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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Cardinals assert team history began in 1892

The following is a St. Louis Cardinals media advisory, with my commentary following.

ST. LOUIS, Mo., August 21, 2009 – The city of St. Louis has long had a rich history with the game of baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals National League baseball club is proud to be a part of that. While the St. Louis baseball community thrived in the 1870’s and ‘80’s, the current St. Louis Cardinals team considers their history to have begun with the 1892 charter membership in the newly re-organized 12-team circuit of the National League.

With questions surrounding the Cardinals approaching the 10,000 win mark, the club thought it important to relay our official stance in accordance to the history we recognize. The number of wins the team officially claims is 9,218 (from 1892 through games of Aug. 20, 2009). Not until the current club achieves 10,000 wins as an N.L. franchise from 1892 forward will the Cardinals be celebrating the incredible feat of 10,000 victories. The club has always acknowledged and celebrated our roots, but there is a line of demarcation regarding statistics that is an important boundary the club has chosen to observe.

In 1992, the St. Louis Cardinals celebrated their continuous membership of 100 years in the National League, beginning in 1892. With that decision, the team made some choices about how we recognize our heritage, namely that we regard our history as separate (including records) from all of the various teams that played prior to 1892, while still recognizing their historical importance. Modern baseball rules were not established until 1893 and the modern era of baseball play is recognized as starting in 1900. Therefore, the Cardinals base our official records off rules in play by 1900. With this in mind, the Cardinals honor our heritage as a continuous franchise since 1882 as a team, yet look to our membership in the National League beginning in 1892 as the time we begin tracking official records.

Early baseball history had many teams in St. Louis that formed, dissolved, re-grouped and skipped from one league or association to another. For example, the American Association St. Louis Browns won four consecutive pennants in the AA in 1885, 1886, 1887, and 1888 and claimed a “World Championship” in 1886.

However the World Series as we know it began in 1903 and Major League baseball does not recognize any post-season championships that took place (as early as 1884) as part of their World Series history. For that reason, and based on when the current rules of baseball were established alluded to earlier, the 1886 AA championship is not considered part of the St. Louis Cardinals’ 10 World Championships, nor are any of the wins from the AA Browns included in the current club’s historical win total.

Below is a listing of baseball teams and the leagues they were affiliated with in St. Louis. The teams the Cardinals track throughout their National League membership and include in their records are bolded.

National League

St. Louis Brown Stockings – 1876-77

St. Louis Maroons – 1885-86

St. Louis Browns – 1892-98

St. Louis Perfectos – 1899

St. Louis Cardinals – 1900-Present

Union Association

St. Louis Maroons – 1884

National Association

St. Louis Brown Stockings – 1875

American Association

St. Louis Brown Stockings – 1882

St. Louis Browns – 1883-91

American League

St. Louis Browns – 1903-1953

Hall-of-Famer Charlie Comiskey was the face of the 1880s St. Louis Browns

Hall-of-Famer Charlie Comiskey was the face of the 1880's St. Louis Browns

Walton’s take: I have followed this particular question off and on ever since it came into my consciousness when the Cardinals chose to celebrate their centennial in 1992. Many baseball historians disagree with the club, instead tracing the team’s direct bloodline in this manner:

  • St. Louis Brown Stockings (1882)
  • St. Louis Browns (1883 – 1898)
  • St. Louis Perfectos (1899)
  • St. Louis Cardinals (1900 – current)

The key to the team’s position seems to be their view that their statistical history begins with the day the American Association folded and the Browns moved to the National League, in 1892. This despite consistent ownership between the pre-1892 AA Browns and the NL Browns of 1892 and later.

In a related vein, I found a promo video from KPLR Channel 11’s 1992 Cardinals broadcasts. It is both timeless and dated at the same time.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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