1876 National League

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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.

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Season summary[edit]

On February 2, 1876, representatives from six baseball teams gathered at the Grand Central Hotel in New York City. It was here that the second major league, the National League, was born, striking a death blow to the struggling National Association, from which the clubs were defecting. The six clubs were the Philadelphia Athletics, Boston Red Stockings, Hartford Dark Blues, New York Mutuals, Chicago White Stockings and St. Louis Brown Stockings; except for Hartford, they represented the largest cities in the N.A. Team representatives William Hulbert from Chicago and Charles A. Fowle from St. Louis held the proxies for two clubs that were not present at the meeting: the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Louisville Grays. The reason for the lack of representation from these two clubs was because there had been a couple of meetings between the western clubs over a course of two days on December 16th and 17th, where the four clubs had gathered at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky to discuss the formation of a new league. It was at this meeting that the representatives had decided to appoint Hulbert and Fowle to visit the Eastern clubs and inform them about the formation of this new league.

It has been reported that Hulbert was not happy with the direction of the National Association, but he was not the only one. Both Henry Chadwick, and Harry Wright disliked the many shortcomings and faults of the league, particularly the gambling, the rowdiness as well as the lack of competitiveness of many of the teams in the league, some of which represented very small towns. Along with team representatives, Red Stockings manager Harry Wright was reportedly in attendance to present proposed changes to the playing rules, Lewis Meacham of the Chicago Tribune, who was the only member of the press who had been invited. These men met in secret due to the fact that had their real motives been revealed, they would not have been warmly welcomed. Hulbert wanted the league to include square dealings with players and other teams; recognition of all players contracts and the league to conduct itself with integrity. It should be noted that while Hulbert may not have been uncomfortable with the National Association, and wanted an honest league, Hulbert took advantage of the sneakiness of signing players mid-season, as noted in the 1873 and 1875 seasons.

Bylaws and a constitution were drawn up. League officials were selected with Hartford's Morgan Bulkeley elected as league president. It is believed that he was selected as a way of allowing the eastern clubs to have a say in the proceedings. In reality Bulkeley was merely a figurehead with Hulbert being the real power in authority. The name of the league was suggested by Boston’s president Nicholas Apollonio, who suggested the league take its name from the league constitution.

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, only underhand pitching was allowed, etc.) 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 Stockings 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 were forced out of the league as a result.

Differences in the game[edit]

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
1 Chicago White Stockings 66 52 14 0 .788 -.- 624 (9.45) 257 (3.89) 0.337 0.353 0.417 1.76 0.899
2 Hartford Dark Blues 69 47 21 1 .681 6.0 429 (6.22) 261 (3.78) 0.267 0.277 0.322 1.67 0.888
3 St. Louis Brown Stockings 64 45 19 0 .703 6.0 386 (6.03) 229 (3.58) 0.259 0.276 0.313 1.22 0.902
4 Boston Red Stockings 70 39 31 0 .557 15.0 471 (6.73) 450 (6.43) 0.266 0.281 0.328 2.51 0.862
5 Louisville Grays 69 30 36 3 .435 22.0 280 (4.06) 344 (4.99) 0.249 0.256 0.294 1.69 0.875
6 New York Mutuals 57 21 35 1 .368 26.0 260 (4.56) 412 (7.23) 0.227 0.233 0.261 2.94 0.824
7 Philadelphia Athletics 60 14 45 1 .233 34.5 378 (6.30) 534 (8.90) 0.271 0.279 0.342 3.22 0.839
8 Cincinnati Reds 65 9 56 0 .138 42.5 238 (3.66) 579 (8.91) 0.234 0.247 0.271 3.62 0.840

League leaders[edit]

Bold indicates league record, Italics indicate all-time record


Statistic Leader Team Number
Games Played Jack Manning
Jim O'Rourke
Harry Schafer
George Wright
Boston Red Stockings
Boston Red Stockings
Boston Red Stockings
Boston Red Stockings
At Bats George Wright Boston Red Stockings 335
Runs Scored Ross Barnes Chicago White Stockings 126
Hits Ross Barnes Chicago White Stockings 138
Doubles Ross Barnes
Dick Higham
Paul Hines
Chicago White Stockings
Hartford Dark Blues
Chicago White Stockings
Triples Ross Barnes Chicago White Stockings 14
Home Runs George Hall Philadelphia Athletics 5
Total Bases Ross Barnes Chicago White Stockings 190
Runs Batted In Deacon White Chicago White Stockings 60
Walks Ross Barnes Chicago White Stockings 20
Strikeouts Johnny Ryan Louisville Grays 23
Batting Average Ross Barnes Chicago White Stockings 0.429
On-Base Percentage Ross Barnes Chicago White Stockings 0.462
Slugging Percentage Ross Barnes Chicago White Stockings 0.590
On-Base plus Slugging Ross Barnes Chicago White Stockings 1.052
On-Base plus Slugging Plus Ross Barnes Chicago White Stockings 231


Statistic Leader Team Number
Wins Al Spalding Chicago White Stockings 47
Losses Jim Devlin Louisville Grays 35
Win-Loss Percentage Al Spalding Chicago White Stockings 0.797
Appearances Jim Devlin Louisville Grays 68
Games Started Jim Devlin Louisville Grays 68
Complete Games Jim Devlin Louisville Grays 66
Shutouts George Bradley St. Louis Brown Stockings 16
Games Finished Jack Manning Boston Red Stockings 13
Saves Jack Manning Boston Red Stockings 5
Innings Pitched Jim Devlin Louisville Grays 622.0
Batters Faced Jim Devlin Louisville Grays 2568
Hits Allowed Bobby Mathews New York Mutuals 693
Home Runs Allowed Bobby Mathews New York Mutuals 8
Base-on-Balls Allowed Joe Borden Boston Red Stockings 51
Strikeouts Jim Devlin Louisville Grays 122
Wild Pitches George Bradley St. Louis Brown Stockings 34
Balks 34 players tied 0
Runs Allowed Bobby Mathews New York Mutuals 395
Earned Runs Allowed Bobby Mathews New York Mutuals 164
Earned Run Average George Bradley St. Louis Brown Stockings 1.23
Walks plus Hits
per Inning Pitched
George Bradley St. Louis Brown Stockings 0.887

Notable events[edit]


* Denotes a fill-in umpire