The 1876 season of the National League was the first season of the league, however it had strong ties to the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players. Six of the league's eight teams had played in the Association's 1875 season, while the other two clubs were formed of players jumping from the non-league Association clubs.
 Season summary
Although this was the first season that the National League was in existence, modern fans would hardly recognize the game played. While the underlying game was the same, many of the rules were different (e.g. nine balls to a base-on-balls, pitchers only underhand pitching was allowed). Additionally, despite the league's stated goal of providing a strong centralized leadership, the teams were only loosely bound to the National League. The teams played many teams outside of the league and scheduling was done by the team, not the league - it only required that the clubs play ten games against each other League club (five games at home and five away) between April 22 and October 21.
OF the eight clubs in the inaugural season, Only two clubs in this league have survived to this day; the league champion Chicago White Stockings are now the Chicago Cubs, while the Boston Red Caps are today's Atlanta Braves after two relocations. Two of the teams were expelled for the league after the season; at the end of the season the Philadelphia Athletics and New York Mutuals, both over twenty games behind the leading White Stockings refused to fulfill their commitment of a Western road trip and forced out of the league.
 Differences in the game
The style of play was tremendously different from the game modern fans know, due to a number of factors - many of which dealt with pitching and fielding. First, the location from which a pitcher threw the ball was closer to home plate. Rather than throwing from a pitcher's mound at sixty feet, six inches, the pitcher threw from a box fifty feet away from home plate. Second, the pitcher was allowed to run up to make the pitch; instead of having to keep a foot planted as is currently the rule, the pitcher could run up much in the way a cricket bowler takes several steps before releasing the ball. Third, the pitch came in underhand, as sidearm, three-quarters, and overhand deliveries were illegal. A fourth difference was that the current four-ball base on balls had not yet come into being; it took nine balls for a walk. A fifth difference was that players had not yet begun wearing gloves in the field and partially for this reason, fielding errors were frequent. A final difference was that rosters were smaller, and most clubs carried two or three pitchers, leading to limited rotations or the use of single pitcher to start nearly all games.
- Bold indicates league champion
||Chicago White Stockings
||Hartford Dark Blues
||St. Louis Brown Stockings
||Boston Red Caps
||New York Mutuals
 League leaders
- Bold indicates league record, Italics indicate all-time record
 Notable events