Saturday, September 12, 2009

An Organization Of Their Own

Eighteen professional and co-operative clubs have already been announced for the Centennial year, as follows: Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Mutual, New York, Hartford, Boston, Athletic, Philadelphia, Americus, New Haven, Atlantic, St. Louis Reds, Buffalo, Cleveland, Burlington, Washington. Of these it is safe to presume that the majority will not live to see the end of the season, and as it will be impossible for all of them to compete for the championship, the Chicago Tribune sensibly suggests the following remedy:

When the professional association meets it should adopt the following principles to govern the championship contests:

1. No club should be allowed to enter for the championship unless it be backed by a responsible association, financially capable of finishing a season when begun.

This, if adopted, would cut off the Atlantic Club and other co-operative frauds.

2. No club should be admitted from a city of less size than 100,000 inhabitants-excepting only Hartford.

This would cut off the New Havens and other clubs in places so small that, under the most favorable circumstances, a first-class club could never expect to get its expenses paid for going to them.

3. No two clubs should be admitted from the same city.

The evil effects of having more than one club in a city have been shown in Philadelphia this year. First, the Centennials went under, and then the Philadelphias and Athletics divided the interest, so that both of them have ended the season at a loss, poorer than poverty, and owing their players. One club can live in Philadelphia, but two must starve-not only themselves, but visiting clubs. This is shown in the statement of White Stocking receipts. And it is well known that the Athletic Club owes $6,000 as its showing for the year, while the Philadelphias are not much better off-or would not be, but for some peculiar practices.

4. The faith of the management of a club should be shown by the deposit of $1,000, or perhaps $1,500, in the hands of the association before the season begins. The sum not to be played for, but returned to each club which carries out its agreements and plays its return games. If it refuses to play all the games that it agrees to, let the sum be forfeited.

The adoption of these restrictions would limit the contestants next year to Chicago, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Louisville in the West, Athletic, New York, and Mutual in the Middle States, and Hartford and Boston in the East; and with such an association the games would be prosperous, and the people who attended championship games would have a guarantee that they were to see the best clubs and the best games possible.

It may be doubted whether the Professional Association will be willing to vote the restrictions proposed, and, if they do not, it will be the plain duty of the nine clubs named to withdraw from the association as it now stands, and form an organization of their own-a close corporation, too. Every club which has a backing should discuss this matter before the meeting of the Professional Association and so instruct their representative that he will feel at liberty to take such action as may be for the best interests of the game.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 31, 1875

Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't William Hulbert write the piece in the Trib that William Spink is quoting here? Or at the very least, he passed the ideas along to the Tribune who acted as his spokesman in the matter. Either way this is the outline for the new National League that the Brown Stockings would join for the inaugural 1876 season.

One thing of interest here, in light of the Globe's later editorial policy, is that Spink describes Hulbert's plan as sensible and implies that he supports it. It didn't take long for Spink to change his tune and attack the plan as monopolistic. It will be interesting to see when exactly Spink begins to sour on the League. I would imagine it happens at the exact moment that the Reds realize that they aren't part of the Grand Scheme.


David Ball said...

I doubt anybody really knows who wrote the piece. Lewis Meacham, the Tribune baseball writer, has been credited with writing and occasionally gets credited as well with coming up with the idea for the NL, but the ideas are certainly Hulbert's.

Hulbert's chief associates in the founding of the new organization were the management of the St. Louis club, so it is rather interesting but not very surprising to see the article republished so soon in the St. Louis press. But the business about forbidding two teams in a city, although it is discussed in terms of Philadelphia -- might it not be aimed just as well at the Red Stockings in St. Louis?

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I would think that the Brown Stockings were very interested in securing control of the St. Louis market and getting rid of the Reds as competition. It doesn't seem that they were any too pleased with McNeary's decision to join the NA in early 1875 and the relationship between the two clubs were not particularly warm. Considering that McNeary had taken part in the organization of the Brown Stockings in the early stages, the entry of his club into the NA was probably viewed as a betrayal. And I'm sure that McNeary saw the Brown Stockings' decision to play on Grand Avenue rather than at the Compton Avenue grounds in the same light.

This interestingly goes to Brunson's idea about a baseball elite pressing its own agenda at the expense of other, "lesser" clubs. The Reds soldiered own for another season but they were essentially forced out of the St. Louis professional baseball market by Brown Stocking management working with the management of the biggest clubs in the country. William Spink and (I think) Lewis Burtis had a valid point that these practices were collusionary and monopolistic.