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The Battle that Forged Modern Baseball
The Federal League Challenge and Its Legacy
Daniel R. Levitt
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.
Ivan R. Dee
Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/4
978-1-56663-869-2 • Hardback • March 2012 •
978-1-56663-905-7 • eBook • March 2012 •
Sports & Recreation / Baseball / History
History / United States / General
History / United States / 20th Century
Sports & Recreation / Baseball / General
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Award-winning writer and researcher, Daniel R. Levitt is the author of several critically acclaimed books on baseball, including
Ed Barrow: the Bulldog who Built the Yankees' First Dynasty
Paths to Glory: How Great Baseball Teams Got That Way,
with Mark Armour which won the
SABR Baseball Research Award. Levitt is a longtime member of the SABR, the baseball research organization, and a past president of the Minnesota chapter. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.
Chapter 1: The Opening Salvo
Chapter 2: America Meets Sports Leagues
Chapter 3: Rumblings
Chapter 4: Going Major
Chapter 5: A Real Players Union
Chapter 6: The Battle for Chicago
Chapter 7: Organized Baseball Responds
Chapter 8: The Season Opens: On the Field and in the Courts
Chapter 9: The Struggle Continues
Chapter 10: A Possible Settlement
Chapter 11: Player Reinforcements
Chapter 12: Antitrust Attack
Chapter 13: Owner Reinforcements
Chapter 14: A Long Summer
Chapter 15: The Final Countdown
Chapter 16: Aftermath
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.
The Battle that Forged Modern Baseball: The Federal League Challenge and Its Legacy. . .
tell[s] an inherently complicated story in a direct and understandable manner without dumbing it down. . . . This is a work of serious historical scholarship[.] . . . The case presented is highly persuasive that the Federal League challenge, though largely forgotten, was indeed not only a lively chapter in baseball’s history, but one with deep and lasting importance. For the serious student of the development of the organizational framework of baseball as a business, Levitt’s work should be required reading.
NINE: A Journal of Baseball History & Culture
Dan Levitt has produced a well-researched, well-written account of the machinations of both the Federal League and Organized Baseball as they challenged each other to compete in the same venue. This is not dry, legal stuff but an entertaining and informative recreation of the rough and tumble times of the American game.
The Past In Review
Anyone who wants to advance beyond the stage of fandom to understand what it takes to establish and run professional baseball would do well to read Mr. Levitt’s fascinating book.
New York Journal of Books
Author Daniel R. Levitt, in his new book
The Battle That Forged Modern Baseball
, offers up the most authoritative account yet of the short-lived league.
The Capital Times
In this compelling narrative, Levitt uncovers the economic and legal battles between Organized Baseball and its last rival, the Federal League of 1913-15. Anyone seeking to understand how Major League Baseball (or the other U.S. sports leagues) came to be structured as the closed monopolies that they are today will benefit from reading Levitt's excellent book.
Andrew Zimbalist, Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics, Smith College
Daniel L. Levitt's book on the Federal League is the best work on the subject up to now. Thoroughly researched and well-written, it is particularly impressive in its detailed narrative and analysis of the corporate, financial, and legal aspects of the Federal League's potent challenge to the two established major leagues—a challenge that, while ultimately unsuccessful, eventuated in the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark exemption of Organized Baseball from the federal antitrust laws.
Charles C. Alexander, Ohio University
If we recall the Federal League today it is for its last gasp: the Supreme Court decision of 1922 that provided Major League Baseball with an antitrust exemption that has endured to the present day. But the story of how it began, briefly flourished, frayed, and collapsed, is a fascinating and instructive tale on many fronts. No one has ever told it more compellingly than Dan Levitt; I cannot recommend his book highly enough.
John Thorn, Official Historian of Major League Baseball
Major league baseball owners love competition when it’s restricted to the baseball field, but when a new major league, the Federal League, declared itself a rival of the American and National Leagues in 1913, they fought hard to suppress it, resulting in the 1922 Supreme Court decision that gave the AL and NL their antitrust exemption and monopoly.
Daniel R. Levitt’s
The Battle That Forged Modern Baseball
is one of the most important historical baseball works so far this century and is a fitting tribute to the 3-year-old league that came so close to beating the barons of baseball at their own game.
Despite the defection of big league stars such as Mordecai “Three Finger” Brown and Joe Tinker of “Tinkers to Evers to Chance” fame, the combination of unexpectedly high expenses and relentless legal battles finally wore down the Federals. The real winner of the battle between the AL, NL and the FL was Judge Kennesaw Landis, whose decision in the upstart league’s antitrust suit was instrumental in the older circuits’ victory. In the wake of the Black Sox scandal and other controversies, Levitt writes, in the late 1920s the owners made him baseball’s first commissioner.
Ultimately fans were the losers: The two surviving major leagues chose not to expand until 1961.
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