Tourtellotte: Measuring the Federal League against the other majors

From SABR member Shane Tourtellotte at The Hardball Times on April 27, 2017:

It’s been a little more than a century since the National and American Leagues have faced an active challenge on domestic soil by another baseball league. There was the Mexican League in 1946, flashing big money to tempt players to cross the border, an unsustainable attempt that soon crumbled. In the late 1950s came the proposed Continental League, headlined by Branch Rickey, that was undercut by expansion before it could play a game. The most recent serious challenger, though, was the Federal League of 1914-1915.

The Federals, of course, didn’t last. Its owners threw in the towel after two seasons, and a lingering lawsuit against the other leagues ended with MLB getting its famed antitrust exemption. All else it left behind was the question of whether it was a bona fide major league.

The MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia in 1969 listed it as one, a decision thought at the time to be as authoritative as that seminal work. Skepticism would arise, though, in defiance of that reputation. The major status granted by that tome to the Union Association of 1884 was judged a gross mistake. Some saw its decision on the Federal League as another.

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Originally published: April 27, 2017. Last Updated: April 27, 2017.