HISTORY OF BASEBALL IN THE UNITED STATES – Page 3 of 4

Players and Teams Emerge
With a stable league structure in place, teams and players could get down to the business of playing ball. From 1905-20, teams like the Chicago Cubs, New York Giants and Philadelphia Athletics displayed their prowess. The first baseball stars began to emerge. Names like Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Cy Young and Walter Johnson and Cy became common on the sports pages.

In 1914, a young left-handed pitcher joined the Boston Red Sox. In 1916, he won 23 games and had an ERA of 1.75. Yet pitching is not what made George Herman Ruth famous. Babe Ruth knew how to hit a baseball. He became the games first great hitter. In 1920, Ruth hit 54 home runs, more than any American League team except the Yankees who he happened to play for.

Scandal Hits the Big Leagues
Since the days of the NAPBP, baseball had always been somewhat suspect in the eyes of its fans. Rumors of gambling and underhanded activities regularly circulated. The suspicion reached a fever pitch when the talented Chicago White Sox somehow managed to lose the 1919 World Series to the underdog Cincinnati Reds.

In 1921, eight White Sox players were tried on charges of accepting $100,000 to intentionally lose the series. The players were acquitted but the damage was done. The Black Sox scandal, it became known, had besmirched the game.

To help recover from the scandal, baseball appointed its first commissioner, a truly independent party who had no financial stake in the game. Baseball chose a federal judge, Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Landis laid down strict conditions for taking the job.

He wanted absolute control. The leagues gave it to him and his first act as commissioner was banning the eight White Sox players implicated in the game-fixing scandal from baseball for life. (Click Here for two excellent books: “Blackball – the Black Sox and the Babe” and “The Pitch that Killed” written about the 1920’s era in Baseball)

On the Rebound
It took the heavy hand of Commissioner Landis, the star power of Babe Ruth along with exciting teams and rivalries to bring baseball back into favor with its fans. The New York Yankees emerged as the powerhouse team of the 1920s. The 1927 Yankees had an amazing lineup of hitters anchored by Ruth. The Yankee batting order was so strong it was called “Murderer’s Row.” Joining Ruth on “the row” were centerfielder Earle Combs (batting average .356), shortstop Mark Koenig (.285), first baseman Lou Gehrig (.373), left fielder Bob Meusel (.337) and second baseman Tony Lazzeri (.309). Ruth’s 1927 batting average was .356. Between 1920-40, the Yankees won eight World Series championships, and another three American League titles.

Depression and Baseball in United States history
Baseball was important to national moral during the Great Depression. Radio had began to broadcast baseball games during the 1920s bringing action to fans who couldn’t make it to the ballpark for afternoon games. This connection to the game proved especially valuable during the dark decade of the 1930s. To keep fan interest in the game alive, baseball created the Most Valuable Player award in 1933. The all-star game was started in 1936 and the Baseball Hall of Fame was established in 1936. These actions all helped baseball survive the depression and created much-needed national heroes.

MVPs and Inaugural Hall of Fame Class
In 1935, the first ever major league night game was played at Crosley field in Cincinnati. Now fans who worked during the day could enjoy an evening ball game. By 1941, 11 of the 16 major league clubs had lighted fields. The Chicago Cubs waited until 1988 to add lights to Wrigley Field.

When the United State entered the Second World War, many professional baseball players joined the military. Chicago Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley was slow to light his ballpark, but quick to provide a wartime alternative to professional baseball. Wrigley started a women’s pro league. Fans flocked to see the women play.

Great Moments in Baseball History
1894 Hugh Duffy bats .438 for Boston
1897 Willie Keeler bats safely in 44 consecutive games
1911 Pitcher Cy Young retires after winning 511 games in his career
1912 Pitcher Rube Marquard wins 19 consecutive games
1913 Christy Mathewson pitches 68 consecutive scoreless innings
1920 Bill Wambsganss of Cleveland completes an unassisted triple play in the World Series against Brooklyn
1925 Roger Hornsby bats over .400 for the third time in four years
1927 Babe Ruth hits 60 home runs
1932 Legend says Babe Ruth points to centerfield then hits a home run to that spot in Game 3 of the World Series
1938 Cincinnati pitcher Johnny Vander Meer throws two no-hitters within four days
1941 Joe DiMaggio hits safely in 56 consecutive games
1941 Ted Williams bats .406
1947 Jackie Robinson becomes first black player of the century in the major leagues
1953 Mickey Mantle hits a 565-foot home run
1956 Don Larsen pitches a perfect game during the World Series
1961 Roger Maris hits 61 home runs
1973 Nolan Ryan strikes out 373 batters
1974 Hank Aaron hits his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s career record
1975 Fred Lynn is first rookie to be named league MVP
1977 Reggie Jackson hits five home runs during the World Series
1981 Nolan Ryan pitches his fifth career no-hitter
1982 Ricky Henderson steals 130 bases
1985 Pete Rose records his 4,192nd career hit and breaks Ty Cobb’s record
1986 Roger Clemens strikes out 20 batters in a single game
1988 Jose Cancesco becomes first player to hit 42 home runs and steal 40 bases in a season
1995 Cal Ripken, Jr., plays in 2,132 consecutive games
1998 Mark McGwire hits 70 home runs Sammy Sosa hits 66
2001 Barry Bonds hits 73 home runs
2004 Barry Bonds hits his 700th home run
2004 Randy Johnson Pitched Perfect Game
2004 Ken Griffey Jr. hits 500th Career Home Run
2004 Boston Red Sox Break the “Curse of the Bambino” by winning the 2004 World Series.
2006 Kevin Mench hits home runs in 7 consecutive games
2007 Sammy Sosa hits 600th career home run
2007 Barry Bonds reaches 762 career home runs
2007 Cal Ripken, Jr. is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fames with the third highest percentage (98.53%) of votes
2008 Tampa Bay, holding the worst record in Major League Baseball in 2007, goes to the World Series in 2008
2010: Game 1, the Giants’ second baseman Freddy Sanchez set a World Series record by notching three doubles in his first three plate appearances. Sanchez’s third double broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth and began a six-run frame that buried Cliff Lee and the Rangers.
2011: Derek Jeter collects his 3000th hit(all with the Yankees) on a home run and hit a 5 for 5 on the same day and drove in the game winning run.
2012: Paul Konerko Hits Home Run No. 400
Konerko became the 48th player in Major League Baseball history to join that club.
2013:Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Manny Machado make history. The vaunted rookie of class of 2012 shall not be outdone by the likes of Puig! On opening day, Harper became the youngest player in MLB history to hit two homers in the first game of the season. On May 21 against the Mariners, Trout became the youngest player in American League history ever to hit for the cycle.
2014: Derek Jeter’s farewell to baseball.

Baseball’s Best Move
In 1946, major league baseball did what it should have done decades before. In that historic year, Jackie Robinson signed a minor league contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1947 when Robinson joined the Dodgers, he became the first black major league baseball player of the 20th century. In the 1840s, two black players, brothers Moses and Welday Walker had played pro ball for Toledo, until the atmosphere and abuse they endured from fans, opponents and even teammates became unbearable.

There was no official rule keeping black players out of major league baseball. Before the Dodger’s Branch Rickey, however, club owners simply wouldn’t sign them. Robinson’s introduction into major league baseball was not easy. Fans would taunt the first baseman and opposing pitchers threw at his head. But Robinson handled it all with dignity and let his talent quiet the critics. He was named 1947 Rookie of the Year after he scored 125 runs and stole a league-leading 29 bases.

While black players were shut out of the majors, they formed their own league. Negro League teams crossed the country on barnstorming tours playing any team that would take them on. As many as 50,000 fans attended Negro League All Star games. The talent and quality of play in the Negro Leagues was on par with the major leagues and everyone knew it.