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The Great Baseball Revolt

The Rise and Fall of the 1890 Players League
Narrated by: Gary Galone
Length: 9 hrs and 11 mins
Categories: Sports, Baseball
4 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

The Players League, formed in 1890, was a short-lived professional baseball league controlled and owned, in part, by the players themselves, a response to the National League’s salary cap and “reserve rule” which bound players for life to one particular team. Led by John Montgomery Ward, the Players League was a star-studded group that included most of the best players of the National League who bolted, not only to gain control of their wages but also to share ownership of the teams.

Lasting only a year, the league impacted both the professional sports and labor politics of athletes and nonathletes alike. The Great Baseball Revolt is a historic overview of the rise and fall of the Players League which fielded teams in Boston, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. 

Though it marketed itself as a working-class league, the players were underfunded and had to turn to wealthy capitalists for much of their start-up costs, including the new ballparks. It was in this context that the league intersected with the organized labor movement and, in many ways, challenged by organized labor to be "by and for the people".

In its only season, the Players League outdrew the National League in fan attendance. The Great Baseball Revolt brings to life a compelling cast of characters and a mostly forgotten but important time in professional sports when labor politics affected both athletes and nonathletes.

"Makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of the early days of the business of baseball." (New York Journal of Books)

"This text is outstanding." (New York Labor History)

“You will absolutely love this book." (Dave Zirin, sports editor of The Nation)

©2016 Robert B. Ross (P)2019 Redwood Audiobooks

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What could have been

Very enlightening history of baseball at a crossroads, just as American business was in its Gilded Age. For a fleeting moment it seemed like there may have been an equitable business model to use as a template for sports entertainment. But, as it turns out, money does indeed talk. Greed, along with poor decisions, spelled doom for the great experiment. In the fullness of time, some of what was in dispute, such as salary caps and the reserve clause, have been resolved, notwithstanding MLB's antitrust exemption. But one has to wonder, given an alternative history of the business of baseball, if the game could have grown in a more healthy fashion, perhaps reigning in the boomerang effect of exorbitant modern salaries.