In 1875, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, a loosely-governed league of professional and semi-professional baseball teams, was falling apart. William Hulbert, president of the Chicago White Stockings, wanted a league with centralized authority, with teams only in cities large enough to support competitive teams. He recruited the St. Louis National Association team, then recruited four western teams in a January 1876 meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. With this core of support, on February 2, 1876, in a New York City meeting, Hulbert founded the National League with eight charter members.
These members were:
- Chicago White Stockings, Hulbert's own team. This team is now the Chicago Cubs.
- Boston Red Stockings, now the Atlanta Braves. The Red Stockings were one of the dominant teams of the National Association, and the loss of this team and the later loss of the Philadephia White Stockings would lead to the collapse of the National Association.
- Philadelphia Athletics, along with the Mutuals, were expelled from the league in 1876, for refusing to treavel
- New York Mutuals, expelled along with the Athletics.
- Hartford Dark Blues folded after the 1877 season.
- St. Louis Brown Stockings, folded after the 1877 season. This team is unrelated to the later St. Louis Cardinals or the St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles).
- Cincinnati Red Stockings. Unrelated to the previous Cincinnati Red Stockings (who had moved to Boston and also joined the National League at its founding) or the later Cincinnati Reds, this team was expelled from the National League for selling beer at games, which at the time was against league rules.