Friday, April 26, 2024

148 Years Ago This Week: The First National League Ballgame


April 22, 1876 … think about how long ago that was.

Well, 148 years ago, for starters. That’s about 6 generations of people. The American population at the time was about 39 million people, about 11% of today’s.

The telegraph was the only way to communicate quickly over a long distance. Yet to be invented: the electric lightbulb and telephone. Civil War Reconstruction, still ongoing. The Transcontinental Railroad had been completed just a few years before.

President Lincoln’s assassination was a recent memory. Henry Ford was 12 years old. Etc. It was a long, long time ago.

A man named William Hulbert, owner of the Chicago White Stockings (later the Cubs), is widely credited as the founder of the National League.


Another major force in forming the National League was Albert Spalding, who joined Hulbert and the White Stockings in 1876 as manager and main pitcher, winning 47 games that year. 

He is still the all-time leader in career winning percentage at .796. He was one of the first players to wear a baseball glove and others adopted it soon after. 

Spalding of course is even more well-known for founding the A.G. Spalding sporting goods company — also in 1876, he had a good year — which supplied the official National League baseball for nearly 100 years from 1880 until 1976, developed the baseball bat from a cricket bat, and much more across many sports. The history of the company itself is a good read.