The early evolution of baseball's rules and structure was fast-paced, almost to the point of being peripatetic. Following the 1876 season, for example, the New York and Philadelphia clubs were expelled from league membership for failure to complete the schedule. Louisville, beset by the gambling scandal, Hartford and St. Louis disbanded at the end of 1877. To fill the voids, new franchises were awarded to Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Providence in 1878.
That left only three franchises -- Chicago, Boston and Cincinnati -- remaining from the lineup of eight that had opened play in the National League just two years earlier. Of the three, Boston, which won the 1878 pennant by four games over the Reds, was clearly the superior aggregation.
Boston's advantage started on the bench, with Harry Wright's leadership. The unquestioned genius of baseball strategy since his organization of the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869, Wright had led Boston to Association pennants in 1872, 73, 74 and 75. His Boston National League team won the 1877 title.
A Hall of Famer (1953) in his own right, Harry had Hall of Fame talent to work with on the field. His brother, George -- a 1937 entrant -- played shortstop. In 1878, George led all shortstops in putouts, double plays and fielding average. "Orator Jim" O'Rourke -- Hall of Fame class of 1945 -- held down center field and batted .278, tops on the team.
Perhaps Boston's Most Valuable Player that year was a non Hall of Famer. Pitcher Tommy Bond is not in Cooperstown, but thatdoes not diminish the quality of his 1878 performance, 40 victories, 533 innings of work, a league-leading 182 strikeouts, 57 complete games and a 2.06 ERA.
ELSEWHERE IN BASEBALL
A new rule, passed on Dec. 5, decreed that henceforward balls caught on the first bounce would no longer be considered an out.
"Bud" Fowler, a Chelsea Negro, defeats Boston in an exhibition game April 24. He will become the first black professional player.
IN THE WORLD
The Edison Electric Company is formed Oct. 15 in New York City; it eventually becomes General Electric.