1890 Chicago White Stockings Players League Score Card

1890 Chicago White Stockings Players League Score Card

Our National Pastime

1880 - 1899

"The very symbol, the outward and visible expression of the drive, and push, and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing, booming nineteenth century."

Mark Twain

describing baseball in 1889 at a banquet at Delmonico’s honoring Major League players who’d just returned from a world tour

Our National Pastime

1880 - 1899

The National League was the only professional major league in America in 1880, and it continued to be the only one in 1900. During the last two decades of the 19th century, it survived challenges from three rival leagues and actively and brutally abetted the demise of two of them. The American Association, popularly known and the "Beer and Whiskey League" because many of its teams’ owners made their fortunes in the liquor industry, was the first competitor, formed in 1882. A year later, the NL and AA made peace and agreed to act cooperatively.

In 1884 the Union Association, the brainchild of wealthy St. Louis businessman Henry Lucas, became a third major league. Lucas believed the reserve clause, which essentially bound players to one team for life, was unjust and signed players who had been reserved by the two existing leagues, initiating a baseball war. It became a war of attrition, for the public could not support three major leagues, and when Lucas was allowed to join the National League in 1885, his Union Association collapsed. Following the 1884 campaign, the champions of the National League and American Association met for three games in what was considered the first World Series. The NL’s Providence Grays prevailed over the New York Metropolitans of the AA in three straight games.

The 1880s were dominated by Cap Anson’s Chicago White Stockings, who won five pennants in seven years. In 1883, the NL returned to the cities of New York and Philadelphia, with the former club, led by six future Hall of Famers, capturing World Series titles in 1888 and 1889. Michael "King" Kelly became one of baseball’s biggest draws by popularizing tactics on the field such as the "hit and run" and the hook slide, which are still staples to this day. He was so admired that in 1888 the flamboyant star’s own autobiography Play Ball was must reading for fans everywhere, and a year later a song, "Slide Kelly Slide," was written about his exploits. Decades after his death in the 1920s a movie of the same name hit the theaters.

The 1880s saw baseball’s impact on popular American culture grow. In 1868, Peck and Snyder, a sporting goods store, began producing trade cards featuring pictures of baseball teams on the front and trade information, or early advertising, on the back. Peck and Snyder trade cards are believed to be the first baseball trading cards. In 1888, Ernest Thayer’s classic poem "Casey at the Bat" was written: Just after the turn of the century, it became a household staple and source of vaudeville recreations, audio recordings, film adaptations, and even an opera.

The ‘90s belonged to the Boston Beaneaters and Baltimore Orioles, who combined to win eight of ten NL titles. The Orioles epitomized the lawless style of play prevalent during the last two decades of the 19th century. The 1880s and 1890s were an era of aggressive and often imaginative competition in the world of commerce, and the ethos and the ethics of baseball players, managers, and owners mirrored those of the business community. The era saw the evolution of cutthroat strategies such as the stolen base; until the end of the decade when modern rules were adapted, a base could be stolen on a single hit. It was not until 1901 that modern rules required a base to be stolen only during a pitch. Even Mike "King" Kelly, took great pride in his ability to bend or break the rules to his advantage. Kelly was also an exemplar of the late 19th century ballplayer in that he often drank heavily. Alcoholism was the scourge of baseball in the 1880s and ‘90s to the same degree that steroids plagued the sport in the early 21st century.

By the last two decades of the century, men like Chicago’s Albert Spalding and Boston’s Arthur Soden had learned how to make sizable profits from baseball. With the reserve rule, they were able to control salaries, but their heavy-handed ways created such unrest among the players that the latter, led by star New York shortstop John Montgomery Ward, revolted and formed their own league. The Brotherhood, or Players’ League, sown from the seeds of player discontent, lasted for only the 1890 season, as again three leagues proved one too many. The American Association folded just a year later, leaving the National League with a monopoly on major league baseball for the balance of the 19th century. Without the AA, the top two National League finishers competed for a trophy donated by William C. Temple of Pittsburgh. The Temple Cup Series failed to generate great fan interest, but by 1900 a top minor league circuit called the Western League had plans to furnish baseball with a second major league. That would set the stage for the same general baseball structure that we enjoy to this day.

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  • <p>The New York Clipper 1880 Almanac covering...
  • <p>1880 Boston Base Ball Club stock certificate...
  • <p>Harry Wright’s Base Ball Score Book from 1881...
  • 1882

    The American Association is established and operates as a second major league through the 1891 season.

  • <p>During the 1880s into the early ’90s, Hall-of-...
  • <p>The 1882 Chicago White Stockings with Cap...
  • <p>1884 Boston Base Ball Club Championship...
  • <p>John Clarkson Cabinet Card</p>
  • <p>Ed Delahanty Cabinet Card</p>
  • 1884

    The Providence Grays of the National League defeat the New York Metropolitans of the American Association in the first World Series. The Union Association becomes a third major league but folds after just a single season.

  • <p>1887 Sam Wise Boston Beaneaters batting...
  • <p>1887 Deacon White “Dauvray Championship”...
  • <p>Buck Ewing Cabinet Card</p>
  • <p>Roger Connor Cabinet Card</p>
  • <p>Adrian C.</p>
  • <p>Pocket watch given to Ed Delahanty</p>
  • <p>Tim Keefe in the 1887 Series of Allen and...
  • <p>Mike “King” Kelly signed testimonial program...
  • <p>N-172 Flynn Old Judge Proof</p>
  • <p>New York Giants Cabinet Card</p>
  • <p>1888 John Ward Booklet (How to Become A Base-...
  • <p>This Illuminated plate shows a game from the...
  • <p>1889 Al Spalding's World Tour Levytype Cabinet...
  • <p>Hugh Duffy game-used “.438” baseball bat that...
  • <p>Hugh Duffy Illustration</p>
  • <p>Mike “King” Kelly game-used Bat</p>
  • <p>Mike “King” Kelly Chickering Cabinet Card</p>
  • <p>Silver trophy bat presented to Adrian “Cap”...
  • 1888

    Albert Spalding organizes a world tour for his Chicago White Stockings and a team of all stars. The entourage plays more than 60 games in Australia, Egypt, Italy, France, England, and other countries.

  • <p>1890 Chicago White Stockings Players League...
  • <p>William Lange Copper Plate print from a photo-...
  • 1890

    The players revolt against the heavy handed tactics of the magnates and form the Players’ League (also known as the Brotherhood), which lasts just one season.

  • <p>Adrian “Cap” Anson game-used baseball bat</p>
  • <p>1894 Temple Cup lithograph</p>
  • <p>1894 Pittsburgh Base Ball Club lithograph</p>
  • <p>Scrimshaw cigar cutter presented to John M....
  • 1894

    Pittsburgh sportsman William C. Temple donates a trophy to be awarded to the winner of a postseason playoff between the two best National League teams. The Temple Cup Series is played each season through 1900.

  • <p>1895 <i>Boston Sunday Globe</i> premium</p>
  • <p>Ned Hanlon 1897 player's contract for...
  • 1900

    Ban Johnson, president of the Western League, announces his intention to cha nge the name of his circuit to the American League and compete with the National League on an equal basis the following season.

Origins of the GameOur National PastimeFrom Dead Ball to Live BallBabe Ruth and the Long BallFrom the Ballfields to the Battlefields

Why is baseball universally considered our National Pastime? Some say the game, at its apex, often achieves something lofty. However expressed, we all can agree that baseball, with its deep American roots, touches us all.



When a baseball player uses the main tool of his trade, the baseball bat, he is gripping the most important single weapon in his arsenal. Each is customized to a certain weight, length, and feel. This exhibit features the bats used by some of baseball’s greats during their professional career.