Few professional sports in America enjoy the rich history that baseball does. While the other major sports — football, basketball, hockey, and even auto racing — are purely 20th century phenomenons, baseball traces its pro roots back to the 19th century.
Here are a handful of snapshots featuring pro base-ball clubs from the 19th to early 20th century. Click on any image for a much larger version.
Up first is this 1888 team portrait of the St. Louis Browns, members of the short-lived American Association (1882-1891). The Brown Stockings were pennant-winners of the AA from 1885 through 1888, and moved to the National League when the AA folded. They went through a few name changes before settling on St. Louis Cardinals.
This dapper bunch is the 1882 New York Metropolitans, another member of the American Association. However the Metropolitans didn’t join the AA until 1883, but remained until their demise in 1887.
This is a simulated action shot from an 1887 Kalamazoo Bats cigarette card. It features Arthur Irwin and Albert Joseph “Smiling Al” Maul of the Philadelphia Quakers, also known at the time as the Phillies. The franchise officially became the Phillies in 1890, making it the longest continually used nickname in professional sports by a team in the same city.
Maul pitched for parts of fifteen seasons and compiled an 84-80 record, including a Major League best 2.45 ERA in 1895 with the Washington Senators. Irwin played for 13 seasons and managed for eight, and was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately the details on this last image are scarce. The Library of Congress entry simply notes that it’s a New York Yankees player sliding into home, presumably against the Washington Senators. The date range given is 1910-1930, which is obviously rather large. Still, it’s a cool photo.