Today marks a big anniversary for the Pittsburgh Pirates. It was 125 years ago today, on Nov. 18, 1886, that they entered the National League, where they have been ever since. This move would be a turning point not just for Pittsburgh, but for the National League itself.
(Well, if you want to get technical, they were the Pittsburgh Alleghenays back then, but nickname change notwithstanding, it’s still the same franchise).
Previously, Pittsburgh had existed as a major league club, but in the American Association. Though there is a current minor league called the AA, this was a different one. In the 1880s, the AA was a major league operating as a rival to the NL. Essentially, it was the AL of its day, though not quite as successful or as good.
In fact, the departure of the Pirates from the AA to the NL highlights a central problem the American Association had. While it had some good teams, it couldn’t seem to keep them in the league. In fact, half of the pre-expansion NL ...