Historic Baseball

Historic Baseball

Bringing Baseball History To Center Field

Renegade league battled with AL, NL for fans  

A Threat to MLBThe Federal League baseball field that was the home of the Chicago team seated 18,000. For more on the Federal League, try these links:1914: Indianapolis wins close race1915: Chicago wins by .001%

When James A. Gilmore became president of the Federal League in 1913, he had the vision of challenging the AL and NL as a third major baseball league. He sold his idea to other industrialists who were convinced they could make easy profits in baseball and have free advertising outlets for their products.

Prior to the 1914 season, Glimore proclaimed the Federal League to be the third major league in baseball. The Federal League teams waved a great deal of money at players in the National and American Leagues. Major Leaguer Joe Tinker became the first to sign, joining the Chicago Whales as a player and manager. Others would soon follow, including Three Finger Brown, Solly Hoffman, Danny Murphy, Howie Camnitz and Al Bridwell.  Younger players also saw an opportunity with the new league, including Mikey Doolan, Doc Crandall, Russ Ford and Claude Hadix.

NL and AL officials worried about what they saw happening and upped the contracts of stars like Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Walter Johnson to keep them from jumping to the new league. Joe Jackson was reportedly offered $25,000, more than four times what he was making with Cleveland, to join the league. He turned it down.

The Washington Senators got help from an unlikely source to keep Walter Johnson. Charlie Comiskey, owner of the White Sox, gave the team $10,000 to help the Senators keep Johnson from signing with the Federal League’s Chicago Whales.

The League Opens in 1914

The 1914 Federal League season opened with eight teams — Brooklyn, Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Kansas City, Buffalo and Indianapolis. New parks had been constructed in all eight cities. The Chicago Whales opened the season in the park that would eventually be known as Wrigley Field.

Federal League attendance was comparable to that of the established AL and NL. However, all three leagues suffered from having too many teams in the same markets. The Federal League also had a boost in attendance from a pennant race where all teams had been contenders at some point during the season. 

The Indianapolis Hoosiers won the 1914 championship, beating out Chicago by 1.5 games.   Franke LaPorte, second baseman for the Hoosiers, hit .311 and drove in 107 runs. Outfielder Benny Kauff led the league with a .370 average and stole 72 bases. Pitcher Cy Falkenberg led the team with a 24-16 record.

In the off-season, the FL continued to wave lots of money at AL and NL players. Eddie Plank and Chief Bender, star pitchers with the Athletics’ 1914 pennant winner, made the jump to the FL.

Off the field, the FL filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the AL and NL. The case, heard in federal court in Chicago, was presided over by Judge Kennesaw Landis, the man who would eventually become the commissioner of baseball. 

1915 Opens for Federal League

When the season opened, the champion Hoosiers were no longer in Indianapolis. For economic reasons, the franchise had been relocated to Newark, N.J.  The team also sold one of its stars, Kauff, to the Baltimore franchise. He would lead the league in batting for a second year.

A three-way battle for the pennant developed among Chicago, St. Louis and Pittsburgh. Chicago won the championship by a .001 margin in winning percentage over St. Louis. Pittsburgh finished third, just .004 percent by the winner. Chicago’s win also saw the resurgence of two older major league stars. Three Finger Brown, 38, pitched to a 17-8 record and a 2.10 earned run average. George McConnell, 37, led the team with a 25-10 record and 2.20 ERA.

Losing in Court

In the courtroom, Landis urged the Federal League to come to a peaceful settlement with the National and American Leagues. With the threat of the U.S. entering World War I and mounting financial losses tugging at the league, the Federal League was forced to sue. As part of the settlement, Charles Weegham, owner of the Chicago Whales, was allowed to purchase the Chicago Cubs and Phil Ball, owner of the Federal League’s St. Louis team, was allowed to purchase the Browns.

The players who had been part of the Federal League were to be sold to the highest bidder in the National and American Leagues. Players not signed would be the responsibility of their Federal League owners. The New York Giants paid a record $35,000 for Kauff. 

However, some former NL and AL stars were not welcomed back into MLB because of their involvement in an “outlaw league.” Among those were Joe Tinker, Three Finger Brown, George Mullin and Al Bridwell.

Lasting Impact

One of the Federal League’s most lasting effects on baseball, however, would come in the aftermath of the settlement. The owners of the Baltimore franchise were unhappy that they hadn’t been taken care of in the settlement and filed another anti-trust lawsuit against organized baseball. Oliver Wendell Holmes ruled in the case that “baseball is exempt from antitrust regulations due to its peculiar nature.”

1914 Federal League

   The Federal League opened its history on April 13, 1914 at Terrapin Park when Baltimore pitcher Jack Quinn earned a 4-2 victory over Buffalo. More than 28,000 were in attendance.    The league had been able to lure players away from the National and American Leagues. George Stovall of the St. Louis Browns was the first player to switch allegiances. Joe Tinker would join him.   Legendary pitcher Walter Johnson signed a contract with the Federal League, but later changed his mind. Washington Senators owner Clark Griffith gave him a large raise and a bonus. The money came from other American League owners who were afraid that Johnson would become a Federal League member.   Weeghman Park opened on April 23, 1914. This park would later become known as Wrigley Field. The Chicago Whales christened the park with a 9-1 victory over the Kansas City Packers.   The league’s first no hitter came on September 19 when Ed Lafitte of Brooklyn defeated Kansas City, 6-2.   Indianapolis clinched the Federal League title when the team beat St. Louis on October 6 and Chicago lost to Kansas City. STANDINGSTeamW-LGBIndianapolis88-65–Chicago87-671.5Baltimore84-704.5Buffalo80-717Brooklyn77-7711.5Kansas City67-8420Pittsburgh64-8622.5St. Louis62-8925For 1915 season, click here

1915 Federal League

 The drama for the 1915 Federal League season had actually started on November 1, 1915. Connie Mack and the Athletics released Eddie Plank and Chief Bender. Both players signed contracts in the Federal League — Plank going to St. Louis and Bender to Baltimore.   The league then started its challenge against the American and National Leagues. On January 5, 1915, the Federal League filed a lawsuit challenging organized baseball as an illegal trust that should be dissolved. Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis, future baseball commissioner, ruled over the dispute.   Frank Allen of Pittsburgh threw a 2-0 no-hitter against St. Louis on April 24. On May 15, Chicago’s Claude Hendrix pitched his own no-hitter, a 10-0 victory over Pittsburgh. The no-hitters continued on August 16 with Kansas City’s Miles Main’s 5-0 win over Buffalo and on September 7 with St. Louis’ Dave Davenport’s 3-0 victory over Chicago.   Chicago’s victory over Pittsburgh on the last day of the season, October 3, sealed the second Federal League pennant by a mere .001 over St. Louis and a half game over Pittsburgh.   On December 22, the Federal League officially came to an end when a peace treaty was reached. The AL and NL took in some of the Federal League teams and many players started to enter Organized Baseball.STANDINGSTeamW-LGBChicago86-66–St. Louis87-67–Pittsburgh86-670.5Kansas City81-725.5Newark80-726Buffalo74-7812Brooklyn70-8216Baltimore47-10740For 1914 season, click here