The American League (or formally the American League of Professional Baseball Clubs) is one of two leagues that make up Major League Baseball in the United States of America and Canada. It developed from a minor league, the Western League, that eventually aspired to major league status.
The organization renamed itself the American League on October 11, 1899, and placed teams in the abandoned Cleveland market as well as on the south side of Chicago. This was done with the approval of the National League, which was at the time too embroiled in resolving its own internal conflicts that it did not recognize the potential threat such a move would pose to the National League's major league monopoly it had enjoyed since the American Association folded a decade earlier.
During the 1900 season, the rechristened AL was still a minor league circuit subject to the National Agreement. Learning that many major leaguers were discontented with the National League, the AL leaders saw an opportunity. The AL declined to renew its National Agreement membership when it expired in October of 1900, and on January 28, 1901, the American officially declared itself a major league. It continued to expand into major league cities and to hire disgrunted National League players. A roster war was on.
The older National League at first refused to recognize the new league, but reality set in as talent and money drained away to the new league. After two years of bitter contention a new version of the National Agreement was signed in 1903. This meant formal acceptance of each league by the other as an equal partner in major league baseball.
Starting in 1901, the eight charter teams were the following:
- Baltimore Orioles
- Boston Americans (unofficial name)
- Chicago White Sox
- Cleveland Blues
- Detroit Tigers
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Philadelphia Athletics
- Washington Senators
The Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit franchises exist today in their same 1901 cities. The Boston "Americans" later officially became the Red Sox, and the Cleveland Blues later became the Naps and then the Indians. Detroit is the only charter member of the Western League that is still in its original city dating back to 1894.
The Milwaukee Brewers moved and became the St. Louis Browns in 1902, and moved again to become today's Baltimore Orioles in 1954. The original Baltimore Orioles moved to New York in 1903 and became the team now known as the New York Yankees. The Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City in 1955 and then to Oakland in 1968. The Washington Senators relocated in 1961, becoming the Minnesota Twins.
Expansion and relocation
The American League has expanded four times. The first occurred in 1961, when the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators joined the league, the latter replacing the original Washington franchise, which had just relocated to Minnesota. The Los Angeles Angels went through several name changes are today formally known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The second Washington franchise moved to Dallas-Fort Worth in 1972 and became the Texas Rangers.
The second expansion occurred in 1969 when the Kansas City Royals and Seattle Pilots joined the league. The Pilots stayed just one season in Seattle before moving to Milwaukee and becoming today's Milwaukee Brewers. In 1977, the third expansion occurred adding the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners. A fourth expansion took place in 1998 when the Tampa Bay Devil Rays joined, and in a reorganization, the Milwaukee Brewers moved to the National League.
The American League is broken up into three Divisions, as follows:
American League East
American League Central
American League West
AL Presidents 1901-99
- Ban Johnson 1901-27
- Ernest Barnard 1927-31
- Will Harridge 1931-59
- Joe Cronin 1959-73
- Lee McPhail 1973-84
- Bobby Brown 1984-94
- Gene Budig 1994-99
Office was eliminated in 1999, although Jackie Autry, former owner of the Anaheim Angels, currently holds the title of honorary American League president.
Several other sports have had leagues called "American League", usually with the sport name as a qualifier, such as the "American Football League" (which eventually merged with the National Football League, adopting the latter's name for the combination).