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Federal League

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Template:Infobox Sports league The Federal League was the last major attempt to establish an independent major professional baseball league in the United States in direct competition with the established National and American Leagues in 1914 and 1915. Although there were a few attempts after this (notably the Mexican League in 1946–1947 and the proposed Continental League), none were as direct and serious as the Federal League.

Major League status was retroactively applied to the Federal League in 1968.

HistoryEdit

The league started as an independent minor league in 1912 as the Columbia League, but changed its name to the Federal League at the start of the 1913 season, playing as what would now be known as an "independent" minor league, but was at that time thought of as an "outlaw" minor league. John T. Powers was president of the six-team league, but was replaced early in the season by James A. Gilmore, under whose leadership the league declared itself a major league for the 1914 season. Other financers of the League included oil baron Harry F. Sinclair, ice magnate Phil Ball, and George S. Ward of the Ward Baking Company.[1]

As a major circuit, the Federal League consisted of 8 teams each season. Four of the teams were placed in established Big League cities (Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Brooklyn). The other four teams were placed in more marginal areas (Baltimore, Buffalo, Indianapolis and Kansas City). In the first year, 1914, some of the teams had official nicknames and some did not, but either way, sportswriters were inclined to invent their own nicknames: "ChiFeds", "BrookFeds", etc. By the second season, most of the teams had "official" nicknames, although many writers still called many of the teams "-Feds".

In order for the Federal League to succeed, it needed Big League players. Walter Johnson signed a three year contract with the Chicago team, but the Senators' Clark Griffith went personally to Johnson's home in Kansas and made a successful counter-offer.[2] Major League players that jumped to the Federal League included Bill McKechnie, Claude Hendrix, Jack Quinn, Russell Ford, Tom Seaton, Doc Crandall, Al Bridwell, Hy Myers and Hal Chase. The Federal League also recruited Big League names to manage the new teams. Joe Tinker managed the Chicago team, Mordecai Brown managed the St. Louis team and Bill Bradley managed the Brooklyn team.

The league had close pennant races both years. In 1914, Indianapolis beat out Chicago by 1½ games. 1915 witnessed the tightest pennant race in Major League history, as five teams fought into the final week of the season. The eventual winner (Chicago) finished 0 (zero) games and .001 percentage point ahead of second place, and a half-game and .004 in front of the third place finisher.

During the 1914-15 offseason, Federal League owners brought an antitrust lawsuit against the American and National Leagues. The lawsuit ended up in the court of Federal Judge (and future Commissioner of Baseball) Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who allowed the case to languish while he urged both sides to negotiate. Swift action might have made a difference, but without the lawsuit going forward, the Federals found themselves in deepening financial straits.

After the 1915 season the owners of the American and National Leagues bought out half of the owners (Pittsburgh, Newark, Buffalo, and Brooklyn) of the Federal League teams. Two Federal League owners were allowed to buy struggling franchises in the established leagues: Phil Ball, owner of the St. Louis Terriers, was allowed to buy the St. Louis Browns of the AL, and Charles Weeghman, owner of the Chicago Whales, bought the Chicago Cubs. Both owners merged their teams into the established ones. The Kansas City franchise had been declared bankrupt and taken over by the league office after the close of the regular season, and the Baltimore owners rejected the offer made to them. They had sought to buy and move an existing franchise to their city, but were rebuffed, and sued unsuccessfully.

LegacyEdit

Template:Unreferenced section One of baseball's most famous ballparks was originally built for a Federal League team: Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs, began its long life as Weeghman Park, the home of the Chicago Whales. Marc Okkonen, in his book on the Federal League, referred to Wrigley as a "silent monument" to the failed Federal League experiment. Otherwise, few visible remnants were left by the short-lived nature of the Federal League. The Baltimore entry sold their facility to the Baltimore Orioles of the International League, who renamed it Oriole Park and played there for nearly 30 years before it was destroyed by fire in 1944, a seemingly disastrous event that would actually begin the path toward Baltimore's return to the major leagues 10 years afterward. The Newark ballpark was also used for minor league ball for a short time. The other Federal League ballparks were demolished quickly.

The other "silent monument" to the Federal League is a famous legal decision. In 1922, the Supreme Court ruled in Federal Baseball Club v. National League (brought by the Terrapins, one of the teams which had not been bought out), that Major League Baseball and its constituent leagues were primarily entertainment, not conventional interstate commerce, and thus were exempt from the Sherman Antitrust Act. This exemption remains intact over 80 years later, although it has been eroded somewhat by subsequent court rulings and legislation regarding specific issues.

Of the locations of teams in the Federal League, five currently have MLB teams. Those are Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Brooklyn has a New York-Penn League team, known as the Brooklyn Cyclones. (The major league Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, although the New York Mets have been located in the adjacent borough of Queens since 1964.) Buffalo has an International League team, known as the Buffalo Bisons. Indianapolis also has an International League team, known as the Indianapolis Indians. Newark has a team, the Bears, in the independent Atlantic League.

There is at least one achievement of note that happened in Federal League play. Eddie Plank, pitching for the St. Louis Terriers, won his milestone 300th game on September 14, 1915 at St. Louis' Handlan's Park, becoming the first 300-game winning left-hander in the history of major league baseball and one of only five as of 2008. However, that milestone was not acknowledged by Major League Baseball until 1968.

Baseball Hall of FamersEdit

Players in the Baseball Hall of Fame who played in the Federal League:

  • Chief Bender — Baltimore Terrapins (1915)
  • Mordecai Brown — St. Louis Terriers, Brooklyn Tip-Tops (1914); Chicago Whales (1915)
  • Bill McKechnie — Indianapolis Hoosiers (1914); Newark Peppers (1915)
  • Eddie Plank — St. Louis Terriers (1915)
  • Edd Roush — Indianapolis Hoosiers (1914); Newark Peppers (1915)
  • Joe Tinker — Chicago Whales (1914–1915)

Federal League ChampionsEdit

Federal League TeamsEdit

ReferencesEdit

  • Okkonen, Marc (1989). The Federal League of 1914-1915: Baseball's Third Major League. Garrett Park, Md: Society For American Baseball Research.
  • Pietrusza, David (1991). The Formation, Sometimes Absorption and Mostly Inevitable Demise of 18 Professional Baseball Organizations, 1871 to Present. Jefferson (NC): McFarland & Company.
  1. Suehsdorf, A. D. (1978). The Great American Baseball Scrapbook, p. 54. Random House. ISBN 0-394-50253-1.
  2. Suehsdorf, A. D. (1978). The Great American Baseball Scrapbook, p. 56. Random House. ISBN 0-394-50253-1.

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