The Battle that Forged Modern Baseball
The Federal League Challenge and Its Legacy
By (author) Daniel R. Levitt
Publication date:09 March 2012
Length of book:336 pages
PublisherIvan R. Dee
In late 1913 the newly formed Federal League declared itself a major league in competition with the established National and American Leagues. Backed by some of America’s wealthiest merchants and industrialists, the new organization posed a real challenge to baseball’s prevailing structure. For the next two years the well-established leagues fought back furiously in the press, in the courts, and on the field. The story of this fascinating and complex historical battle centers on the machinations of both the owners and the players, as the Federals struggled for profits and status, and players organized baseball’s first real union. Award winning author, Daniel R. Levitt gives us the most authoritative account yet published of the short-lived Federal League, the last professional baseball league to challenge the National League and American League monopoly.
Almost a century has passed since Major League Baseball faced its last serious challenge from an upstart league, but the short-lived Federal League left its mark. Consisting of eight teams located in Midwestern and Northeastern cities, the Federal League launched in late 1913 to compete with the American and National Leagues (which were suffering their own growing pains at the time) and lasted two seasons. Backed by wealthy owners and an aggressive business strategy that included selling public shares in some cities, the organization struggled to gain players and profits. Award-winning writer Levitt (Ed Barrow: The Bulldog Who Built the Yankees’ First Dynasty) offers a richly detailed account of how the battle between the leagues played out in the press and in the courts. Not only was the Federal League responsible for introducing the first successful labor union to the game, its failure resulted in the landmark 1922 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act did not apply to Major League Baseball. Despite such accomplishments, the Federal League didn’t help its cause by striking a game from the standings “because an umpire made a bad decision at first base,” considering a rule change to allow a walk after three balls instead of four, and permitting owners of some teams to bankroll financially struggling competitors. Levitt’s thorough research makes for . . . rewarding reading.