18. The Beer and Whisky League
In 1876 the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs was formed, with teams representing Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Hartford, New York, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Louisville. The league yielded to temperance pressure and did not allow alcohol consumption by fans attending the games. Nor did it allow games to be scheduled for Sundays. Several teams defected. In 1881 in a Cincinnati Hotel, the owners of several teams formed a new league, which allowed each team to decide whether or not to sell alcohol in their respective ballparks (in accordance with community laws). They also decided to play games on Sunday afternoons.
It was officially known as the American Association, but the league was referred to by supporters of the National League as the “beer and whisky league”. It was also called “river league”, a snide commentary on the perception of the lesser morals present along the riverfronts and docks in several of the participating cities. The annual event of the World Series began when the champions of the competing leagues played each other. Gradually the National League eased its restraints on Sunday play and beer sales and several teams in the AA defected to the older and more established “senior circuit”. The profitability of Major League Baseball led to the easing of Sunday Blue laws in several eastern cities.