Sunday, February 14, 2010

In the 14th Season

In the 14th season....

..of Major League Baseball (1889) theree were still two leagues - the National League and American Association.

The National League was still an unstable league. The Indianapolis franchise was $30,000 in debt ($700,000 in 2010 money) and ownership basically walked away from their franchise, saying "here you go, league, see if you can make baseball work in Indianapolis". An ownership group led by John T. Brush took over the franchise.

Even big teams like the New York Giants had to face their own humiliations. The City of New York wanted to build new streets through the Polo Grounds. Supporters of the Giants tried to get a bill passed in the New York State legislature that would block the construction, but New York Governor David Hill vetoed the bill after
it passed - the right of a city over its domain was to be respected, regardless of what he thought of the act.

The Giants had to move to Staten Island to the St. George's Cricket Grounds; the right fielder was basically playing on open soil that served as a stage in the off-season.

Players were unhappy with their low pay, and trouble was brewing. John Montgomery Ward was planning on a strike, but was going to hold off - for now. His plan would be to start a brand new league that would give players greater control over their sport. Players were assigned to look for capital, as it were, in their home cities. Later in the season, the players would issue a manifesto. In November, the National League would denounce the manifesto, and the war was on.

In conservative Cincinnati, church was considered more important than baseball, and the Red Stockings were kept twice by police from playing on Sunday. The American Association, founded by brewers, was the Beer and Whiskey league that played on Sunday; the NL was the league that didn't. Cincinnati and Brooklyn jumped from the American Association to the National League. Kansas City left the AA to join the Western League, and then the Baltimore Orioles dropped out, leaving a four-team league. The American Association would be scrambling for teams at the end of the 1889 season.

Particularly damaging was Brooklyn jumping to the National League - the Bridegrooms were the American Association champions! But the American Associations biggest test would come the following year.

In the 14th season....

...of the National Football League (1933), the league decided to split into two divisions following the success of the 1932 playoff game. "Hey! We shouldn't give the championship to whomever finishes at the top of the league! We should have a playoff!" I'm surprised that the league didn't think of this earlier.

There was a lot of NFL franchise movement. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Cincinnati joined the league. Staten Island suspended operations for the 1933 season, in hopes of coming back the following year. It didn't happen.

Furthermore, the NFL made a decision to separate itself from the college game. For a long time, both the NFL and big-time college football followed the same rules. Now, there would be new rules. Inbounds lines. Hashmarks. The goal post placed on the goal line. The most important rule was that the forward pass would be legal anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. Before that, one had to be five yards behind the line of scrimmage to throw a legal forward pass.

The year ended with the first real NFL Championship Game, with the Chicago Bears beating the New York Giants 23-21. The title game was still being held in December, weeks before Christmas.

In the 14th season....

...of the National Basketball Association (1959-60), the NBA was doing better than the year before. There was a brand new kid playing in the NBA called Wilt Chamberlain. He was not just the Rookie of the Year, but the Most Valuable Player, sort of the Candace Parker of his era.

However, the Minneapolis Lakers still weren't making money in Minnesota. Given that Bob Short couldn't make basketall work in Minneapolis, and given that Los Angeles was interested, Short relocated the Lakers to Los Angeles. For two years, the Lakers would be all alone out on the West Coast.

And the league was still an eight-team league.

In the 14th season....

...of the WNBA (2010), there will be twelve teams. A new team in Tulsa. I just keep telling myself, "three more months"...!

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