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How Baseball's National League Works


National League Charter Franchises
Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates winning the National League Championship Series against the Milwaukee Brewers in October 2011.
Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates winning the National League Championship Series against the Milwaukee Brewers in October 2011.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When William Hulbert created the National League in 1876, he took six teams from the dying National Association and added two more squads to create the "Classic Eight" NL clubs:

  • Boston Red Stockings or "Red Caps" (from National Association)
  • Chicago White Stockings (from National Association)
  • Cincinnati Red Stockings
  • Hartford Dark Blues (from National Association)
  • Louisville Grays
  • New York Mutuals (from National Association)
  • Philadelphia Athletics (from National Association)
  • St. Louis Brown Stockings (from National Association)

The Chicago White Stockings, owned by Hulbert and managed by Hall-of-Fame pitcher A.G. Spalding, were the dominant force in the early years of the National League, winning six of the first 11 league titles [source: Cubs]. Because of their young lineup in the early 1900s, the White Stockings earned the nickname the "Cubs," which became the team's official name in 1907 [source: Cubs].

The Cubs are one of only two original NL teams that still exist today. The other is the Boston Red Stockings, which underwent several name changes (Red Caps, Beaneaters and Doves) before settling on the Boston Braves in 1912 [source: Braves]. In 1953, the Braves moved to Milwaukee, where Hank Aaron led the team to a World Series title in 1957. In 1966, the Braves moved yet again, this time to Atlanta, where they grew to prominence in the 1990s, winning Atlanta's first World Series in 1995.

The rest of the original eight NL clubs folded under financial problems or were expelled from the upstart league. The Philadelphia Athletics and New York Mutuals, which both fared poorly in the new league, refused to make a road trip out West and were summarily dropped after the first NL season. The Hartford Dark Blues had trouble selling tickets in Connecticut, so the team moved to New York in 1877, becoming the geographically confusing Brooklyn Hartfords [source: Arcidiacono]. The Hartfords closed shop after just one season.

The Cincinnati Red Stockings were the only original NL team expelled from the league for breaking Hulbert's Victorian-era rules of propriety and sobriety. The Red Stockings were kicked out of the league in 1880 for selling alcohol and playing games on Sundays [source: Miklich].

For lots more information on baseball history, including the most important rule changes in the evolution of the game, explore the links on the next page.