The pennant winners didn't change in 1896 - which wasn't really a surprise given how dominating both the New York Gothams and Chicago Cougars had been in 1895. Both teams did come back to the pack a bit, however, and this was especially true of Chicago which found itself in a bona fide pennant fight with the Philadelphia Sailors. The Sailors gave the Cougars all they could handle throughout September and for a while it looked like they would reclaim the Continental Association crown they had won as recently as 1894. 

Ironically, though the Cougars had the best pitching in baseball the season before, they didn't sit still but mixed it up for 1896. And they did it by working with the New York teams, adding 35-game winner Morris Harris from the Gothams and young Jack Perry from the Stars. Allan Allen was still around - and still great (28-17, 2.56) so Harris (33-17, 3.44) and Perry (27-13, 3.52) represented an embarrassing amount of riches. They still had star shortstop Calvin Kidd (.381-8-109), Michael Fuller (.328-7-120) and Bob Sykes (.297-5-108) to pace the offense, so the Cougars were still a powerhouse.

But the Sailors were also a great team with a pitching staff that actually allowed fewer runs than the Cougars, largely thanks to two absolutely stellar pitchers. The first was the incomparable Charlie Wilson who went 37-12 with a 2.14 ERA and 188 strikeouts to capture a Triple Crown. He also notched his 200th win at the ripe old age of 25, so to say his future looked bright would be an understatement of epic proportions. The other guy, Samuel Goode was a 34-year-old journeyman who had spent the past decade in the Western and Dixie circuits before he was signed by Brooklyn for the 1896 season. He stunk it up there to the tune of 0-7, 5.20 and was released. Needing another arm, the Sailors grabbed him and he did a 180-degree turnaround, going 22-11 with a 2.19 ERA over 34 starts with Philadelphia. With those two, it almost didn't matter that Frank Hill came over from Toronto and was mediocre at best with a 16-20, 4.40 effort - except it did matter because the Sailors lost the pennant by two games. Three hitters topped .340 for the Sailors: CF Walter Harston (.346), C Bill Brady (.343) and SS George Gardner (.341). 

Baltimore's Thomas Watkins repeated as batting champ in the CA with a .393 average, beating out Chicago's Kidd and Cleveland's Jimmy Massey who tied for 2nd with identical .391 averages. Massey & Kidd also tied for the league lead in steals with 70 apiece. Chicago's Fuller had 120 RBIs to lead in that category. Montreal's Harry Goree posted a 2.68 ERA to finish third behind Wilson and Allen.

Over in the Fed, the Gothams won by 17 games over Detroit for their third pennant in four years. Some of the owners were now grumbling about how the Gothams had benefited from the absorption of the Peerless League back in the '92-93 offseason - but the Bigsbys only smiled in response. Regardless, the Gotham juggernaut posted a 95-45 record, ten wins fewer than the year before, but drew even more fans to the Bigsby Oval than they ever had. The Gothams' lineup was the deepest and best in either league - five hitters topped .350 in batting average and four drove in better than 115 runs. As a team they hit .328 (a new record) and scored 1024 runs - they also stole 412 bases (another record). They only thing they didn't do was hit home runs - their 35 ranked 6th in the FA. The pitching was pretty good too - they allowed the fewest runs in the FA and Jerry Paris (28-12, 3.78), Alexander Elliott (33-12, 3.63) and Price Adams (29-17. 3.41) were a solid trio of starters. 

The also-rans were headed up by Detroit, which posted the best record in team history at 78-62, and were 17 games back. Washington was third at 75-65 and had one of the game's best all-around players in Freeman Rogers who collected his 2000th hit in 1896. The Keystones (74-66) were fourth - Zebulon Banks was still going strong at 39, hitting .326 and collecting 184 more hits to push his career total to 3241. He also managed the team and hadn't missed a game since 1889. The Keys also had the league's best hitter - and no, not Fred Roby - but Claude Jones who became the newest member of the .400-club by hitting .408 to claim his 2nd career batting title.

George Dunlap (.397) and Joe Carney (.373) of the Gothams were 2nd & 3rd, respectively in the batting race. Carney's 141 RBIs led the league, with Dunlap (130) second and fellow Gotham John Jones' 125 third. Jones also stole 90 bases, five more than team mate Ossie Julious. 

On the pitching side, Henry Burton of the Keystones took the ERA and strikeout titles with a 2.92 ERA and 176 Ks. His 24-17 record, however, left him out of the running for the Triple Crown with Gotham ace Alex Elliott winning 33, team mate Don Noftall winning 30 and Price Adams of NY winning 29.

The World Championship Series was a good one this time around - the Gothams did win, as most expected, but the Cougars gave them a fight, with the New Yorkers needing a 9-7 win at Bigsby Oval in game seven to claim their crown. Pitching wasn't much on display in the series as both offenses tore it up - George Dunlap hit an even .500 with a 13-for-26 series (that included a HR and 6 RBIs). Allan Allen's 3.97 ERA was the best for any pitcher who made more than 1 start (he was 1-2 in his three games). The Gothams won game one (9-7), game four (6-1), game six (5-4) and game seven while the Cougars won game two (10-2), game three (5-4) and game five (4-2).