National Association of Base Ball Players Rules 1857-1871


Did You Know that in 1857… they made a rule that the team with the most runs, at a moment decide in advance, was the winner AND not the first team to 21 wins?

Did you know that it took several years to change the rule that a one bounce ball is an out?

It’s true.



NABBP – National Association of Base Ball Players


unofficial beginning of the NABBP – discussing the possibility of a national fraternity
15 NY-area clubs meet in what would be a prelude to 1858’s NA
Doc Adams elected president

First to 21 Runs Doesn’t Win Anymore

3 delegates meet, respresenting 16 NY and BKN clubs
purpose to gain a further understanding of fraternity and establish a uniform rule system
virtually all of the Knickerbocker rules adopted except a crucial one – it’s not the first team to 21 runs that wins, it’s the team with the highest score after a full 9 innings

Good Pitches Called Strikes

22 NY-area clubs meet and form Amateur NA by drawing up a permanent constitution with written by-laws and rules
first club outside NY joins NABBP – Liberty club of New Brunswick, NJ
Judge W.H. Van Cott elected president
umpire may call a strike if batter continually refuses to swing at ‘good balls’
hot topic – as it stands a player is put out if his hit is caught on the first bounce, some want to change to “fly rule” game in that a hit caught on a bounce is still in play – this debate will continue until finally passed at 1864 convention

Special meeting held at The Gotham in the Bowery, chaired by Judge Van Cott. New Yorkers are making plans for upcoming season by negotiating with Central Park Commissioners to use a portion of Central Park as a ball field.

Gambling and Fan Interference Banned


49 clubs meet @ Cooper Institute in NY
NY and NJ clubs represented
Judge W.H. Van Cott elected president again
gambling by umpires and contestants banned
fan interference banned
officially barred players who receive compensation (professionals)

200 attendees representing 62 clubs from 6 states plus DC meet @ Cooper Institute in NY
Dr. J.B. Jones of Excelsior club elected president
attendees from NY, NJ, New Haven, Detroit, DC, Baltimore, Boston present

54 clubs represented from 5 states
dates now changed to second Wednesday in December every year
new NY location – Clinton Hall, Astor Place
D. Milliken of Union club elected president
Philadelphia joins in the base ball fun

34 clubs represented from 2 states
D. Milliken of Union club elected president again
adoption of weight, measurements and composition requirements of bats and balls

Cricket Did It, Not Baseball


32 clubs, represented from 3 states
Col. J. Fitzgerald of Atlantic club of Philadelphia elected president
J.B. Jones of Excelsior club lets it be known that James Creigthton’s injuries, resulting in his death, were sustained in a cricket match not a baseball contest
$314.97 in treasury
hot topic – alleged rules violation of the Mutuals

Chadwick’s Scoring System Adopted

28 clubs represented from 3 states plus DC
I.B. Dawson of the Newark club elected president
NA adopts scoring system of Henry Chadwick’s Beadle’s Dime Book of Base Ball
$159.44 in the treasury

30 clubs represented from 3 states plus DC
fly game rule finally passes 33-19, though some teams had been using it for years
decision made that only games between NABBP clubs will count for both statistical and championship purposes

91 clubs represented from 10 states plus DC
John Wildey, a coroner, of Mutual club elected president
only 55% of clubs are from NY which will soon lead to a shifting of power w/i the association

Gorman Elected President

202 clubs represented from 17 states plus DC (147 of the clubs from NY, NJ or PA)
A.P. Gorman of Nationals of Washington elected president – first Southerner as such
hot topic – professionals and revolving (both go hand-in-hand)
It is no secret any longer that many players are being paid. For one, a very public courting of Al Reach took place in 1863. Paid professional managers like Harry Wright will soon alter the NA’s landscape.

The numbers of represented clubs tripled from interest at the end of the Civil War from 1864 (30) to ’65 (91) – more than doubled again in 1866 (202). Roll call and related activities are an unruly mess, taking over three hours. The NA decides to change from the mixed representation of both individual clubs and state associations to just state association representation.

One result is that future conventions would be controllable – no more than 30 delegates were in attendance after 1867. As a consequence, a lot of power is transferred/taken to/by the state associations; for example, judicial matters are for the most part administered by state associations. Soon the NA governing body will virtually be reduced to just a forum for debating and implementing rule changes. The state association system marks the beginning of the end for the amateur contingent as a lot of power is transferred out of the East and into the Ohio base. Also, the state associations would be dominated by professional interests.

location Chestnut Street Theatre and Athletic Hall in Philadelphia – first time held outside NY
George F. Sands of Ohio Association elected president
hot topic – Thomas Devyr case
hot topic – possible expulsion of Mutuals
hotter topic – professionalism
over 300 clubs represented
junior clubs added
power shifting to the midwest

The Nomination Committee (charged with overseeing new clubs applications – chairman = James W. Davis and members = William H. Bell and William E. Sinn) is inundated with applications and doesn’t have the time to assess all the new applicants. They report to the general convention that they can “only assume” that the applications were “based on good faith.” Due to their inability to evaluate all new applicants, the Nomination Committee moves to exclude clubs with “one or more colored persons.” The general convention accepts the committee’s report and recommendations.

Professional Players Should Get Paid


smoking hot topic (next three conventions) – professionalism
less than 30 delegates
NA makes an official distinction between amateur and professional clubs, thus formally legalizing the paid performer and effectively giving the go-ahead to the soon-to-be iconic CIN Red Stockings
power base in Ohio – NY grumbling

NA showing signs of being completely torn by professionalism.

less than 30 delegates in Boston
A.N. Bush elected president
hot topic – Ed Duffy’s expulsion recinded
NA eliminates the distinction between amateurs and professionals
annual dues of each club lowered to 50 cents from $1

The seed of the destruction of the NABBP are evident:
the NABBP is just too large and unruly – at times respresenting 500+ clubs
professionals are controlling the state associations and in turn the NABBP, alienating much of the old guard
the professional goal of winning above all else (and their ability to do so because of buying the top players and generating the top revenues) is overwhelming and incompatable with the amateur ideal
revolving (players jumping teams) is destroying the fabric of cooperation among association clubs
numerous controveries surrounding the yearly championship

Just prior to the next convention the stunningly successful Red Stockings of Cincinnati announce on 11/22/1870 that they are purging the club of professionals. The team is debt free and wishes to stay that way. They are done with paying heavy salaries and done listening to the gripes of players about other’s rate of pay. The members of the professional nine are already separating. Consequently, when the pro NA is formed in March, the Red Stockings will have been disbanded.

less than 30 delegates in NY at Grand Central Hotel
John Wildey elected president again
hot topic – Craver debate
hot topic – professionalism
professional system won 18-9 (or 17-9)


The vote siding with professionalism essentially splits the union in half. The Excelsior club of Brooklyn quits the NY state association and calls for a congress of amateur clubs. They are backed by the renouned Knickerbocker club. They wish to restore “the good old times of the national game.”

A cynic might suggest that the recent highly successful barnstorming tour of the Red Stockings of Cincinnati broke New York’s dominance of the game, leading to the disillusionment of two of the oldest and most self-important clubs – Excelsiors and Knickerbockers.

Likewise, the Olympic club of Washington calls for a meeting of professionals.

33 amateur clubs (anchored by the 3 NY dinosaurs – Knickerbockers, Gothams and Eagles) meet and reorganize at the Excelsior Club on Fulton Street in Brooklyn
renamed the National Association of Amateur Base Ball Players
A.M. Bush is elected president
they have one more convention in March 1872 and then soon dissipate due to lack of interest

10 professional clubs meet and reorganize at Collier’s Rooms on Broadway in NY
renamed the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players
James N. Kern of the Athletics elected president
league survives until the formation of the National League in 1876

Source: Marshall Wright’s The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870