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Charlton’s Baseball Chronology

Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, compiled by James Charlton and an army of fifty researchers, remains the definitive chronicle of every important event throughout baseball history. First published in 1991, it includes all the great moments in the major leagues, individual highlights from the majors and minors, Negro leagues, Japanese leagues, Latin American ball and collegiate baseball.

To make the book more accessible to an online audience, BaseballLibrary.com has compiled a timeline of baseball history below; you may jump to individual seasons using the year-by-year timeline to the left of each era.

The Early Years

Charlton’s Baseball Chronology, compiled by James Charlton and an army of fifty researchers, remains the definitive chronicle of every important event throughout baseball history. First published in 1991, it includes all the great moments in the major leagues, individual highlights from the majors and minors, Negro leagues, Japanese leagues, Latin American ball and collegiate baseball.Contrary to the Doubleday-Cooperstown myth created by the Spalding Commission, baseball evolved rather than having been invented. From the first recorded game in 1845, through the establishment of professional teams in the 1860s and leagues in the 1870s, the 19th century was baseball’s formative period in which the basic rules and structures of the game gradually assumed the form we know today.

To make the book more accessible to an online audience, BaseballLibrary.com has compiled a timeline of baseball history below; you may jump to individual seasons using the year-by-year timeline to the left of each era.

The Dead-Ball Era

Runs were scarce during the first two decades of 20th-century baseball as pitchers like Cy Young, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson dominated the action. Legendary stars like Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Tris Speaker used speed and basepath bravado to generate offense in a game that seldom witnessed a home run. These years also saw the establishment of National and American League hegemony (leading to the birth of the World Series), the production of modern steel-structured downtown stadiums for every major league team, and the devastating “Black Sox” scandal of 1919 that threatened to drop baseball from its exalted standing in American sports.

Baseball Between the Wars

Aided by the introduction of the lively ball and the unprecedented power surge of Babe Ruth, offense exploded during the 20’s and 30’s as the home run became baseball’s defining act. With sluggers like Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio leading the way, the New York Yankees began a five-decade run as the sports’ dominant franchise. In addition, baseball between the wars witnessed the advent of several trends that have stayed with us to the current day, including specialized relief pitching, minor-league farm systems, night games and radio broadcasts.

The War Years

World War II interrupted the careers of many of baseball’s brightest stars. Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and Bob Feller, among others, sacrificed significant chunks of their prime years in service of their country.

Baseball in Transition

Two events would change baseball irrevocably in the years following World War II. At the center of both were the Brooklyn Dodgers, who in 1947 made Jackie Robinson the first African-American to play in a major-league game this century. Many others, as well as Latin and Asian players, soon followed Robinson’s path as the national pastime began to more closely resemble the populace. Equally important in the game’s chronology was the Dodgers’ and rival New York Giants’ move to the West Coast in 1958 as baseball grew beyond its eastern and midwestern roots. Soon, jets replaced trains as the prime method of player travel, and national television broadcasts helped the game reach a wider audience.

Owner-Managed Growth

In 1961 and 1962 the major leagues added eight games onto their traditional 154-game season to accommodate the admission of four new franchises. This first round of expansion was repeated in 1969 as the major leagues moved from its early 20th-century origins of two eight-team leagues to four divisions of six teams each. The new configuration also generated a new round of post-season play as teams no longer qualified for the World Series merely by owning their league’s best record. Pitching would reassert its primacy in these years as star hurlers like Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson terrorized opposing lineups. After the 1968 season, when Carl Yastrzemski won the AL batting crown with a record-low .301 clip, owners undertook a series of initiatives to reinvigorate offense, culminating with the introduction of the designated hitter to the American League in 1973.

The Free-Agent Era

Salaries skyrocketed as players took full advantage of their newly won right to shop themselves to the highest bidder. Labor conflicts became more prominent than ever before as lengthy strikes in 1981 and 1994 strained fan loyalty almost to the breaking point. In recent years, however, the new economics of the game have been driven by the construction of numerous “retro” stadiums designed to evoke nostalgia for baseball’s past and provide cash cows for owners. On the field, hitting dominated to an extent that dwarfed even the fireworks of the 30’s. Exceptions like Roger Clemens and Greg Maddux notwithstanding, pitching has never been in shorter supply. Led by sluggers like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey Jr., batting records have fallen at dizzying paces as outfield fences moved in and hitters bulked up.

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