Ryczek: Competition, war, and scandal: Baseball in the 1910s

From SABR member Bill Ryczek at The National Pastime Museum on December 29, 2016:

In the 1880s, the prosperity of the National League had encouraged competition, and the success of the American and National Leagues during the first decade of the twentieth century likewise drew the interest of men who thought they could create a third major league. After a couple of abortive attempts—the Columbian League in 1912 and the United States League a year later—the Federal League came to life in 1913 and attempted to achieve Major League status.

The 1913 Federal League season was not particularly successful, with limited attendance and missed payrolls, but some of the league’s owners had money, egos, and grandiose plans. They set out to poach players from the NL and AL, announcing their intention to respect contracts but to ignore the reserve clause. If they wanted to sign current Major Leaguers, they had no choice, for the reserve clause bound players to their teams for life.

The new league offered high salaries, and it usually signed the players to three-year contracts. NL and AL teams were forced to increase their salary offers, and the main beneficiary of the new competition were the players, who saw their income increase significantly. Many were paid 50 percent more than they’d been earning, and some doubled their salaries. Players jumped, reneged, and sometimes became the subject of bitter lawsuits over their services. Ban Johnson, who’d been in the same position 14 years earlier, became one of the most adamant foes of the Feds.

Read the full article here: http://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/competition-war-and-scandal

Originally published: December 29, 2016. Last Updated: December 29, 2016.