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Was the NA (1871-75) a "Major" League?

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  • #31
    Originally posted by timmyj51 View Post
    This discussion is getting kinda ridiculous. Just two questions have to
    asked: (1) Did NA have the strongest clubs in the country at that time (2) Did it have the best players? It clearly did, so it was indisputably "major league". In fact, I say it was MORE "major league" than the NL because any club that had pretentions could join and prove itself on the field. Not so with NL which kept out clubs clearly as good, if not better, than its own teams. The truth has been revealed so, verily I say unto you, no longer walk
    in error.
    #1: Yes. Most of the clubs that vied for the National title in 1870 joined in.

    #2: Yes.

    However, in the words of Harold Seymour, "Its weak organization could not cope successfully with the cancerous evils of gambling, revolving, and hippodroming. As these became more flagrant, spectators began to stay away, and the clamor for reform grew louder."

    Is that your idea of a major league?

    Comment


    • #32
      Originally posted by rrhersh View Post
      Change "Pro Baseball" to "Major League Baseball" and you can make a sensible argument. But professional baseball? There were openly professional teams competing since 1869. I would hate to be tasked with constructing an argument that professional baseball was founded years after professional baseball was, umm..., founded.
      I disagree. Whether the NA is major or not, my point is that today's professional leagues of all levels has the NL of 1876 as its foundation. True the history of baseball had professionalism before that time, but what we have today, began with the National League. The NA is not the foundation upon what the current pro game is constructed on.

      It's sort of like our country. We were here before 1776, but we claim our birth from that year.

      Comment


      • #33
        "However, in the words of Harold Seymour, "Its weak organization could not cope successfully with the cancerous evils of gambling, revolving, and hippodroming. As these became more flagrant, spectators began to stay away, and the clamor for reform grew louder." "




        ...did the NL immunize itself against these? NA never had a Louisville scale
        scandal nor did anyone steal players from other teams so flagrantly
        as Hulbert's Chicago club.

        Comment


        • #34
          2009 na ?

          I don't know , but i think that we are viewing this subject with our 2009 eyes and understanding , and not with the prisma of the 1870's society . At the present we have all this bundle of info on our sport due to all the available communications systems . Back then , what do that people got ? Transportation from one site to another must have been a nightmare . Recruiting ? How could they deal with that ? Promotions ? Uniforms , meals , tickets , umpires , lack of electricity . How can we be talking about markets , scheduling , and whatever if getting to the ballpark in itself could be a great task .
          What i see , is that those first organizers were trying their best under the existant conditions . And if we are going to state that the 1876 National League was the foundation stone , let's asked ourselves , Wasn't it the same NA with some modifications ?

          Comment


          • #35
            Originally posted by SABR Steve View Post
            #1: ... in the words of Harold Seymour, "Its weak organization could not cope successfully with the cancerous evils of gambling, revolving, and hippodroming. As these became more flagrant, spectators began to stay away, and the clamor for reform grew louder."

            Is that your idea of a major league?
            As a matter of fact, people say comparable things all the time about MLB, yet nobody denies it's still MLB.
            “Money, money, money; that is the article I am looking after now more than anything else. It is the only thing that will shape my course (‘religion is nowhere’).” - Ross Barnes

            Comment


            • #36
              Originally posted by Beady View Post
              As a matter of fact, people say comparable things all the time about MLB, yet nobody denies it's still MLB.
              Well, let me concede the point that the NA was by reason of being the only league around a major league. However, one can't compare the NA circus with the great game we have today.

              Comment


              • #37
                If the NA never came into being chances are the NL might have folded after five years too.

                The NA navigated through the minefields inherent in running the first major league in a professional team sport. It's history and accomplishments are totally overlooked by today's fans.

                What percentage of NL players in 1876 had played in the NA?

                90%?
                95%?
                98%?

                Whatever the figure is, it suggests to me that MLB ought to read up on it's own history.

                Perhaps we need a poll of 19th Century ML players to find out from them what level of ball they were playing?
                "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

                Comment


                • #38
                  Originally posted by TonyK View Post
                  If the NA never came into being chances are the NL might have folded after five years too.

                  The NA navigated through the minefields inherent in running the first major league in a professional team sport. It's history and accomplishments are totally overlooked by today's fans.

                  What percentage of NL players in 1876 had played in the NA?

                  90%?
                  95%?
                  98%?

                  Whatever the figure is, it suggests to me that MLB ought to read up on it's own history.

                  Perhaps we need a poll of 19th Century ML players to find out from them what level of ball they were playing?
                  To expand on this a bit, the NA gets a bad rap. They literally were inventing how to run a professional sports league. No sport had been organized along anything like these lines before. They got some things wrong (principally the open membership) but they got other things spectacularly right. Most notable is the pennant race format. This is so fundamental that people tend to assume it existed all along. It didn't. The founders of the NA invented it.

                  On the other hand, the founder(s) of the NL get credit for stuff that came later. I see modern writers praising it for having a set schedule (actually instituted 1877), the reserve clause (first hint of which came 1879) and a professional umpire corps (actually instituted by the AA).

                  Then you get stuff like the criticism of the NA for being run by the players, as contrasted with the NL being run by the owners. This claim serves as a useful barometer: anyone making this claim immediately identifies himself as not having done his homework.

                  What about "revolving"? What about it? If by "revolving" we mean jumping contracts midseason, the NA was extremely effective at preventing it. If we mean free agency between seasons, see the earlier comment about the reserve. This is another useful barometer: anyone criticizing the NA for revolving and praising the NL for putting a stop to it is simply repeating stuff he doesn't understand.

                  Jumping ahead to the issue of continuity between 1875 and 1876, the serious competitors in the two pennant races were mostly the same clubs, with mostly the same players. As a counterfactual, suppose that instead of forming the NL, Hulbert had made a tactical decision to operate within the NA. Suppose he had arranged with the other stock clubs to ram through a new constitution, substantially like the NL we actually got. Had this counterfactual scenario taken place, it would never occur to modern observers that 1876 was the beginning of MLB. That the constitution was changed in 1876 would be an obscure factoid, with people like us discussing whether or not it was important in baseball history. We have the discussion we do because of Hulbert's tactical decision regarding parliamentary procedure. It is wonderous that we think such matters determine when the beginning of time is marked.

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    RRHERSH makes some good points. From my perspective, Hulbert et al. wanted to start over with a clean break. It was certainly more exclusive.

                    I won't object to the Association being reclassified as a major league, but there is a lot of opposition, although not universal.

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      Originally posted by rrhersh View Post
                      To expand on this a bit, the NA gets a bad rap. They literally were inventing how to run a professional sports league. No sport had been organized along anything like these lines before. They got some things wrong (principally the open membership) but they got other things spectacularly right. Most notable is the pennant race format. This is so fundamental that people tend to assume it existed all along. It didn't. The founders of the NA invented it.
                      I agree that the NA did quite a good job. Detractors point out that the NA was not as good as the NL in some ways, but overlook all that the NA gave to professional sports. The league itself didn't fold in mid-season like so many other professional leagues did in the 19th Century. Players had well-paid careers and over 99% of them returned year after year hoping to play another season. This was a brand-new profession kind of like today's workers in the risky e-commerce and internet fields.

                      Nobody tried to organize a ML to rival the NA from 1871-1875.
                      "He's tougher than a railroad sandwich."
                      "You'se Got The Eye Of An Eagle."

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        The whole idea of the NA was to create a fair system to crown a national champion. Rrhersh is right when he says the NA is getting a bad rap in one regard: the statistics.
                        I have yet to see any modern compilation of the correct standings for 1871 and maybe other years as well.

                        In the words of a retrosheet leader--
                        "History is the study of the past, and a by-product of that study is a
                        constant revision of how we view that past. Clearly, historians do not
                        simply record the perceptions and beliefs of the participants in past
                        events."

                        In terms of the NA's status, there may be some light for those who would like to see the NA elevated to a major league. Retrosheet, however, runs roughshod sometimes over statistical history.

                        Comment


                        • #42
                          How do you define a major league. In terms of league quality...I don't think there is any legitimate case to be made for the NA as a major league...the skewness of run scoring per game per side was so extreme in those years (a sign of very lopsided competition against very inhomogeneous competition) that they defy even basic attempts to quantify that history. Not all games were correctly and officially documented and SABR Steve points out...Retrosheet, which does about as thorough a quality control process as NASA does when they pass parts for the next orbital flight (in fact their QA is so rigorous that many sabermetricians get very frustrated waiting for them to deliver data that could be used in high level analyses for many years while they very carefully error-check it!), can't find accurate records of those games...barnstorming was still a bigger part of the schedule than the league games.

                          If you define major league as the league of record for a sport...the league that is universally recognized as the very best around...then yes, the NA was the major league of its time. But the independent leagues were a lot closer to the NA than today's AAA is to today's MLB, so even there I'm dubious.

                          Comment


                          • #43
                            Originally posted by SABR Matt View Post
                            How do you define a major league. In terms of league quality...I don't think there is any legitimate case to be made for the NA as a major league...the skewness of run scoring per game per side was so extreme in those years (a sign of very lopsided competition against very inhomogeneous competition) that they defy even basic attempts to quantify that history.
                            I'm not sure how to interpret your orthography. It appears that you are using ellipses to separate clauses of a single sentence, intended as a single thought. Taking it this way, this seems rather a non sequitur. Balance is hardly all there is to quality of play. Six of the original eight NL clubs had played in the NA the previous season. The argument seems to be that the presence of lesser clubs so dragged down the NA that it cannot be considered "major".

                            What is not necessarily obvious from the modern perspective is that these lesser clubs were largely irrelevant at the time. The top clubs played them or ignored them as convenience and financial interest dictated. The practice of the day was to throw out from championship consideration games played which involved a club not completing the season. These lesser clubs frequently disbanded midseason, so they had little effect. The final standings for 1875 listed only eight clubs, six of which were the aforementioned founding members of the NL.

                            Much of the objection to considering the NA "major" seems to come from a concern for statistics, hence the concern for the imbalance. My suggestion for those considering the statistical record is to follow the practice of the day and only consider games played by clubs which completed the season. This may seem like a cheat, but it frequently is more useful to consider contemporary practice. In this case, it makes most of the problem go away.

                            Originally posted by SABR Matt View Post
                            Not all games were correctly and officially documented and SABR Steve points out...Retrosheet, which does about as thorough a quality control process as NASA does when they pass parts for the next orbital flight (in fact their QA is so rigorous that many sabermetricians get very frustrated waiting for them to deliver data that could be used in high level analyses for many years while they very carefully error-check it!), can't find accurate records of those games.
                            I'm not sure why period record-keeping practice is relevant. A muddled record is certainly inconvenient for statistical considerations, but to therefore make a clean record a defining characteristic of a "major" league seems rather to put the cart before the horse. Also, I think you will find that a steely-eyed look at early NL records will show less than ideal clarity.

                            Originally posted by SABR Matt View Post
                            ...barnstorming was still a bigger part of the schedule than the league games.
                            This is factually incorrect. During this period an active top-level club such as the Bostons would play a total of about a hundred or so games in a season, about two thirds of which would be championship NA games. The ratio of championship to exhibition games was even greater among the lesser clubs. The 1873 Resolutes played 25 games: 23 championship and 2 exhibition.

                            Originally posted by SABR Matt View Post
                            If you define major league as the league of record for a sport...the league that is universally recognized as the very best around...then yes, the NA was the major league of its time. But the independent leagues were a lot closer to the NA than today's AAA is to today's MLB, so even there I'm dubious.
                            What independant leagues do you have in mind?

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              In the late 1870's relatively strong clubs operated outside the NL, and claims have been made -- exaggerated in my view, but certainly not negligible -- that the best of the outside teams were competitive with those in the NL.

                              The NL invited this situation, to a degree, because it limited its membership to a small and self-selected set of clubs. The NA did not do that, and for that and other reasons it would have been much strong teams outside the NA than the early NL. My impression is that people tend to retroject an argument that may apply to the late 1870's but really doesn't to the first half fo the decade.

                              At any rate, it seems axiomatic to me that what really matters in determining whether to count a league as major is the presence (or absence) of the top teams and players, rather than the exclusion (or inclusion) of lesser ones. The NA did match up the top six to ten professional teams, playing perhaps six to ten games against one another per year (except 1871, when the schedule was shorter but the teams in competition relatively well matched). The early NL matched up six to eight of the top professional clubs, playing eight to twelve games against one another per year. What's the difference?

                              I'll mention, by the way, that you would expect early baseball to produce less competitive balance just because one pitcher worked most of the games for most teams, and it was rarer for a weak team to pick up wins here and there by matching its ace againts somebody else's fifth starter. I'm sure statistical measures would show the NFL to be very low in competitive balance, yet I don't think anybody imagines it's not a major league.
                              “Money, money, money; that is the article I am looking after now more than anything else. It is the only thing that will shape my course (‘religion is nowhere’).” - Ross Barnes

                              Comment


                              • #45
                                There has been talk that different parties or organizations representing baseball history may get together and iron out differences on statistics as well as other matters, perhaps including the NA's status. So rrhersh may get his wish.

                                But some consider the Association major right now.

                                Retrosheet has completed their numbers for 1872 & 1874 all through reconstructed box scores.

                                For my part, I've been doing a project on batting champs and started with Levy Meyerle in 1871, basing my starting year on the fact that the NA is considered "major" by some.

                                Comment

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