Today, MLB is the world's most famous baseball organisation. The league is governed by the Major League Baseball Constitution, and the organisation hires and maintains the sport's umpiring crews. It also negotiates labour, marketing and television contracts, and has a huge influence over the sport.
MLB consists of 30 teams from two different leagues – The National League and The American League. However, the AL and NL were dissolved as legal entities in 2000, making MLB a single league, much like the NBA or the NFL. However, a fundamental difference is that the AL teams still play under a designated hitter rule while the NL teams don't. This difference in rules is something unique to the MLB, as all other US and Canada sports leagues have one set of rules for all teams.
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MLB originally came about as an effort to create peace between two major rivalling baseball leagues – the National League and The American League.
Out of these two leagues, The National League was the oldest. Founded in 1876, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs replaced the former National Association of Professional Base Ball Players that had been created in the 1860s.
Towards the end of the 1800s, the National League's supremacy was challenged by many rivalling organisations, but none of them would prevail. It wasn't until the American League declared itself a major league in 1901 that the National League saw a real rival. And two years later, the American League was declared and equal by the National League.
Pretty soon a "baseball war" ensued, as the AL moved into the NL's midwest territory and started luring over players from NL squads. Pretty soon, the two rivals established a truce that found expression in the World Series – a postseason play-off series between the champions of the two leagues. The series resulted in a merger that created Major League Baseball as we know it today.
PopularityAlthough MLB games have seen a drop in attendance in recent years, 9% of Americans still hold baseball as their favourite sport. That might seem like a rather low percentage, but the truth of the matter is that the MLB outdoes both the NBA and NFL when it comes to ticket sales.
The organisation hosts 2,430 regular-season games each season. Now, compare that with the 256 regular-season games hosted by NFL and the 1,230 games put on by the NBA, and it's clear MLB outdoes its rivalling sports leagues in sheer volume.
Influential playersAt one point in time, baseball was the most followed sport in the US. In the decades following the league's inception, baseball became hugely popular in the US.
Just like all other major sports leagues, the MLB developed over the years and saw a few important milestones. Furthermore, there have been some highly influential players that have been very important for the development of the sport.
Jackie RobinsonIn 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player in baseball. Robinson had a military background and was hand-picked by the Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey. For a long time, a silent agreement within the sport had excluded African-Americans from playing. Despite death threats and hatred, Robinson was well-received by his teammates and managed to open up the doors for many Hall of Famers that were playing in the Negro League at the time.
Babe RuthGeorge Herman "Babe" Ruth of the New York Yankees had a tremendous impact on the sport. Up till this point, home runs had been quite rare, but when Babe Ruth stepped into the in 1920 that all changed.
Ruth hit 54 home runs in 1920 and another 59 in 1921. His style of playing helped popularise the sport, and by the end of his career, Babe Ruth has scored 714 home runs, thus crushing the previous record of 138 set by Roger Connor in 1897.
It wasn't just the home runs that made Babe Ruth a legendary sports icon. He was also a very charismatic figure that really struck a chord with the American people.
Curt FloodThis is player hasn't become known for his accomplishments on the field, as much as his role in changing the politics of the sport to benefit players.
At one time, the Reverse Clause prevented free player movement between clubs. When Flood was traded from the St Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies in 1969, he took action and stood up against the Reverse Clause. Flood petitioned Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and wrote a letter stating that players shouldn't be treated as a piece of property.
Kuhn denied Flood's request which resulted in Flood suing the league. The battle was taken to the Supreme Court where Flood eventually lost. Nonetheless, Flood had laid the path for future players to receive a fair share of the multi-million-dollar operation.
In 1975, the Reverse Clause was by removed. Subsequently, players salaries began to rise as teams were now able to bid on the services of the best players. In other words, players with mega-deals have a lot to thank Curt Flood for.