Middle Innings: A Documentary History of Baseball, 1900-1948

By Dean A. Sullivan | Go to book overview

Introduction

Americans greeting the twentieth century saw a revolution in communication that had a significant impact on leisure activities, including baseball. The invention and popularization of the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, motion picture camera, and radio helped create a new world of leisure opportunities for the consumer who, thanks in part to active labor unions and government regulation of work and wages, had more free time and ready cash to spend on amusements. Baseball took full advantage of the situation and, despite increased competition for recreational time and expenditure, grew dramatically during the period.

The first major issue in baseball in the new century was the attainment in 1901 of major league status by the American League (AL). Despite opposition from the National League (NL), the claim of parity by the AL was accepted by the baseball press and public because of the talent the new league demonstrated. Among the AL'S accomplishments were the placement of franchises in major cities occupied by NL teams, which did their utmost to block the entry of rival teams into their territory, and the signing of top NL players to AL contracts. Faced with escalating player salaries in the bidding war, the NL agreed to recognize the AL as an equal early in 1903. Together the leagues created the National Commission, consisting of each league president and a third, neutral party, which ineffectively ruled both the major and minor leagues until 1920.

The new National Agreement, which formalized the structure of organized baseball, did not include a provision for a postseason championship series. In 1903 the winning clubs in the NL and AL, Pittsburgh and Boston, planned a series themselves. The teams were following the precedent of the 1880s, when similar “World Series” took place between the NL and the American Association between 1884 and 1890. Even though both clubs considered backing out because of injuries, the 1903 World Series was a great success that seemed to seal the peaceful coexistence between the two leagues.

After the 1904 NL pennant series, NL champion New York refused to play Boston, the defending Series champions, claiming the AL did not deserve such an honor. The resulting public outrage convinced Giants owner John Brush of his error, and he led the effort to formally establish the World Series. From 1905 on, the Series was played at the conclusion of every season, through world wars and economic depressions, until a labor dispute—one of many in baseball historyended the string in 1994.

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