June 19, 2013
The monopoly created when the Players League and American Association folded in the early part of the decade enabled National League owners to run baseball without regard for fan interests. Several, for example, purchased control of more than one team, and moved players between those clubs to suit their personal profits, rather than the best interests of the club.
The culmination of this "syndicate" approach to baseball occurred in 1899, when such shenanigans distorted both the top and bottom spectrums of the pennant race.
While retaining their ownership of the Baltimore team, Harry Van Der Horst and Ned Hanlon also purchased control of Brooklyn and sold the best Oriole players to the Dodgers. Infused by such talent as Willie Keeler, Joe Kelley, Hughie Jennings, Dan McGann, Doc McJames and Jim Hughes, Brooklyn improved by a remarkable 47 games in the standings, leaping from 10th place to the pennant. The once-vaunted Orioles, meanwhile, who had not finished lower than second in the previous five years, fell to fourth.
The story was more pathetic in Cleveland, where owners Frank De Haas and Matthew Robison decided to invest in the St. Louis team as well. All of the proud Spiders' best players -- Cy Young, Jesse Burkett, Patsy Tebeau, Bobby Wallace, Cupid Childs, Jack Powell and "Peach Pie" O'Connor -- were packed off to St. Louis, which climbed from the cellar to claim fifth place. The ravaged Spiders, 81 game victors the preevious season, won only 20 times and lost 134, still the all-time record.
At year's end, the pitiful Cleveland and Baltimore clubswere excised from the league, as were teams representing Washington and Louisville. Syndicate baseball had devoured itself.
Ban Johnson's Western League, still a minor league, changes its name to the American League. St. Louis teammates Cy Young and Jack Powell tie for the league lead, each pitching 40 complete games.
James J. Jeffries defeats Ruby Bob Fitzsimmons June 9 to win the heavyweight championship.