The 1890’s
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The 1890’s

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 Crown.

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 Washington.

NBBL Season statistics

ABBA Season statistics


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 champions.

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 uncertain future.

NBBL Season statistics

ABBA Season statistics


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 Baltimore.

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.

NBBL Season statistics

ABBA Season statistics


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 strikeout title.

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.

Season statistics


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.

Season statistics


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 second-place Philadelphia.

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 title.

Season statistics


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. Louis.

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 world title.

Season statistics


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 Cleveland.

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.

Season statistics


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 horizon.

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 title.

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.

Season statistics


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.

Season statistics