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#1
Old 06-08-2002, 08:13 AM
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First professional sports league?

No fancy lead-in or anecdote here, folks. Just wondering what the first professional sports league was. A google search for "first professional sports league", fwiw, turned up lots of firsts among already-existing 20th century sports leagues, which while interesting are not what I'm looking for

Thanks!
#2
Old 06-08-2002, 09:38 AM
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I don't know and the internet hasn't been much help. All of the following data is from the Encyclopaedia Britannica. The oldest I can find is the National Association of Professional Baseball Players formed in 1871. The league consisted of the Philadelphia Athletics; the Chicago White Stockings (later called the Chicago Cubs); the Brooklyn Eckfords; the Cleveland Forest Citys; the Forest Citys of Rockford, Ill.; the Haymakers of Troy, N.Y.; the Kekiongas of Fort Wayne, Ind.; the Olympics of Washington, D.C.; and the Mutuals of New York City. It ended in 1876 with the formation of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, now the National League. The teams making up the new league represented Philadelphia, Hartford, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, and New York City.

I don't know whether or not it would be called a league, but the English organization of Association Football (soccer) was formed in 1863
#3
Old 06-08-2002, 09:59 AM
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Corporate history is difficult puzzle through, especially in the 19th century. But, I don't know whether it's valid to equate the Chicago White Stockings of the 1871-75 National Association with the Chicago White Stockings that was a founding member of the National League (and later became known as the Colts and then the Cubs in the 20th century). It is generally agreed that the National League was the first "major league," so the clubs that were in the N.A. were not major league teams.
#4
Old 06-08-2002, 09:59 AM
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Pure conjecture, but I would guess the ancient Romans or Greeks had a professional gladiator association, or something to that extent. Organized sports have been around for quite some time.
#5
Old 06-08-2002, 10:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ottto
Pure conjecture, but I would guess the ancient Romans or Greeks had a professional gladiator association, or something to that extent. Organized sports have been around for quite some time.
Good point. The Britannica has quite a rundown on gladiators in Rome. They were usually criminals or slaves, although some free Roman citizens took up the job. The only mention of any kind of organization was about owners of several gladiators who hired them out. The revolt of Spartacus might also becalled an association of professional athletes, although they weren't a "league" where teams competed against each other.
#6
Old 06-08-2002, 10:56 AM
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But were they paid? If we leave the definition of 'professional' to those who receive compensation for their atheletic endeavors I think the first 'professional' team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings from the 1870s.
#7
Old 06-08-2002, 12:23 PM
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IIRC the Red Stockings became a professional team in 1869. However, the answer to the OP would have to be the National Association (1871-5) as pointed out above. The question did not ask what was the first major league but what was the first professional sports league. (In any case, the problem with the major league status of the NA is poor records-keeping, not status per se -- what other league were they "minor" in comparison to?) Professional football, hockey, softball, and basketball all postdate baseball in becoming professional sports.
#8
Old 06-08-2002, 01:05 PM
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As David Simmons said, The Football Association was formed in England in 1863. However, the English Football league wasn't founded until 1888.

The oldest team is Notts County

Quote:
Universally recognised as the ‘Oldest League Club in the World’, Notts County was formed in 1862 and was a founder member of the English Football League in 1888.
One of the problems when studying the history of professional sports is that professional leagues and teams often started out as amateur ventures.
#9
Old 06-08-2002, 02:58 PM
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Is there a certain date in which the English started paying all footballers at the highest level? I would think, knowing England's sporting history that amateurs were preferred for a while. That is one reason why the English stayed away from the World Cup before WWII. It just was too blatantly commercial for the English to accept. (Along with some other issues.)

The NA in baseball was definitely professional. And you can draw a line from the Boston and Chicago teams of the NA to the Boston and Chicago entries in the NL. In fact, the Boston team has been playing baseball professionally since 1871 without interruption. Boston is now in Atlanta.

The Chicago team took a year off for the Great Chicago Fire, but has been in the same city since 1871.
#10
Old 06-08-2002, 03:27 PM
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Bob T; According to this site, in 1880 players were part-time and just paid lost wages and expenses.

The Professional Footballers Association (PFA) was formed in 1904.
#11
Old 06-08-2002, 03:48 PM
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Boston is now in Atlanta, BobT? Then why does it take me 2 hours to drive to Boston but 20 hours to drive to Atlanta?

But I know what you mean. The Boston Beaneaters for some reason changed their name to the Braves. Maybe it's because you had to be pretty brave to walk into the Beaneaters' locker room without a gas mask.
#12
Old 06-08-2002, 05:23 PM
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How would Sumo fit in? I really know almost nothing about it, but I was always under the impression that it has been an organized sport for a long time with full-time professional athletes, established tournaments, rankings and so forth.
#13
Old 06-08-2002, 07:15 PM
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Harry Wright's Cincinnati Red Stockings (founded 1869) were not the first professional baseball team. They were the first openly all-professional team.

In 1871, Wright moved to Boston, taking his favourite players and his favourite coloured socks with him, founding the Boston Red Stockings. Boston's National League team (founded 1876) kept the Red Stocking name. The Boston team went through many names -- Beaneaters, Doves, Red Caps, Reds, Rustlers -- before finally settling on Braves in 1912, except for a detour to the Bees from 1936-40 (remember, the tradition of "official" nicknanmes for professional tems is a relatively recent phenomenon). It wasn't until the Boston National League team gave up its red trim in 1907 that the American League Boston team snatched away the Red Sox nickname.
#14
Old 06-08-2002, 09:03 PM
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Tangentially, we touched on things pertinent to this discussion in another thread, http://boards.academicpursuits.us/sdmb/...hreadid=118225

poly probably defines the question as cogently as possible. It is almost certainly baseball, in the US.
#15
Old 06-09-2002, 02:16 AM
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The main reason why Wright took his best players to Boston was that the financial backers of the Cincinnati team decided that having an all-professional team wasn't making them money, so they opted to sponsor an amateur team.

While it's not a league, the British Open started giving out prize money in 1864, although another part of the website says it was in 1873. It wasn't much, just £10.
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