The NBBL survived the ABBA challenge and had
absorbed its strongest franchises by the time the
upstart circuit collapsed in 1892. The following
season saw an NBBL with 12 strong franchises in 12
vibrant, growing markets. The rules of the game,
in more or less constant flux since 1876, were
being tinkered with less and less by decade’s end.
It could be said that the modern game had arrived.
New York ran away with the NBBL, going 99-41 and
outdistancing all challengers by 19 games or more.
The ABBA had only two strong contenders for the
league title, as Brooklyn beat Cleveland by two
games, and the rest of the league by at least 23.
Boston’s Ellsworth Raines was the batting
champion of the NBBL, hitting .340. Orrin Lott of
Brooklyn won the ABBA crown with a .346 mark.
Chicago’s Duster Munday won the Senior Circuit’s
ERA title again with a 2.25 mark, while Detroit’s
Judson McWilliams and New York’s Catfish Hoff each
won 30 games to pace the loop. In the ABBA the
best ERA belonged to Brooklyn’s Tug Abraham at
2.18; his 35 victories were equalled only by
Cleveland’s Andy Morrow. Abraham also won the
strikeout title to claim the pitchers’ Triple
The third World’s Championship Series, restored
to best-of-nine for this season, pitted neighbors
New York and Brooklyn, with the Knicks as the
heavy favorites due to their phenomenal regular
season and the NBBL’s dominance in the previous
two championship tilts. The underdog Junior
Circuit champs were not intimidated, however, and
the Gothams stunned the Knicks, winning five games
to two and inaugurating one of the greatest
rivalries in the game.
Taking Pittsburgh's lead, the Cleveland Bobcats
followed their former and future rivals to the
NBBL. The Senior Circuit collapsed its struggling
Washington franchise to make room for them, giving
the NBBL eight strong entries. The reeling ABBA
scrambled to replace not only Cleveland, but two
additional franchises that folded after the
season, Milwaukee and Syracuse. Heading for
semi-familiar territory, the league announced
start-ups in three cities that had previously
hosted major league clubs: Columbus, Toledo, and
Chicago built a huge lead by mid-season, but the
Haymakers had to fight off late challenges from
Cleveland and New York to capture their first NBBL
pennant since 1881. In the ABBA Baltimore earned
their first league title by outlasting perrenial
powerhouses Brooklyn and Cincinnati.
Boston’s Ellsworth Raines repeated as the NBBL
batting champion, hitting .361, while Baltimore’s
Bimm Sawyers claimed the ABBA title at .343.
Duster Mundy of Chicago led the NBBL in ERA (2.38)
for the third straight year and also topped the
circuit in wins (34). Cincinnati’s Royal Ricketts
won the ABBA’s pitching Triple Crown with a 1.84
ERA, 32 victories, and 249 strikeouts; Baltimore’s
Steven Fry also won 32 games.
Chicago fell behind Baltimore 3 games to 2 in the
World’s Championship Series, but defeated the
Crabbers in the next three games to emerge as
The ABBA managed to keep its bottom-feeder clubs
afloat for one more off-season, but the league was
clearly in trouble. Five solid franchises out of
eight was not enough, and the ABBA faced an
New York and Pittsburgh battled down to the wire
in the NBBL, with the Knicks taking the flag by
two games, while Brooklyn coasted to a relatively
easy ABBA pennant, finishing 7 games ahead of
New York’s Pierre Ellsworth won the NBBL batting
title at .325; Brooklyn’s Pinkney Kearns was the
top ABBA hitter at .311. Virgil Hancock of Detroit
posted the best ERA in the NBBL, 2.20, while
Pittsbugh’s Prince Bales led the loop in wins with
31. St. Louis’ Leon Gurley was the ABBA’s ERA
champ with a 2.19 mark; Brooklyn’s Monroe Black
was the circuit’s top winner with 31 victories.
For the first time the best-of-nine World’s
Championship series went the distance. Brooklyn
won the final game of the thrilling back-and-forth
battle to earn their second undisputed world title
and to usher in a new era.
After the season the three weakest ABBA
franchises—Columbus, Toledo, and
Washington—declared bankruptcy, and with NBBL
agreeing to take on four of its five remaining
franchises, the league itself decided to disband.
The NBBL became a 12-team circuit upon taking
Baltimore, Brooklyn, Cincinnati, and St. Louis
into the fold; Louisville, which had spanned the
entire history of the ABBA, was the odd man out.
To curb travel costs, foster regional rivalries,
and facilitate a path to the World Series, the
league organized itself into divisions and adopted
an unbalanced schedule. The Western Division would
be home to Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland,
Detroit, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, and the
Eastern Division would comprise Baltimore, Boston,
Brooklyn, Buffalo, New York, and Philadelphia.
As dramatic a change as realignment at its
highest professional level was, the most
earth-shattering development to the game of
baseball in 1893 was to the rules by which it was
played. The various rules committees had been
tinkering with the game since the inception of the
NLPBBC in 1876, adusting things such as the number
of balls required for a walk and the number of
strikes required for a strikeout. By 1893 the
rulemakers had decided that pitching had become
too dominant, and the solution was to move the
mound further away from home plate, from 50 feet
to the now familiar 60 feet, 6 inches.
Predictably, batting averages soared. The two
leagues had hit for a combined .246 average in
1892; in 1893, the 12-team NBBL hit .277.
The first year of the “big league” wasn’t such a
great one for pennant races: Chicago won the
Western Division in a walk, going 93-65 and
distancing themselves from second-place Detroit by
10 games. The Eastern Division race was somewhat
more competitive, with Philadelphia finishing two
games ahead of Baltimore.
Boston’s Prince Lyon hit .344 to win the batting
championship; Ellsworth Raines of Pittsburgh hit
15 home runs to lead the league, and Willis Garret
of Buffalo topped the loop in RBI with 123.
Baltimore’s Graham Thomas was the ERA champ,
posting a 2.92 mark, while Chicago’s Duster Mundy
topped the circuits in victories with 35.
Cleveland’s Jacob Aiken fanned 137 to win the
In the World’s Championship Series, Philadelphia
fell behind 3 games to 1 against heavily-favored
Chicago, then shocked the Haymakers and the
baseball world by taking three straight—the last
two in the hostile Windy City—to emerge as league
champions for the first time.
Offense exploded all over the league: Boston’s
.294 was the lowest team average; Detroit
hit a sizzling .325. The league average was .305
and nearly half the teams scored over 1000 runs.
A tight three-team race raged in the West, with
Cleveland (95-63) emerging on top with the best
record in the league, four games better than
Chicago and Detroit. New York, with only the
fourth-best overall record in the league (88-70),
won the Eastern title, topping Philadelphia by
four games and Baltimore and Brooklyn by five.
St. Louis struggled to a second-consecutive
last-place finish but Perfectos’ fans were
enthralled by the spectacle of big league
baseball’s first .400 hitter, outfielder Miles
Vickers. He hit .407. Pittsburgh’s Mark Gardner
led the loop with 19 roundtrippers, while two
players drove in 140 runs, Philadelphia’s Uriah
Beach and New York’s Pierre Ellsworth. Anton
Maguire of Brooklyn posted the top ERA, a 3.35
mark. Virgil Hancock of Detroit and Alvin Liles of
Cleveland each won 33 to share the league lead,
and Cincinnati’s Royal Ricketts led the league in
strikeouts with 163.
Cleveland had little difficulty is dispatching
New York in five games to win the World’s
Championship Series, giving the city, and the
Western Division, their first world titles.
Offense was down a bit from the previous year,
but the NBBL was still a hitters’ paradise, as the
league hit .293 overall, with nine teams scoring
900 runs or more.
Cincinnati built a huge lead in the West by
mid-season and spent the second half trying to
hold onto it, eventually besting Pittsburgh by a
scant two games. New York had no such difficulty
in the East, finishing 94-64, 10 games better than
Baltimore’s Prince Lyon was the batting champion
with a .384 clip; Mark Gardner of Pittsburgh led
the leasgue in home runs with 16, and Ollie Adams
of Philadelphia topped the circuit with 136 RBI.
The Quakers’ Bernhard Green fashioned the best
ERA, 3.15, while Detroit’s Virgil Hancock logged
the most wins (35) and Cincinnati’s Royal Ricketts
topped the loop in strikeouts with 179. Ricketts
came within .003 runs and one victory of the
pitching Triple Crown. His final win of the season
was the 354th of his career, one short of Eli
Taylor’s all-time mark.
The Knickerbockers made up for their poor showing
in the previous season’s World’s Championship
Series. Against a different Ohio team this time,
they dropped the opener but won the next four
games in a row. It was New York’s sixth league
Philadelphia coasted to an easy Eastern Division
title, bettering New York by nine games and the
rest of the field by double figures. In the West
the race was tight for much of the season, with
Pittsburgh eventually coming out on top, four
games ahead of Cleveland and six ahead of St.
Brooklyn’s Hampton Daly hit .370 to win the
batting championship, while teammate Laurence
Tucker topped the loop in RBI with 120. The home
run champion was Pittsburgh’s Mortimer Gardner,
who hit 17. Philadelphia’s Berhard Green won the
ERA title by posting a 2.56 mark, also topping the
loop in victories with 41. The strikeout champ was
Chicago’s Harry Doherty, who fanned 166.
A powerhouse with three pennants in the 1880’s,
Buffalo had fallen on hard times, and this season
they became the first team to lose 100 games,
going 55-103 and finishing 41 games out of first.
Pittsburgh’s first trip to the postseason pitted
them against their Pennsylvania rivals from the
other side of the state. The Quakers, having
breezed to the pennant with a record nine games
better than the Weavers’, were the heavy
favorites. Pittsburgh’s 2-0 Game One victory
behind Grant McGee set the tone for the tight
series, however, with each club winning alternate
games. The Weavers’ 11-4 rout in front of hostile
fans in Game Seven gave the franchise its first
Philadelphia again dominated the East, becoming
baseball’s first 100-win team with a record of
102-56, 15 games better than second-place New
York. Pittsburgh repeated as Western champions,
going 85-73 and finishing six games ahead of
New York’s Ollie Watt won the batting title,
hitting .375. Ernest Cornwell of St. Louis was the
top home run hitter (15) and RBI-man (118).
Baltimore’s Fritz Condon was the only qualifying
pitcher with an ERA under 3.00; he posted a 2.93
mark. Philadelphia’s Bernhard Green was the loop’s
top winner with 36, and Ervin Fair of Pittsburgh
was the strikeout king with 185.
Cincinnati’s Royal Ricketts won his 400th game.
The second consecutive all-Keystone State
championship series was another thriller, again
going the distance before underdog Pittsburgh
emerged as the winner. This time the Weavers went
ahead three games to one before the Quakers roared
back to even the series and force a Game Seven.
Ervin Fair won all three of his starts, including
the finale, as Pittsburgh became the 12-team big
league’s first repeat champion.
After four consecutive seasons of league batting
averages in the .290’s or above, pitching began to
reassert itself, as the league average dropped by
over 20 points and the league ERA dipped by over
three-quarters of a run. Home runs declined by
nearly a hundred. The deadball era was on the
Brooklyn unseated Philadelphia in the East,
winning a tight race with the Quakers by three
games, while Detroit came on strong late in the
season to outdistance Cincinnati by eight games
and Cleveland by twelve.
Cleveland’s Sylvester Rountree seemed unfazed by
the pitching resurgence, hitting .362 to capture
the batting crown, while New York’s Emmet Carlin
was the only player in double figures in home
runs, leading the loop with 12. Laurence Tucker of
Brooklyn was the RBI champ with 116. Royal
Ricketts, Cincinnati’s ageless star, led the
league in ERA at 2.00 and tied Detroit’s Luther
Root for the most victories with 35. Pittsburgh’s
Orlando Gipson fanned 167 to win the strikeout
Brooklyn dropped two of the first three games to
Detroit in the World’s Championship Series but
roared back to win the next three to take their
first world title since 1892.
Detroit rolled to a 100-58 record, winning the
West by 19 games. The Eastern Division featured a
much tighter race, wherein Philadelphia merged as
the champions, besting Baltimore and Brooklyn by
four games and New York by five.
New York’s Pierre Ellsworth bounced back
impressively from a knee injury that wiped out
nearly his entire 1898 season; in ’99 he won his
third batting title with a .372 average and also
topped the circuit in home runs with 13.
Brooklyn’s Laurence Tucker was the RBI champ for
third time in his career, driving in 122.
Pittsburgh’s Valentine Voss led the league in both
ERA (2.22) and victories (37). Royal Ricketts of
Cincinnati won the strikeout title for the fifth
time in his career, fanning 179.
The World’s Championship Series featured the
bizarre occurrence of the road team winning every
game. Philadelphia took the first two contests at
Detroit, the Wolverines came back to win three
straight at Philadelphia, and the Quakers took the
final two at Detroit.