From SABR member Jason Turbow at The National Pastime Museum on July 31, 2017:
In 1889, the National League, entering its 14th year of existence and looking for a better return on its owners’ investments, enacted a salary structure that capped player salaries at $2,500 per season. Even though such a move had been talked about for some six years, the extreme reaction owners received surprised them.
Players’ initial response was to call a strike, but in an era with scant job security and a workforce that was not qualified to do much else, the idea gained little traction. At that point, John Montgomery Ward, star shortstop for the New York Giants, came up with an alternative. Rather than sitting idly while refusing to play for the big boys, he’d give players a way to stay employed while actively spurning the existing power structure. He did this by forming an altogether new league.
Ward had long been involved with a group of players called the Brotherhood, which first organized in 1885 to improve relations with management and assist players through difficult financial straits. Because most National League players belonged, the organization provided an obvious base for Ward’s call to arms.
Originally published: August 3, 2017. Last Updated: August 3, 2017.