Kansas City Packers
Kansas City Packers: (March 8, 1913-Dec. 22, 1915)
Win-Loss Record: 201-221-3 (.476); 148-156-3 (.487) at Major League Level
When the Federal League was first established on March 8, 1913, Kansas City was slated to take part in the inaugural season. But by opening day, both Kansas City and Detroit had dropped out due to unforeseen circumstances. However, the Packers were one of the founding members of the short-lived major league Federal League, which began play in 1914.
The team was originally based in Covington, Kentucky and while officially known as the Covington Federal League Club when the circuit played as an independent league in 1913. They played under the nickname "Blue Sox". The Blue Sox lasted only 52 games, going 21-31 under the leadership of former major league pitcher Sam Leever. On June 23rd, the team announced it was leaving Covington due to low attendance. Three days later, the league voted to transfer the team to Kansas City for the remainder of the season. The ballpark where the Blue Sox had played their games had reverted to creditors the previous day.
The team was redubbed the "Packers" as a reference to the city’s meat packing industry. Manager Leever was dismissed on August 11th and replaced by Hugo Swarthing, a defector from the Steubenville Stubs of the Interstate League. The team went 32-34 while representing Kansas City for an overall record of 53-65 and a 5th place finish, 21 games behind the pennant-winning Indianapolis Hoosiers. During the off-season while the league was reorganizing, the Packers reorganized also. Manager Swarthing was replaced by George Stovall, who had previously managed the Cleveland Naps and St. Louis Browns.
The Federal League announced itself as a third major league, and began signing players not under contract in Organized Ball. Stovall was the first Major League player to "jump" the reserve clause of his contract, and immediately set about recruiting others for the upstart league.
The 1914 season found the Packers in Chicago, playing at the Chicago Chi-Feds' new stadium, Weeghman Park (now Wrigley Field. The Chi-Feds jumped out to the early 3-0 lead, after which Packers starting pitcher George Howard Johnson was served with an injunction by his former club. The Packers closed the gap with two runs in the 8th, the only runs they would score in the game. Chicago won the game 3-2. Kansas City was never in contention for the pennant, and finished the season in 6th place with a 67-84-3 record. The next year, the Packers opened the same way they had the previous season, losing their opening game, this time to Pittsburgh. But the Packers remained in contention for most of the 1915 season, leading the league as late as August until a couple of losing streaks dropped the team to fifth. The Packers rebounded, and finished the season in 4th place, with an 81-72 record.
On September 13th, the Packers were the first major league team to play a game against a team of prisoners inside a prison when they visited the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, KS and defeated a team of inmates, the White Sox, by a score of 23-1. The New York Giants and New York Yankees would begin to pay regular visits to Sing Sing Penitentiary in the 1920s.
The Federal League declared the Packers insolvent after the season closed, and announced the franchise would be transferred to New York City. However, the Federal League disbanded during the off-season, and the Packers ceased to exist. With the exception of the Negro Leagues Kansas City Monarchs (1920-1950), Kansas City would not have a major league baseball team for about 40 years, when the Athletics arrived in Kansas City from Philadelphia for the 1955 season. The last surviving player from the Packers was Charlie Blackburn, who died in 1984.
Sources and Further Reading
- Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company, 1993.
- Bob Rives and Tim Rives: "Pros vs. Cons: Federal Leaguers versus Federal Prisoners at Leavenworth", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 44, Number 1 (Spring 2015), pp. 63-68.
- Robert Peyton Wiggins: The Federal League of Base Ball Clubs: The History of an Outlaw Major League, 1914-1915, McFarland © Jan. 1, 2008