At its December 1868 meeting the NABBP permitted professional clubs for the first time. There had been no professional clubs outside the Association and no brand new professional clubs were established for 1869. Rather, the entire first-year effect of the change was that twelve existing members declared professional status. All of them had fielded at least regionally strong teams in 1868 and most if not all had compensated at least some of their players. (Some compensation of players continued in the amateur field.)
The Cincinnati Red Stockings were first to sign an all-salary team, ten men for eight months. From the west, the strongest team in Cleveland also joined the pro field. From the eastern corridor there were ten including all of the one-time champions and claimants.
Cincinnati was unbeatable. Otherwise the record of professional matches (see table) is remarkable for its balance, relative to the records of the stronger teams during the amateur era and to most of the following pro seasons.
|Cincinnati||19||0||"Cincinnati Red Stockings"|
|Union, Lansingburgh||12||8||1||"Troy Haymakers"|
|Mutual, New York||11||15|
|Forest City, Cleveland||1||6|
|Irvington||0||8||in Greater New York|
The Irvingtons did not travel, or win; after July they played only two matches with the Mutuals (four in all). Forest City of Cleveland did not travel far, only to Cincinnati and upstate New York. Those two did not face each other or any of the three teams standing just above them. That imbalance, typical of the time, contributed to the losing records of all five. Weaker teams were weaker gate attractions with less incentive and almost always less ability to travel.
The Irvingtons disbanded and the Keystones returned to amateur ranks but all the others remained in the professional field for 1870. Indeed, all but Cincinnati remained in operation at least to 1872.
The amateur ranks during 1869 probably included some clubs who compensated their players by traditional methods such as division of the gate receipts (as Spalding said of Rockford by the end of the decade). Four of the amateurs would "go pro" in 1870, including the Forest City of Rockford, Illinois, with some success.
The professional field was relatively strong in 1869 and its weaker teams did not play many games. The Forest Citys did not beat any pro teams, but they played only four matches with Cincinnati, losing three by twenty runs and one by merely 14–15 on July 24. (They traveled no further than Detroit and Ohio while eastern pros also traveled no further than Ohio, home of their westernmost rivals. Even so, the Forest Citys of Rockford and Cleveland did not get together.)
The Stars of Brooklyn, led pitcher Candy Cummings, won 2 of 7 matches with pro teams, beating the Mutuals 26–12 on June 19 and the visiting Olympics of Washington 49–11 on July 19. They lost five to the Mutuals and Atlantics by only 28 runs, total margin. Harvard college won 1 of 6 against pros, beating the powerful Athletics of Philadelphia 35–21 on July 9; next day they lost a close one to the much weaker Keystones. Against amateurs Star won fourteen with one defeat; Harvard won thirteen with one draw. Next season they would win six each against the slightly larger pro field.
Lowell of Boston, listed among the major teams by Bill Ryczek, played three fairly close game against the pros, losing 21–26 to the Mutuals, 9–29 to undefeated Red Stockings, and 33–38 to the Eckfords.
Pastime of Baltimore won 2 of 9 against pro teams, including 1 of 4 local matches Maryland and one with the Troy Haymakers. The Olympics, Mutuals, Athletics, and Keystones beat them four teams by only 32 runs, total margin. Resolute of Elizabeth, New Jersey beat Irvington 16–15 and lost twice to the Eckfords.
Their records against pro teams:
These six amateur teams barely faced each other on the field: Lowell lost six to its local rival Harvard and one to Star (July 5, the Fourth being a Sunday that year). Harvard toured for ten days but played only the professional Eckfords in New York City.
Date of birth missing