Baseball Wiki

Whether to cover the National Association as a major league is a recurring and crucial matter of difference in historical work on American baseball —that is, among historians, encyclopedists, database builders, and others who work on the facts of baseball history on the playing field.


The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, or NAPBBP, or simply NA (standard and commonplace today), was the first professional baseball organization, operating 1871-1875. Whether to cover it as a major league is crucial mainly because the major leagues utterly dominate not only publication but thinking, talking, and writing about the history of the game on the field: the careers of players and field managers as participants, of clubs and even cities as competitors.

For example, it is routine to say that a man's "career began" when he first appeared in a major league game; he "retired" when he last appeared in a major league game; he "played baseball for two seasons" if he appeared in major league games during two calendar years —whether he played two games in emergencies, recruited from the fans in attendance, or two full seasons during a professional career of twenty years.

Seven Hall of Famers played in the National Association: Cap Anson, Jim O'Rourke, Al Spalding (P), Candy Cummings (P), Jim Galvin (P), George Wright, and his brother Harry Wright. All of them played in the National League, although H.Wright played only 2 games (he was past 40 years old), and Jim Galvin(P) did not begin his NL career until 1879. Spalding, cummings, and the Wright brothers (not related to the aviation Wrights) were selected largely as pioneers.

Major League Baseball[]

Outsiders differ in treating 1871 or 1876 as the beginning of "major league" history. Officially, the National Association is not a major league, and most reposnsible baseball historians - including Major League Baseball, the Elias Sports Bureau, and SABR subsscribe to this view - even though an independent and unknown statistician who claims to be "MLB" counts it, against the official MLB position.

Moreover the organized baseball industry has changed its official position over time.


The abbreviation "NA" is common today, even in formal prose where it is used in parentheses to make a proper noun such as "Boston (NA)". As such it specifies one baseball club among all those with names that have the natural short form "Boston" (such as "Boston Base Ball Club, Incorporated").

The importance of and widespread familiarity with two-letter abbreviations for baseball leagues is related to the publication of encyclopedic works, in print for fifty years and on the web for ten years, whose main feature is historical playing records of baseball seasons. Leagues govern seasons, annual competitions with their own championships at stake, if nothing else. Leagues publish playing records for the participants in their league seasons. So league seasons have become the basic unit of baseball's historical record as it is widely disseminated; game records are retained by league offices or deposited in archives such as the Baseball Hall of Fame collections, when not lost in fires. The playing records portion of a baseball reference work is full of entries for individual players that consist mainly of long lines of numbers prefixed by something like "Bos NA 1871", specifying one club in one league-season. All of the (candidate) major leagues in baseball have standardized two-letter abbreviations such as NA — namely, NA, NL, AA, UA, PL, AL, FL — whose crucial value is in this encyclopedic context.

To count or not to count[]

Some encyclopedias do not fully count any playing records in the limited sense that they do not publish any career totals or other sums of league-season records. Thompson-Turkin Encyclopedia, 1st published in 1951, was the first source to recognize the NA as a major league. Lee Allen, the pre-eminent baseball historian of the time, had compelling reasons not to count it - and that view prevailed on the Board of the first MacMillan Encyclopedia (1969) and Major League baseball itself. The NA is shown as a major league on an unofficial MLB website compiled by an unnamed statistician or statisticians, but the Commissioners Office and Elias do not recognize it - a view shared by most SABR members. NA figures should be shown, but not added to regular major league stats - just like stats in the Japanese Leagues should be noted, but not included as minor league stats.

See also[]

Baseball-Almanac. "Chick Fulmer Stats". Retrieved 2006-09-08. - does not cover NA

TheBaseballPage. "Chick Fulmer". Retrieved 2006-09-08. - counts NA

BaseballLibrary - counts NA - still used because it includes The Ballplayers biographical entries on important mlb players.

References (Exhibits)[]

  • Baseball-Reference. "Chick Fulmer". Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  • Retrosheet. "Chick Fulmer". Retrieved 2006-09-08.
  • Lowry, Philip ( ). Green Cathedrals. (first edition of the leading ballparks encyclopedia)
  • Palmer, Pete ( ). Total Baseball .
  • Palmer, Pete ( ). The ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia 2005.
  • Nemec, David ( ). The Great Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Major League Baseball.
  • Wright, Marshall ([ ] ). Nineteenth-Century Baseball: . Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.