Minus the year 1904, and the embarrassment which was the 1994 strike shortened season and subsequent cancellation of the league playoffs and World Series, for one hundred and seven seasons a representative of the National League and American League have competed against each other in what Baseball considers the Modern Fall Classic.
Established in 1876, the National League has crowned one hundred and thirty four champions it its history. The St. Louis Cardinals and NY/San Francisco Giants, both original members of the (post 1900) modern National League, are currently engaged in the 2012 playoff to decide this year’s league champion. The first ever National League team crowned champion in 1876 was the Chicago White Stockings club who went on to become the Cubs. The Cardinals are currently trying to repeat as champions against the Giants who won the 2010 N.L. flag. A decisive Game Seven awaits both teams Monday evening.
The American League, established in 1901, has crowned one hundred and eleven champions in its history. The Detroit Tigers, original members of the circuit, recently defeated the New York Yankees to become the 2012 champions. For history’s sake, the Yankees are not an original club of the American League. Charter members of the league, the then Baltimore Orioles (who’s original history pre-dates the 20th Century) of 1901 and 1902 were sold and relocated to New York City in 1903, where the team became known as the Highlanders. In 1901, the second incarnation of the Chicago White Stockings won the American League’s inaugural flag. The modern and shortened White Sox nickname was applied in 1903. Prior to the 2012 season, the expansion Texas Rangers won back-to-back A.L. pennants.
In the first modern World Series of 1903, the Boston Americans defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates. For the relaunch of the World Series in 1905, the New York Giants defeated the Philadelphia Athletics. In historical terms, the upcoming 108th World Series stands to be a Fall Classic in the truest sense of the word. Which ever N.L. emerges victorious Monday evening, in facing the Detroit Tigers fans will be treated with over two centuries of respective and cumulative baseball history.
Prior to the modern era and birth of the American League, several professional leagues formed and subsequently folded. However, between the years 1882 and 1891, the National League’s chief competition was a rival league called the American Association. This was a more raucous enterprise. As part of their greater legacy, club owners introduced Sunday baseball, and the selling of beer and alcohol at ballparks. The Association quickly came to be known as the Beer and Whiskey League.
In 1882, the National League and American Association staged a post season exhibition. The N.L. Chicago White Stockings and the A.A. Cincinnati Red Stockings ended in a 1-1 series tie. In 1883 the exhibition was cancelled. Then in 1884, the two leagues participated in what effectively became the first World Series ever played. The National League champion Providence Grays defeated the American Association champions at New York’s Polo Grounds three games to none to capture the bragging rights of baseball.
The 1884 American Association champions were a team nicknamed the New York Metropolitans. They finished the season with a 75-32 record, a .701 winning percentage, and 6.5 games ahead of the second place Columbus Buckeyes.
Founded in 1880, the original New York Metropolitans played their first games at what became known as the polo grounds (proper) of upper Manhattan. In 1882, the club became members of the new American Association. By mid-decade, the Mets were playing home games in both the Polo Grounds and in Metropolitan Park located just a few blocks away. In 1886, they moved to Staten Island, and played their home games on the cricket grounds of St. George. After the 1887 season, the team was purchased by the Brooklyn Dodgers and dissolved.
The Mets top pitcher in 1884 was Smilin’ Tim Keefe. With a 37-17 record, he ranked fourth in the circuit in wins. His 2.25 earned run average also ranked fourth in the Association. In fifty eight starts for the Mets, he completed fifty six games and hurled four shutouts. Tim pitched 483 innings, surrendered 383 hits, and only walked seventy one batters. He posted a career low 0.934 WHiP. Tim Keefe additionally struck out 334 batters which likewise ranked fourth in the Association. He struck out batters at a rate of 6.4 per nine innings. Tim also hit three home runs.
His teammate and fellow hurler, Jack Lynch was practically his equal. In 1884 he posted a 37-15 record with a 2.67 earned run average. He made fifty three starts, and completed fifty three games. In 496 innings pitched, he struck out 292 batters and only walked forty two.
First baseman David Orr was the Mets best hitter. He played 110 games. With 458 at-bats, he led the Association with 162 hits, 112 runs batted in, a .354 batting average, and 247 (tied 1st) total bases. His .539 slugging percentage and nine home runs ranked third in the Association.
Thomas Dude Easterbrook wielded the next best stick for the club. He led the circuit with 112 games played. In 477 at-bats, Dude hit twenty nine doubles and eleven triples. His 150 hits on the season ranked fourth. He batted .314, boasted a .354 OBP, and scored 110 runs for the A.A. champs.
That’s your applied New York Mets history from the vintage era. In the fifty one years beginning with 1962, the modern Metropolitans have provided fans with their own Amazin’, if not classic moments that will get retold for generations to come. The club can not match the antiquity of these teams mentioned here. But their impact on National League baseball, and their contributions to its history are now written in stone
The spirit of the American Association is still alive and quite well in the modern day National League. The St. Louis Cardinals/Brown Stockings (1882),Pittsburgh Pirates/Alleghenys (1882),Los Angeles Dodgers/Brooklyn Atlantics (1884), and the modern day Cincinnati Reds/Red Stockings (1882), can all trace their family tree back to the Beer and Whiskey League.
The modern Mets were also born of a Rebel spirit, as they were originally part of another planned league (the Continental League) conceived in 1959 to rival the establishment. But what the proposed league really accomplished was hastening expansion of Major League Baseball as we know it today.
The senior circuit remains as my kinda league. And the Mets being in the National League seems quite appropriate for them. The nickname Rebels was once considered instead of the eventual Mets name. That could have worked. Just as the Beer and Whiskey League was once perceived, weren’t the 1986 Mets a raucous bunch as well?
Enjoy Game Seven tonight of the 2012 National League Championship Series between a remnant of the old American Association, and a team that has continuously played in the National League since the 1883 season.