Major Events that Shaped the History of Baseball
Baseball’s timeline contains several key events that make up its history. Throughout this post these milestones are laid out in chronological order. These events make for great quick trivia facts to impress your friends and truly tell baseball’s story.
Black Sox Scandal
The 1919 World Series pitted the Chicago White Sox against the Cincinnati Reds. After the series, eight players from the White Sox were accused of accepting money from gamblers to intentionally lose the series. Fearing that lack of integrity could destroy the game, Baseball owners acted quickly appointing a Commissioner, Judge Kennesaw “Mountain” Landis, to oversee the game and win back the public trust. The eight players from the White Sox were banned from any association with baseball forever.
Fearing an exodus of fans from the sport due to the “Black Sox Scandal," baseball looked to one of its brightest young stars, George Herman “Babe” Ruth, to generate new excitement about the game. Ruth was a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox who hit home runs at a rate never before seen in the game. After hitting an unheard of 54 home runs to lead the American League in 1920 (fun fact the National League leader had 15), baseball realized the appeal and drawing power of the home run and the baseball was “juiced up”. The “Modern Era” of baseball had arrived and everybody came to see the home run hitters.
Radio and Television
The first radio broadcasts of baseball games started in the early 1920’s although many teams resisted being broadcast at first, fearing attendance consequences if people stayed home to listen. Gradually, the value of radio broadcasts was recognized and the fact that advertising revenue could be generated was embraced. Television broadcasts followed in the 1950’s and baseball was well on its way to being the “National Pastime.”
In 1947, while blacks had technically been free since 1863, the undeniable fact was that racism and segregation was alive and well in this country and baseball was embarrassingly at the forefront of such segregation. Black players were destined to play in the negro leagues. However, in 1947, Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey, signed Jackie Robinson to become the first black Major League baseball player. It took a few years for all teams to follow suit but the era of segregation was over and black players have been a major force in the sport ever since.
In 1969, after 12 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Curt Flood was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, a fact which he refused to accept. With the assistance of the newly formed players union, Flood challenged baseball’s reserve clause in court. The reserve clause stated that players were obligated to the team that originally signed them for life. Flood lost this case but this was significant as it started a movement of solidarity among the players and six years later, in 1975, an agreement was reached between the union and baseball which granted free agency to players after six years with their original team. Teams started outbidding each other for free agents and salaries escalated dramatically.
The Steroid Era
In the early 1990’s, a combination of escalating players’ salaries (the average salary in 1995 was 1.1 million dollars), and advancements in performance enhancing drugs and masking drugs for concealment, led to an era of numerous record breaking performances, particularly in home runs. The fact that the single season home run record, which had stood for 37 years, was broken 3 times in 4 years from 1998 to 2001, left many fans disillusioned. Many felt that baseball had turned a blind eye and allowed the PED abuse to help baseball recover from the work stoppage during the 1994 season and subsequent cancellation of the World Series.