Thorn: Why is the National Association not a major league?

From SABR member John Thorn at Our Game on May 4, 2015:

On Twitter last week (on May 2, to be precise) I posted: “On this day in 1876 Chicago’s Ross Barnes hits first MLB homer, off Cherokee Fisher at Cincinnati.” In response I was asked, by Michael Mengel: “As I expect you well know, Barnes was best player in NA. Why doesn’t MLB recognize NA as a ML (better than UA)?” To which I tweeted, “MLB Special Records Committee Ruling of 1968-69 defined major leagues as: NL, AA, UA, PL, AL, FL.” To which Mr. Mengel replied, quite reasonably: “Thanks for the reply. Do you know their reasons for excluding the NA? Is a formal report of the committee available online?“

Well, no … until I go on to provide it below. In 1968–69 MLB’s Special Baseball Records Committee (SBRC) ruled on a number of disputed points, including the major-league status of the NA and later rival leagues. MLB was henceforth defined as having commenced with the first game of the National League, played on April 22 between the Boston Red Stockings and Philadelphia Athletics. The SBRC also ruled on how walks were to be counted in the record books for the years 1876 (when they were originally counted as outs) and 1887 (when they were counted as hits).

The SBRC decision on this point was reversed by my predecessor as MLB’s official historian, Jerome Holtzman, in 2001, with a position paper that I published in the seventh edition of Total Baseball, which was MLB’s official encyclopedia.

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Originally published: May 4, 2015. Last Updated: May 4, 2015.