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The first team to play baseball under modern rules were the New York Knickerbockers.The club was founded on September 23, 1845, as a social club for the upper middle classes of New York City, and was strictly amateur until its disbandment.In the majors, however, it was not until Robinson (in the National League) and Larry Doby (in the American League) emergence that baseball would begin to remove its color bar.

Both leagues are considered major leagues by many baseball researchers because of the perceived high caliber of play (for a brief time anyway) and the number of star players featured.

However, some researchers have disputed the major league status of the Union Association. Louis club, which was deliberately "stacked" by the league's president (who owned that club), was the only club that was anywhere close to major league caliber.

Many leagues, including the venerable Eastern League, survived in parallel with the National League.

One, the Western League, founded in 1893, became aggressive.

For several years, the National League and American Association champions met in a postseason championship series—the first attempt at a World Series.

The Union Association survived for only one season (1884), as did the Players League (1890), an attempt to return to the National Association structure of a league controlled by the players themselves.

An unknown number of African-Americans played in the major leagues as Indians, or South or Central Americans.

And a still larger number played in the minor leagues and on amateur teams as well.

The professional National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs, which still exists, was established in 1876 after the National Association proved ineffective.

The emphasis was now on "clubs" rather than "players".

Beginning in 1869, the NABBP permitted professional play, addressing a growing practice that had not been permitted under its rules to that point.

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