#Hot Corner

Pobody's Nerfect - Federal League Edition

It's always somewhat shocking to me when my friends don't agree absolutely with whatever my latest opinion might be. You know, because I'm so damned smart!

Case in point: I recently wrote about the Federal League of 1914-1915 and its ongoing status as a "major league".

Frankly, it seems to me fairly obvious that the Federal League does not, in retrospect, deserve its status as a "major" league. Very few established major leaguers joined the league upon its creation in 1914, and just a tiny percentage of its players later enjoyed good careers in the major leagues. So it seems that the talent level was well short of the American and National Leagues. And while there are many things that might make a league "major," it seems to me that the most important is the quality of the talent.

Anyway, without getting into all the arguments for the Federal League -- because you can see a number of them in the comments below the piece, and argued by some of baseball research's leading lights -- the one that I find the least compelling is that Francis Richter threw his full support to the Federals.

Francis Richter was a great editor, overseeing the Reach Official Base Ball Guide for many years, but the guy wasn't perfect. For Exhibit A, I offer this snippet from Richter's review of the 1919 World Series; in particular, the post-Series rumors that some players in the Series hadn't been trying their best:

Needless to say that the players mentioned felt deeply grieved and fiercely resented the false and slanderous assertions, which bore their refutation upon their face. Any man who knows anything at all about base ball and base ball players knows absolutely that both the game and its exemplars are absolutely honest so far as its public presentation is concerned, and any man who insinuates that the 1919 World's Series was not honorably played by every participant therein not only does not know what he is talking about, but is a menace to the game quite as much as the gamblers would be if they had the ghost of a chance to get in their nefarious work.

That's breathtaking. Not just in its wrongness, but in its obsequious, self-important, self-righteous wrongness. And roughly 100 years after the Federal League, we're just supposed to take Richter's word that the loop's players were a lot better than they look now, in the cold light of the statistical record?

Pass.

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