Rumblings of Unrest
Dissatisfaction among major leaguers with owner dominance over the players led players to form a union. The Baseball Players' Fraternity, although short-lived, pressured the owners into some concessions. It also provided leverage to the promoters of a new major league, the Federal League (FL), which attracted many Fraternity members into its ranks. The FL was also short-lived, but player anger over the reserve system, particularly as it was used to keep salaries low, remained as strong as ever. This frustration manifested itself in the Black Sox scandal of 1919. The owners never acknowledged their complicity in creating the conditions that inspired the eight guilty players to commit the acts that earned them infamy.
“Baseball Trust” (1912)
SOURCES: Congressional Record Index; Francis Richter, Richters History and Records of Base Ball (Philadelphia: Sporting Life, 1914)
On March u, 1912, Illinois Congressman Thomas Gallagher submitted a resolution
requesting that a committee be formed to investigate the “Baseball Trust” as an “illegal
combination.” The resolution, after being referred to the Committee on Rules, was
shelved. In response to the resolution, however, former Brotherhood president John Ward
drafted a letter supporting what he described as a “beneficent trust” in which the
“players (were) never oppressed.” In the twenty-two years following the demise of the
Brotherhood—which Ward cofounded in 1885 as the first baseball players' union—and
its league, the Players' League, Ward's trust in the ability of owners to administer the
sport increased dramatically, and Ward became the business manager of the Brooklyn
Federal League club in 1914.