Comiskey and the American League Ride into Chicago

From SABR member Brian McKenna at Glimpses Into Baseball History on June 21:

Virtually since its formation in late 1893, Western League executives had an eye on the Chicago market; however, its territorial rights belonged to the National League. Inserting a top minor league franchise in the city would have caused uproar and, in fact, violated the National Agreement, the compromise linking the major and minor leagues of which the Western League was a party. (The WL was a Class-A minor league, the top classification, along with the Atlantic and Eastern Leagues.) 

Chicago, a strategic hub for rail and water traffic, was the largest market outside of the east coast and, hence, the top baseball community as well. Having a “western” circuit without Chicago seems contradictory; especially as will be displayed in the first couple decades of the 20th century, the market was strong enough to support hundreds of clubs – professional, semi-professional and amateur. 

Western League president Ban Johnson, an Ohio native and former Cincinnati sportswriter, actually maintained his league office in Chicago. As the Western League solidified itself and proved its viability through the latter part of the 1890s, Johnson and other officials began to seek a greater piece of the baseball pie. They wanted into the larger markets and perhaps ascension to major league status.

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Originally published: June 30, 2011. Last Updated: June 30, 2011.