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National League's Best Teams Preface

Although the more established of the two major leagues, with a history dating to 1876, the National League did not enter the twentieth century from a position of strength. Bedeviled by its own organizational difficulties, including leadership uncertainties, resentful players, and having downsized from twelve to eight teams only one year earlier (in 1900), the National League faced a significant challenge from the upstart American League, whose president, Ban Johnson, unilaterally declared his league a ―major league‖ in 1901. The American League challenge included teams in three National League cities—Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia—and within another two years would include two more NL cities, St. Louis and New York. Even more seriously, the American League challenge included sufficient financial backing that a significant number of the National League's best players were enticed to the new major league by higher salaries, including Cy Young, Napoleon Lajoie, Jimmy Collins, Joe McGinnity, and John McGraw to name five of the more prominent stars crossing over. The high caliber of American League play and the obvious realization that the new league was not going to disappear caused National League owners to finally accept, however reluctantly, the AL as a legitimate major league. The two leagues made peace following the 1902 season, and the rest is history.

The first decade of the new century was to a great extent a jockeying for position between the two major leagues, with the National League—smarting from the loss of so many of its star players to the Americans—seeking to affirm the superiority of its baseball. Ban Johnson, of course, was presenting the American League as not only providing a higher quality of baseball, but also a more fan-friendly environment (to cop a phrase from a century later). This was a major factor in why the World Series, which emerged as part of the peace accord between the two leagues, became such a compelling annual event in American sports, indeed, in American society writ large.

Read the entire Preface here (requires Adobe Acrobat)

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Copyright © 2011 | Bryan Soderholm-Difatte