Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players

From BR Bullpen

The Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players (or simply Brotherhood) represented the first serious effort to organize a labor union consisting of baseball players. It was launched in 1885 through the efforts of star player John Montgomery Ward, who was also a lawyer, with the aim of raising player salaries in recognition of the growing popularity of professional baseball and the growth in revenues generated by the game. It also aimed to combat the reserve clause which restricted player movement and helped to keep salaries down. The organization gained official recognition when National League owners first met with the Brotherhood's representatives on November 17, 1887. However, relations between the two soon became difficult as owners were unwilling to make significant concessions.

The impasse led to the creation of the Players League in 1890, which included many of the most famous stars of the time and which was owned and operated by the players themselves. National League owners replied by going into strict head-to-head competition with Players' League clubs in their cities, while the American Association was still a going concern, putting as many as three competing clubs in certain cities. The Players League offered the better on-field product, but the National League owners' deeper pockets meant that they won the financial war, forcing Brotherhood members to return to the fold in 1891.

Baseball would have to wait until the middle of the 20th century for another successful attempt to unionize players. Still, the Brotherhood did succeed in driving wages upwards and improving certain conditions for players.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Charles C. Alexander: Turbulent Seasons: Baseball in 1890-1891, Southern Methodist University Press, Dallas, TX, 2011.
  • Bryan Di Salvatore: A Clever Base-Ballist: The Life and Times of John Montgomery Ward, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 1999.
  • James Hawking: Strikeout: Baseball, Broadway and the Brotherhood in the 19th Century, Sunstone Press, Santa Fe, NM, 2012.
  • Scott D. Peterson: Reporting Baseball's Sensational Season of 1890: The Brotherhood War and the Rise of Modern Sports Journalism, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2015. ISBN 978-0-7864-7368-7
  • David Stevens: Baseball's Radical for All Seasons: A Biography of John Montgomery Ward, Scarecrow Press, Lanham, MD, 1998.