The Great Baseball Revolt

The Great Baseball Revolt

The Rise and Fall of the 1890 Players League

Robert B. Ross

288 pages
10 illustrations

Hardcover

April 2016

978-0-8032-4941-7

$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

The Players League, formed in 1890, was a short-lived professional baseball league controlled and owned in part by the players themselves, a response to the National League’s salary cap and “reserve rule,” which bound players for life to one particular team. Led by John Montgomery Ward, the Players League was a star-studded group that included most of the best players of the National League, who bolted not only to gain control of their wages but also to share ownership of the teams.


Lasting only a year, the league impacted both the professional sports and the labor politics of athletes and nonathletes alike. The Great Baseball Revolt is a historic overview of the rise and fall of the Players League, which fielded teams in Boston, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Though it marketed itself as a working-class league, the players were underfunded and had to turn to wealthy capitalists for much of their startup costs, including the new ballparks. It was in this context that the league intersected with the organized labor movement, and in many ways challenged by organized labor to be by and for the people.


In its only season, the Players League outdrew the National League in fan attendance. But when the National League overinflated its numbers and profits, the Players League backers pulled out. The Great Baseball Revolt brings to life a compelling cast of characters and a mostly forgotten but important time in professional sports when labor politics affected both athletes and nonathletes.

Author Bio

Robert B. Ross is an associate professor of global cultural studies at Point Park University in Pittsburgh. His work has appeared in Environment and Planning D: Society and SpaceAntipodeHuman GeographyUrban Geography, and Area Chicago, among other places.
 

Praise

"[The Great Baseball Revolt] makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of the early days of the business of baseball."—Roger I. Abrams, New York Journal of Books

"Robert Ross has done some heavy lifting with producing this book."—Gregg's Baseball Bookcase

“Sports historians rarely reference the 1890s Players League—that failed attempt at radical baseball democracy. That’s because this is history that’s dangerous to the current powers that be, because it’s an example, however flawed, of athletes trying to take their destinies into their own hands. Robert Ross’s ingenious book restores this narrative to its rightful place not only in sports history but in our collective people’s history. If your list of heroes ranges from Henry Aaron to Howard Zinn, you will absolutely love this book.”—Dave Zirin, sports editor of The Nation

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations    
Acknowledgments    
Introduction    
1. The Professionalization of Baseball    
2. The Rise of the National League    
3. The Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players    
4. Preparing for the Players League    
5. The Men Who Do the Work: Labor and the Players League    
6. The 1890 Players League     
7. The Fall of the 1890 Players League    
Notes    
Bibliography    
Index   

Also of Interest