Baseball Chronology

Baseball’s Key Eras

1791-1900 | The Early Years
1901-1919 | The Dead-Ball Era
1920-1941 | Baseball Between the Wars
1942-1945 | The War Years
1946-1960 | Baseball in Transition
1961-1975 | Owner-Managed Growth
1976-2005 | The Free-Agent Era

The Early Years: 1791-1900

Contrary to the Doubleday-Cooperstown myth created by the Spalding Commission, baseball evolved rather than having been invented. From the first recorded game in 1845, through the establishment of professional teams in the 1860s and leagues in the 1870s, the 19th century was baseball’s formative period in which the basic rules and structures of the game gradually assumed the form we know today.

Key Players – Cap AnsonHugh DuffyWee Willie KeelerJohn McGrawEd DelahantyAmos RusieKid Nichols

Select A Year:


The Dead-Ball Era: 1901-1919

Runs were scarce during the first two decades of 20th-century baseball as pitchers like Cy YoungChristy Mathewson and Walter Johnson dominated the action. Legendary stars like Ty CobbHonus Wagner and Tris Speaker used speed and basepath bravado to generate offense in a game that seldom witnessed a home run. These years also saw the establishment of National and American League hegemony (leading to the birth of the World Series), the production of modern steel-structured downtown stadiums for every major league team, and the devastating “Black Sox” scandal of 1919 that threatened to drop baseball from its exalted standing in American sports.

Key Players – Nap LajoieEddie CollinsJoe JacksonGrover Cleveland AlexanderJack ChesbroRube WaddellAddie JossMordecai “Three Finger” Brown

Key Teams – 1902 Pirates1906 Cubs1909 Pirates

Select A Year:


Baseball Between the Wars: 1920-1941

Aided by the introduction of the lively ball and the unprecedented power surge of Babe Ruth, offense exploded during the 20s and 30s as the home run became baseball’s defining act. With sluggers like Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio leading the way, the New York Yankees began a five-decade run as the sports’ dominant franchise. In addition, baseball between the wars witnessed the advent of several trends that have stayed with us to the current day, including specialized relief pitching, minor-league farm systems, night games, and radio broadcasts.

Key Players – Rogers HornsbyHack WilsonJimmie FoxxHank GreenbergAl SimmonsGeorge SislerMel OttCarl HubbellLefty GroveWaite Hoyt

Key Teams – 1927 Yankees1931 Athletics1939 Yankees

Select A Year:


The War Years: 1942-1945

World War II interrupted the careers of many of baseball’s brightest stars. Joe DiMaggioTed Williams, and Bob Feller, among others, sacrificed significant chunks of their prime years in service of their country.

Key Players – Phil CavarrettaVern StephensBobby DoerrHal NewhouserSpud Chandler

Key Teams – 1942 Cardinals

Select A Year:


Baseball in Transition: 1946-1960

Two events would change baseball irrevocably in the years following World War II. At the center of both were the Brooklyn Dodgers, who in 1947 made Jackie Robinson the first African-American to play in a major-league game this century. Many others, as well as Latin and Asian players, soon followed Robinson’s path as the national pastime began to more closely resemble the populace. Equally important in the game’s chronology was the Dodgers’ and rival New York Giants move to the West Coast in 1958 as baseball grew beyond its eastern and midwestern roots. Soon, jets replaced trains as the prime method of player travel, and national television broadcasts helped the game reach a wider audience.

Key Players – Ted WilliamsStan MusialMickey MantleDuke SniderWillie MaysRoy CampanellaErnie BanksHank AaronWarren SpahnDon NewcombeRobin RobertsEarly Wynn

Key Teams – 1954 Indians

Select A Year:


Owner-Managed Growth: 1961-1975

In 1961 and 1962 the major leagues added eight games to their traditional 154-game season to accommodate the admission of four new franchises. This first round of expansion was repeated in 1969 as the major leagues moved from its early 20th-century origins of two eight-team leagues to four divisions of six teams each. The new configuration also generated a new round of post-season play as teams no longer qualified for the World Series merely by owning their league’s best record. Pitching would reassert its primacy in these years as star hurlers like Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson terrorized opposing lineups. After the 1968 season, when Carl Yastrzemski won the AL batting crown with a record-low .301 clip, owners undertook a series of initiatives to reinvigorate offense, culminating with the introduction of the designated hitter to the American League in 1973.

Key Players – Roger MarisFrank RobinsonBrooks RobinsonHarmon KillebrewLou BrockReggie JacksonRod CarewPete RoseJohnny BenchJoe MorganJim PalmerSteve CarltonTom SeaverNolan Ryan

Key Teams – 1961 Yankees1969 Orioles1975 Reds

Select A Year:


The Free-Agent Era: 1976-2005

Salaries skyrocketed as players took full advantage of their newly won right to shop themselves to the highest bidder. Labor conflicts became more prominent than ever before as lengthy strikes in 1981 and 1994 strained fan loyalty almost to the breaking point. In recent years, however, the new economics of the game have been driven by the construction of numerous “retro” stadiums designed to evoke nostalgia for baseball’s past and provide cash cows for owners. On the field, hitting dominated to an extent that dwarfed even the fireworks of the 30s. Exceptions like Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux notwithstanding, pitching has never been in shorter supply. Led by sluggers like Mark McGwireSammy Sosa, and Ken Griffey Jr., batting records have fallen at dizzying paces as outfield fences moved in and hitters bulked up.

Key Players – Rickey HendersonCal RipkenGeorge BrettWade BoggsMike SchmidtBarry BondsEddie MurrayJuan GonzalezTony GwynnFrank ThomasAlbert BellePedro MartinezDennis EckersleyRandy Johnson

Key Teams – 1986 Mets, 1998 Yankees

Select A Year: