Is there a team out there still in existence (that paid its players as professionals) before the Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869?

(I suppose there was nothing happening professionally earlier in South America, so the title really should be in “The Americas” - no?)

Note: the original Cincinnati Red Stockings of 1869 were professional, but were “barn stormers”, traveling around as a kind of traveling circus, selling tickets and playing locals. They were 57-0. That team eventually became the MLB Cincinnati Reds, however, four of the team's players moved to Boston and started a team called the Boston Red Stockings, who changed their name to the Beaneaters, then to the Braves. Then moved to Milwaukee in 1953, and then Atlanta in 1966. So the MLB Atlanta Braves also have a kind of secondary claim, since I think one of those four players was the manager of the 1869 team mentioned above – so I'm not sure who “retained rights” of that well documented first (?) professional team. (Or is there an earlier professional team in another sport?)

Online articles talk about such things within baseball, but I'm asking this about all of sports.

When I was growing up everyone said the Chicago Cubs were the oldest, but I'm just finding all this out now about these other teams.

Maybe someone can reference an article that sorts all this out, and ultimately can definitively answer the question as worded.

3 Answers 3


Although this may put the definition of "professional" in question, there exists a North American club team that's existence does date before the Cincinnati Red Stockings.

Some lesser known history, there exists a sport in North America that has been around for many centuries. That sport is lacrosse.

Believed to have originally been played by the Native American Iroquois people, historians have traced the general sport of lacrosse back to the 1100's.1 The game was predominately played by those Native American people in what would become the North-Eastern United States, and lower parts of Ontario and Quebec. Explorers and missionaries have recorded details about the game as early as 1637.2

As time wore on, the people of Canada grew fond of the game and began to play it themselves. According to the "Canadian Encyclopedia":

"In the 1830s, visiting anglophones from Montréal noticed the games and learned to play from their Mohawk neighbours, adopting the French term lacrosse for their new pastime"

They enjoyed it so much that a few decades later in 1856, enthusiasts banded together and formed Canada's first ever lacrosse club the "Montreal Lacrosse Club." 3

Now, it was around this time that the Prince of Wales traveled to Canada and grasped the merit of holding sporting exchanges between Britain and Canada. As a result, tours began developing in Britain pitting the Native American Khanawake players from Montreal against white gentleman amateurs from Scotland, Ireland, and England.4 It was then, in 1867, that one of the first ever "professional" sports teams/ clubs was formed. The Montreal Lacrosse club, then led by team captain W.B Johnson, began organizing matches in the British nations primarily as a profit making enterprise. The team was comprised of 16 Khanawake players who were each paid $25 dollars for their play (roughly $1600 dollars today).5

Given OP's qualification of "professional" as " (a team) that paid its players as professionals." These Khanawake players would've fit the category. As for the club still being in existence it is complicated. The club itself is not in operation like the Boston Red Socks are, but it exists in an almost ceremonial way. This article outlines the 150 year anniversary of the Montreal Lacrosse Club's existence. The anniversary was celebrated by an exhibition game between the sports two oldest clubs, one of which being Montreal Lacrosse Club. So yes the club is still in existence, but does not operate as team which is comprised of players who are paid a salary by it.


  1. Liss, Howard (1970). Lacrosse. Funk & Wagnalls. p. 13.

  2. "John De Brbeuf.” Patron Saints Index: John De Brbeuf,

  3. “Montreal Lacrosse Club.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 May, 2017

  4. King, C. Richard. “Lacrosse Exhibition Tours.” Native Americans in Sports, Taylor and Francis, 2015, p. 178.

  5. King, C. Richard. “Lacrosse Exhibition Tours.” Native Americans in Sports, Taylor and Francis, 2015, p. 178.

  • Montreal Lacrosse club seems analogous to OP's qualification of Cincinnati Red Stockings as being professional and yet "barn stormers"; travelling around and such. Sep 20, 2017 at 5:54

The Toronto Argonauts are often toted as North America's oldest professional. The team was founded in 1873 and continued to operate uninterrupted every year since.


  • 1
    The question itself demonstrates that a known professional team existed at least four years prior to this team's founding. NAA and -1.
    – Nij
    Sep 12, 2017 at 1:25

In 2011 the official Major League Baseball historian stated this on an NPR radio show:

“We think of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the unbeaten squad that toured from one coast to the other, and was undefeated in 57 first rate games and a handful of others against scrub teams, we think of them as the first professionals, but professionalism had entered the game certainly by the mid 1860s, and ballplayers we know were being paid by the beginning of the 1860s. The first all-professional team probably dates to about 1866.”

via - http://www.npr.org/2011/03/16/134570236/the-secret-history-of-baseballs-earliest-days

I haven't read his book, but here he seems to be guessing an approximation, explicitly to point out that the 1869 team was NOT the first all-professional baseball team, but he does not (cannot) state what the name of the first professional baseball team was, or even who it might have been.

So, as far as baseball history is concerned - and I'm unable to imagine an early North American sport that has a better chance at providing reasonable providence, nor one that has more dedicated professional historians – it would seem the specific answer to this question is “~officially~” lost to history.

  • Wikipedia says professional hockey dates from the 1900s so no challenge there May 24, 2015 at 17:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.