|Founded||January 28, 1901Milwaukee, Wisconsinin|
|No. of teams||15|
|Houston Astros (4th)|
|Most titles||New York Yankees (40)|
The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs, known simply as the American League (AL), is one of two leagues that make up Major League Baseball (MLB) in the United States and Canada. It developed from the Western League, a minor league based in the Great Lakes states, which eventually aspired to major league status. It is sometimes called the Junior Circuit because it claimed Major League status for the 1901 season, 25 years after the formation of the National League (the "Senior Circuit").
Since 1903, the American League champion has played in the World Series against the National League champion with only two exceptions: 1904, when the NL champion New York Giants refused to play their AL counterpart, and 1994, when a players' strike resulted in the cancellation of the Series. Through 2022, American League teams have won 67 of the 118 World Series played since 1903, with 27 of those coming from the New York Yankees alone. The New York Yankees have won 40 American League titles, the most in the league's history, followed by the Philadelphia/Kansas City/Oakland Athletics (15) and the Boston Red Sox (14).
For decades, Major League baseball clubs only played teams from their own league during the regular season and playoffs until their pennant winners met in the World Series. This separation gradually caused the leagues to develop slightly different strategies and styles of play. The American League was usually regarded as the less "traditional" league during the 20th century, a reputation most exemplified by the introduction of the designated hitter rule in 1973, which encouraged AL managers to largely abandon "smallball" tactics. However, with the advent of free agency in the 1970s allowing for more player movement between leagues, the introduction of regular season interleague play in 1997, and the NL's adoption of the designated hitter rule in 2022, the difference in play between the two major leagues has diminished considerably.
Though both leagues agreed to be jointly governed by a commissioner in 1920, they remained separate business entities with their own presidents and management. This was the case until after the 1999 season, when the American League legally merged with the National League under the auspices of Major League Baseball, which now operates much like other North American professional sports leagues, albeit with two "leagues" instead of "conferences".
Main article: History of the American League
Originally a minor league known as the Western League, which existed from 1885 to 1899 with teams in mostly Great Lakes states, the league changed its name to the American League for the 1900 season and the next year developed into a second major league as a competitor to the older National League. This was prompted by the NL dropping four teams following the 1899 season after having absorbed its previous rival, the American Association, which disbanded in 1891 after ten seasons.
In its early history of the late 1880s, the minor Western League struggled until 1894, when Ban Johnson became the president of the league. Johnson pushed the league to rise to major league status, after the name change to the American League was decided in a league meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the former Republican Hotel. A historical marker is at the intersection of North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and West Kilbourn Avenue where the hotel once stood.
In March 1904, Johnson moved the league's headquarters from Chicago to New York.
Babe Ruth, noted as one of the most prolific hitters in Major League Baseball history, spent the majority of his career in the American League with the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. From 1973 to 2022 The American League had one notable difference versus the rival National League, as it had the designated hitter rule. Under the rule, a team may use a batter in its lineup who is not in the field defensively, replacing the pitcher (usually, although in years past pitchers such as Babe Ruth and Mickey Lolich would have remained in the game rather than light-hitting infielders) in the batting order, compared to the old rule that made it mandatory for the pitcher to bat. In the last two decades, the season schedule has allowed occasional interleague play. In 1969, the AL (and NL) were divided into East and West divisions, with a postseason playoff series for the pennant and the right to play in the World Series.
Until the late 1970s, league umpires working behind home plate wore large, balloon-style chest protectors worn outside the shirt or coat, while their colleagues in the National League wore chest protectors inside the shirt or coat. In 1977, new umpires (including Steve Palermo) had to wear the inside chest protector, although those on staff wearing the outside protector could continue to do so. Most umpires made the switch to the inside protector, led by Don Denkinger in 1975 and Jim Evans the next year, although several did not, including Bill Haller, Russ Goetz, George Maloney, Bill Kunkel and Jerry Neudecker, who became the last full-time MLB umpire to use the outside protector in 1985.
In 1994, the league, along with the National League, reorganized again, this time into three divisions (East, West, and Central) and added a third round to the playoffs in the form of the American League Division Series, with the best second-place team advancing to the playoffs as a wild-card team, in addition to the three divisional champions. In 1998, the newly franchised Tampa Bay Devil Rays joined the league, and the Arizona Diamondbacks joined the National League: i.e., each league each added a fifteenth team. An odd number of teams per league meant that at least one team in each league would have to be idle on any given day, or alternatively, that odd team out would have had to play an interleague game against its counterpart in the other league. The initial plan was to have three five-team divisions per league with inter-league play year-round—possibly as many as 30 interleague games per team each year.
For various reasons, it soon seemed more practical to have an even number of teams in both leagues. The Milwaukee Brewers agreed to change leagues to become the National League's 16th team, moving from the AL Central to the NL Central. At the same time, the Detroit Tigers were moved from the AL East to the AL Central, making room for the Devil Rays in the East. Even after expansion, the American League then continued with 14 teams. This situation changed again in 2013 when the Houston Astros moved from the National League Central division to the American League West. The Astros had been in the NL for 51 years since beginning as an expansion team in 1962. Since their move, both leagues now consist of 15 teams.
For the first 96 years, American League teams faced their National League counterparts only in exhibition games or in the World Series. Beginning in 1997, interleague games have been played during the regular season and count in the standings. As part of the agreement instituting interleague play, the designated-hitter rule was used only in games where the American League team is the home team, until the 2022 season, when the universal DH rule was implemented. In 2023, American League teams are playing 46 regular season interleague games against all 15 National League teams, 23 at home and 23 on the road.
In 2000, the American League ended its status as a legally independent entity when the American and National Leagues were both merged into the legal entity Major League Baseball (MLB). This left MLB as a single league, divided into two parts, also called leagues. This change in legal status had no effect on play, scheduling, and so forth.
There were eight charter teams in 1901, the league's first year as a major league, and the next year the original Milwaukee Brewers (not be confused with the current Milwaukee Brewers) moved to St. Louis to become the St. Louis Browns, and the year after the New York Highlanders replaced the disbanded original Baltimore Orioles. Those eight franchises constituted the league for 52 seasons until the Browns moved to Baltimore and took up the Orioles name. The eight original teams and their counterparts in the "Classic Eight" were:
Main article: American League East
Main article: American League Central
Main article: American League West
Following the 1999 season, the American and National Leagues were merged with Major League Baseball, and the leagues ceased to exist as business entities. The position of the American League President and National League President became honorary.
|†||Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame|