Photo above: Wright Brothers airplane 1903. Right: Mesa Verde Cliff Dwelling. Photos courtesy Library of Congress.
U.S. Timeline - The 1900s
The World Takes Flight
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January 28, 1901 - The American League of Major League Baseball declares itself a Major League after one season as a minor league stemming from the minor Western League in 1899. The eight charter teams included the Baltimore Orioles, the Boston Americans, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Blues, Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Athletics, and the Washington Senators. 1901 signified its initial year of competition as a major league, competing against the senior National circuit.
There had been competition between Major Leagues of Baseball for most years prior to 1900, but as of the turn of the century, the National League had the landscape of the Major Leagues to its own. It would not last long. The Western League, a minor league from February 11, 1885 (originally known as the Northwestern League) through the 1899 season with six original midwest teams; Indianapolis, Kansas City, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Toledo, and Omaha/Keokuk, Iowa. It had morphed into the newly named American League on October 11, 1899 for the 1900 season after a variety of reorganizations over the previous two decades. It was still a minor league in that season, but had begun an expansion program prompted by the National League decision to delete its teams in Baltimore, Cleveland, Louisville, and Washington and go with an eight team circuit. At first the National League was fine with expansion by the Western League into their former cities, even making an agreement for the current Chicago Orphans (Cubs) to draft two players per year from the new White Stockings. They were only okay with it because it was still a minor league.
Any arrangement between the two leagues ended after the 1900 season when the American League decided that it would become the second Major League. They would raid National League rosters and go into direct competition in cities such as Philadelphia and Chicago. Players such as Nap Lajoie were paid a bonus above the National League maximum at the time ($6,000 versus $2,400) and jumped ship, at first to the Philadelphia Athletics and later to Cleveland. Teams in the first season were located in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Washington. Notably absent was a team in the nation's largest metropolis, New York. The New York Giants of the National League had significant political power in New York City to ban the establishment of a team there in 1901. However, this did not last long. The Baltimore Orioles were defunct after the 1902 season, and the American League, wanting to be considered major in every way and now in peace negotiations with the National League, moved the Baltimore franchise there for 1903, known as the Highlanders prior to its designation as the Yankees in 1913. The National League had voted to allow New York an American League franchise, all except the New York Giants. In 1903, the first World Series between the National League and American League would occur.
What Became of the Original Franchises
The original Baltimore Orioles played only two seasons in the American League, 1901 and 1902, and were rife with troubles, including management that started to allow the National League Giants to raid its players. The 1901 season saw the Orioles finish in 5th place with 141,562 people in attendance. The 1902 season saw the Orioles finish in last place in the standings and attendance with a record of 50-88 and 174,606 attendance. In 1903, they became the New York Highlanders, which were renamed the New York Yankees in 1913.
The Boston Americans began their initial season in 1901, playing home games at the Huntington Avenue Baseball Grounds to an attendance of 289,448. They finished 2nd in the American League during the initial season. In 1908, the Boston franchise chose an official nickname, the Red Sox.
The Chicago White Sox of the American League in 1901 are the same franchise as today's White Sox. They played their first season at South Side Park III, won the pennant, and drew 354,350, the highest attendance of any American League team. Their origins stemmed from the Sioux City Cornhuskers of the Western League, which became the St. Paul Saints in 1894, then the Chicago White Stockings in 1900.
The Cleveland Blues were an original team of the American League that would become today's Cleveland Indians. In 1901, the Blues (or Bluebirds) won 54 games (2nd to last) and drew 131,380 fans to League Park I. Their origins stemmed from the Western League team of the Grand Rapids Rustlers, founded 1894, which had moved to Cleveland in 1900 to play one season as the Minor League Lake Shores. In 1903, their nickname was changed to the Cleveland Naps (Napoleans after their now star player Nap Lajoie) and in 1915, their name was changed to today's Indians.
The 1901 Detroit Tigers are, like the White Sox, the same franchise and name today as in their first season. Detroit played their home games at Bennett Park and Burns Park, drawing 259,430 fans and winning 74 games, good for third place.
The Milwaukee Brewers of 1901 are not the same franchise as that of the Milwaukee Brewers today. Today they are the Baltimore Orioles. In 1901, the Brewers finished in last place with a 48-89 record. They drew only 139,034 fans to Lloyd Street Grounds. The most important fact in their 1901 season; they lost the first game of the season after having a nine run lead in the ninth inning. That is still the record for losing a last inning league in the history of Major League Baseball. In 1902, they moved to St. Louis and became the Browns. That lasted until the 1954 season when they were moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles again.
The Philadelphia Athletics, would become the most successful Philadephia franchise in the early part of the 20th century, beginning play in 1901 at Columbia Park and winning 74 games, good for 4th place. Attendance was 206,329. They would win the American League title six times by the year 1914. After lean times and an surprising rebound to success by the National League Phillies in the early 1950's, the Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955, and subsequently to Oakland in 1968.
The Washington Senators of 1901 won 61 games, lost 72, and drew 161,661 fans. They had originally been the Kansas City Blues of the Western League from 1894 to 1900. In 1961, the Senators moved to Minnesota and became the Twins. Another franchise was added to Washington with the same Senators nickname in 1961, but would only last until their move to Arlington, Texas in 1972, becoming the Texas Rangers.
Photo above: Huntington Avenue Baseball Park, home of the Boston Americans, 1903, E. Chickering and Co. Courtesy Library of Congress. Below: South Side Park in Chicago, City Series game between Cubs and White Sox, October 9, 1909, George R. Lawrence Co. Courtesy Library of Congress. Source: Baseball-reference.com; Statgeekbaseball.com; Wikipedia Commons.
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