Ryczek: William Hulbert and the formation of the National League

From SABR member William Ryczek at The National Pastime Museum on February 21, 2018:

By the latter stages of the 1875 season, the National Association (NA) was teetering. In its fifth year, the league had become horribly unbalanced; the Boston Red Stockings were running away with the pennant and on their way to a 71–8 record, while at the bottom of the standings the Brooklyn Atlantics were staggering to a 2–42 finish. Four teams didn’t survive the season, there were numerous rumors of dishonest play, and in July, the Chicago White Stockings had signed Boston’s four best players for 1876.

The signing was against the rules, and Chicago President William Hulbert knew it. The coal merchant was a parochial Chicagoan who wanted to make his city’s baseball team the best in the United States, and he was counting on the fact that the NA rarely enforced its rules. He’d seen firsthand evidence of that when he’d signed star shortstop Davy Force for the 1875 season, only to lose him to the Athletics after some sly maneuvering by the Philadelphia club at the annual convention. If the Eastern teams, which had controlled the NA, could flaunt the rules to his detriment, he could ignore them to bring glory to the West.

As a businessman, Hulbert was not only angered by the Force case, he was also frustrated at the manner in which the NA operated, which he felt was not conducive to making baseball a paying proposition. The $10 entry fee discouraged no one, and the league was burdened with too many weak franchises; it didn’t pay to invest in the travel expense to visit cities like Keokuk and New Haven. Furthermore, the rumors about dishonest play were causing fans to lose interest in the games.

Read the full article here: https://www.thenationalpastimemuseum.com/article/william-hulbert-and-formation-national-league

Originally published: February 21, 2018. Last Updated: February 21, 2018.