Thursday, February 15, 2018

1915 Brewers Home Schedule

This Brewers home game schedule was published in early 1915:

At first glance, it looks pretty straightforward. Opening Day at Athletic Park (still a decade away from being re-named Borchert Field) was April 15, the last regular-season home game was September 11th.

The American Association roster was fairly stable, and all the usual suspects are there: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Indianapolis, Columbus, Louisville, Kansas City, and... Cleveland?!

Yes, Cleveland. The Cleveland Spiders, to be precise. And their story leads us to the history of the Federal League.

The Federal League of Base Ball Clubs was an "outlaw" league that tried to challenge Major League Baseball. Founded in 1913, it set itself up as a third major league in 1914, with clubs in Brooklyn, Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Buffalo.

The Federal League had fielded a team in Cleveland in 1913—the "Green Sox", managed by Cy Young—but Cleveland Indians owner Charley Somers was determined to keep the Feds out of his town. Somers moved the American Association's Toledo Mud Hens, which he also owned, to Cleveland starting with the 1914 season. The relocated Mud Hens were known as the "Cleveland Bearcats".

In 1915, the Federal League continued to come on strong. In January that year, it filed an antitrust suit against the American and National Leagues. The upstarts were also successful in luring major league players to their outlaw league. Somers renamed his American Association club the "Cleveland Spiders", after an old National League team.

League Park in Cleveland, circa 1911

The Bearcats/Spiders played in League Park, the home of the Indians. This took up the open dates left by Indians road games and essentially shut the Federal League out of Cleveland. That meant that, for these two years, the Brewers played a succession of road games in a major league ballpark.

The Feds were unable to crack Northern Ohio, but were fairly successful in forcing the Majors to take notice. Following the 1915 season, the majority of the owners agreed cease operations, and drop their legal action against organized baseball, in exchange for a cash settlement. The lawsuit would be carried on by the Baltimore Terrapins' owners, in a futile attempt to keep big-league ball in the Charm City, but would eventually end with the establishment of baseball's antitrust exemption.

Other Federal League owners were more successful; Charles Weeghman, owner of the erstwhile Chicago Whales, purchased the Chicago Cubs. He promptly moved them into into the Whales' Weeghman Park, which you know today as Wrigley Field. The St. Louis Terriers owner Phil Ball bought the American League's St. Louis Browns. Ball would become important to Milwaukee's story in a couple decades, when he bought a controlling interest in the Brewers.

And, of course, Somers moved his American Association club back to Toledo and the Mud Hens were reborn. Those Cleveland Spiders are now just a footnote in baseball history, an interesting curiosity buried in the home schedule for our 1915 Milwaukee Brewers.

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