No. of teams
January 28, 1901
Frank Robinson (honorary)
United States (14 teams) Canada (1 team)
Most recent champion(s)
Cleveland Indians (6th)
The American League of Professional Baseball Clubs, or simply 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").
- Charter franchises
- Expansion renaming and relocation summary
- American League East
- American League Central
- American League West
At the end of every season, the American League champion plays in the World Series against the National League champion; two seasons did not end in playing a World Series. Through 2016, American League teams have won 64 of the 112 World Series played since 1903, with 27 of those coming from the New York Yankees alone. The 2016 American League champions are the Cleveland Indians. 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 (13).
Originally a minor league known as the Western League, the American League later developed into a major league after the American Association disbanded. In its early history, the Western League struggled until 1894, when Ban Johnson became the president of the league. Johnson led the Western League into major league status and soon became the president of the newly renamed American League. 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. The American League has one notable difference versus the National League, in that since 1973 it has 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 any player (usually the pitcher) in the batting order, compared to the old rule that made it mandatory for the pitcher to bat.
The original eight American League teams are: Boston Americans, Chicago White Stockings, Cleveland Bluebirds, Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Philadelphia Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, and Washington Senators.
In 1902, the Milwaukee Brewers moved to St. Louis and were renamed the St. Louis Browns.
In 1902, The Cleveland Bluebirds were also renamed the Cleveland Broncos. In 1903, the Broncos were renamed the Cleveland Naps. In 1915, the Naps were renamed the Cleveland Indians.
In 1903, the Baltimore Orioles moved to New York and were renamed the New York Highlanders. In 1913, the Highlanders were renamed the New York Yankees.
In 1904, the Chicago White Stockings were renamed the Chicago White Sox.
In 1908, the Boston Americans were renamed the Boston Red Sox.
In 1954, the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and were renamed as the Baltimore Orioles.
In 1955, the Philadelphia Athletics moved to Kansas City and were renamed as the Kansas City Athletics, and in 1968 the franchise was moved to Oakland and was renamed as the Oakland Athletics.
In 1961, the league expanded and added two teams as the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators, expanding the league to 10 teams. The original Senators team moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul in 1961 and were renamed as the Minnesota Twins. The Angels' team name changed to the California Angels in 1966, then to the Anaheim Angels in 1997, and finally to its current iteration as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2005.
In 1969, the league reorganized into two divisions (American League East and American League West), as did the National League, and added another round to the playoffs in the form of the American League Championship Series, with the first place team in each division advancing to the playoffs. The Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots were added to the American League, expanding the league to 12 teams.
In 1970, the Seattle Pilots moved to Milwaukee and were renamed the Milwaukee Brewers.
In 1972, the Washington Senators relocated to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and were renamed the Texas Rangers.
In 1977, the league expanded to fourteen teams, when the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays were enfranchised. Granting a team to Toronto marked the AL's expansion to Canada, following the National League's expansion to Montreal, and the Mariners were added in an attempt to settle a pending $90 million lawsuit against the league by the city of Seattle over the quick departure of the Seattle Pilots in 1970.
In 1998, the Tampa Bay Rays was added to the American League and at the same time, the Milwaukee Brewers were switched to the National League, leaving the American League with 14 teams.
In 2013, the Houston Astros switched to the American League after spending 51 seasons in the National League, expanding the league to 15 teams.
Until the late 1970s, league umpires working behind home plate wore large, balloon-style chest protectors worn outside the shirt or coat, while their brethren 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, Lou DiMuro, George Maloney, and Jerry Neudecker, who became the last MLB umpire to use the outside protector in 1985.
In 1994, the league, along with the National League, reorganized again, 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, 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. Following the move of the Houston Astros to the American League in 2013, 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 is used only in games where the American League team is the home team.
There were eight charter teams in 1901, the league's first year as a major league, and the next year the original Milwaukee Brewers moved to St. Louis to become the St. Louis Browns. These franchises constituted the league for 52 seasons, until the Browns moved to Baltimore and took up the name Baltimore Orioles. All eight original franchises remain in the American League, although only four remain in the original cities (Detroit, Chicago, Boston, and Cleveland). The eight original teams and their counterparts in the "Classic Eight" were:
Expansion, renaming, and relocation summary
American League East
American League Central
American League West
(*)See commentary on Western League page. The Indianapolis and Minneapolis teams were replaced by teams in Baltimore and Philadelphia in 1901, but it is unclear and disputed as to which team went where.