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Baseball Fever Policy

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This announcement describes the policies pertaining to the operation of Baseball Fever.

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This document was based on a similar policy used by SABR.

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National Association of Base Ball Players, 1869-1870

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  • National Association of Base Ball Players, 1869-1870

    I realize the dual categories of amateur and professional clubs that the NABBP maintained for 1869-1870 means that those dozen or so professional clubs did not form an independent professional league until the 1871 National Association, but let's face it - these are largely the same clubs and they're playing in a structured league in matches against each other that count towards a professional-only national championship. For all intents and purposes, the professional category of the 1869-70 NABBP was a de facto league.

    Furthermore, it represents the very highest quality/level of baseball in existence during those seasons. It seems to me that not only should the 1871-75 National Association be recognized as a "major" league, but MLB should consider its origins with the 1869 season, not 1871 or 1876.

    Disagreements? Obviously there were benefits of having a league that was independent and distinct from the amateur National Association, but I don't see that in practice, the 1871-75 years were all that different than 1869-70 in terms of how the game was played. Am I wrong?

    One interesting thing, to me, is that we are fast approaching the 150th anniversary of the advent of professional "organized" baseball. 2019 is the magic year, not 2026 (as we'll no doubt here when that year comes around).
    "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
    "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
    "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
    "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

  • #2
    It is generally a mistake to impose modern concepts anachronistically. We see this sometimes by people looking at win-loss records in the amateur era and imposing a retroactive championship based on the result. They had a concept of how a championship worked, and that wasn't it. As for 1869-1870, the body of professional clubs did not comprise a coherent competitive group, nor was it meant to. It really was just a declaration that their players were being paid. So you get those oddball Maryland and DC clubs, that were barely in the same orbit as the Atlantics and Mutuals, much less the Red Stockings. What changes in 1871 is that they established more or less the modern conception of how to organize a championship, with every club playing every other club a determined number of matches and the championship decided by the overall win-loss record. There were still some unresolved issues, but at that point what they were doing was close enough to what we are doing today as to be classified together.

    Also, we shouldn't assume that the split between amateurs and professionals was inevitable. England's Football Association manages to accommodate both groups, and does to this day. The split in baseball seems natural to us today, but this is due to later history.

    Comment


    • #3
      I think I'd lean toward the formation of the NL in 1876 as the beginning of MLB as we currently know it: a stable number of teams playing a consistent and reasonably equitable schedule under a specific set of rules with fairly standardized equipment and a reasonably finite common talent supply.

      The NA of 1869-75 is CLOSE to those standards but IMO does not quite meet them. I guess I would call it "organized" but not "major league" baseball.

      It's a semantic distinction; doesn't get me too worked up one way or another.

      Comment


      • #4
        When I think of "major league", I of course think of both "major" and "league". While the 1869-1870 NABBP was "major", I can't really think of it as a "league" as we would commonly define it. I think the 1871-1875 NA qualifies on both counts for the most part -- "major" for sure in that there was clearly no other association of professional ball clubs and players that were its peer; the "league" aspect of it was certainly weaker than it was starting with the NL in 1876, but the idea was there.

        On the other hand, something like the UA of 1884, despite its ML status, was a "league" by most reasonable definitions but I think it fails the "major" test and it never should have been recognized as a major league. The NA was much closer to the definition of a "league" than the UA was to the definition of "major".
        Last edited by ziggy29; 10-31-2017, 10:14 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by StarStar00 View Post
          I think I'd lean toward the formation of the NL in 1876 as the beginning of MLB as we currently know it: a stable number of teams playing a consistent and reasonably equitable schedule under a specific set of rules with fairly standardized equipment and a reasonably finite common talent supply.

          The NA of 1869-75 is CLOSE to those standards but IMO does not quite meet them. I guess I would call it "organized" but not "major league" baseball.

          It's a semantic distinction; doesn't get me too worked up one way or another.
          Stable? After 1876, New York and Philadelphia were banned from the league. Then it was a six team league for a couple years, and then some other teams joined, and the teams that were in the league on any given year varied over the the next two decades. That's not really stable, even if if in any given season the teams in the league at the time played a roughly similar number of games. You didn't really get a regular stable line up in the NL until 1900, and not in the AL until 1903.
          "Here's a crazy thought I've always had: if they cut three fingers off each hand, I'd really be a great hitter because then I could level off better." Paul Waner (lifetime .333 hitter, 3,152 lifetime hits.

          Comment


          • #6
            My understanding is that the primary difference between the 1871-75 NA and the early years of the NL was mostly that non-players (i.e. owners) asserted control over the franchises and league.

            I understand organized baseball to have begun with the 1857 formation of the (amateur) National Association. I look at professional baseball to have begun with the NA's separate categorization of openly professional teams beginning in the 1869 season. Sure it resembled English soccer (two categories of leagues/team) or boxing (in how the champ was determined) in terms of its structure more than it resembles the modern concept of a league but I don't doubt that 90% of the best teams and players were among those dozen openly professional teams in 1869-70, just as they were in 1871-75 and again in 1876-81. The structure of the organization, how a champion was determined. etc. was still evolving during this period, but it was effectively "major league" in the sense that it was a collection - the collection - of the nation's top teams and that they played each other to determine a champion from amongst themselves.

            It may have been disorganized, but the essential elements of what make it a "major" league (for me) are there - the top teams competing against each other for a championship. I would suggest that in 1869 and 1870, while the pro teams didn't exclusively have the best talent available, they had the lion's share of it. And hasn't that been a driving factor in recognizing the AA or FL, for example, as "major" leagues? The fact they were attracting top talent to their league?
            Last edited by Chadwick; 11-10-2017, 06:54 AM.
            "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
            "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
            "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
            "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

            Comment


            • #7
              I think you are spot on, Chadwick.

              Comment


              • #8
                The National Association of 1871-1875 was created to determine a nominal national champion. Various clubs whether professional, semi-professional, or amateur declared themselves as national champs before the NAPBBP was organized. The champ was determined by who had the most victories in the league which continued for several years after the NL was created.
                By the way, the NL was really reduced to five clubs in 1877 and allowed Cincinnati back into the NL officially in 1878. Most reference books ignore the facts of the day.

                A good book on the origins discussed is Harold Seymour's "Baseball, The Early Years" published back in 1960.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by SABR Steve View Post
                  The National Association of 1871-1875 was created to determine a nominal national champion.
                  Really? I was always under the impression that it was created to separate the professional clubs from the amateur ones due to the sense that the amateur NA was not serving the interests of the pro clubs (which was, obviously, to stage a financially profitable entertainment). Was it really difficulty in establishing a champion that led to the separation?

                  A good book on the origins discussed is Harold Seymour's "Baseball, The Early Years" published back in 1960.
                  It's been a long time since I read Seymour's three-volume history. Thanks for the plug, I'll have to pick it up again soon.
                  "It is a simple matter to erect a Hall of Fame, but difficult to select the tenants." -- Ken Smith
                  "I am led to suspect that some of the electorate is very dumb." -- Henry P. Edwards
                  "You have a Hall of Fame to put people in, not keep people out." -- Brian Kenny
                  "There's no such thing as a perfect ballot." -- Jay Jaffe

                  Comment

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