January 23, 2018

Teams Banished from Baseball

January 23, 2009 by · 3 Comments 

While rare, it is not odd to see or read about players being kicked out of a baseball league. Finding a team, however, that has gotten the boot from a league is much harder. Here is a look at the first two teams to do it, the Philadelphia Athletics and the New York Mutuals, who were kicked out of the National League following 1876.

The story starts in the old National Association. During its five-year history, teams in financial trouble weren’t really required to travel for late season road trips if they couldn’t. While it was against the rules, the NA never enforced it and a team was never punished for skipping out on a late season road swing. During the NA’s last season in 1875, this is exactly what the New York Mutuals and Philadelphia Athletics were doing. Both teams were just barely making money at the time and, with no consequences to face, the clubs both decided not to play their road games late in the year.

This is one of the many reasons why Chicago White Stockings president William Hulbert helped start the National League. He was irked at the NA about many things, but not upholding its own rules was right up there. The founding eight members of the National League were six teams from the old NA, including the Mutuals and Athletics, and two formerly independent clubs in Louisville and Cincinnati.

Fast forward to September 1876 and the NL’s first season was coming to a close. Both the Athletics and Mutuals were struggling and had ‘western’ road trips coming up to end the season. This time, the National League issued warnings to both teams as rumours came up that they would skip out like they did the year previous. Both teams thought it was just a warning and no punishment would be handed down, just like the old NA. Many people thought this was just the new league trying to stand up and make a statement, and they’d eventually back down. After all, New York and Philadelphia were the two biggest eastern baseball markets.

Or at least that was the thinking of Mutual owner/manager Bill Cammeyer. Cammeyer didn’t think the National League would punish his club for not traveling out west. He was half right as Hulbert decided he would try to negotiate with the Mutes owner. Hulbert didn’t want the league to lose New York as a market so he and St. Louis owner Charles Fowle offered Cammeyer $400 if he would bring his club out west for two games with Chicago and three with St. Louis. It was a fair compromise that would make everyone happy and allow the NL to survive. Cammeyer’s response came quick: no.

In Philadelphia, the sides played role reversal. It was Athletics president G.W. Thompson who approached the league with a compromise. Instead of going to Chicago and St. Louis, the two western clubs would come to Philly and play there instead. In return, the clubs would receive 80 percent of the gate receipts. Thompson’s case was definitely more heart-felt than Cammeyer’s. Philadelphia had several injuries at the time and was almost $10,000 in debt. With three home games left and the A’s averaging around 150 fans per game, well, the debt wasn’t disappearing that season.

But Hulbert, who was so willing to make a deal with New York, turned Thompson down promptly. He was not going to make a deal with the A’s. He told Thompson that he should have told him before his club traveled east to Philadelphia. So as both Mutual and Athletic players sat at home, the National League continued on for its final month with essentially six teams. Eventually, it was Chicago who captured the first National League pennant.

In December, the first president of the National League, Morgan Bulkeley, stepped down and the other owners voted in Hulbert to fill the void. During their winter meeting in Cleveland, Hulbert’s first act was to discuss the future of both New York and Philadelphia. They couldn’t go unpunished, he thought, and he wanted to kick both teams out of the league. When Thompson heard this news, he rushed to Cleveland to plead his case to the other owners and Hulbert.

The new president was unmoved and banished both teams from the league. His message was clear: This is not the National Association. Curiously, while Thompson was in Cleveland trying to keep Philadelphia in the league, Cammeyer did not leave New York. The Chicago Tribune said that Cammeyer – “acknowledged the corn” – knew that his Mutuals were out of the league and didn’t attend knowing that he would not change Hulbert’s mind.

That is the official story but many questions still remain. Why was Hulbert willing to compromise with New York and not Philadelphia? Why did Cammeyer turn down the $400 dollars? And why did Cammeyer, ‘who loved his Mutuals’ by some accounts, not plead for clemency in Cleveland while Thompson did? Look at each team’s case individually and you might find the answer.

One possible reason why Hulbert did not want to deal with Philadelphia was because he wanted the Athletics gone from the league for his own personal reasons. Over the years, an angry feud between Hulbert’s Chicago club and Philadelphia officials had developed and this might have been Hulbert’s revenge. Chicago used Philadelphia as a place to conscript young baseball players onto their own team; players who’d already signed with the Athletic Base Ball Club.

When the teams first met in the National Association, both teams claimed ownership over a player named Ned Cuthbert. Over the next few years, other disputes like that one would arise. They hated each other so much that when starting the NL, Hulbert tried to keep Philadelphia out of the league. When the other founders went ahead and invited the Athletics anyway, Hulbert signed away Philly’s best player, Cap Anson, not just to strengthen his own club, but to prove that Philadelphia didn’t have a strong enough roster to compete in the National League.

Hostility might have been a possible motive to kick Philadelphia out, but kicking New York out might have been just a business transaction by the Mutuals owner Bill Cammeyer. In addition to being the owner, Cammeyer owned their playing field, Union Grounds in Brooklyn. Rumour had it that Cammeyer was losing money fast with the Mutuals, a former standout amateur team who never translated into a good professional team. What Cammeyer wanted was to start over fresh with a new professional baseball franchise in New York.

While some said he loved the Mutuals; he never came to their defense in the winter meetings and he personally contacted Hulbert and said, “it is no use for the league to have rules if it did not enforce them.” It could have been merely a business transaction between Hulbert and Cammeyer. Hulbert got to flex his muscles in front of everyone and make the National League look like a no-nonsense league while Cammeyer’s Union Grounds would become vacant for another, hopefully better off financially, National League team.

So, if that is true, why did Hulbert offer Cammeyer $400? That cannot be explained but Cammeyer did find a new tenant for Union Grounds the next season, the Hartford Dark Blues. The team became known as the Brooklyn Hartford and the team was better on the field and at the turnstiles than the Mutuals. However, the team disbanded after the 1877 season.

The New York Mutuals and Philadelphia Athletics became the first two teams ever kicked out of a major baseball league and since then, only one more ever has been expelled. Ironically, that team was also the Philadelphia Athletics, who were hoofed from the American Association in 1890 for breaking league rules. These three teams have been the only clubs ever debarred from a league in major league baseball history.

Writer’s Note: After this article was published, I received a comment of Seamheads and an email from another reader saying that my claim of only three teams being kicked out is false. Reader Cliff Blau posted just below here that Cincinnati was expelled in 1880 for selling alcohol at games and only charging a quarter for admission. Also, Worcester and Troy were exiled two years later because their city sizes were too small to small to support a National League club.

Also, I received an email from a researcher Dennis Pajot saying that the Milwaukee Greys were expelled from the National League in 1878 for non-payment of bills. Milwaukee owner W.P. Rogers did not think his club should have been kicked out and believed that Chicago was behind the plot as well.

Thanks for information guys!

Comments

3 Responses to “Teams Banished from Baseball”
  1. Cliff Blau says:

    Cincinnati was kicked out of the NL after 1880 due to selling alcoholic beverages and only charging 25 cents admission. Troy and Worcester were ejected from the NL after the 1882 season, essentially for being too small to support NL teams.

  2. Brendan Macgranachan says:

    Thanks for information Cliff, my sources must have been wrong. I got another email from a reader saying that the Milwaukee Greys were booted out of the NL in 1877 as well. I will edit my article to reflect yours and his statement.

    Thanks,
    Brendan

  3. I linked to your post from the inaugural issue (Apr 2014) of our magazine! http://www.vintagebaseballmag.com/issues/issue/2014Apr

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