The 1950s was a remarkable decade for baseball, as the sport began to gain more and more popularity throughout the United States. During this period, several iconic players rose to fame, new teams were formed, and several key changes were made to the rules and regulations of the game. From the emergence of the Brooklyn Dodgers to the introduction of the National League Divisional Series, the 1950s saw a great deal of change in baseball and helped to shape the game as we know it today.
Brooklyn Dodgers Emerge as National Champions
The 1950s saw the emergence of the Brooklyn Dodgers as a national powerhouse. The team had been struggling for years prior to the decade, but was able to turn things around in the 1950s, thanks in large part to their star players Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider, and Roy Campanella. In 1955, the Dodgers won their first World Series Championship since 1941, defeating the New York Yankees in a thrilling seven-game series.
Robinson Becomes First African-American Player in Major League Baseball
In 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player to play in Major League Baseball. Robinson’s presence in the game was incredibly influential, as it opened the door for increased diversity in the sport. Robinson went on to have a successful career with the Dodgers, and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
The Introduction of the National League Divisional Series
In 1954, the National League Divisional Series was introduced, allowing teams in the same division to compete for a spot in the World Series. This format was adopted by the American League in 1969. The introduction of the Divisional Series also meant that teams had to compete in a full 162-game season, rather than the 154-game season that had been used prior to 1954.
New Teams and Leagues Formed
The 1950s saw a surge in the number of teams playing in Major League Baseball. In 1953, the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Baltimore Orioles, while the Philadelphia Athletics relocated to Kansas City in 1955 and became the Kansas City Athletics. In addition, the American League expanded to 10 teams in 1961 with the addition of the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators.
The Expansion of Minor League Baseball
The 1950s also saw the expansion of Minor League Baseball. During this decade, the number of minor league teams more than doubled, and the quality of play in the minors began to improve. In addition, the number of minor league players increased dramatically, and many of these players went on to have successful careers in Major League Baseball.
The Introduction of the Designated Hitter Rule
In 1973, the American League introduced the designated hitter rule, which allowed teams to use a “designated hitter” in place of the pitcher in the batting lineup. This rule was widely unpopular in the National League, and the two leagues did not agree on a universal DH rule until the 2020 season.
The Presence of African-American Players in Major League Baseball
The 1950s saw an increase in the number of African-American players in Major League Baseball. This was largely due to the success of Jackie Robinson, who helped pave the way for increased diversity in the sport. By 1959, there were more than 200 African-American players in the major leagues, and the number continued to grow throughout the decade.
The Development of the Knuckleball
During the 1950s, the knuckleball began to gain popularity as a pitching technique. The knuckleball is a type of pitch that is thrown with minimal spin, making it difficult for batters to predict where the ball will go. The knuckleball was perfected by hall of fame pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm, and it has become a staple of modern baseball.
The Rise of TV Coverage
The 1950s also saw an increase in the amount of television coverage that baseball received. This was largely due to the success of the Brooklyn Dodgers, as well as the introduction of the World Series Game of the Week program in 1953. This program provided fans with the opportunity to watch games from around the country, and it helped to increase the popularity of the sport.
The 1950s was a remarkable decade for baseball, and it helped to shape the game as we know it today. The emergence of the Brooklyn Dodgers, the introduction of the National League Divisional Series, the expansion of Minor League Baseball, and the development of the knuckleball were all key events in the 1950s that changed the face of the sport. In addition, the presence of African-American players in the major leagues and the rise of television coverage helped to further popularize baseball throughout the United States.