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date: 11 December 2023

Professional Team Sports in the United Statesfree

Professional Team Sports in the United Statesfree

  • Steven A. RiessSteven A. RiessDepartment of History, Northeastern Illinois University


Professional sports teams are athletic organizations comprising talented, expert players hired by club owners whose revenues originally derived from admission fees charged to spectators seeing games in enclosed ballparks or indoor arenas. Teams are usually members of a league that schedules a championship season, although independent teams also can arrange their own contests. The first professional baseball teams emerged in the east and Midwest in 1860s, most notably the all-salaried undefeated Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869. The first league was the haphazardly organized National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (1871), supplanted five years later by the more profit-oriented National League (NL) that set up strict rules for franchise locations, financing, and management–employee relations (including a reserve clause in 1879, which bound players to their original employer), and barred African Americans after 1884. Once the NL prospered, rival major leagues also sprang up, notably the American Association in 1882 and the American League in 1901.

Major League Baseball (MLB) became a model for the professionalization of football, basketball, and hockey, which all had short-lived professional leagues around the turn of the century. The National Football League and the National Hockey League of the 1920s were underfinanced regional operations, and their teams often went out of business, while the National Basketball Association was not even organized until 1949.

Professional team sports gained considerable popularity after World War II. The leagues dealt with such problems as franchise relocations and nationwide expansion, conflicts with interlopers, limiting player salaries, and racial integration. The NFL became the most successful operation by securing rich national television contracts, supplanting baseball as the national pastime in the 1970s. All these leagues became lucrative investments. With the rise of “free agency,” professional team athletes became extremely well paid, currently averaging more than $2 million a year.


  • Economic History
  • Cultural History
  • Urban History

Professional sports teams are athletic organizations composed of compensated participants hired to play, because of their talent and expertise, by club owners who profit by charging spectators admission fees. These teams typically belong to a league that schedules a championship season, although independent touring teams arranged contests against local teams in the regions where they “barnstormed.”

Major League Baseball

The first major professional team sport emerged in baseball, a popular amateur sport that had developed in the 1830s and 1840s and by mid-century was already considered the “national pastime.” In the 1860s the top amateur nines recruited top athletes to help them win championships and attract paying customers, compensating them with cash or sinecures. Approximately a dozen entirely professional teams existed by 1869, most notably the all-salaried Cincinnati Red Stockings, whose players earned from $600 to $2,000. Manager Harry Wright led them to an undefeated season (57-0-1), and then twenty-four straight wins in 1870 before losing. However, the club was unprofitable and went out of business.1

In 1871 the first professional league was established, the ten-team National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NA), comprising clubs in the east and Midwest. The league struggled through five seasons because franchises paid just $10 to join, teams arranged their own schedules, and many franchises in small cities like Rockford, Illinois, came and went. Furthermore, teams were of uneven quality, and players, who earned between $1,300 and $1,600, often left their teams (“revolve”) for clubs offering more lucrative salaries.2

The eight-team National League of Professional Baseball Clubs supplanted the NA in 1876. This business-oriented league sought to make money by putting the sport on a sound financial footing. Franchises cost $100, teams were required to represent a city with at least 75,000 residents (a rule not always followed), and the league office made up the schedule. Teams that did not complete the season were expelled. The NL drew up rules to promote a positive public image, including no Sunday baseball, no sales of alcoholic beverages, high admission prices, and “morals clauses” in contracts. Player salaries were the biggest expense, and a “reserve clause” that bound athletes to a specific team was introduced in contracts for 1879.3

New competing leagues immediately appeared. The main rival was the American Association, established in 1882, which catered to a working-class audience with Sunday games, 25 cent admissions, and liquor sales. High costs led the AA to ally with the NL two years later, and they completely merged in 1892. Another rival was the Players’ League, established in 1890 under the sponsorship of the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players, the first sports union, founded in 1885 by John M. Ward to protect players from treatment as chattel.4

In 1901 the American League (AL) was created as a new major league. It merged with the NL in 1903, setting up the first World Series. Professional baseball flourished in the early 1900s, and by 1910 there were fifty minor leagues. The sport was heavily covered in the daily press, specialized sport weeklies, and general-interest periodicals. Baseball became a prominent topic in juvenile literature and popular music. Star players were renowned heroes, idolized for their prowess (like Ty Cobb), and their exemplary character (Christy Mathewson). The game was so popular that owners tore down the flimsy wood stadiums constructed for $30,000 to $60,000, five of which burned down in 1894, constructing larger and far more substantial stadiums. In 1909 the first fire-resistant major-league ballpark was built, Philadelphia’s $500,000 Shibe Park, followed by nine more by 1916. Capacities averaged about 25,000, though the Polo Grounds in New York seated 54,000. They had idiosyncratic dimensions, often reflecting the available space in congested industrial cities. The “classic” ballpark era culminated in 1923 with the $2.5 million, 63,000-seat Yankee Stadium, the first MLB site not known as a park, field, or grounds.5

The popularity of baseball also spawned a short-lived Federal League (1914–1915) and a host of industrial semipro leagues. In 1915 more than 100,000 spectators viewed the national championship game between the Cleveland White Motors team and Omaha’s Luxus nine, sponsored by the Krug brewery.6

Major League Baseball did very well in the interwar years, despite the impact of the “fixed” 1919 World Series, and remained the preeminent professional sport into the 1940s. The nature of the game on the field changed from a finesse to a power game because of slugger Babe Ruth, who hit 714 home runs. He was the era’s preeminent sports hero and a model of consumption, freely spending his $80,000 salary. In the interwar era, nearly all top athletes aspired to play Major League Baseball, especially for the New York Yankees, who won eleven pennants and eight World Series in those years. The Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals flourished by establishing extensive farm systems to produce new talent.7

Although the Depression undermined the prosperity that baseball enjoyed in the 1920s, producing big financial losses for both teams and players, the public demand for escapism allowed the game to fare better than most businesses. MLB adopted some marketing innovations like night games, an annual all-star game beginning in 1933, and radio broadcast of games by 1940. MLB regained its profitability by the mid-1930s.8

Early-20th-century professional baseball also was racially segregated. The only acknowledged African American players up to then were the Walker brothers, who played for Toledo (American Association) in 1884. Blacks were totally excluded from organized professional baseball in 1899 by an unwritten understanding, which limited them to traveling black clubs. In 1920 the Negro National League (NNL) was created by black entrepreneurs to take advantage of the potential market among the growing African American inner-city population. The league lasted until 1931, failing because of founder Rube Foster’s mental illness and the economic impact of the Depression. A new NNL began in 1933, largely created by inner-city policy bankers. The NNL became a profitable and leading community institution. The Homestead Grays became the league’s top team with a roster that included Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Buck Leonard, who would have been MLB stars if white.9

Pressure for integration grew during World War II from black and white journalists and liberal politicians pointing up the heroic accomplishments of Olympic champion Jesse Owens and heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, and black participation in World War II. However, strong opposition to a racially integrated baseball remained inside and outside the sport because many whites saw it as a step toward a larger racial integration of American society. The big step was taken by Dodgers president Branch Rickey, who signed Jackie Robinson on October 23, 1945, because he believed it was the right thing to do, that integration would help the Dodgers win a pennant, and that it was good for business. Robinson was not the star of the Kansas City Monarchs, but was an outstanding all-around athlete and a college-educated veteran who lived in integrated Los Angeles, was about to get married, and had a background needed to cope with life in the MLB. Despite the racism he encountered, Robinson was named rookie of the year in 1947 and helped lead the team to the World Series.

In fact, the integration of MLB was probably the single most consequential development in North American sport history because it did strongly impact broader American society. Robinson’s success opened the door for other black players, but the process of integration was slow, even though African Americans like Willie Mays and Hank Aaron soon dominated the National League. Progress was slower in the American League. The last team to integrate was the Boston Red Sox in 1959. By 1965 20 percent of MLB players were black or Latino, 38 percent of the All-Stars were men of color. But by 2016, only 9 percent of MLB players were African American, compared to 70 percent in the NFL, 74.4 percent in the NBA, and 5 percent in the NHL.10

Professional baseball was extremely popular after World War II, with attendance doubling to an average of 16,027. Minor leagues alone numbered a record fifty-two. However, television coverage soon saturated broadcast markets, which together with television’s popularity as free entertainment led to many minor leagues going out of business and MLB franchises losing money in the early 1950s.11

Financial woes also led to the first movement of franchises since 1903. In 1953 the Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee, where the local government refurbished County Stadium and leased it to the Braves for a nominal sum. Local boosters foresaw the team promoting their city and boosting the local economy. The Braves soon became the most profitable team in the National League, which encouraged the St. Louis Browns’ move to Baltimore one year later, and in 1955 the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City. Then in 1958, the profitable Dodgers and Giants left New York City for Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively. All these teams received considerable government assistance, although the Dodgers did finance their own ballpark in 1962. Dodger Stadium was the last new privately financed MLB park for decades. The migration to the West Coast made MLB a truly national operation.12

MLB introduced an expansion program to take advantage of the sport’s still-increasing popularity, to counter a proposed new Continental League, and to mollify Congress after the Washington Senators moved to Minneapolis in 1960 and Congress threatened to retaliate by ending baseball’s antitrust exemption. New American League teams were established in Washington and Los Angeles in 1961. One year later, the National League added the New York Mets and the Houston Colt 45s (today the Astros), who paid $1.8 million to join. In 1968 MLB added four new teams, and two more in 1976. The next expansion came in 1993, when the NL added Denver and Florida (now Miami), and in 1998 the AL added Tampa Bay, and Arizona joined the NL.13

Several modern publicly financed ballparks were built from 1961 to 1970 beginning with District of Columbia Stadium (later RFK Stadium) because of expansion or to attract or maintain an established franchise. They were typically multipurpose structures for baseball and football that cost $50–60 million, including Atlanta and St. Louis, and then in 1970 Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh built “cookie-cutter” stadiums with very similar designs and dimensions, while in 1964 Houston constructed the most ground-breaking edifice, its Astrodome, which was the nation’s first enclosed stadium.14

A generation later, new innovative “retro fields” were built, starting with Baltimore’s $110 million (today $185 million) Oriole Park at Camden Yards (1992), seating around 45,000, which re-created the look and ambiance of the old intimate ballparks of the early 20th century. The new style was very popular, and similar fields soon followed, including Cleveland’s $175 million Jacobs Field (1994), Atlanta’s $209 Turner Field (1997), and $216 million PNC Park in Pittsburgh (2001). However, these expenditures are dwarfed by the new Yankee Stadium that cost $2.3 billion (half of which was publicly subsidized).15

Television became a major factor in franchise profitability, although for years the revenues came mostly from local television contracts. League-wide packages were not permitted until the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961. Total local television revenues in 1950 were $2.3 million and rose to $12.5 million in 1960, which were unevenly distributed to major market teams like the Yankees, who made $56.7 million in 2001 compared to under $6 million for Milwaukee. The first lucrative network contract came in 1972–1975, when NBC paid $72 million for Monday games. Currently MLB has contracted through 2021 with Fox Sport to pay nearly $500 million a year, and Turner pays more than $300 million annually, while ESPN is paying $700 million a year through 2020.16

The formation of a players’ union in 1954, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), had a huge impact on MLB. In 1965 the then-weak union took a major step forward by hiring economist Marvin Miller of the United Steelworkers of America as its director, who secured both enhanced pension benefits and a higher minimum salary. He ran the MLBPA like a traditional trade union with a strike in 1972, the first of seven labor stoppages by 1995, and negotiated salary arbitration in 1973. Miller orchestrated an arbitration case in 1975 that led to the demise of the reserve clause, replacing it with a system based on free agency and salary arbitration. In 1981, the players held a fifty-day midseason strike over the owners’ attempt to discourage free-agent signing by requiring compensation, which later led to court rulings that owners had colluded to reduce salaries and discourage free agency. The perpetual unrest culminated in the 1994–1995 strike that caused cancellation of the 1994 World Series, a huge public-relations disaster for both sides. However, the union action produced a dramatic change in player compensation. The average professional baseball-player salary in the early 1950s was approximately $11,000; it reached $19,000 in 1967 and $52,300 in 1976. Thereafter salaries skyrocketed, surpassing $1 million in 1993. Today the average MLB player salary is $4.17 million. The MLBPA succeeded because membership was unified against a divided ownership. It is today the strongest union in the United States.17

Although attendance growth has been pretty flat since 1997, the value of MLB teams has dramatically escalated due to higher ticket prices and increased TV revenues. The Yankees rose in value from $11.2 million in 1964 to $635 million in 2001 and $3.2 billion today, far above the average of $1.2 billion.18

Professional Football and the National Football League

Professional football emerged among working-class athletic clubs in the steel-manufacturing areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio, who took winning seriously and hired top players for big games. The first known pro was William “Pudge” Heffelfinger, an All-American lineman at Yale University, who in November 1892 received $500 to play for the Allegheny Athletic Association against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. The first fully pro teams were located in Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities, drawing upward of 3,000 spectators. In 1902, journalist David Barry established the National Football League. The Philadelphia Phillies and the Pittsburgh Pirates squads included major leaguer ballplayers, and their coaches managed the local major league teams of the same names. The league lasted one year. Eight years earlier, baseball owners had organized the American League of Professional Football, a soccer league comprising six teams owned by MLB owners that also had lasted one season.19

In 1902 the Ohio League was organized in northeastern Ohio, but a gambling scandal in 1906 involving teams from Massillon and Canton hurt the sport. Football made a comeback by 1910, and one year later Canton returned to the league, winning championships in 1915, 1916, 1917, and 1919, led by former All-American and Olympic star Jim Thorpe. The 1916 team claimed the title of “Professional Football Champions of the World.” Many top teams then were sponsored by Ohio and Pennsylvania industrialists to promote better relations with their employees.20

In 1920, owners of professional teams, many of which were affiliated with industrial firms, met at Canton to form a league, the American Professional Football Association, which was renamed the National Football League (NFL) in 1922. Thorpe was the initial president, replaced in 1921 by sportswriter Joe Carr. The fourteen teams of 1920 were charged a $100 membership fee, although no one paid it. The league was not well organized, and teams made their own schedules. The NFL was so unstable that it had fifty different franchises by 1933.21

In 1925 the Chicago Bears signed Harold “Red” Grange, considered the greatest college football player of his time, moments after he completed his last college game. His agent, C. C. “Cash and Carry” Pyle, signed a contract for Grange to immediately join the Bears and then play a nineteen-game exhibition series. Grange drew large crowds, including about 70,000 to New York’s Polo Grounds, and he made about $250,000 for the season. His presence added considerable prestige to the NFL, and more collegians considered turning pro at a time when 80 percent of the players had no college background.22

Unlike MLB, professional football originally was not segregated, perhaps because of its lower status. The first black pro was Charles W. Follis in 1904 for Shelby of the Ohio League. A small number of African Americans played in the early NFL, most notably All-American end Paul Robeson (1920–1922), the future lawyer, singer, and radical activist, and Fritz Pollard, who coached the Akron Pros in 1921. The last blacks in the early NFL were Joe Lillard and Ray Kemp in 1933, when increased racism in the Depression and the opposition of white players, fans, and owners forced black players out of the league for over a decade.23

The Depression hurt the NFL, which had just eight teams in 1932. Green Bay, an original NFL franchise, was the only small town still in the league, nineteen others having dropped out. The league that year streamlined footballs to make them easier to pass and increase scoring, and staged its first post-season championship game. One year later, the College All-Star game began with the NFL’s champion playing a select group of college seniors at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Another important innovation was the introduction of the college draft in 1936 to improve rosters of weaker teams. By 1940, when the T-formation was widely used, the league was drawing nearly 20,000 per game.24

The NFL struggled during World War II, but the high expectations engendered by peace also produced three major problems: the rise of the All American Football Conference (AAFC), whose eight owners had previously tried unsuccessfully to get NFL franchises; a betting scandal; and integration. The AAFC included franchises in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Miami, making it a truly national league, accessible by air travel. The NFL responded by moving the Cleveland Rams to Los Angeles, where it was pressured to integrate by the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission that operated the Coliseum. The Rams signed former UCLA All-American Kenny Washington and his college teammate Woody Strode. The Cleveland Browns of the AAFC subsequently signed Marion Motley and Bill Willis of the Browns, who helped lead the team to four AAFC championships. The AAFC ended in 1950 when Cleveland, Baltimore, and San Francisco joined the NFL. The Browns maintained their dominance in the NFL with seven trips to the championship game, including three titles. NFL integration proceeded slowly, but by 1955 only the Washington Redskins had not signed a black player. Owner George Preston Marshall did not hire an African American until 1962, when he signed Bobby Mitchell, only after pressure from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, who threatened to evict the team from the new, publicly owned D.C. Stadium.25

Teams in the 1950s and 1960s often had quotas on the number of black players, under-recruited and underpaid them, and stacked blacks in speed positions, excluding them from “intelligence” roles like middle linebacker or quarterback. This has changed, but slowly and unevenly. In 2014, nine of thirty-two NFL quarterbacks were black, but the league had only one black owner, seven general managers, and four head coaches.26

The most important game in the 1950s was the 1958 championship between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants, seen on television by 40 million fans. The Colts won the first sudden death overtime, 23-17. The game demonstrated the sport’s popularity and future financial possibilities. Two years later, Pete Rozelle became commissioner and transformed the NFL into the most successful league in sports, eclipsing baseball.27

Roselle’s biggest crisis was the rise of the American Football League in 1960, organized by wealthy businessmen previously unable to buy an NFL franchise. They sited six of eight teams in non-NFL cities, planning to survive until the NFL agreed to let them in. The NFL took up the challenge by expanding into Minneapolis-St. Paul to preempt a vacant site and into Dallas to compete with an AFL franchise there. The interlopers struggled at first, relying on a TV contract with ABC to survive. In 1964, the AFL signed a five-year, $42 million contract with NBC, which contributed to a full-scale salary war.28

The leagues merged in 1966 to form a single twenty-four-team league to cut costs, facilitated by congressional actions that circumvented antitrust implications. They maintained separate conferences, with the winners playing in a championship game called the “Super Bowl.” The event became the preeminent single sporting contest in the United States with viewership dwarfing all other television programs. Since then the NFL has fought off other rivals: the World Football League (1974), the United States Football League (1983–1985), and the XFL (2001).29

The NFL Players Association (NFLPA) was founded in 1956 but was not recognized by management until 1968, when a collective bargaining agreement was signed providing minimum salaries and a pension. Football players tried to unionize, but early on, the union was so weak that the courts overturned several contracts that the union had agreed to, because the union was in an unequal bargaining position and could not negotiate a fair contract.30

NFLPA executive director Ed Garvey led a fifty-seven-day strike in 1982 that achieved marginal gains in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. When it expired in 1987, the executive director Gene Upshaw (1983–2008) led a strike over the free agency policy, and owners retaliated with replacement players. Once players returned to the field, they sought redress in the courts, which ruled that the owners were covered by the labor exemption from antitrust law. The union reorganized itself into a professional organization, and individual players brought a new antitrust case against the NFL’s Plan B that gave teams a right of first refusal for players seeking free agency. The owners eventually settled the case, granting free agency, and the players accepted a “hard” salary cap based on 64 percent of total team revenues. Afterward, the NFLPA reconstituted itself again as a labor union and signed a new collective bargaining agreement in 1993. In 2011, following a brief summer lockout, a new ten-year agreement got players 47 percent of revenue. A limit was placed on rookie wages, $50 million was annually funded for medical research, and owners pledged approximately $1 billion for retirees. As of 2015, the average salary was $2.11 million.31

Today the NFL has thirty-two teams located throughout United States in nearly all the leading television markets, reflecting the major role of its national television contract in producing huge profits. By 1990 each team made $33 million annually just from television. The current contract is worth $184.4 million a year. This helped make the average franchise worth $2 billion, led by the Dallas Cowboys at $4 billion.32

Perhaps the NFL’s greatest current problem is the number of players who suffered concussions and other head blows leading to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and ultimately memory loss, depression, dementia, and even suicide. In 2015, 199 players had concussions, one-third of which the NFL estimated would lead to long-term cognitive issues. Back in 2010, the NFL introduced rules to promote safer play, including banning the use of helmets against defenseless players, stopping play when a player lost his helmet, and moving kickoffs to the thirty-five-yard line to reduce the number of kickoff returns. Retired players sued the NFL in 2011, and after, some 4,500 former players and their families joined the case. The NFL settled the suit for $765 million in 2013, but the plaintiffs filed an appeal in 2016.33

The National Hockey League

Ice hockey was a popular sport in Canada and select American sites in the late 19th century. Former Canadian amateur Jack “Doc” Gibson founded the Portage Lakers (Michigan) in 1903, the first professional hockey team. One year later, he established the first pro association, the International Hockey League (IPHL), with teams in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Calumet, Houghton, and Sault Sainte Marie), Pittsburgh, and Sault Saint Marie (Ontario). The IPHL lasted through the 1906–1907 season, playing on the first artificial ice arenas.34

In 1910 the National Hockey Association (NHA) was founded by railroad magnate Michael J. O’Brien and his son Ambrose, and the Pacific Coast Hockey League (PCHA) was established in 1911–1912 by Frank and Lester Patrick. The latter expanded to the United States with teams in Portland (1914), Seattle (1915), and Spokane (1916). Before the 1917–1918 season, Montreal, Ottawa, and Quebec quit the NHA to form the National Hockey League (NHL). The PCHA merged with the three-year-old Western Canadian Hockey League in 1924, to become the Western Hockey League. The WHL collapsed after the 1925–1926 season, leaving the NHL as the sport’s only major league.35

The first American NHL franchise was the Boston Bruins in 1924. By 1926–1927, there were four Canadian and six U.S. teams, including the Bruins, Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Cougars (the future Red Wings), New York Rangers, New York Americans, and Pittsburgh Pirates, whose owners were associated with their city’s main sports arena. The new teams paid a $15,000 fee to join the NHL. The teams played a forty-four-game season and relied mostly on gate receipts for revenue, which mainly went to the home team.36

The NHL enjoyed an era of great stability from 1942 through 1967 with the “Original Six” franchises—the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, and Toronto Maple Leafs. Games were broadcast over radio and on CBS-TV from 1956 through 1960.37

By the 1960s, several cities sought NHL franchises to promote themselves. In 1967, six new teams were added, and then six more U.S. teams between 1970 and 1974 to fight the World Hockey Association (WHA), established in 1971 by Gary Davidson and Dennis Murphy, founders of the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1967.38

WHA teams engaged in a bidding war for top talent. In 1972 Winnipeg signed Chicago Blackhawks’ superstar Bobby Hull to a ten-year, $1.75 million contract plus a $1 million signing bonus. The WHA struggled to recruit experienced North Americans and turned to Finland and Sweden for talent. The costly rivalry led to a merger in 1979 with four of six WHA clubs. Thereafter, the NHL began recruiting Europeans, including eastern Europeans in 1985, who stressed skating, passing, and puck handling instead of the NHL-style of dump-and-chase that emphasized physicality and violence. In 2015, 24.2 percent of players were Americans, 49.7 percent Canadians, and 26.1 percent European. The first African American in the NHL was Willie O’Ree, who played sparingly for Boston in 1958. Five of twenty-two current players with African ancestry are U.S. born.39

The NHL in the early 1970s took a very proactive role in promoting hockey internationally, particularly against the “amateur” world champion Soviet Union. The NHL was perceived as defender of the free world in competitions against the Soviet Union, beginning with the 1971 Summit Series in which the NHL All-Stars topped the Soviets by a narrow 4-3-1 margin.40

NHL hockey players and owners were by nature conservative, and no union was formed until 1967, when the Players’ Association (NHLPA) was recognized under player agent Alan Eagleson. He tried to maintain a close, conciliatory relationship with the league, but the rank and file wanted a more aggressive leadership since their salaries, benefits, and dangerous working conditions lagged far behind other team sports. When Eagleson retired in 1991, he was replaced by Detroit lawyer and player agent Bob Goodenow, who pursued an aggressive agenda. One year later the union struck over salaries and marketing rights for players’ images on merchandise. John Ziegler, the first NHL American president (1977–1992), was fired by owners dissatisfied with his negotiations. He was replaced by NHL executive Gil Stein, who gave way in 1994 to an NBA vice president Gary Bettman, appointed commissioner to promote expansion and greater network television coverage, and fight the union.41

The NHLPA successfully fought management in the 1990s. When the collective bargaining agreement ended in 2003, Bettman and the owners were ready for change, especially since salaries averaged $1.5 million. The owners locked out the players, blaming them for the league’s financial woes. The dispute ended with the owners introducing a salary cap and pulling back on rising wages. The average NHL salary is currently $2.62 million.42

Commissioner Bettman promoted nationalism to enhance the NHL’s profile. The league joined the Olympic Movement in 1998, and four years later Canada won its first hockey gold medal since 1952. He also pushed through expansion, adding six teams between 1993 and 2000, mainly in southern cities. Fiscal problems led to four relocations in the mid-1990s, and currently twenty-three of thirty franchises are in the United States. Bettman actively promoted network contracts, starting with a five-year, $155 million deal with Fox, and then in 1998 a five-year, $600 million agreement with ABC and ESPN. The current contract signed with Comcast in 2011 was for ten years, and worth almost $2 billion. NHL team values lag behind other sports, averaging $505 million, led by the Rangers at $1.2 billion.43

Professional Basketball and the Rise of the National Basketball League

Basketball was invented in 1891 (first game on December 21, 1891) by Dr. James Naismith at the YMCA College in Springfield, Massachusetts, to be a physically challenging indoor winter team sport. By 1898 the six-team National League of Professional Basketball was formed in metropolitan Philadelphia, and it lasted six years. At least six other eastern pro leagues soon emerged. Players earned about $5 per game, scores were very low, and play was so physical that some owners installed steel metal cages around the courts.44

The early dominant pro team was the Buffalo Germans, winners of the 1904 championship at the St. Louis Olympics, who toured for twenty-two years. The team disbanded in 1926 while playing as the Buffalo Bisons of the American Basketball League (ABL), founded one year earlier by NFL president Joe Carr. The ABL was the first widely located professional basketball league, comprising independent eastern and Midwestern teams. In 1926, the Brooklyn Original Celtics, the nation’s top touring team, joined the ABL and captured the championship. Several top touring teams never joined, notably the SPHAs (South Philadelphia Hebrew Association) and the New York Rens, barred because its players were black. The ABL was very unstable, with nineteen teams in five seasons, and broke up in 1931. A new, heavily Jewish and exclusively eastern ABL began in 1934 and lasted until 1952–1953.45

In 1937 the thirteen-team National Basketball League (NBL) was established, like the early NFL, by small businessmen, local boosters, and industrial firms in small and midsized Midwestern cities who played in high school and other small arenas. Players were mostly college graduates who worked for corporate sponsors. Independent and league teams participated in the World Professional Tournament (1939–1948) sponsored by the Chicago Herald-American. In 1939, the New York Rens defeated the Oshkosh All Stars (34-25) to win the first championship, followed one year later by the Harlem Globetrotters, another black team.46

The pro game took a big step forward in 1946, when promoters who controlled the largest privately owned eastern and Midwestern sports arenas organized the eleven-team Basketball Association of America to fill open dates. The BAA, modeled after MLB, pretty much killed off the ABL, but the NBL survived with its more civic-minded owners, rabid fans, and excellent ex-collegians like center George Mikan, a future Basketball Hall of Famer. The BAA dropped down to eight teams in 1947–1948, cut back its schedule, and created a unique territorial draft that gave franchises first shot at local graduating collegians. Prior to opening day in 1948–1949, four NBL franchises joined the BAA, including the outstanding Minneapolis Lakers.47

The National Basketball League

The NBL ceased operations before the 1949–1950 season, and six of its teams joined the BAA, which renamed itself the National Basketball Association. The NBA’s seventeen teams ranged from metropolises such as New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago to smaller cities like Anderson, Indiana, and Waterloo, Iowa. The league was very unstable, and six teams, mainly from smaller cities, dropped out. Gate receipts went exclusively to home teams, which was good for big cities, not good for small towns. By 1957 Syracuse was the only small city in the NBA. The Syracuse Nationals moved to Philadelphia in 1963, replacing the Warriors, who had moved to San Francisco one year earlier, joining the Lakers in California, who had moved from Minneapolis to Los Angeles in 1960. The NBA had become truly national.48

The early NBA game did not draw as well as top college games and often relied on doubleheaders that featured the Harlem Globetrotters to attract fans. The 1951 NCAA betting scandals severely wounded the college game, and fans began giving more attention to the pros. However, many fans were turned off by the slow pace of games because teams frequently used slow-down tactics against stronger foes. The Minneapolis Lakers, led by 6’10” George Mikan, dominated play, with five championships between 1949 and 1954. The league also began to get more publicity through national television coverage on the Dumont network, and later on NBC.49

Major rule changes in 1954 tried to make the game more fan friendly by increasing scoring. The twenty-four-second shot clock was introduced to prevent teams from stalling, and new penalties were created to curtail excessive fouling by penalizing the fouling team after the seventh violation with a foul shot, plus a second if they made the first, or three chances to make two if fouled.50

The NBA integrated in 1950, starting with Earl Lloyd of the Syracuse Nationals, Chuck Cooper of the Celtics, and Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton of the Knicks. By the late 1950s, there were several superstar black players, including defensive stalwart Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics, Elgin Baylor of the Minneapolis Lakers, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors in 1959, and Oscar Robertson in 1960 with the Cincinnati Royals. In 1958, African Americans composed 13 percent of NBA players, rising to 49 percent of team rosters in 1975 as well as two-thirds of starting players, and three-fourths of the All-Stars. The Celtics led by Russell and Coach Red Auerbach were the dominant team, with ten NBA titles, a record unmatched in professional team sports between 1957 and 1969.51

The quality of play and the athleticism of players increased during these years, relying on a large pool of outstanding former collegians. There were so many talented players and so much fan interest that in 1961 Abe Saperstein, owner of the Globetrotters, set up a rival eight-team league, the American Basketball League (ABL), with franchises as far west as Hawaii. It only lasted two years.52

The American Basketball Association (ABA), organized in 1967 by advertising executives, was a far stronger rival. The owners believed that interest in the game extended beyond the NBA’s ten cities, and their eleven-team league had many attractive young players like Julius “Dr. J” Erving, George McGinnis, David Thompson, and Connie Hawkins; employed the three-point shot; and used a red, white, and blue ball.53

The rise of the ABA provided an opportunity for the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) to fight the NBA’s paternalism. Founded in 1954, the NBPA had accomplished little, and its first successful action came in 1964 when players at the All-Star Game refused to participate unless the owners agreed to concrete concessions. The outcome was a pension plan in 1965. Two years later, the union secured raises when it threatened to strike the playoffs. By 1970 they had won a minimum salary, medical insurance, severance pay, first-class air travel, and accommodations at five-star hotels. Average salaries jumped from $18,000 in 1965 to $110,000 in 1975.54

The NBA and ABA agreed to merge in 1970, an action the union fought, arguing that the consolidation would create a monopoly, and it secured a court injunction preventing the merger. The case was settled in February 1976, opening up player movement and including a financial settlement, and enabling Indiana, New York, San Antonio, and Denver to join the NBA. The other teams were disbanded, and their players were divided up among the remaining twenty-two teams.55

In 1978, the NBA signed a four-year, $74 million contract with CBS. By then the league then was more than 75 percent black, and some owners worried that their white fan base would be alienated by the black predominance. However, the NBA became more popular than ever, propelled by the rivalry between Larry Bird’s Celtics and “Magic” Johnson’s Lakers, who between them won eight of the nine NBA championships between 1980 and 1988.

The era of prosperity can be attributed in large measure to Commissioner David Stern (1984–2014) who took over when seventeen of twenty-three teams were losing money. He pushed for greater television coverage and convinced the Players Association to accept a salary cap and owners to accept a revenue-sharing system to maintain relative parity among teams. Stern instituted marketing campaigns that emphasized stars, particularly charismatic Michael Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles between 1991 and 1998. Stern signed television contracts with NBC in 1990 and ABC in 2002, supported importing overseas stars, and led another era of expansion to thirty teams. NBA revenue rose 500 percent during his tenure. The value of franchises rose from $114 million in 1994 to $1.1 billion in 2015, led by the Lakers at $2.6 billion. The average NBA player made $4.58 million.56

The most successful women’s team pro sport is basketball. The first league was the eight-team the Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978–1981). The Women’s National Basketball Association started play in 1997 with teams all affiliated with local NBA teams. There are currently twelve teams. The games have been televised on ESPN since the league began. The current contract pays each team $1 million annually and runs to 2022. Total team salaries are currently capped at $900,000.

Soccer in the United States

The success of the four major professional team sports, supported by enthusiastic fans, powerful economic interests, and extensive television coverage, has been difficult to replicate in soccer. The North American Soccer League (1966–1984) failed, but Major League Soccer, founded in 1996, is currently profitable, playing in soccer specific stadiums, with twenty teams whose average value is $153 million. Most players are Americans, and the average salary is $282,499.57

Discussion of the Literature

Anyone interested in the scholarly study of sport history should begin by reviewing the literature in Steven Riess’s A Companion to American Sport History (2014), which includes chapters on baseball, football, basketball, race, ethnicity, social class, business, media, stadiums, and biographies.58

Twenty years ago, Stephen Hardy urged historians to examine the special nature of the industry of sport and study the game form, the role of entrepreneurs in developing their product, and the types of organizations they created, namely teams that played in cartelized associations. Students of the different team sports like Benjamin Rader, Michael Oriard, and J. Andrew Ross all focus on the process of professionalization, the role of franchise owners, and explaining how leagues bureaucratized, created playing rules, and set up championship seasons. They are also concerned about recruitment of athletes and the development of quality teams, player–management relations, and the evolution of playing areas. Finally, they are concerned with components of profitability, franchise relocations, league expansion, and local and federal government relations.59

Historical scholarship on professional sports teams began with Harold and Dorothy Seymour’s Baseball: The Early Years (1960), which became a model for other historians. They focused on the rise of the National League in 1876, which tried to run baseball on a money-making basis by keeping salaries low through the reserve clause, operating at modest wooden ballparks, and relying heavily on gate admissions and concessions. Then in Baseball: The Golden Age (1971), they examined the baseball boom of the 20th century, when it totally dominated the national sporting scene with the rise of the American League, the expansion of the minor leagues, and the construction of modern fire-resistant ballpark, which produced substantial profits.60

The Seymours’ work influenced many scholars, including Peter Levine, whose Albert Spalding and the Promise of American Sport (1985) outlined the business operations of MLB’s first highly profitable franchise, and Steven Riess, whose Touching Base (1980, rev. ed. 1999) and City Games (1989) emphasized the role of urbanization in the rise of professional team sports as the site of competition and as the process of urban development in the advancement of sports. He especially stressed the connections between team sports and local politics.

Player–management relations have focused on reserve clauses that limited the negotiation opportunities of players and on unions that fought for players’ rights, starting with the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players in 1885. Historians argue that early unions failed because of the dominant power of management and the conservatism of professional athletes who did not have a strong sense of shared class consciousness with their peers. Much of the recent scholarship examines how player unions, beginning with the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) in the mid-1960s under Marvin Miller successfully challenged management, improved working conditions, gained pensions and arbitration, and ended of the reserve clause by the mid-1970s. The MLBPA become the most powerful labor organization in the United States, yet MLB remains exempt from anti-trust law. Oriard shows how the NFL Players Union used the court system, traditionally highly pro ownership, to level the playing field between management and labor.61

Michael Oriard has intensely analyzed how the NFL in the 1970s became the nation’s most popular spectator sport and thereafter maintained that status. Oriard attributes the considerable success to the generally astute decisions and actions taken by a series of NFL commissioners and owners to protect and enhance their bottom line, especially through television. NFL television revenues are so huge today that box-office receipts are currently of secondary importance. Scholars like Oriard, James R. Walker, and Robert V. Bellamy Jr. focus a great deal on the profitability of over-the-air and cable television to other pro team sports. A new area of study on profits is the internet’s impact with through social media and the streaming of sporting events. For instance, MLB Advanced Media, launched in 2000, anticipates $1 billion in revenue in 2016.62

Historians are, like sports fans, intrigued by the process of creating great teams, which require recruitment of top athletes. Baseball and hockey had farm systems, and football and basketball had the player draft, and now all employ the signing of expensive free agents. Historians write biographies of prominent players on and off the field. They study their impact on team achievement, how they influenced the way the sport was played, and their heroism. Biographies of icons like Babe Ruth by Marshall Smelser and “Red” Grange by John M. Carroll go beyond their performance on the field to examine their cultural significance, while activist Curt Flood’s biographer Brad Snyder emphasizes his contribution to players’ rights. Scholars also examine the antiheroic Black Sox of 1919, and the impact of performance-enhancing drugs.63

Historians have studied the changing character of franchise owners who were originally middle-class entrepreneurs. Once pro sports became more prestigious and highly profitable, owners were increasingly very wealthy men. Scholars also study the preeminent managers and coaches like Vince Lombardi to understand their values and styles of leadership, and the important role and impact of league executives like Pete Rozelle and Judge Kenesaw M. Landis.64

Historians have given considerable attention to racism in professional sport, focusing primarily on African Americans. Michael Lomax has examined the black baseball business, examining the leadership role of African American entrepreneurs in addressing the entertainment needs of growing black communities, and Neil Lanctot demonstrates the profitability of black baseball in the late 1930s and early 1940. Jules Tygiel’s classic study of the process of major-league integration of baseball explains the role of journalists and civil-rights activists, the impact of World War II, and the presence of star Negro Leaguers in that development. He focuses on the action of independently minded Dodger president Branch Rickey in breaking the color line, and the courage of Jackie Robinson in combating prejudice. Tygiel also demonstrates the slow process by which MLB teams integrated even after the great success of early black pioneers. Historians Adrian Burgos and Samuel Regalado have written movingly about Latino ballplayers who encountered bigotry in a foreign land, exacerbated for many who carried the double burden as black and Latino.65 Virtually no attention has been given to women professional team athletes, whose leagues have barely made a dent in the American sports world.

Primary Sources

A good place to start studying the history of professional team sports are published collections of primary sources, beginning with four edited volumes of the series Sports in America: A Documentary History, including George B. Kirsch’s Sports in War, Revival and Expansion 1860–1880; Gerald R. Gems’s Sports Organized, 1880–1900; Steven A. Riess’s Sports in the Progressive Era, 1900–1920; and Douglas O. Baldwin’s Sports in the Depression, 1930–1940. A superb collection of documents on baseball can be found in Dean A. Sullivan’s four-volume A Documentary History of Baseball. For documents in black sport history, see David K. Wiggins, and Patrick B. Miller, eds., The Unlevel Playing Field: A Documentary History of the African American Experience in Sport.66

There are a number of major archives that specialize in pro team sports. The most outstanding is the Giamatti Research Center of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, New York, which has three million documents, including periodicals, scrapbooks, and manuscript collections, as well as over 250,000 photographic images and over 16,000 hours of recorded media. Professional football serviced by the Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, which includes files of individual players and teams, and over 100 scrapbooks. Anyone interested in professional basketball should visit the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA, and for hockey, the best archive is the D.K. (Doc) Seaman Hockey Resource Centre in the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence, in Toronto, Canada, home of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s artifact and archival collections.

Major libraries often have valuable manuscript collections on professional sports. For example, the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, has the papers of Jackie Robinson, Dodgers president Branch Rickey, and Arthur Mann, former sportswriter and Dodgers executive. The New York Public Library has the historic A. G. Spalding Baseball Collection. The Chicago History Museum has the unpublished testimony of White Sox outfielder star Joe Jackson before the grand jury in its investigation of the Black Sox Scandal.

Digitized internet sources can be invaluable for scholars of major professional team sports. is a definitive source of data on the statistical accomplishments of major league players, including advanced sabermetrics, and salary data. There is a lot of information on current and former major league and minor league teams. Similar sources exist for pro football, hockey and basketball. Websites maintained by individuals include considerable and valuable primary data, such as Doug Pappas, longtime SABR Business of Baseball committee chairman, who collected data on the baseball business.

The specialized periodicals Baseball Magazine (1908–1920) and Sporting Life (1885–1917) are available from the Los Angeles 84 Sports Library and Digital Collection. Additional access to baseball resources is available online to members of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), including the 1915 Federal League Baseball case files, Spalding Baseball Guides 1889–1939; and The Baseball Index, a database with over 240,000 records of books, articles, and other items. Members also have access to the Sporting News (1883–). Researchers also can avail themselves of digitized newspapers available at various local libraries whose members may access them over the internet. Many of the papers come from Proquest, which can be employed directly from the publisher. Finally, the Library of Congress has made available Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers (1836–1922).

Further Reading

  • Bellamy, Robert V., and James R. Walker. Center Field Shot: A History of Baseball on Television. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008.
  • Burk, Robert F. Much More Than a Game: Players, Owners and American Baseball Since 1921. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
  • Coenen, Craig R. From Sandlots to the Super Bowl: The National Football League, 1920–1967. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2005.
  • Creapeau, Richard. NFL Football: A History of America’s New National Pastime. Urbana: University of Illinois, 2014.
  • Danielson, Michael N. Home Team: Professional Sports and the American Metropolis. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.
  • Davies, Richard O. Sports in American Life: A History. West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
  • Fetter, Henry. Taking on the Yankees. Winning and Losing in the Business of Baseball, 1903–2003. New York: W. W. Norton, 2003.
  • Levine, Peter. Albert Spalding and the Promise of American Sport. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
  • MacCambridge, Michael. America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Prof Football Captured a Nation. New York: Random House, 2004.
  • Miller, James. The Baseball Business: Pursuing Pennants and Profits in Baltimore. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
  • Nathan, Daniel A. Saying It’s So: A Cultural History of the Black Sox Scandal. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003.
  • Oriard, Michael. Brand NFL: Making and Selling America’s Favorite Sport. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
  • Peterson, Robert W. Cages in to Jump Shots:Pro Basketball’s Early Years. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
  • Rader, Benjamin G. Baseball: A History of America’s Game. 3d ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008.
  • Rader, Benjamin G. American Sports: From the Age of Folk Games to the Age of Televised Sports. 6th ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2009.
  • Riess, Steven A. City Games: The Evolution of American Urban Society and the Rise of Sport. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989.
  • Riess, Steven A. Touching Base: Professional Baseball and American Culture in the Progressive Era. Rev. ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999.
  • Riess, Steven A. A Companion to American Sport History. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.
  • Ross, J. Andrew. Joining the Clubs: The Business of the National Hockey League to 1945. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2015.
  • Schiavone, Michael. Sports and Labor in the United States. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2015.
  • Seymour, Harold, and Dorothy Seymour. Baseball. 3 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1960–1989.
  • Surdam, David G. The Rise of the National Basketball Association. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012.
  • Surdam, David G. Run to Glory and Profits: The Economic Rise of the NFL during the 1950s. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013.
  • Surdam, David G. The Big Leagues Go to Washington: Congress and Sports Anti-trust. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015.
  • Tygiel, Jules. Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.
  • White, G. Edward. Creating the National Pastime: Baseball Transforms Itself, 1903–1953. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998.


  • 1. Marshall Wright, The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857–1870 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland 2000); and Harold Seymour, Baseball: The Early Years (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960), 47–58.

  • 2. Seymour, Baseball: The Early Years, 59, 60, 75–80; and William J. Ryczek, Blackguards and Red Stockings: A History of Baseball’s National Association (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999).

  • 3. Seymour, Baseball: The Early Years, 47–58; and Peter Levine, Albert Spalding and the Promise of American Sport (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985).

  • 4. Seymour, Baseball: The Early Years, 148–171, 221–224, 231–249.

  • 5. Harold Seymour, Baseball: The Golden Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 2–255; and Steven A. Riess, Touching Base: Professional Baseball and American Culture in the Progressive Era, rev. ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999), 99–133.

  • 6. Daniel R. Levitt, The Battle that Forged Modern Baseball: The Federal League Challenge and Its Legacy (Lanham, MD: Ivan R. Dee, 2012); and Harold Seymour, Baseball: The People’s Game, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 268–269.

  • 7. Daniel A. Nathan, Saying It’s So: A Cultural History of the Black Sox Scandal (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003); Seymour, Baseball: The Golden Years; Charles Fountain, The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016); and Marshall Smelser, The Life that Ruth Built: A Biography (New York: Quadrangle/New York Times Book, 1975).

  • 8. David G. Surdam, Wins, Losses, and Empty Seats: How Baseball Outlasted the Great Depression (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011); and Benjamin Rader, Baseball: A History of America’s Game (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 151–152.

  • 9. William A. White, who passed as white, played in a game for Providence of the AA in 1879; Peter Morris and Stefan Fatsis, “Baseball’s Secret Pioneer: William Edward White, the First Black Player in Major-League History, Lived His Life as a White Man,” February 4, 2014,. On black baseball, see Michael E. Lomax, Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1860–1901: Operating by Any Means Necessary (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2003); Lomax, Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1902–1931: The Negro National and Eastern Colored Leagues (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2014); and Neil Lanctot, Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004).

  • 10. Jules Tygiel, Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983);2015 Major League Baseball Racial and Gender Report Card”; “NFL Census: Data on Players’ Race, Weight and Height,” September 23, 2014; “2015 National Basketball Association Racial Gender and Report Card”; and David Sommerstein, “As First Black American NHL Player, Enforcer Was Defenseless Against Racism,” February 6, 2015.

  • 11. Rader, Baseball, 190; “1950 Minor Leagues Encyclopedia.”

  • 12. Steven A. Riess, City Games: The Evolution of American Urban Society and the Rise of Sport (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989), 234–237.

  • 13. Rader, Baseball, 198–202. See also the individual team histories in Steven A. Riess, ed., The Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball Teams, 2 vols. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006).

  • 14. Robert Trumpbour, The New Cathedrals: Politics and Media in the History of Stadium Construction (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2007); Michael Oriard, Brand NFL: Making and Selling America’s Favorite Sport (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 149–162; and Michael K. Bohne, “Cookie-Cutter Stadiums,”

  • 15. Philip Lowry, Green Cathedrals (New York: Walker, 2005). For a survey of data on ballpark history, see Munsey and Suppress, “Ballparks.”

  • 16. Rader, Baseball, 192, 194–196, 219; James R. Walker and Robert V. Bellamy Jr., Center Field Shot: A History of Baseball on Television (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008); and John Ourand and Eric Fisher, “Fox, Turner To Renew MLB Packages; MLB Net Could Get LDS Games,” September 19, 2012, Street and Smith’s Sport Business Daily.

  • 17. Michael Schiavone, Sports and Labor in the United States (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2015), 9–50. The average American earned about $2,786 in 1950, or around one-fourth a major league ballplayer. See Pat Sullivan, “No End in Sight as Athletes’ Salaries Skyrocket,” Chicago Tribune, January 1, 2000, 3; David Brown, “MLB Players Average Salary Tops Record $4 Million—But There’s a Catch,” March 31, 2015. Cork Gaines, “The NBA Is the Highest-Paying Sports League in the World,” Business Insider, May 20, 2015.

  • 18. Steven A. Riess, “New York Yankees,” in Riess, ed., Encyclopedia of Major League Baseball Teams, 730, 744; Scott Lindholm, “Major League Attendance Trends Past, Present, and Future,” February 10, 2014, 2013. Kurt Badenhausen, Michael Ozanian, Christina Settimi, “MLB Worth $36B as Team Values Hit Record $1.2B Average,” Forbes, March 25, 2015.

  • 19. John M. Carroll, “Football, Professional,” in Sports in America: From Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century (Armonk, NY: York: M.E. Sharpe, 2011), 361–362; Marc S. Maltby, The Origins and Development of Professional Football, 1890–1920 (New York: Routledge, 1997); and Steve Holroy, “The First Professional Soccer League in the United States: The American League of Professional Football (1894).”

  • 20. Bob Braunwart and Bob Carroll, “The Ohio League,” Coffin Corner 3.7 (1981).

  • 21. “Franchise Encyclopedias,” Crepeau, NFL Football, 6–8, 20–23.

  • 22. John M. Carroll, Red Grange and the Rise of Pro Football (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999); and Crepeau, NFL Football, 9–17.

  • 23. Charles K. Ross, Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League (New York: New York University Press, 1999), 12–47; and Craig R. Coenen, From Sandlots to the Super Bowl: The National Football League, 1920–1967 (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2005), 91–92.

  • 24. Coenen, From Sandlots to the Super Bowl, 69–75, 80–90; and David G. Surdam, Run to Glory and Profits: The Economic Rise of the NFL During the 1950s (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 282–290.

  • 25. David G. Surdam, Run to Glory and Profits: The Economic Rise of the NFL during the 1950s (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013, 1–38; Richard Crepeau, NFL Football: A History of America’s New National Pastime (Urbana: University of Illinois, 2014), 32–43; and Thomas G. Smith, Showdown: JFK and the Integration of the Washington Redskins (Boston: Beacon Press, 2011).

  • 26. In Black and White: A Racial Breakdown of the NFL.” Accessed 30 March 2016.

  • 27. Crepeau, NFL Football, 48–50; Oriard, Brand NFL, 2–14; Jerry Izenberg, Rozelle: A Biography (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014); and Surdam, Run to Profit, 225–254.

  • 28. Crepeau, NFL Football, 58–68.

  • 29. Ibid., 67–71, 128–129, 141; and David G. Surdam, The Big Leagues Go to Washington: Congress and Sports Antitrust, 1951–1989 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press), 88–93, 211–222.

  • 30. Crepeau, NFL Football, 135–148; and Schiavone, Sports and Labor in the United States, 54–66.

  • 31. Oriard, Brand NFL, 109–113, 127–136, 141–149, 252–254; Schiavone, Sports and Labor in the United States, 66–88; Crepeau, NFL Football, 148–152; and Gaines, “The NBA Is the Highest-Paying Sports League in the World.”

  • 32. Crepeau, NFL Football, 156–157, 187–188; Oriard, Brand Football, 162–174; and “Forbes Announces Eighteenth Annual NFL Team Valuations,” Forbes September 15, 2015.

  • 33. Jason M. Breslow, “NFL Acknowledges a Link Between Football, CTE,” FRONTLINE, March 15, 2016. Alan Schwarz, Walt Bogdanich, and Jacqueline Williams, “N.F.L.’s Flawed Concussion Research and Ties to Tobacco Industry,” New York Times, March 24, 2016.

  • 34. Daniel Mason, “The International Hockey League and the Professionalization of Ice Hockey, 1904–1907,” Journal of Sport History 25 (Spring 1998): 1–17.

  • 35. Ross, Joining the Clubs, 39–88.

  • 36. Ibid., 89–156; and John Chi-Kit Wong, Lords of the Rinks: The Emergence of the National Hockey League, 1875–1936 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005).

  • 37. John Chi-Kit Wong and Morris Mott, “Ice Hockey,” in Riess, Sports in America, 470–471.

  • 38. Steve Rushin, “39 Gary Davidson.”

  • 39. Wong and Mott, “Ice Hockey,” 472; Ed Miller, “The WHA: A Look Back Forty Years Later,” May 7, 2013; and “Majority of NHL Players This Season,” October 24, 2015; “List of Black NHL Players.”

  • 40. Wong and Mott, “Ice Hockey,” 471–472.

  • 41. Daniel S. Mason, “National Hockey League Players’ Association,” in Riess, Sports in America, 652–653; and Wong and Mott, “Ice Hockey,” 472–473.

  • 42. Mason, “National Hockey League Players’ Association,” 653–654; and “Welcome to Elite 35 Sports Institute.”

  • 43. Wong and Mott, “Ice Hockey,” 473–474; and “Forbes Releases Seventeenth Annual List of NHL Team Valuations,” Forbes, November 24, 2015.

  • 44. Robert Peterson, Cages to Jump Shots: Pro Basketball’s Early Years (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 32–34.

  • 45. Ibid., 56–61, 69–79, 84–101, 175; Peter Levine, Ellis Island to Ebbets Field: Sport and the American Jewish Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 65–70; and Murry R. Nelson, “Basketball, Professional, Pre-NBA,” in Riess, Sports in America, 148–150; and Murry R. Nelson, The Originals: The New York Celtics Invent Modern Basketball (Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999).

  • 46. Murry R. Nelson, The National Basketball League: A History, 1935–1949 (Jefferson: NC, McFarland, 2009); John Schleppi, Chicago’s Showcase of Basketball: The World Tournament of Professional Basketball and the College All-Star Game (Haworth, NJ: St. Johann Press, 2008); Peterson, Cages to Jump Shots, 95–107, 124–141; Ben Green, Spinning the Globe: The Rise, Fall, and Return to Greatness of the Harlem Globetrotters (New York: Amistad, 2006); and David G. Surdam, The Rise of the National Basketball Association (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012), 21.

  • 47. Peterson, Cages to Jump Shots, 150–163; and Surdam, Rise of the National Basketball Association, 20–57.

  • 48. Surdam, Rise of the National Basketball Association, 57–132; and Peterson, Cages to Jump Shots, 163–181.

  • 49. Surdam, Rise of the National Basketball Association, 75, 82, 89, 104–108, 126–132, 134. The NBA had its own betting scandal surrounding Detroit Pistons’ rookie Jack Molinas. Ibid., 80–81.

  • 50. Ibid., 118–126.

  • 51. Ibid., 81–85; and Earl Lloyd and Sean Kirst, Moonfixer:The Basketball Journey of Earl Lloyd (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2010).

  • 52. Murry R. Nelson, Abe Saperstein and the American Basketball League, 1960–1963: The Upstarts Who Shot for Three and Lost to the NBA (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013).

  • 53. Goudsouzian, “Basketball, Professional, NBA Era,” 155.

  • 54. Schiavone, Sports and Labor in the United States, 90–95; and Surdam, Rise of the National Basketball Association, 140–144.

  • 55. Schiavone, Sports and Labor in the United States, 95–124; and Aram Goudsouzian, “Basketball, Professional, NBA Era,” in Riess, Sports in America, 155–156.

  • 56. Goudsouzian, “Basketball, Professional, NBA Era,” 156–157; Kurt Badenhausen, “Lakers Top 2015 List of NBA's Most Valuable Teams; Average Franchise Is Now Worth Record $1.1 Billion,” Forbes, January 21, 2015,” Forbes, November 24, 2015. Forbes Releases Seventeenth Annual NBA Team Valuations,” Forbes, January 21, 2015. Gaines, “The NBA is the Highest-Paying Sports League in the World;” Joe Dorrish, “Average Salaries in the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL for 2015.”

  • 57. Chris Smith, “Major League Soccer's Most Valuable Teams 2015,” Forbes, August 19, 2015; and Bobby McMahon, “MLS Is to Salary Cap What Donald Trump Is to Humility,” Forbes, July 20, 2015.

  • 58. Steven A. Riess, ed., A Companion to American Sport History (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2014).

  • 59. Stephen Hardy, “Entrepreneurs, Organizations, and the Sport Marketplace: Subjects in Search of Historians,” Journal of Sport History 13 (Spring 1986): 16; Rader, Baseball; and Oriard, Brand NFL; Ross, Joining the Clubs.

  • 60. See also David Q. Voigt, American Baseball: From Gentleman’s Sport to the Commissioner System (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966).

  • 61. Schiavone, Sports and Labor in the United States, esp. 73–76, on the labor dispute between the NFL and the NFLPA. See also Robert F. Burk, Never Just a Game: Players, Owners, and American Baseball to 1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994), and Robert F. Burk, Much More than a Game: Players, Owners, and American Baseball Since 1921 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Oriard, Brand NFL, 135–136, 141–142; and Robert F. Burk, Marvin Miller, Baseball Revolutionary (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015). On the internet and MLB, see Maury Brown, “The Biggest Media Company You've Never Heard Of,” Forbes, July 7, 2014.

  • 62. Oriard, Brand NFL; and Walker and Bellamy, Center Field Shot.

  • 63. Smelser, Life that Ruth Built; Carroll, Red Grange; Brad Snyder, A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood's Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports (New York: Plume, 2006); Daniel Nathan, Saying It's So: A Cultural History of the Black Sox Scandal (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005); and Nathan M. Corzine, Team Chemistry: The History of Drugs and Alcohol in Major League Baseball (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016).

  • 64. Oriard, Brand NFL; David Maraniss, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999); and David Pietrusza, Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis(South Bend, IN: Diamond Communications, 1998).

  • 65. Michael Lomax, Black Baseball Entrepreneurs: 1860–1901 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2003); Black Baseball Entrepreneurs, 1902–1931 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2014); Neil Lanctot, Negro League Baseball: The Rise and Ruin of a Black Institution (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008); Tygiel, Baseball’s Great Experiment; Adrian Burgos, Jr., Playing America’s Game(s): Baseball, Latinos, and the Color Line (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007); and Samuel Regalado, Viva Baseball: Latin Major Leaguer and Their Special Hunger, 2d ed. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007).

  • 66. George B. Kirsch, ed., Sports in War, Revival and Expansion 1860–1880 (Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press, 1995); Gerald R. Gems, ed., Sports Organized, 1880–1900 (Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press, 1996); Steven A. Riess, ed., Sports in the Progressive Era, 1900–1920 (Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press, 1998); Douglas Baldwin, ed., Sports in the Depression, 1930–1940 (Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press, 2000); Dean A. Sullivan, ed., A Documentary History of Baseball, 4 vols. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995–2010); and David K. Wiggins, and Patrick B. Miller, eds., The Unlevel Playing Field: A Documentary History of the African American Experience in Sport (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003).