William Hulbert

William Ambrose Hulbert (October 23, 1832 – April 10, 1882) was one of the founders of the National League, recognized as baseball's first major league, and was also the president of the Chicago White Stockings franchise.

William Hulbert
William Hulbert Baseball
Born: William Ambrose Hulbert
October 23, 1832
Burlington Flats, New York
Died: April 10, 1882 (aged 49)
Member of the National
Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Baseball Hall of Fame Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg Empty Star.svg
Election MethodVeterans Committee


Born in Burlington Flats, New York, Hulbert moved with his family to Chicago two years later where he lived the rest of his life save for a stint at Beloit College beginning in 1847. When he returned to Chicago from school, he married into the family of a successful grocer and expanded the business into the coal trade. A backer of the Chicago White Stockings baseball club of the National Association from its inception in 1871, Hulbert became an officer of the club in 1874 when it resumed play after being forced to sit out two seasons due to the Great Chicago Fire and assumed the presidency the next year.

In his brief tenure as a club president in the National Association, Hulbert soon became fed up with the circuit's lack of definite structure, organization, and integrity. He was particularly disgusted by the Davy Force case in 1874. Force, the shortstop of the White Stockings that year, was a notorious "contract jumper", a common occurrence in the National Association in which players would move from team to team each year selling themselves to the highest bidder. Determined to keep his shortstop, Hulbert signed him to a contract for the 1875 season in September, before the 1874 season had concluded, a violation of league rules. In December, Force signed a second contract with the Philadelphia Athletics, and Hulbert protested. The Association Judiciary committee originally awarded Force to Chicago, but at a second meeting in early 1875, after a Philadelphia man had been elected president of the association, the decision was reversed.

Hulbert became convinced that the Eastern ballclubs were conspiring to keep the Western clubs second-class citizens and plotted to overthrow the might of the Boston Red Stockings, which won each association pennant between 1872 and 1875. To do so, he convinced Illinois native and star Boston pitcher Al Spalding to sign with Chicago for the 1876 season and also signed Boston stars Cal McVey, Deacon White, and Ross Barnes and Philadelphia stars Cap Anson and Ezra Sutton, though Sutton later backed out of his deal. The signings were made while the 1875 season was in progress, but Hulbert decided to anticipate league disciplinary action by establishing his own league.

After enlisting the support of Western clubs including the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the St. Louis Brown Stockings, and the Louisville Grays, Hulbert held a meeting with the Eastern clubs of the Mutual of New York, the Athletic of Philadelphia, the Boston Red Stockings, and the Hartford Dark Blues on February 2, 1876, at the Grand Central Hotel in New York City and sold them on his vision for a new league founded on the principles of square dealings, recognition of contracts, and business integrity along with a more orderly game on the field through prohibitions on drinking, gambling, and Sunday baseball and more definite organization off it through limiting membership to cities of 75,000 inhabitants or more, giving clubs exclusive territorial rights, and mandating teams to complete a predetermined schedule. The result was the founding of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs. At the founding meeting, straws were drawn to determine the first president of the circuit, and Hartford president Morgan Bulkeley drew the short straw. He only remained president for one year and took little interest in the affairs of the league, not even bothering to attend the 1877 league meeting. When he did not show up, Hulbert was elected the new president, retaining his presidency of the White Stockings as well.

In his tenure as president from 1877 to his death in 1882, Hulbert ruled with an iron fist and took steps to insure league integrity and compliance with league rules. His first major act was expelling the New York and Philadelphia clubs from the league for failure to complete their 1876 schedules as required. While losing clubs in the two most populous cities in the United States was a serious blow, the expulsion sent a clear message that the lax adherence to league rules that had plagued the National Association would not be tolerated. Also in response to the New York/Philadelphia scheduling problem, Hulbert ended the practice of clubs determining their schedules through the club secretaries by declaring that the league itself would establish the schedule. Hulbert also instituted the practice of the league hiring of umpires to bolster public perceptions of league integrity.

Perhaps his greatest challenge was dealing with four members of the Louisville ball club who conspired to throw the 1877 pennant. In a move that established a precedent for future handling of dishonest ballplayers, Hulbert banned all four players from the league for life. The banning had a ripple effect across the league that led to the Louisville, St. Louis, and Hartford franchises folding, and the league began to face a crisis as Hulbert was forced to replace these and other teams over the years with clubs from smaller cities such as Providence, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Syracuse. In 1879, after the Cincinnati franchise nearly collapsed amid controversy created by having three star players making more money than the rest of the team combined, Hulbert oversaw the imposition of the first reserve rule designed to curb player salaries and prevent players jumping from team to team.

Hulbert's final major act as president also involved the Cincinnati franchise. While it was understood from the league's inception that beer and Sunday baseball were inappropriate, they were not actually prohibited by league rules, and the Cincinnati club, playing in a city with a large German population fond of beer and Sunday entertainment, practiced both activities to boost revenue. This led the league to pass new rules banning both for the 1881 season and then expelling the unapologetic Cincinnati club for violating a rule that would not go into effect for two more months. This final league expulsion brought the National League its greatest challenge yet, as Cincinnati spearheaded the creation of the rival American Association in 1882 that moved into populous areas abandoned by the NL over the years such as New York and Philadelphia. Hulbert did not live to see this rival franchise begin play, however, dying of a heart attack in 1882 at the age of 49 two weeks before the AA made its debut.

For decades, Hulbert was kept out of the Baseball Hall of Fame despite his critical role in founding the first professional league. This was because when American League founder and first president Ban Johnson was elected to the Hall in 1937, it was decided that an early National League executive should be enshrined as well, and apparently not looking into history too closely, the electors chose to elect Morgan Bulkeley because he was the first president of the league. This injustice was finally rectified by the veterans committee, which enshrined Hulbert in 1995.

Hulbert is buried in Graceland Cemetery under a grave marker designed to look like a baseball. In addition to his name and his birth and death dates, the marker includes the names of the cities originally included in the National League.


  • Bales, Jack. Before They Were the Cubs: The Early Years of Chicago’s First Professional Baseball Team. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2019.
  • Haupert, Michael. "William Hulbert". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 3 March 2016.

External links

Preceded by
Owner of the Chicago Cubs
1876 – 1882
Succeeded by
Albert Spalding
1875 in baseball

The following are the baseball events of the year 1875 throughout the world.

1876 Chicago White Stockings season

The 1876 Chicago White Stockings season was the 5th season of the Chicago White Stockings franchise, the 1st in the National League and the 3rd at 23rd Street Grounds. The White Stockings, as one of the founding members of the new National League, won the NL's initial championship during this season with a record of 52–14.

1876 in baseball

After a tumultuous five-year existence, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NA) folded following the 1875 season. The National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs (NL) was formed in Chicago, Illinois by businessman, and owner of the Chicago White Stockings (now known as, the Chicago Cubs), William Hulbert, for the purpose of replacing the NA, which he believed to have been corrupt, mismanaged, full of rowdy, drunken ballplayers, and under the influence of the gambling community. One of the new rules put into place by the new league was that all teams had to be located in cities that had a population of 75,000 or more. The initial NL season began with eight teams, and they were asked to play seventy games between April 22 and October 21. The NL is considered to be the first "major league", although it has been argued that the NA can make that claim.

1878 Chicago White Stockings season

The 1878 Chicago White Stockings season was the 7th season of the Chicago White Stockings franchise, the 3rd in the National League and the 1st at Lakefront Park. The White Stockings finished fourth in the National League with a record of 30–30.

1879 Chicago White Stockings season

The 1879 Chicago White Stockings season was the 8th season of the Chicago White Stockings franchise, the 4th in the National League and the 2nd at Lakefront Park. The White Stockings finished fourth in the National League with a record of 46–33.

1880 Chicago White Stockings season

The 1880 Chicago White Stockings season was the 9th season of the Chicago White Stockings franchise, the 5th in the National League and the 3rd at Lakefront Park. The White Stockings won the National League championship with a record of 67–17.

1881 Chicago White Stockings season

The 1881 Chicago White Stockings season was the 10th season of the Chicago White Stockings franchise, the 6th in the National League and the 4th at Lakefront Park. The White Stockings won the National League championship with a record of 56–28.

1995 Baseball Hall of Fame balloting

Elections to the Baseball Hall of Fame for 1995 introduced a system of multiple classified ballots for consideration by the Veterans Committee. That group met in closed sessions as usual and selected four people:

Richie Ashburn, Leon Day, William Hulbert, and Vic Willis. Day and Hulbert were named from the new ballots for Negro Leagues and 19th century figures.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) voted by mail to select from recent major league players

(no change) and elected Mike Schmidt.

Albert Spalding

Albert Goodwill Spalding (September 2, 1849 – September 9, 1915) was an American pitcher, manager, and executive in the early years of professional baseball, and the co-founder of A.G. Spalding sporting goods company. He was born and raised in Byron, Illinois yet graduated from Rockford Central High School in Rockford, Illinois. He played major league baseball between 1871 and 1878. Spalding set a trend when he started wearing a baseball glove.

After his retirement as a player, Spalding remained active with the Chicago White Stockings as president and part-owner. In the 1880s, he took players on the first world tour of baseball. With William Hulbert, Spalding organized the National League. He later called for the commission that investigated the origins of baseball and credited Abner Doubleday with creating the game. He also wrote the first set of official baseball rules.

Arthur Soden

Arthur H. Soden (April 23, 1843 – August 15, 1925) was an American executive in Major League Baseball who was the president/owner of the Boston Base Ball Club of the National League and a Civil War veteran.

Bill Crowley (baseball)

William Michael Crowley (April 18, 1857 – July 14, 1891) was an American Major League Baseball player who played mainly as an outfielder from 1875 to 1885. He played for the Philadelphia White Stockings, Louisville Grays, Buffalo Bisons, Boston Red Caps/Beaneaters, Philadelphia Athletics, and Cleveland Blues.Born in Philadelphia to Irish immigrant parents, Crowley worked for a print factory in Gloucester, New Jersey, before beginning his professional baseball career with the Philadelphia White Stockings in 1875. He was the youngest player in the National Association that year, having turned 18 just days before his debut.Crowley threw out four men from the outfield during a May 1880 game with the Buffalo Bisons, and he did it again in August of that year.In 1881, Crowley was one of several players blacklisted from the National League by the league president, William Hulbert. The bans were thought to take aim at drunkenness, rowdy behavior and game fixing among the league's players, but all of the blacklisting was lumped under a broad category: "general dissipation and insubordination." Crowley was reinstated in 1883.

On June 7, 1884, while Crowley was playing for the Boston Beaneaters, Providence Grays pitcher Charlie Sweeney struck out Crowley to end the game and to set a single-game major league strikeout record (19 strikeouts). That record was tied several times before Roger Clemens struck out 20 batters in a 1986 game. The rest of the 1884 season was better for Crowley, as he set career highs in games played, at bats, hits and runs batted in.Crowley's last season in the major leagues was an unpredictable one. He played 92 games for the 1885 Buffalo Bisons, a team that finished with a 38–74 win-loss record. In mid-September, the team was bought out by the Detroit Wolverines. Two days later, four of Crowley's teammates appeared in uniform for the Wolverines, but they did not play after the league threatened the Wolverines with a forfeit. The team's purchase was later reversed by the league. In the last three weeks of the season, the Bisons finished with no wins, sixteen losses and one tie.

From 1886 to 1888, Crowley appeared with four minor league teams before leaving professional baseball. He died at the age of 34 of Bright's disease in Gloucester, New Jersey, and is interred at St. Mary's Cemetery in Bellmawr, New Jersey.

Burlington Flats, New York

Burlington Flats is a hamlet in the Town of Burlington in Otsego County, New York, United States. It is located at coordinates 42.7452°N 75.183°W / 42.7452; -75.183.

Davy Force

David W. "Davy" Force (July 27, 1849 – June 21, 1918) was a shortstop in Major League Baseball. From 1871 through 1886, he played in the National Association with the Washington Olympics (1871), Troy Haymakers (1872), Baltimore Canaries (1872[end]-1873), Chicago White Stockings (1874) and Philadelphia Athletics (1875), and in the National League for the Philadelphia Athletics (1876), New York Mutuals (1876), St. Louis Brown Stockings (1877), Buffalo Bisons (1879–1885) and Washington Nationals (1886). Force batted and threw right-handed.

The light-hitting but slick-fielding Force is best known for setting off a National Association contract dispute between two teams. The ensuing rulings prompted William Hulbert to begin organizing the National League.

George W. Gage (baseball)

George W. Gage (March 9, 1812 – September 24, 1875) was an American baseball executive, president of the Chicago White Stockings from 1872 to 1875.

New Hampshire-born George W. Gage, with his brother David Allen Gage, was a prominent Chicago businessmen in the mid-1800s. The brothers owned the Tremont Hotel, and invested heavily in real estate. George started out as a machinist in Lowell, Massachusetts. He began his hotel life at Metheun, Massachusetts, and went on to own or operate a series of hotels in Massachusetts. He came to Chicago in 1853, and made the Tremont House the most popular hotel in the city. He then operated the equally famous Sherman House, until the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. An active Republican, he lost the 1869 Chicago mayoral election a race, but was subsequently was appointed a city park commissioner. Gage Park, on the city's southwest side, is named for him.

The Chicago White Stockings had been disbanded following the Great Chicago Fire. On June 6, 1872, George Gage was elected president of the "Chicago Base Ball Association," the corporate name of the White Stockings. The group intended to bring professional baseball back to Chicago. The White Stockings team was revived in 1874, and Gage served as president through 1875. Gage was succeeded in officer by team secretary William Hulbert.

Hulbert Footner

Hulbert Footner (April 2, 1879 – November 17, 1944) was a Canadian writer of non-fiction and detective fiction.

List of Chicago Cubs owners and executives

This is a list of owners and executives of the Chicago Cubs.

List of National League presidents

The National League President was the chief executive of the National League of professional baseball until 1999, when the NL and the American League merged into Major League Baseball.

Louisville Grays

The Louisville Grays were a 19th-century United States baseball team and charter member of the National League, based in Louisville, Kentucky. They played two seasons, 1876 and 1877, and compiled a record of 65–61. Their home games were at the Louisville Baseball Park. The Grays were owned by businessman Walter Newman Haldeman, owner and publisher of the Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper.

The Grays were undone by Major League Baseball's first gambling scandal. The team was in first place in August 1877, then suddenly lost seven games and tied one against the Boston Red Stockings and Hartford Dark Blues. Boston ended up winning the pennant, seven games ahead of the second-place Grays. A Courier-Journal story questioning the team's conduct was written by John Haldeman, the owner's son.Team president Charles Chase received two anonymous telegrams. One noted that gamblers were favoring the less talented Hartford team in an upcoming series. The second telegram predicted Louisville would throw the next game versus Hartford on August 21. The Grays committed a number of suspicious errors and lost that game 7–0. League president William Hulbert investigated and ordered players to authorize Western Union to release all telegrams sent or received during the 1877 season. All players complied except shortstop Bill Craver, the team's captain.

The telegrams indicated that pitcher Jim Devlin, left fielder George Hall, and utility player Al Nichols intentionally lost games in exchange for money. No direct evidence was found implicating Craver. All four were banned from baseball for life, Craver for refusing to comply with the investigation.

Devlin pitched every inning for the 1877 Grays, leading the league in games and innings pitched. Hall played every inning in left field; he was a good batter, the 1876 home run "champion" with five. The original St. Louis Brown Stockings had signed Devlin and Hall for 1878 and went out of business with the Grays after the investigation.

William Wathen

William Hulbert Wathen (5 May 1836 – 29 March 1913) was an English first-class cricketer active 1862–66 who played for Kent. He was born in Streatham and died in Westerham. He played in six first-class matches as a right-handed batsman, scoring 139 runs with a highest score of 38; as a right-arm roundarm slow bowler, taking seven wickets with a best performance of two for 16.

Veterans Committee
J. G. Taylor Spink Award
Ford C. Frick Award
First basemen
Second basemen
Third basemen
Designated hitters
Executives /

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