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Jim Furtado
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Editor - Baseball Primer


Federal League Newsbeat

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 4-24-2014

The lesser-known subplot of Wrigley Field’s first game, in the Toledo News-Bee, April 24, 1914:

Court Officers Yank Pitcher Johnson, Late of Reds, From Chicago Federal League Game

Chief Johnson, Indian twirler who jumped from the Cincinnati Reds to the Kansas City Federals, expressed confidence on Friday that the court order restraining him from playing with the Packers will be dismissed…
Papers were served on Johnson after he had pitched two innings at the Chifed opener. At the same time President Madison of the Kansas City club was enjoined from tampering with Cincinnati players now at the Cub park.

Not really terribly well done by the KC Feds, allowing someone to get close enough to Johnson during a game to serve him a court order.

Anyway, Johnson was in legal limbo for months and didn’t play again until July 25, when he threw a complete game for the Packers. When the Federal League died after the 1915 season, so did the Chief’s major league career.

Shouldn’t really be much of a surprise that a decent but unspectacular pitcher who fought organized baseball in court didn’t have much of a career afterwards.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 4-23-2014

[Keokuk, Iowa] Daily Gate City, April 23, 1914:

Chilly atmosphere that threatened to cut the bleacher attendance, was dished up today for the opening of the new Chicago Federal park, when the Kansas City Packers meet [sic] the Chifeds. Despite interference by the weather man, Owner Weeghman predicted a crowd of 20,000, the reserve seat section having been sold out three weeks ago. Corporation Counsel Sexton was to hurl the first ball.

Weeghman Park firsts:
First batter: Chet Chadbourne
First pitch in an actual game: Claude Hendrix
First home run: Art Wilson, solo shot off of Ben Harris
First world championship:

(I’m an Indians fan. I kid because I acutely feel your pain, Cubs fans.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 4-14-2014

100 years ago yesterday, the Federal League held its first game as a “major league”.

Washington Times, April 14, 1914:

That the Federal League is going to make good in Baltimore and awaken those old feverish days of the Hanlon era was distinctly shown when the invaders got down to business yesterday. The opening game of the Feds drew 27,692 fans to the new park, and, to make everybody happy, Baltimore defeated Buffalo 3 to 2.
“Baltimore has done itself proud,” said [Federal League] President James A. Gilmore, “in rallying to the standard to the Federal League. We shall do all in our power to bring league baseball to this city.”

They only lasted two years, but Gilmore wasn’t lying. They really did all in their power to give Baltimore a major league ballclub.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 4-11-2014

Milwaukee Sentinel, April 11, 1914:

The old reserve clause in the contracts of organized baseball players was held to be invalid and unenforceable in a decision handed down on Friday by Federal Judge Clarence W. Sessions denying the application of the Chicago Federal league club for an injunction to restrain Catcher William Killifer [sic] from playing with the Philadelphia National league club.

Contracts of such nature were held by Judge Sessions to be “lacking in the necessary qualities of definiteness, certainty and mutuality.”
Judge Sessions denied the application because he said the plaintiff knew Killifer was under a moral, if not legal, obligation to play with the Philadelphia club when it induced him to repudiate his obligation by offering him a longer term of employment and much larger compensation.

IANAL, but it appears that Sessions ruled that the reserve clause that tied Killifer the Phillies was invalid, but should be enforced anyway because the Federal League was a bunch of jerks.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 3-27-2014

Pittsburgh Press, March 27, 1914:

“Who stabbed King Cole in the leg?” That question is destroying brain cells among the New York Yankees today. Just before arriving in Atlanta, Ga., from Mobile, Cole jumped from his berth roaring “I’ve been stabed,” and several stitches were required to close the wound in his shin.

The King knows absolutely nothing, he says, of how he came to be wounded. Some hint darkly that a Federal league agent, disguised as a porter, committed the dastardly crime while the lengthy Leonard sweetly snoozed. Others ascribed it to sleep walking or “as a good way to escape work.” Manager Chance is investigating.

Sure, yeah.

The Federal League, upset that it had missed out on the services of a guy who pitched in Columbus last year, hatched a plan to sneak a proto-Gillooly onto the Yankees’ train and stab Cole in the shin before silently and invisibly extracting the thug in a clean getaway. Seems totally reasonable.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 3-25-2014

Pittsburgh Press, March 25, 1914:

Brooklyn Federal league players are to have a share in the profits of the club, President Robert Ward announced today.
The plan is unique in baseball annals, and seems to indicate that the Brooklyn Federals have a wealth of financial backing. Ward probably figures that by sharing profits with the players he will get better and more earnest work from the athletes, and will have less difficulty in holding the players now on his payroll.

Either that or it indicates that Ward knew he wasn’t going to make any money. Potayto, potahto.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 3-3-2014

Washington Herald, March 3, 1914:

The baseball war soon will be over and the Federals will be in organized baseball, is the rumor being circulated…
The plan that will end the war, according to the rumor, is this:

The Federals will abandon their plans for an eight-club league this year, and will drop Chicago and St. Louis, making it a six-club organization for 1914. Charles Weeghman, owner of the Chicago Federal team, will be allowed to purchase the Chicago Cub franchise and Otto Stifel, the St. Louis Federal League owner will be allowed to purchase the St. Louis Cardinal franchise.
Next season, however, according to the rumor, the Federals will be an eight-club proposition and will have teams in the following cities: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Washington, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Brooklyn, and probably Buffalo, or some other city not yet decided upon.

Well, Weeghman did buy the Cubs as part of a plan to end the war, but it was two seasons later and the Federal League ceased to exist.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 2-26-2014

The race to sign Big Six is heating up.

Milwaukee Sentinel, February 26, 1914:

Christy Mathewson, the Giant star pitcher, who has been offered the berth of manager of the Federal league Brooklyn club left [Los Angeles] on Wednesday for Marlin Springs, Tex., the spring training camp of the New York Giants.

He carried with him his unsigned contract to play with the Giants and while reiterating his intention to seriously consider the Federal offer, declared he was confident of coming to terms with the New York national league team.

Federal League president James Gilmore:

“We have not offered Mathewson any stipulated amount…Our telegram sent to him early on Tuesday morning read: “Would you consider a proposition to manage the non-Sunday playing Brooklyn Federal league at your terms?”...We are willing to pay Mathewson more money than he probably considers possible.

Giants secretary John Foster:

Mathewson has been sent a blank contract to fill in and the New York club is willing to sign him for life.

According to one account, the Feds offered Mathewson $65,000 for three years, which (in 1914) was a ludicrously huge offer. Ty Cobb, in his prime, made $11,333 the year before.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-21-2014

Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 21, 1914:

Remember seeing in the papers some few days ago that George Cowan was to join the Feds? Well, here’s the way the story got breezed about: George suffered the misfortune to lose his father-in-law, and while napping after an all-night vigil, was awakened by an energetic young man, who wanted to ask him whether he was not going to “jump” the the Feds. “Sure,” said George, anxious to get in a few more winks before being up for the day.
As a matter of fact, Cowan is peacefully working on the Evening Star, of Newark, N.J., as a linotype operator, and is well satisfied with his job…

At least Cowan had at one point been a professional baseball player. He was a career .211 hitter in the Class C Virginia League, and by 1914 had been out of baseball for three years.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-20-2014

New York Sun, January 20, 1914:

Organized baseball has made still another attempt to wreck the Federal League. It was aimed directly at the Chicago team. A strip of land sixteen feet wide and 100 feet long was needed in connection with the lease for the ball park at Addison and Clark streets. Representatives of organized baseball offered the owners $25,000 in cash for the strip, but the majors failed to come through in time with their option to block the Federals.

Man, if that had happened, we wouldn’t have been subjected to the Clark the Cub.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 1-8-2014

Pittsburgh Press, January 8, 1914:

It was rumored [in Cincinnati] today that Major league magnates have quietly combined to make Federal league backers figuratively shoot themselves to death with their own money.
It is said the case of Otto Knabe is the first demonstration of the new scheme.

“Go ahead and grab that $20,000 three-year contract,” President Baker of the Phillies is said to have told Otto. “We can’t give you that. Bind them to it, because with such enormous payrolls they will probably blow in a few months at the most. Your old job will be waiting for you—unless we get a new one in your place.”

I’d say something snarky about Knabe being a 30-year-old second baseman who hadn’t posted an OPS+ above 90 since 1907, so of course they’d want him to leave, but Otto was kind of a big deal. He got downballot support in Chalmers Award voting in 1911, 1912, and 1913. That’s not a guy that a MLB team in the pre-Sabermetric world would have been looking to chase away.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 11-22-2013

Pittsburgh Gazette Times, November 22, 1913:

Formation of a fourth big league to aid in a reported fight of organized baseball against the Federal League and its invasion of protected territory is underway, according to a story printed [in Chicago].

The new circuit has the backing of organized ball, says the story, and is to have teams in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Chicago.

George Tebeau of the Kansas City Association club is named as the one who has planned the new circuit.

Four teams in Chicago, three each in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. What could possibly go wrong? (Obviously this didn’t happen.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 11-11-2013

Pittsburgh Gazette Times, November 11, 1913:

President Ban Johnson and the entire American League are enthusiastic over the selection of Gov. John K. Tener of Pennsylvania to succeed Thomas J. Lynch as president of the National League.
Meanwhile the Federal League has decided to make a definite proposition to Mr. Lynch to accept the presidency of that circuit.

It takes some stones for an upstart outlaw league to try to bring the departing NL president on board. It didn’t work out, though, and they ended up hiring ChiFeds owner James Gilmore to be league president.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 11-5-2013

Pittsburgh Gazette Times, November 5, 1913:

The Federal League has come out openly with the declaration that it will disregard the reserve clause and will sign players whose contracts have expired regardless of whether they are on the reserve list of clubs in the National and American leagues.
Such a move would promptly result in competitive bidding for players…The team of today would be a different aggregation tomorrow. Contracts would be binding for one, two or three years, or as high as money will permit them to run. High-priced stars would benefit of course. Salaries would mount to the prohibitive point. Clubs would not make money. Investments would fail. This changing of identities on the part of clubs and leagues would destroy public sentiment and interest in the game.

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 11-4-2013

Pittsburgh Press, November 4, 1913:

From Cleveland comes a rumor that the American league men will discuss a proposition from the American association to place clubs in Cleveland and Pittsburg [sic] for the purpose of killing off the Federals in those cities. It is understood that the American association men are anxious to use Forbes Field in the Smoky City and the Naps’ park in Cleveland, with the consent of Owners Dreyfuss and Somers, respectively. But if such a plan should be permitted, the American association would have to increase its circuit to 10 clubs, an arrangement both unwieldy and unprofitable.

So…Cleveland owner Charles Somers is involved in a plan to have an American Association team play in Cleveland, but they don’t want to expand the AA. Charles Somers just happens to own a team in the AA. Toledo fans, you may want to look away. This is going to suck for a while.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 11-1-2013

Milwaukee Journal, November 1, 1913:

Four cities, Baltimore, Buffalo, Philadelphia and Milwaukee will ask for places in the circuit of the federal baseball league when the directors of the organization open their two days’ session [in Indianapolis] this morning. Baltimore…practically is assured of being one of the two towns to be taken into the league.

Which of the other three towns will secure the eighth place in the circuit was an open question and only could be decided by a vote of the directors, it was said. Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and Indianapolis each will retain its franchise.

Well, not Cleveland. That franchise ended up in Brooklyn and the two new teams were in Baltimore and Buffalo.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Primer Dugout (and link of the day) 10-28-2013

Pittsburgh Gazette-Times, October 28, 1913:

BALTIMORE, MD., Oct. 27.—A company was incorporated here today to organize a baseball club to represent this city in the Federal League. A franchise has been acquired and an option secured on grounds near those of the International League club. The enterprise has the backing of a number of prominent Baltimore business men.

They got a baseball club, the rest of us got an inexplicable Supreme Court ruling.



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