FOR THIS STORY WE GO BACK TO NEW YORK IN 1876. The National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs, more commonly known as the National League, was formed on this date in 1876. While the plan for the new league was finalized and agreed upon in New York City, it was organized by Midwesterners William Hulbert of Chicago and Albert G. Spalding of Rockford, Illinois.
Hulbert and Spalding were both involved in the National Association founded in 1871. Both were convinced the east coast dominated National Association was not any way to run major league. They wanted professional baseball to survive. Both loved the game – Spalding was one of the stars of the era – and saw major league baseball as a viable commercial enterprise; especially Spalding who wanted to sell sporting goods.
They saw the National Association as a poor business model. It allowed gambling, alcohol and players to move too freely from team to team. The National Association was also lax in its scheduling. It allowed teams to work out scheduling with each other.
The National League’s constitution was strict about gambling and alcohol, there wouldn’t be any. And every team had to play out its full schedule.
Hulbert and Spalding needed a solid plan before the start of the next season to attract select east coast National Association teams. They got commitments from Midwest teams in Cincinnati, Louisville and St. Louis to join Chicago. That’s where the February 2, 1876 meeting came in.
The gathering was held at the Central Hotel in New York with representatives from Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Hartford. They all agreed, and the National League was born. Play began that spring with those eight teams. As Koppett wrote, “It established a pattern that became the model for all commercialized spectator team sports from then on.”
Leonard Koppett, Koppett’s Concise History of Major League Baseball, 1998
William Hulbert and the birth of the National League Baseball-Reference