Baseball has been around for more than a century — the National League was founded in 1876 and the American League was founded in 1900. These two MLB leagues used to have a lot of rule differences, but most of them have been smoothed out since. Take a look at these four things that used to differentiate the two.
The Pitcher Must Be in the Batting Lineup for the National League
Image via Flickr by Landry Heaton
The only real difference between the National and American MLB leagues today is that the National League requires the pitcher to be in the batting lineup. The American League used to have this rule, but they changed it in the 1970s to allow a “designated hitter” to fill in as batter for the pitcher.
When a National Team wants to play an American team, it’s not as big of a deal as it used to be because the only difference is the designated hitter rule. In this situation, the rules typically favor the home team. For instance, if the game is being played at a National League stadium, there is no designated hitter. When you get 2013 MLB All-Star game tickets, you usually see the designated hitter rule.
The National League Is More Pitching Oriented
The simple designated hitter difference leads to major different playing strategies. In American MLB leagues, the goal is to get as many home runs as possible with powerful batters. The National League focuses on a more defensive model with the goal to prevent hits with an amazing pitcher. So, the National League values pitchers more and the American League values power batters more. This isn’t set in stone, just a general trend.
National League Umpires Used to Wear External Chest Protectors
One difference between the leagues that has since been changed is the type of chest protectors worn by the umpires. American League umpires used to wear internal padding while the National League umpires used to wear external padding. This gave them a wider strike zone. Now, umpires from both leagues wear the same gear. Plus, umpires are not assigned to a league anymore — they can be an umpire at any MLB game.
There Used to Be Curfews on the Games in Both Leagues
If an MLB game ran too long in the past, a curfew would be set to suspend or end the game. This time was different between the National League and the American league. Now, specific curfew rules are no longer in affect and time changes are based on circumstances (such as weather). This is now the same for both leagues. In general, players continue to play until there is a winner at the end of an inning, even if the game goes past 2 a.m.
People still think there are a lot of differences between the two leagues, but as you can see, most of those differences have been smoothed out. It will be interesting to see if things continue to stay the way they are or if the rules become identical in the future. As it is now, the National League is a pitcher’s heaven and the American League is a batter’s paradise.