A Timeline of Baseball

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A Brief History

This article provides a chronological timeline of some of the more intriguing moments in baseball history!  Please click on the date to learn more about that particular incident.

Digging Deeper

On February 2, 1876, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs was founded, replacing the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, which had been founded in 1871 as a replacement itself for the National Association of Base Ball Players (note no mention of “professional”) which operated from 1869 to 1871.

On May 1, 1884, catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker signed up to play for the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association, a professional baseball league considered a “major league” in existence from 1882 to 1891 and was a rival to the National League.

On June 23, 1917, Boston Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth pitched to only one batter, walking him,  before he was ejected from the game for punching the umpire.  Pitcher Ernie Shore was brought in to complete the game against the Senators.  The base runner was thrown out trying to steal second base, and Shore retired the next 26 batters, completing a no-hitter between himself and Ruth, probably the most bizarre no-hitter in baseball history.

On October 3, 1919, Adolfo Luque, born in Cuba in 1890, became the first Latin American major league baseball player to play in a World Series.

On December 26, 1919, the owner of the Boston Red Sox gave the owner of the New York Yankees probably the greatest Christmas gift in history when he sold Babe Ruth, the greatest baseball player of all time. Red Sox owner, Harry Frazee was said to have needed money to finance a play, and got only $100,000 in money for the rights to Ruth and a $350,000 loan.

On February 13, 1920, the Negro National League of professional baseball was founded, not the first all African American baseball league, but the first to last more than one season and the foundation for African American professional baseball in the United States.

On August 3, 1921, the Commissioner of Baseball, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, reaffirmed the ban from baseball on the 8 players involved in the “Black Sox” scandal, even though they had just been acquitted in criminal court.  Accused of throwing the 1919 World Series, the group included the immortal Shoeless Joe Jackson, one of the game’s most popular players.  The world of sports has been beset by scandals over the years, more or less non-stop in the 20th and 21st Centuries.  

On October 7, 1925, baseball great and Hall of Fame pitcher Christy Mathewson died of tuberculosis brought on by a weakening of his respiratory system due to accidental exposure to poison gas during World War I.

On August 11, 1929, George Herman “Babe” Ruth hit his 500th home run at Cleveland’s League Park, the first major league baseball player to achieve that lofty status.

On June 3, 1932, New York Yankee greats Lou (Henry Louis) Gehrig and Tony Lazzeri made history with their batting prowess. Gehrig became the first major league baseball player in the modern era (after 1900) to hit 4 home runs in one game, while Lazzeri became the first and only major leaguer to hit for the “natural cycle” and finish it off with a grand slam.

On January 29, 1936, the first class of baseball “Hall of Famers” was named and was comprised of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. 

On August 20, 1938, Yankees’ first baseman and “Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig hit his 23rd Grand Slam of his career, a monumental major league baseball record that stood for 75 years until topped by Alex Rodriguez.

On April 1, 1939, Phil Niekro, Hall of Fame pitcher and winner of 318 major league games, was born. 

On June 12, 1939, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum opened in Cooperstown, New York.  

On May 22, 1942, Ted Williams, arguably the best baseball player of that time, joined the US Marine Corps as a naval aviator.  

On June 10, 1944, 15 year old Joe Nuxhall made his first appearance as a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, facing a fearsome lineup of St. Louis Cardinals that were leading the Reds by the commanding score of 13 to nothing at the start of the ninth inning.

On October 6, 1945, Billy Sianis and his pet billy goat were ejected from Chicago’s Wrigley Field during Game 4 of the 1945 World Series thereby (allegedly) cursing the Chicago Cubs for at least the next sixty years!

On November 23, 1948, one of major league baseball’s greatest hitters and onetime highest paid player in the National League died penniless, and no one, not even his own son, would claim the body.

On February 20, 1952, Los Angeles-native Emmett Ashford became the first African-American umpire to work in integrated (mainly white) professional baseball when he left his Post Office job to work for the International Southwestern League.

On April 9, 1965, the Houston Astrodome hosted an exhibition baseball game between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros, the 1st indoor baseball game!

On February 9, 1971, baseball pitcher Leroy “Satchel” Paige was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first player from the Negro Leagues so honored.

On January 11, 1973, the American League of Major League Baseball voted to accept a rule change allowing the position of “designated hitter” so that the pitcher would not have to bat, increasing the offense and supposedly the excitement of the game. The opponents of the DH claimed that by taking the strategy of whether or not to pull a pitcher for a pinch hitter out of the game would basically ruin baseball.

On June 4, 1974, baseball history (not the good kind!) was made in Cleveland. Recently we ran articles about great baseball performances; this incident is not one of them.

On April 8, 1975, slugger Frank Robinson became the first African-American major league baseball manager when he managed the Cleveland Indians opening day game.

On September 26, 1981, Nolan Ryan, right handed pitcher for the Houston Astros, pitched his record breaking 5th no-hitter of his career. Ryan, arguably the best pitcher in major league baseball history, went on to throw 2 more no-hitters in his career, the last (number 7) coming in 1991 when he was an astounding 44 years old!

On July 24, 1983, Major League Baseball experienced a strange incident that caused a furor on the field, in corporate offices, and in the homes of baseball fans all over the country when George Brett of the Kansas City Royals blasted a homerun and then had it taken away!

On May 1, 1991two of major league baseball’s greatest players set records that had baseball fans buzzing.  

On August 12, 1994, major league baseball players went on strike, ending the 1994 major league baseball season and causing the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.

On October 5, 2001, Barry Bonds hit 2 home runs to break Mark McGwire’s record of 70 in one season, when Bonds hit numbers 71 and 72. 

On October 27, 2004, the Boston Red Sox ended a World Series victory drought that went back to 1918, an incredible 86 years between Major League triumphs.

On October 28, 2004, Seattle Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki broke an 84 year old treasured major league baseball record (held by George Sisler) by stroking 262 hits in one season. Suzuki, known better by just his first name, had come to the US to play major league baseball here after starring in Japan.

On August 22, 2007, the Texas Rangers creamed the Baltimore Orioles 30-3, the most runs ever scored by a major league baseball team in the modern era.  Sometimes it goes like that.  One side has all the might or all the luck and really gives it to the other side.  This disparity can happen in sports, in wars, or in any competitive endeavor.  

On April 29, 2015, the Baltimore Orioles hosted the Chicago White Sox for one of the most bizarre major league baseball games of all time, one at Camden Yards in which no fans were permitted to attend! 

Questions for students (and subscribers): Have you ever been part of a baseball team?  Who is your favorite baseball player?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Vecsey, George.  Baseball: A History of America’s Favorite Game (Modern Library Chronicles).  Modern Library, 2008.

The featured image on this timeline, a photograph of the Anaheim Angels playing the Boston Red Sox at Angels Stadium taken in 2009 by HerSilverHammer, has been released into the public domain. This applies worldwide.


About Author

Dr. Zar graduated with a B.A. in French and history, a Master’s in History, and a Ph.D. in History. He currently teaches history in Ohio.