Major League Baseball Teams: A Short History
Baseball is America’s favorite pastime. Whether or not you agree with that statement, the business that is Major League Baseball is definitely woven into America’s long and diverse historical tapestry. The teams of today’s Major Leagues have come a long way from those of yesteryear; some are original but many are not. Baseball has changed over the years but the sport continues to draw large crowds to the ballpark, season after season.
Then to Now
For recreational purposes, participants played various-ruled "baseball" games in earlier years. It was 1869 when the first professional team came together in Cincinnati; other teams would soon follow. In 1876, “organized baseball” created what was known then (and still now) as the National League (NL); the American League (AL) came into existence in 1901.
Beginning in 1903 and for many decades to follow, NL and AL teams played against each other in All-Star and postseason playoff games. The two leagues, however, were completely separate legal organizations until the year 2000, when they “officially” merged into a single entity. Today, there are 30 teams (29 in the United States; one in Canada) that play 162 games each season. The playoffs allow deserving teams to advance to the postseason for each league’s pennant (championship series) and then a shot at the World Series.
From 1903 to 1953, the National and American leagues each had eight teams (located in the Midwestern and Northeastern areas of the United States).
In 1962, the National League consisted of: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Houston Colt .45s, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Braves, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. The Houston team would be re-named the Astros in 1965.
In 1962, the American League consisted of: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Washington Senators. The Los Angeles team would be called the California Angels in 1965.
In 1968, Major League Baseball held an expansion draft, adding these teams for the start of the 1969 season: Kansas City Royals, Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres and Seattle Pilots.
In 1977, the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays joined Major League Baseball.
In 1993, two more teams became part of the National League; the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies.
In 1998, another two expansion teams came along; the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now known as the Tampa Bay Rays) and the Arizona Diamondbacks).
From 1969 to 1993, the National and American leagues each had two divisions: East and West. In 1994 they split into three-way (East, Central and West) divisions. Throughout the tenure of Major League Baseball and until the end of the 1996 season, National and American league teams only played each other during All-Star games and the World Series.
The experiment of seasonal Interleague play came about in 1997—the idea was to have an odd number of teams in each league (15 teams divided into three divisions). However, among the planning issues in general, there were uncertainties about whether the players’ union would approve changes in game scheduling. For the 1998 season, Major League Baseball decided to continue with an even number of teams in each league. One club (the Milwaukee Brewers) moved from the AL to the National League; allowing the NL to have 16 teams (and the America League to have 14 teams). It was in 2013 when the Houston Astros jumped from the NL to the American League’s Western Division—both leagues now have three divisions of five teams each. In the beginning, Interleague play was limited to a select number of weeks but now it is scheduled throughout the season.
The National League; Today and Yesterday
Of all the teams that are in Major League Baseball, only a few of these clubs actually started with their current franchise names. Teams are listed here in alphabetical order.
Arizona Diamondbacks (1998; Western Division): This franchise was awarded in 1995 -- the Diamondbacks are the original team name. With retired numbers, players of note are pitcher Randy Johnson (51) and outfielder Louis Gonzalez (20).
Atlanta Braves (1871; Western Division): Established in Boston, Massachusetts, the original team played in that city from 1871 through the 1952 season. In 1953, the Braves moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin -- playing baseball there until the end of the 1965 campaign. The Atlanta Braves took the field in 1966. Many historians consider the Braves franchise to be the oldest in organized baseball. (Although the Chicago Cubs began at the same time, that team lost a couple of seasons following 1871’s Great Chicago Fire). From its inception in 1871, the Braves (originally founded as the Boston Red Stockings) have had several name changes.
- Boston Braves (1871-1875)
- Boston Red Caps (1876-1882)
- Boston Bean Eaters (1883-1906)
- Boston Doves (1907-1910)
- Boston Rustlers (1911)
- Boston Braves (1912-1935)
- Boston Bees (1936-1940)
- Boston Braves (1941-1952)
- Milwaukee Braves (1954-1965)
- Atlanta Braves (1966 to present)
Famous Braves with retired numbers include slugger/outfielder Hank Aaron (44); infielders Eddie Matthews (41) and Chipper Jones (10); pitchers Phil Niekro (35), Greg Maddux (31), John Smoltz (29), Tom Glavine (47) and Warren Spahn (21); outfielder Dale Murphy (3) and manager Bobby Cox (6).
Chicago Cubs (1874; Central Division): The original franchise began in Chicago as the Chicago White Stockings of the National Association; the team became part of the National League in 1876 and kept the name until 1889. From 1890 through 1897, the team was called the Chicago Colts. In 1898, the team transitioned into the Chicago Orphans but since 1903, the Chicago Cubs have been -- and still are -- a solid staple of the Windy City. Famous Chicago Cubs players (with retired numbers) include infielders Ernie Banks (14), Ryne Sandberg (23) and Ron Santo (10); pitcher Ferguson Jenkins (31) and outfielder Billy Williams (26).
Cincinnati Reds (1882; Central Division): The team started out in the American Association (AA) as the Cincinnati Red Stockings from 1882 to 1889; joining the National League in 1890. The “Red Stockings” were known as the Reds from 1890 to 1953, and then, in 1954, the team’s name lengthened to the Redlegs (until the end of the 1959 season). The Queen City of Cincinnati once again called its baseball team the Reds, beginning in 1960.
There are more than several prominent Cincinnati Reds players (with retired numbers), including: catcher Johnny Bench (5); infielders Joe Morgan (8), Tony Perez (24), Barry Larkin (11) and Dave Concepcion (13); managers Fred Hutchinson (1) and Sparky Anderson (10); outfielder Frank Robinson (20) and coach Ted Kluszewski (18). Infielder/outfielder manager Pete Rose, although still “officially” banned from baseball, was inducted to the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame in June of 2016.
Colorado Rockies (1993; Western Division): Founded in 1991, the expansion club Rockies began their Major League Baseball franchise in 1993. Although (as of this writing) no players have had numbers retired, the team won the National League pennant in 2007. Several Colorado Rockies have been honored by Major League Baseball for Most Valuable Player (MVP), National League Rookie of the Year, Silver Slugger and Golden Glove achievements.
Los Angeles Dodgers (1884; Western Division): The Dodgers began their long franchise history in Brooklyn, New York. The team actually came together in 1883 as the Brooklyn Grays of the minor leagues' Interstate Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. The Grays joined the American Association in 1884 under its new name -- the Brooklyn Atlantics -- which lasted only that first season. Over the next few years, the American Association team changed names twice: Brooklyn Grays (1885-1887) and Brooklyn Bridegrooms (1888-1890).
After joining Major League Baseball's National League in 1890, the team operated as the Brooklyn Grooms (1891-1895); Brooklyn Bridegrooms (1896-1898); Brooklyn Superbas (1899-1910); Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers (1911-1912); Brooklyn Superbas (1913) and Brooklyn Robins (1914-1931). In 1932 (until 1957), the Brooklyn Dodgers came to life. This team occupied four locations during their long franchise history in Brooklyn, New York: Washington Park I (1884-1990); Ridgewood Park (Sunday games only, 1886-1889); Eastern Park (1891-1897); Washington Park II (1898-1912); and Ebbets Field (1913-1957).
At the end of the 1957 season, majority team owner Walter O’Malley announced that the Brooklyn Dodgers would be moving west to Los Angeles in California. Originally, after O’Malley bought team shares from co-owners Branch Rickey and James L. Smith, the plan was to purchase land in Brooklyn to build a new stadium. The infrastructure at Ebbets Field was getting old and, despite the sentiment Dodgers fans held for that ballpark, attendance figures were low. When New York City officials would not agree to provide O’Malley the eminent domain authority needed to build a new stadium, the Dodgers’ majority owner decided to look at moving the team to California -- travel there would now be by airplanes (instead of trains). Los Angeles officials put the word out that they wanted to have a Major League Baseball team established in that city and so when O’Malley heard this, he told them he would consider moving the Dodgers to LA.
The city of Los Angeles then offered Brooklyn Dodgers majority owner Walter O’Malley a deal that the businessman felt he could not refuse: the ability to purchase as much land as necessary for building a stadium -- and actually owning that stadium outright (which allowed him to control all sources of revenue). New York officials countered with an offer to build a stadium in Queens that would be shared by both the Dodgers and the New York Giants -- O'Malley refused. (It wouldn’t be long after that when the New York Giants made their way to San Francisco, CA). The Brooklyn Dodgers played their final game on September 24, 1957 at Ebbets Field. They beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0.
There were many famous Dodgers but the retired team numbers are for infielders Pee Wee Reese (1), Jim Gilliam (19) and Jackie Robinson (42); outfielder Duke Snider (4); pitchers Don Sutton (20), Sandy Koufax (32) and Don Drysdale (53); catcher Roy Campanella (39); managers Tommy Lasorda (2) and Walter Alston (24). Other notable members of the Dodgers’ organization include Leo Durocher, Burleigh Grimes, Rabbit Maranville, Willie Keeler, Dazzy Vance, Maury Wills and Juan Marichal.
Miami Marlins (1993; Eastern Division): This expansion team began as the Florida Marlins, from 1993 until 2011. In 2012, with a new ballpark built in downtown Miami, the Florida Marlins officially changed their name to the Miami Marlins -- complete with a different logo and branding colors. The Florida Marlins won the World Series in 1997 and 2003. As of this writing, there are no retired Florida/Miami player numbers.
Milwaukee Brewers (1969; Central Division): The Milwaukee Brewers were, in the beginning, a team located in Seattle called the Seattle Pilots.
In 1969, the Seattle Pilots expansion team joined the American League's Western Division. The Pilots were actually slated to play their inaugural season in 1971—the same year as another expansion team; the Kansas City Royals. However, a Missouri state senator convinced Major League Baseball to move forward sooner because Kansas City lost the Athletics (to Oakland) after the 1967 season.
Because it was necessary to have an even number of teams in each division, both the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots began playing in 1969. The Pilots had a poorly-performing team, low attendance, financial problems and other issues which originally included the lack of accessibility to an acceptable stadium facility. Failed attempts to improve upon the ballclub's numerous challenges or sell the team outright led to a bankruptcy filing—the Pilots’ franchise was officially declared bankrupt six days before Opening Day in 1970. A minority owner of the Milwaukee Braves, Bug Selig, bought the Pilots and moved the team to Milwaukee. He renamed it the “Brewers” (after what was the minor leagues’ American Association (AA) Milwaukee Brewers ballclub. As previously noted, that AA team became the Major League's St. Louis Browns of 1902-1953). Selig’s team was first known as the “new” Milwaukee Brewers.
From 1970 through the end of the 1997 season, the Milwaukee Brewers played baseball in the American League. However, in 1998, with the start of Interleague competitions (and in order to even out the number of teams in each league), the Brewers moved to the National League.
It should be noted that the original Milwaukee Brewers were a minor league team that was part of the Western League of the American Association. At the start of the year 1900 season, the Western League was renamed American League; the AL then joined Major League Baseball in 1901. American League founder and President Byron Bancroft (“Ban”) Johnson wanted to move the Milwaukee Brewers to St. Louis but because he was not able to find a suitable owner, the team played baseball in Milwaukee for the 1901 season. In 1902, the American Association/Western League/American League Milwaukee Brewers did move to St. Louis to become the St. Louis Browns. The Browns remained intact through the 1953 season. The team then moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles.
Retired Milwaukee Brewers numbers include: team owner Bud Selig (1); infielders Paul Molitor (4) and Robin Yount (19); pitcher Rollie Fingers (34) and outfielder/Designated Hitter Hank Aaron (44).
New York Mets (1962; Eastern Division): The New York Mets play baseball in the Queens borough of the city, in Flushing. Major League Baseball awarded a franchise to the Mets in the early 1960s because the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants both left the New York area at the end of the 1957 season. The Mets have these numbers retired: manager Casey Stengel (37); infielder Gil Hodges (14); pitcher Tom Seaver (41) and catcher Mike Piazza (31). Other notable Mets players include catcher Gary Carter, pitcher John Franco and infielder David Wright.
Philadelphia Phillies (1883; Eastern Division): From the team’s beginning in 1883, the Philadelphia Phillies have been the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies; it is the oldest one-city, one-name franchise in baseball (and all professional sports). But the club history goes back to Massachusetts, 1879. The original team, called the Worcester Ruby Legs (also known as the Brown Stockings or Worcester Worcesters), played in the minor league's National Association. This minor league team became affiliated with MLB's National League from 1880 to 1882 but it was in 1883 when Major League Baseball, needing to balance the playing schedule, awarded a franchise to the Philadelphia Phillies.
In 1883, the team was founded as the Quakers but quickly took on the name Philadelphias—subsequently shortened to Phillies. The ballclub held on to both names (Phillies and Quakers) from 1883 to 1890.
No original players (from the Massachusetts team) came to the new franchise in Philadelphia. The first Philadelphia Phillies game was played at home on May 1, 1883 (Recreation Park -- the team lost to the Providence Grays). The Philadelphia Phillies gave life to the careers of many of its alumni with retired numbers for: outfielder Richie Ashburn (1); pitchers Jim Bunning (14), Steve Carlton (32) and Robin Roberts (36); and infielder Mike Schmidt (20). Honored insignias are “P” in different fonts for right-handed pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander (who pitched for the Phillies from 1911-1917 and in 1930), and outfielder Chuck Klein (three stints with the Phillies: 1928-1933, 1936-1939 and 1940-1944).
Pittsburgh Pirates (1882; Central Division): Professional baseball began in Pittsburgh in 1876 when independent player organizations (known as “barnstormers”) traveled the country looking for competitive, financially lucrative games with local teams. In the fall of 1881, one of these solid barnstorming troupes joined the American Association -- and then slated as "professional" in the spring of 1882. Because the team's home playing field was in Allegheny City (across from the Allegheny River), the group was sometimes called the Alleghenys (spelled just that way).
In 1887, the Alleghenys left the American Association to join the National League, first calling themselves the Pittsburgh Alleghenys (until 1890). Before the 1890 season, many Alleghenys players left that team for "greener pastures" -- the league allowed members to return to former ballclubs. But the Alleghenys obtained a well-sought infielder who had previously played with the American Association’s Philadelphia Athletics. Although the Athletics neglected to include second baseman Lou Bierbauer on their reserve list (which would have kept other teams from being able to acquire his services), the A’s protested against the Alleghenys; calling the move “piratical.” The Alleghenys were never found guilty of wrongdoing but the name stuck. Pittsburg (without the “h”) took the name Pirates in 1891 through 1911. The team officially became the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1912.
The United States Board on Geographic Names (BGN) -- a Federal organization created in 1890 to maintain uniformed standards of geographic names in the U.S. -- forced the city of Pittsburgh to drop the “h” at the end of its name. The purpose of the BGN was to resolve name inconsistencies and new-name proposals for public entities and private organizations.
In 1891, the BGN created general principles to standardize names that ended in “burgh,” so that the final “h” should be removed, thus, Pittsburgh became Pittsburg. (Printed copies of the city’s 1816 charter called the area Pittsburg, but the original charter included the “h,” making it Pittsburgh. Still, newspapers and businesses were varied as to whether or not they used the “h”). Upon controversy and public resistance to Pittsburg, the United States Geographic Board (a successor organization to the BGN) officially changed the name to Pittsburgh in July of 1911.
The club became the Pittsburgh/Pittsburg Pirates in 1891. Of the many famous names in Pittsburgh Pirates history, these numbers are retired: manager Billy Meyer (1); infielders Bill Mazeroski (9), Pie Traynor (20) and Honus Wagner (33); outfielders Ralph Kiner (4), Willie Stargell (8), Paul Waner (11), Roberto Clemente (21) and Danny Murtaugh (40).
St. Louis Cardinals (1882; Central Division): The professional baseball team that eventually became the Cardinals began play in 1875, as the St. Louis Brown Stockings of the National Association. The demise of the National Association occurred within the 1875 season; the Brown stockings joined Major League Baseball’s National League in 1876. But in 1877, the ballclub got caught up in a game-fixing scandal and eventually went bankrupt (the National League also expelled the team).
The players stayed together in the organization, going on professional barnstorming tours through 1881. In 1882, businessman and entrepreneur Chris von der Ahe purchased the Brown Stockings and reorganized the team to become the first member of the newly-created American Association. The team shortened its name to the St. Louis Browns.
In 1902, because there was no longer a team called the St. Louis Browns, a team from Milwaukee, Wisconsin (the original minor league team Milwaukee Brewers) moved into St. Louis and called themselves the St. Louis Browns. The newly-christened St. Louis Browns played through the 1953 season.
After the 1891 season, the American Association went bankrupt; the St. Louis Browns were welcomed back to the National League. In 1899, the St. Louis team, in its 18th season, was called the Perfectos; re-named by two brothers who had purchased the franchise (Frank Robison and Stanley Robison) from previous owner Chris von der Ahe. The Perfectos’ uniform had “cardinal red trim and sock striping,” and, as noted by an area sportswriter, fans liked the Perfectos’ nickname “Cardinals.” Cardinals later became the official name for the team’s players.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ list of retired numbers is a long one: infielders Ozzie Smith (1), Red Schoendienst (2), Stan Musial (6), Ken Boyer (14) and Rogers Hornsby (with the “SL” logo); pitchers Jay Hanna “Dizzy” Dean (17), Bruce Sutter (42) and Bob Gibson (45); outfielders Enos Slaughter (9) and Lou Brock (20); managers Tony La Russa (10) and Whitey Herzog (24). Number 85 is retired for long time team owner Gussie Busch (who died in 1989).
San Diego Padres (1969; Western Division): Beginning with the 1969 season, Major League Baseball added four expansion teams; the San Diego Padres, Kansas City Royals, Montreal Expos and Seattle Pilots. The team name “Padres” came from a minor league franchise of the Pacific Coast League (1936). “Padres” -- the Spanish word for “fathers" -- refers to the Franciscan Friars who founded the city of San Diego in 1769.
Padres’ players whose numbers are retired: infielder Steve Garvey (6); outfielders Tony Gwynn (19) and Dave Winfield (31); pitchers Randy Jones (35) and Trevor Hoffman (51). Other San Diego Padres players of note include infielders Nate Colbert and Gary Templeton, and catcher Benito Santiago.
San Francisco Giants (1883; Western Division): The San Francisco Giants began their long history in New York City -- the team was originally called the Gothams. The Gothams officially became the New York Giants in 1886. The Gothams, having entered the National League in 1883, was the sister ballclub of another organization, the Metropolitans (of the American Association. The 19th century New York Metropolitans played in the city from 1880 to 1887).
From 1880-1887, the New York Metropolitans—not to be confused with the current day New York Mets—was a “sister team” to the New York Gothams. The Metropolitans (also called the Mets) won the 1884 American Association pennant but the team could not stay profitable. In early 1886, the Metropolitans were sold; the new ownership could not keep the team afloat, thus, the franchise dissolved at the end of the 1887 season. However, in 1887, territorial and player contracts were purchased by the Brooklyn Dodgers in order to keep them protected from other teams.
There are several notable “eras” for the New York Giants:
- 1902: John McGraw was signed on to be a player-manager. He managed the team until 1932 -- during that 30 year period, the Giants won nine National League pennants and three World Series championships. The Giants (with McGraw's coaching staff) won another pennant and World Series championship the year following his retirement.
- From 1930 to 1957, the Giants won 5 pennants; the most notable came in 1951 with the “shot heard around the world” that occurred in the playoff game (against the Brooklyn Dodgers) when outfielder Bobby Thomson hit a “walk-off” game-winning (and pennant winning) home run. Another memorable moment for the Giants came in the first game of the 1954 World Series (against Cleveland). With the game tied at two runs each, outfielder Willie Mays made an over-the-shoulder catch that kept the Indians from scoring. (The Indians had two runners on with no one out). The Giants won that game with a tenth inning home run).
The New York Giants made the move to San Francisco at the end of 1957 season. The team was looking to build a new stadium in New York but Giants’ majority owner Horace Stoneham entered into negotiations with San Francisco’s mayor. It was around the same time as the Brooklyn Dodgers had announced their impending move to Los Angeles, California. From 1958 until 1962, there would be only one Major League Baseball team left in New York; the Yankees. The New York Mets joined the National League for the 1962 season.
The San Francisco Giants have retired their share of player numbers, including: outfielders Mel Ott (4), Monte Ervin (20) and Willie Mays (24); infielders Bill Terry (3), Orlando Cepeda (11) and Willie MCovey (44); pitchers Carl Hubbell (11), Gaylord Perry (36) and Juan Marichal (27). Pitcher Christy Mathewson and player/manager John McGraw are both been honored with special NY signature logos. Other great names in Giants history include (but are not limited to) Felipe Alou, Bobby Bonds, Jim Ray Hart, Chili Davis and Tito Fuentes.
Washington Nationals (1969; Eastern Division): Before moving to Washington D.C., the team -- called the Montreal Expos -- was located in Montreal, Quebec (Canada).
Professional baseball in Montreal began in the International Association (1890). In 1897, the Montreal Royals created a Canadian minor league franchise that, in 1939, became an affiliate of the Brooklyn Dodgers organization. After the Royals left, Montreal's mayor began lobbying Major League Baseball for a team -- it wasn’t until the spring of 1968 that the National League awarded expansion teams to Montreal and San Diego.
In 1994, following a player strike within all of Major League Baseball, the Expos were no longer able to afford or compete for high-priced talent. As a result, the team unloaded the contracts of some of their premium players (John Wetteland, Marquis Grissom and Ken Hill). Other players left the team for Free Agency (Pedro Martinez, Mel Rojas, Moises Alou and Larry Walker).
From 1995 to around 2000, game attendance from (apparently angry) Montreal Expos fans dropped significantly -- the team lost a lot of games. In 2001, under a new general manager, the Expos planned to build a stadium and spend more money on payroll (provided by a cash infusion from team share holders). Although payroll for the 2000 season increased dramatically, the team’s losing record drove away fan interest. With the future of Olympic Stadium’s poor conditions still at issue, and several unproductive trades, fan support declined even further. The end of the Montreal Expos seemed to be just a matter of time.
In 2001, Major League Baseball began the transaction of eliminating two franchises -- the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins -- but legal challenges stopped the process. In Minnesota, MLB was forced to honor the Twins’ stadium lease. In the meantime, the Expos survived the revocation attempt because the league needed to keep an even number of teams for scheduling purposes. Shortly after, the Expos’ majority owner sold the team directly to Major League Baseball; the ultimate plan was to move the franchise out of Montreal. The Montreal Expos’ played their final season in 2004. Beginning in 2005, the franchise would become the Washington Nationals.
The Expos were part of 1969's National League expansion (along with California's San Diego Padres. The American League also added two teams). The Washington Nationals began their franchise history in 2005. Currently, there are no specific Washington Nationals numbers that are retired, however, those of the Montreal Expos include catcher Gary Carter (8); outfielders Rusty Staub and Andre Dawson (both had number 10), and Tim Raines (30).
On April 15, 1997, Major League baseball retired number 42 for all teams, in honor of Brooklyn Dodgers infielder Jackie Robinson.
American League; Today and Yesterday
Similar to the National League, only a few of the American League teams still operate under the same name of their original franchise. Teams are listed in alphabetical order:
Baltimore Orioles (1901; Eastern Division): Under a different name, the Orioles franchise was one of the first and original charters created for the American League in 1901. (At that time, they were called the Milwaukee Brewers). In 1902, the original minor league Brewers team was moved to St. Louis to become Major League Baseball's St. Louis Browns (through the end of the 1953 season; see Milwaukee Brewers history*). In 1954, the St. Louis Browns franchise moved to Baltimore to become the Orioles (an oriole is the official bird of the state of Maryland). Retired Baltimore Orioles numbers are: manager Earl Weaver (4); infielders Brooks Robinson (5), Cal Ripken Jr. (8) and Eddie Murray (33); outfielder-manager Frank Robinson (20) and pitcher Jim Palmer (22).
Boston Red Sox (1901; Eastern Division): One of the original charter teams of the new American League in 1901, this Boston team began their franchise as the Americans -- keeping that name through the 1907 season. Boston changed its team name to the Red Sox (for their uniform’s red stocking hose); this moniker was similar to one used by the Chicago White Sox. Not to be confused with the Boston Red Stockings of the National League (a team that eventually became the Boston Braves), the Boston Americans/Red Sox originally wore uniforms with dark blue stockings. In those early years, the team was referred to as the Bostons, Americans, Bostonians, Boston Americans, and other nicknames coined by newspaper editors.
Retired Boston Red Sox numbers include: infielders Bobby Doerr (1), Joe Cronin (4) and Johnny Pesky (6); outfielders Carl Yastrzemski (8), Ted Williams (9) and Jim Rice (14); pitcher Pedro Martinez (45) and catcher Carlton Fisk (27). From 1901 through 1911, the Boston Red Sox played at the Huntington Avenue Grounds (a stadium located across the tracks from the home of the Boston Braves). The Boston Red Sox began their long term residence at Fenway Park, beginning in 1912.
Chicago White Sox (1901; Central Division): Before beginning their long career as the "pale-hosers" of Chicago, the original Sioux City Cornhuskers were in the minor leagues. Famed owner Charles Comiskey bought the team in 1894, first moving the franchise to Minnesota (to become the St. Paul Saints). In 1900, the Saints moved into Chicago to become the White Stockings. (This name had originally been used by Chicago’s National League team). In 1901, as the American League came into existence, the Major League White Stockings became the White Sox.
Famed Chicago White Sox players and coaches had their numbers retired, including: infielders Nellie Fox (2), Luke Appling (4), Louis Aparicio (11), Paul Konerko (14) and Frank Thomas (35); outfielders Harold Baines (3) and Minnie Minoso (9); catcher Carlton Fisk (72); pitchers Ted Lyons (16) and Billy Pierce (19).
Cleveland Indians (1901; Central Division): The Indians’ Major League franchise came about in 1901 (with the newly-established American League) but the team actually began professional play in Michigan as the minor league Grand Rapids Rustlers(1894-1899).
Organized baseball began in Cleveland before the minor league/major league teams came into existence. In 1865 (at the end of the Civil War), young men played baseball under the name Cleveland Forest Citys. This amateur baseball club stood through 1868. In 1869 through 1870, Cleveland was awarded “professional” status -- still called the Forest Citys. In 1871, then with the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NA), the Forest Citys were caught in the turmoil created by the Great Chicago Fire of October, 1871. With the White Stockings not being able to play baseball in that city (and two other NA teams out of business), the league’s ability to continue was compromised. The Cleveland Forest Citys folded in 1872.
Several years later, the city of Cleveland rebuilt the Forest Citys to play professional baseball (circa 1879). The National League took over the National Association -- because the NL wanted specific colors to be associated with teams, the Forest Citys became the Cleveland Blues in 1882. (The Cleveland Blues left for St. Louis in 1885). The city of Cleveland was without a professional baseball team until 1887; picking up a minor league team from the American Association. The new cub, called the Spiders and led by Ohioan Cy Young, began the franchise’s long tenure at League Park. The Spiders disbanded in 1899. It was 1900 when the Grand Rapids Rustlers of Michigan moved to Cleveland, became the Lake Shores and then the Bluebirds (joining the American League) in 1901. Thus began the history of Major League Baseball in Cleveland.
In 1900, the ballclub moved to Cleveland to become the Lake Shores and the Western League changed its name to the American League (although the organization still had minor league status at that time).
In 1901, when the American League joined the majors with eight franchise teams, the Cleveland Bluebirds began their play at League Park. The Major League Cleveland team changed names in 1902 to the Broncos. From 1903 to 1914, players were called the Naps -- after player-manager Napoléon "Nap" Lajoie. In 1915, the team adopted the name Indians in honor of Native American Louis Sockalexis (who played in Cleveland from 1897 to 1899).
Retired Cleveland Indians’ numbers include: outfielders Earl Averill (3) and Larry Doby (14); shortstop-manager Lou Boudreau (5); pitchers Bob Feller (19), Mel Harder (18) and Bob Lemon (21). Hall of famers from the Cleveland Naps: Cy Young, Nap Lajoie, Addie Joss and Elmer Flick. Other famous Cleveland Indians of years past: Tris speaker, Early Wynn, Al Lopez, Stan Coveleski, Satchel Paige, Gaylord Perry, Frank Robinson and Joe Sewell.
Detroit Tigers (1901; Central Division): Since 1901, the Detroit Tigers have been called the Detroit Tigers; the team is an original charter member of the American League (along with the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox). The Tigers, now in the Central Division, played in the AL East from 1969 to 1997. The franchise has retired many player numbers, including: infielders Charlie Gehringer (2) and Hank Greenberg (5); outfielders Al Kaline (6) and Willie Horton (23); pitcher Hal Newhouser (16) and manager Sparky Anderson (11). Special honors are granted to outfielders Ty Cobb, Harry Heilmann, Heinie Manush and Sam Crawford; catcher Mickey Cochrane; infielder George Kell; manager Hughie Jennings and broadcaster Ernie Harwell.
Houston Astros (1962; Western Division): Up until 2013, the Houston Astros were part of the National League. But professional baseball in Houston began in 1888 (through 1961) with the minor league Houston Buffaloes. In October of 1960, Major League Baseball awarded a National League expansion franchise to a group of businessmen representing the Houston Sports Association. Although the team could begin playing Major League Baseball the following season, issues concerning territorial rights prevented the Buffaloes franchise from continuing in the city of Houston. Thus, the minor league organization was sold and rechristened as the Houston Colt .45s (as a result of a “name the team” contest). The team, ready for action, became a National League member in 1962. Later, with a new domed stadium set to open, the Houston Colt .45s became the Houston Astros on December 1, 1964.
In 2013, the Houston Astros joined the American League; Major League Baseball was creating a realignment of all divisions so that each league would have 15 teams (and more of a “geographical balance”). Retired Houston Astros numbers are: infielders Jeff Bagwell (5) and Crag Biggio (7); outfielders Jimmy Wynn (24) and José Cruz (25); pitchers Jim Umbricht (32), Mike Scott (33), Nolan Ryan (34), Don Wilson (40) and Larry Dierker (49).
Kansas City Royals (1969; Central Division): The Royals began as an expansion team in the American League (along with the Seattle Pilots). The Royals were named for American Royal -- a livestock and horse show held in Kansas City each fall. The team, initially in the AL’s Western Division, brought baseball back to Kansas City after the Athletics moved to Oakland, California. Retired Kansas City Royals’ numbers are: manager Dick Howser (10); infielders George Brett (5) and Frank White (20).
In addition to the Athletics, from 1955 to 1967, Kansas City had a number of professional baseball teams:
- Kansas City Blues (Minor League’s American Association; 1888-1954)
- Kansas City Blues (Western League; 1894-1900)
- Kansas City Cowboys (Union Association; 1884)
- Kansas City Cowboys (Major League’s American Association; 1888-1889)
- Kansas City Cowboys (Major League’s National League; 1886)
- Kansas City Monarchs (Negro Leagues; 1920-1931)
- Kansas City Packers (Federal League; 1914-1915)
- Kansas City T-Bones (American Association of Independent Professional Baseball; 2003-present. This league is NOT affiliated with Major League Baseball).
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (1961; Central Division): Beginning as an expansion team, the Angels have always been the Angels, but the named city has changed several times. From 1961 through 1965, they were the Los Angeles Angels. The team was known as the California Angels from 1966 to 1996; in 1997 -- the Anaheim Angels (until 2004). The ballclub became the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2005. The American League’s Los Angeles baseball team’s retired numbers are for: infielders Jim Fregosi (11) and Rod Carew (29); pitcher Nolan Ryan (30), coach Jimmie Reese (50) and team founder Gene Autry (26).
Minnesota Twins (1901; Central Division): The eventual Minnesota Twins team actually started as the Washington Senators (also called the Washington Nationals) of Washington D.C.; one of the American League's original 1901 expansion franchises. In 1960, when the city of Minneapolis was granted its own expansion team, the owners of the Washington club wanted to move their ballclub to Minnesota (and thus allow the city of Washington to obtain the expansion team). The league said “yes” -- allowing the original Washington Senators to become the Minnesota Twins. The city of Washington D.C. developed a new team, also called the Washington Senators.
The Minnesota Twins, named for the Minneapolis-St. Paul area (the Twin Cities) would actually have been called the Twin City Twins, if the franchise's majority owner had his way. He was concerned that fans would be put off if the team was based in either St. Paul or Minneapolis. Major League Baseball denied that request, but did allow the Minnesota Twins to keep the “TC” logo for its branding and caps.
The pre-Minnesota Twins/Washington Senators/Nationals groomed the career of pitching great Walter Johnson (1907). Retired numbers: outfielder/infielder Harmon Killebrew (11); outfielders Tony Oliva (6) and Kirby Puckett (34); infielders Kent Hrbek (14) and Rod Carew (29); pitcher Bert Blyleven (28) and manager Tom Kelly (10).
New York Yankees (1903; Eastern Division): The New York Yankees actually began their long franchise history in Baltimore, Maryland because the National League’s New York Giants blocked plans by Major League Baseball to add another team to the city of New York.
This Baltimore Orioles team played baseball from 1901 through the 1902 season. In 1903, following a “peace conference” between the National and American Leagues to settle disputes (including clubs “raiding” other teams for players), baseball team owners agreed to allow another franchise in New York City. Following the (original) Orioles’ move to Hilltop Park in northern Manhattan, the American League New York team then adopted a new name; the Highlanders (1903-1912). Because of another nickname (the Americans) that referred to the AL ballclub, a New York Press editor referred to the team in print as the Yankees or Yanks -- it was easier to fit on the headline page. The team became the New York Yankees, starting in 1913.
The New York Yankees claim many of baseball’s historical figures. The Yankees retired these numbers, in honor of: manager/infielder Billy Martin (1); outfielders Babe Ruth (3), Joe DiMaggio (5), Mickey Mantle (7), Roger Maris (9), Reggie Jackson (44) and Bernie Williams (51); infielders Lou Gehrig (4), Phil Rizzuto (10) and Don Mattingly (23); catchers Bill Dickey (8), Yogi Berra (8), Thurman Munson (15), Jorge Posada (20) and Elston Howard (32); pitchers Whitey Ford (16), Mariano Rivera (42), Andy Pettitte (46) and Ron Guidry (49); managers/coaches Joe Torre (6) and Casey Stengel (37).
Oakland Athletics: (1901; Western Division): An original Major League Baseball franchise, the Athletics began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (winning three World Series between 1910 to 1913 -- again in 1929 and 1930). The “A’s” moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1955 and then on to Oakland, California at the start of the 1968 season. The early days of the Oakland Athletics saw three straight World Series championships (1972, 1973 and 1974).
Retired numbers include: outfielders Reggie Jackson (9) and Rickey Henderson (24); pitchers Jim “Catfish” Hunter (27), Rollie Fingers (34) and Dennis Eckersley (43). There are no retired numbers from when the Athletics played in Philadelphia or Kansas City. However, the Oakland team displays all of the Hall-of-Fame Philadelphia Athletics players’ numbers and World Series Championships honors at their stadium (Oakland Alameda Coliseum).
Seattle Mariners (1977; Western Division): The Mariners franchise was actually created as the result of a lawsuit, after the Seattle Pilots were sold and relocated to Milwaukee (to become the Brewers). In 1970, the city of Seattle (King County and the state of Washington) sued the American League for breach of contract—the issue, in part, centered on a league stipulation that the city of Seattle build a new stadium for the Pilots. In 1970, when the Pilots were sold (and moved to Milwaukee), the city of Seattle, King County and the state of Washington sued the American League -- requesting $32 million dollars in damages. Seattle’s attorneys claimed that the AL urged and sponsored the city’s “financial commitments,” (including building the new stadium for the Pilots). The plaintiffs thought by the American League allowing the Pilots to move to Milwaukee, the league should pay for at least part of the new stadium. (The Kingdome would be used for NFL football, too—the Seattle Seahawks). The Kingdome was ready for its tenants in March, 1976, but it had no baseball team until the Mariners came to be in 1977. In 1976, with the case finally going to trial, the American League offered the city of Seattle an expansion team as a settlement to the lawsuit. (The AL would expand to create two new franchises -- the other went to the Toronto Blue Jays). The new Seattle Mariners took the field in 1977. As of this writing, the Mariners have not retired any player numbers.
Tampa Bay Rays (1998; Eastern Division): This expansion team started out as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays but the name changed to the Rays in 2008. There is no actual city called “Tampa Bay" -- the name is used to describe the geographical location of the team (the cities of Tampa, St. Petersburg, Bradenton and Clearwater). Numbers retired by the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays: infielder Wade Boggs (12) and coach Don Zimmer (66).
Texas Rangers (1961 Western Division): This franchise began in Washington D.C. as the Washington Senators (1961-1971). Not to be confused with the original Washington Senators (that eventually became the Minnesota Twins), this 1961 Senators team was an expansion franchise for Major League Baseball; the club moved to Arlington, Texas prior to the start of the 1972 season. The Texas Rangers have retired these numbers: manager Johnny Oates (26) and pitcher Nolan Ryan (34).
Toronto Blue Jays (1977: Eastern Division): The expansion Toronto Blue Jays began their franchise tenure with home games at the Canadian National Exhibition Stadium before moving to SkyDome in 1989 (SkyDome was renamed to Rogers Centre in 2006). As of this writing (in addition to Major League Baseball’s retirement of number 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson), the Toronto Blue Jays have retired number 12 for infielder Roberto Alomar.
Today’s Baseball League Lineup
American League Eastern Division: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays.
American League Central Division: Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins.
American League Western Division: Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.
National League Eastern Division: Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals.
National League Central Division: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals.
National League Western Division: Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants.
The Season of Baseball
There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball -- each plays a 162-game season; the total number of regular season scheduled games for both the American League and the National League is 2,430. (Postponed games are usually made up during the season; however, there may be exceptions because of scheduling or other reasons as noted by Major League Baseball).
The regular season lasts from early April to late September, followed by divisional and championship playoffs and the World Series through October (and sometimes into early November). The Divisional Series can last up to 5 games; the Championship Series up to 7 games; and the World Series can run up to 7 games, if necessary.
Whether played by professionals, amateurs, students or enjoyed by spectators, the sport of baseball is a part of American culture. The momentum of professional baseball begins with Spring Training and runs throughout the season to the Fall Classic -- the World Series.
During the winter months, true baseball enthusiasts dream of the new season to come. It’s never too far away!
Questions & Answers
© 2016 Teri Silver