the position of shortstop. The Knickerbockers often played across the Hudson River from Manhattan in Hoboken, New Jersey's Elysian Fields. That's where they played their first official match game, on June 19, 1846. They lost, 23-1.
The Knickerbockers proposed the "fly rule" -- that a ball caught on the fly constituted an out -- in 1857. Other teams opposed the rule, arguing that it would result in injury to the unprotected hands of the fielders. They preferred the traditional method: a batter was counted out if the fielder caught the batted ball on one bounce. The fly rule was universally adopted in 1864.
In force until 1887, the "fair-foul" rule stated that a batted ball which touched in fair territory but went foul before reaching first or third base was in play. Nowadays, of course, such a batted ball would be called foul.
The 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings are considered baseball's first all-professional team, because each of its ten players received a salary. The Red Stockings went 65-0 in their first season. (See below.)
The Cincinnati Red Stockings had the longest winning streak in baseball history in 1869-1870. They won 65 in 1869 as they barnstormed around the country, and 27 the following year, for a total in 92 -- until they were defeated by the Brooklyn Atlantics by a score of 8-7 on June 14, 1870 at the Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn. The Red Stockings (one and only) pitcher was Asa Brainard.
Most believe that a former prizefighter named Billy McLean was the first full-time, professional baseball umpire. McLean was an arbiter in the National Association and the National League, where he served until 1884.
The second major league, the American Association, was launched in 1882, and tempted fans by offering lower admission (25 cents) than the competition. The AA also sold beer and whiskey at the games, and played on Sunday.
Dickey Pearce, who played in the 1870s, is reputedly the first batter to perfect "butting" a pitched ball in order to get on base. The technique, frequently mispronounced, has become known as "bunting".
It's believed that Benjamin Harrison was the first U.S. president to attend a major league game while in office, when he saw a contest between Washington and Cincinnati on June 2, 1892.
The first known baseball game was produced in 1869 by N.B. Sumner. It was called the New Parlor Game of Base Ball.
The first major issue of baseball cards occurred in 1887, produced by the tobacco firm of Goodwin & Co. and distributed in packets of Old Judge cigarettes.That same year, Allen & Ginter issued the first set of full color tobacco cards, which included baseball players as well as other athletes.
In 1879, Cap Anson's Chicago White Stockings became the first team to have a pitching rotation. The following year, Chicago became the first team with two 20-game winners (Frank Hankinson and Terry Larkin). In 1884 the UA's Cincinnati Outlaw Reds became the first team with three 20-game winners (George Bradley, Dick Burns and Jim McCormick).

In 1884 a new rule allowed pitchers to throw overhand. This increased pitch velocity, which resulted in soaring strikeout totals and plummeting batting averages.

1884 was a year for the record books, as far as pitching was concerned. Charley "Old Hoss" Radbourn (Providence Grays, NL) set an all-time record for games won (59). That same year Guy Hecker (Louisville Eclipse) won 52 to set a new American Association record, and Bill Sweeney (Baltimore Monumentals) won 40 to set a Union Association record.

In 1892, Amos Rusie of the New York Giants and Bill Hutchinson of the Chicago White Stockings became the last pitchers in major league history to win 30 games and lose 30 games in the same season.

In 1893 the distance from the pitcher's box to home plate was lengthened ten feet to 60' 6". (Reportedly, it was intended to be 60', but for a printing error in the instructions.)

In the 1908 pennant race between the Cleveland Naps and the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland's Addie Joss faced the legendary spitballer Ed Walsh. Walsh allowed just one run (on a wild pitch). Joss didn't allow a single Chicago baserunner, recording the fourth perfect game in history, and the first in a pennant race.

The 1906 Chicago Cubs had, arguably, the best pitching staff in baseball history, with a record 116 victories and a record 1.75 staff ERA. Ace of the staff was Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown (26 wins, 1.04 ERA). Other hurlers included Jack Pfiester, Ed Reulbach, Carl Lundgren and Orval Overall. All but Lundgren had an ERA of 1.88 or less. They allowed just 381 runs.

In the 1910s, Rube Marquand set the all-time record for most consecutive victories with 19 (1912). Cliff Curtis of the Boston Braves had the all-time record losing streak with 23 straight losses in 1910-11.
In the 1890s starting pitchers were expected to finish their games regardless of how well they were doing. That's why the Cleveland Spiders pitching staff logged 138 games in 1899 even though they lost 134 of their 154 games that year.