From SABR member Frank Jackson at The Hardball Times on February 3, 2020:
In the 19th century, major league status was probably as much a matter of opinion as of talent levels. Leagues and teams came and went, yet at the turn of the 20th century the National League, founded in 1876, was still around. In fact, it was the only major league after the American Association folded after the 1891 season.
Then in 1901 an existing minor league, the American League, took off the training wheels and proclaimed it was now a major league. Total attendance for the league that season was 1,682,584 (the Chicago White Stockings led the way with 354,350). Not a bad showing for the new major league, considering that the established NL had a total attendance of 1,920,031. Notably, the White Stockings (let’s call them the White Stox) far outpaced the crosstown Orphans (nka the Cubs), who drew just 205,071. Also, the second-place Boston Americans (n/k/a the Red Sox) outpaced the fifth-place NL Boston Beaneaters, 289,448 to 146,502.
In 1902 the AL outdrew the NL by 500,000. In 1903 it played in (and won) the first World Series (Boston over Pittsburgh). How did the AL go so far so fast?
Read the full article here: https://tht.fangraphs.com/the-american-league-in-utero/
Originally published: February 3, 2020. Last Updated: February 3, 2020.