Founded on February 2, 1876 the National League, which is sometimes referred to as the Senior Circuit, is one of two leagues that make up Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada. The other league is known as the American League. The winners of both leagues play one other each year, in what is called the World Series. So far, out of the 103 World Series that have been held from 1903 to 2007, 42 have been won by National League teams.
The league is divided into three divisions: East, West and Central. Both the East and West divisions consist of five teams, whilst the Central hosts six teams. The National League is currently the oldest professional team sports league in the world.
The current National League champions are the Colorado Rockies, who faced the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 World Series. They lost the series after four games.
|New York Mets||East||1962|
|St. Louis Cardinals||Central||1882|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||West||1884|
|San Diego Padres||West||1969|
|San Francisco Giants||West||1883|
The early years
The National League replaced the National Association of Professional Baseball Players (N.A.) in 1876. This is because the N.A. was very weak, and had no real authority over the clubs. Because the league had such a low entry fee, the clubs didn’t abide by the league rules and a change was therefore necessary.
A Chicago businessman, William Hulbert, had a plan for a new league. He showed this plan, which emphasised stronger authority, to various N.A. clubs. Hulbert recruited St. Louis privately, and met four western clubs in New York City on February 2, 1876.
The National League was created, and consisted of eight clubs, six of which were from the N.A. and included the Chicago White Stockings, Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Stockings, Hartford Dark Blues, Mutual of New York and St. Louis Brown Stockings. There were also two new franchises in Cincinnati Red Stockings and Louisville Grays. The formation of the National League spelt the end of the N.A.
The authority of the league was tested in its inaugural year, as two clubs (The Athletic and Mutual) refused to travel to western clubs late on in the season, due to the fact that they were so low in the standings.
Instead they faced far easier, local non- league opponents in order to win more matches. Hulbert reacted strongly to this, expelling both clubs. This was a huge shock to the baseball community as Philadelphia and New York were two of the most renowned and heavily populated cities in the league. Hulbert’s act also illustrated that league schedule commitments were mandatory, and not optional. This was a clear difference from the previously weak N.A.
After the 1887 and 1888 seasons, in which the National League included six clubs, the league struggled as teams came and went. The founding of the American Association in 1882 meant that the National League had a strong rival organisation. The American Association offered alcohol and sold cheaper tickets (half the price) in comparison to the National League.
In 1892, the American Association split up and united with the National League, becoming known as the “National League and American Association”. This meant that the National League now boasted twelve teams. During this time, the league was involved in various conflicts, in particular when some owners wanted a trust to be set up so that all twelve National League clubs could come under one ownership.
In 1901, the American League was set up, and so there were now two major baseball leagues. At first, the National League was unsure how to react to the new league, but eventually signed a new version of the National Agreement in 1903, meaning that there were now two equal partners in major league baseball.
Major League Baseball enjoyed a steady and relatively problem free period up until 1953. This was when the Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee. Five years later saw more movement, as the Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, whilst the New York Giants progressed to San Francisco. This meant that the West Coast of the United States could now enjoy major league baseball for the first time.
Onwards and Upwards
By 1969, the National League was again a twelve-team league having added the New York Mets, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres and the Montreal Expos. Expansion occurred again in 1993, as the league added the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins. There was a further shake up in 1998, as the Arizona Diamondbacks joined the league, becoming its fifteenth franchise, whilst the Milwaukee Brewers joined the National League from the American League to make up the sixteen-team league with which we are familiar today.