Academic journal article Base Ball

Split Season: The National League in 1892

Academic journal article Base Ball

Split Season: The National League in 1892

Article excerpt

At the beginning of 1892, Nicholas Young, the mild-mannered and mostly ineffectual president of the newly amalgamated National League and American Association, exuded confidence about the coming baseball season. After two strife-filled years-a three- way war in 1890 between the National League, the American Association, and the rebel Players League and then another war the past season between the National League and the Association-peace had finally come in the form of an agreement in Indianapolis the pre- vious December, whereby the Baltimore, St. Louis, Louisville, and Washington Association franchises merged with the eight National League franchises to form one "big league."1

Young said that while the $130,000 (or $118,000) buyout agreed to with the five Association franchises that were dropped might seem peace "bought dearly," in fact "the price was cheap. We will save nearly that during the next few years in salaries, with unhealthy competition removed, besides the public will pay the money by increased patronage at the games." In an effort to regain something of the interest generated by the "World's Championship Series" between the League and Association winners, played from 1883 to 1890, the owners agreed to a split-season format, with the winner of the first half (or "first season") meeting the second-half winner for the League championship. Albert G. Spalding, retired from the presidency of the League's Chicago franchise but still a potent force in League affairs, shared Nick Young's optimism about baseball's prospects for 1892 and especially the "double championship" arrangement. "The old evil of the tailender," Spalding predicted, "has been done away with by its adoption, and hope need never be dead in any city until almost the end of the season."2

To pay for the buyout, each National League club was to contribute 10 percent of home gate receipts to a League fund. In anticipation of an attendance surge after two lean years, the League owners voted to extend the 1892 schedule from 140 to 154 games. Rosters would be limited to 15 players. While the National League had always forbidden games on Sunday, the Indianapolis peace agreement permitted Sunday ball in those cities-St. Louis, Louisville, and Cincinnati-where the local ownership wanted it. Officially, the League retained the 50-cent base admission it had always charged, although each club had the option to charge 25 cents, the base admission in the Association.

Yet for all the rosy expectations for the season ahead, discontent still roiled the little universe of professional baseball. The Indianapolis agreement stipulated the recognition of all contracts then in force, but with the elimination of five Association franchises, dozens of players found themselves out of work. A few veteran players retired; others found places in one of the 10 lesser or "minor" leagues that started the 1892 season. The more desirable players from the Association who had signed with now-defunct clubs or were unsigned at the time of the Indianapolis agreement were parceled out among the clubs in the newly constructed National League, but in various instances club owners were unhappy at not getting this or that particular player; in other instances, players resisted going where they assigned.

Fred Pfeffer, a 10-year veteran and a Players League stalwart, returned to the Chicago National Leaguers in 1891 but never reconciled with Adrian "Cap" Anson, the domi- neering leader of the "Colts" (as they were now called), who had been a resolute foe of the Players League. Having signed with the stillborn Chicago Association entry, Pfeffer now refused to re-sign with Anson's team, saying he wouldn't play for Anson "under any circumstances" and wanted to be with Louisville, in his hometown.3 A week before the season opened, he got his wish when Chicago traded him to Louisville for a nondescript infielder and cash.

The previous fall, Danny Richardson , a highly regarded infielder, had signed with the Association's Philadelphia club, owned by the Wagner brothers. …

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