Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization, and is one of the "Big Four" major professional sports leagues in North America. The MLB is the oldest of the Big Four and is composed of 30 teams from the United States (US) and Canada. The league is subdivided into the National League (NL) and American League (AL), and each contains 15 teams. The NL and AL existed as separate entities until 1903, when they merged to form one organization. The oldest MLB baseball teams, some of which were founded as early as the 1870s, are highlighted below.
Five of the Oldest Teams in the MLB
Although debate over the oldest MLB team is still ongoing, many often consider the Atlanta Braves to be the oldest in the league. The franchise was founded in 1871 as the Boston Red Stockings and was one of the first teams to join the National League, which was established in 1876. The franchise won the first NL game played on April 22, 1876. The Red Stockings relocated to Milwaukee in 1953 and were renamed Milwaukee Braves. The team moved again in 1966, this time to Atlanta, and became the Atlanta Braves.
The Chicago Cubs also claim to be the oldest team in the MLB. The team's history can be traced back to 1871, when it was founded as the Chicago White Stockings, and was among the first teams to play in the National League. However, the team did not compete following the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. The team was renamed several times before becoming the Chicago Cubs in 1903.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals are among the most successful baseball teams in MLB history, having won 11 World Series Championships (only New York Yankees have won more). The franchise was founded in 1882 as the St. Louis Brown Stockings and played in the American Association (AA) from 1882 until 1891. The Browns joined the National League in 1892, and the franchise was later renamed the Cardinals in 1900.
The history of the Pittsburgh Pirates dates back to 1881 when the team joined the American Association as a founding member. The team was initially listed as the Allegheny Base Ball Club in Pittsburgh since home games were played in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, located across the river from Pittsburgh. The Pirates joined the NL in 1887 and the team won its first World Series Championship in 1905.
The Cincinnati Reds were formed in 1882 as a charter member of the American Association. Originally named the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the team's named was shortened to the "Reds" when it joined the National League in 1890. The team's name was changed again to the "Redlegs" in 1954, and then back to the "Reds" in 1959.
League Organization and Expansion
Between 1901 and 1960, both the American League and National League each contained eight teams. In the 1960s, eight teams were added to the MLB, including the first non-US team, the Montreal Expos. In the 1970s, two more teams were added: the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners. From 1969 until 1993 both leagues contained West and East Divisions, and a Central Division was added to both leagues in 1994.