You’re 24 years old. It’s the bottom of the eighth, down 1-0, you and Clemens. ‘Visualize,’ you tell yourself, ‘visualize.’ You need this, because the fear still keeps you up at night. What if some young kid coming up takes away your at-bats, then your position, then your father’s approval? It’s the reason you watch endless hours of tape, keying in on every pitcher’s tendencies. That’s why you know a fastball is coming — inside. You can still see the threads spinning. In your darkest hours, this is what you cling to, like a child sucking a pacifier. Head down. Hips turn. Boom. Rounding the bases, your feet never touch the ground.
The early years of the NL were tumultuous, with threats from rival leagues and a rebellion by players against the hated "reserve clause", which restricted the free movement of players between clubs. Competitor leagues formed regularly and also disbanded regularly. The most successful was the American Association (1882–1891), sometimes called the "beer and whiskey league" for its tolerance of the sale of alcoholic beverages to spectators. For several years, the NL and American Association champions met in a postseason championship series—the first attempt at a World Series . The two leagues merged in 1892 as a single 12-team NL, but the NL dropped four teams after the 1899 season. This led to the formation of the American League in 1901 under AL president Ban Johnson , and the resulting bidding war for players led to widespread contract-breaking and legal disputes.