Page:America's National Game (1911).djvu/305

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275
AMERICA'S NATIONAL GAME

open betting on its grounds, prohibited Sunday games and prohibited the sale of liquors. A better class of people were invited to attend the exhibitions, and a more systematic way of conducting the game was introduced. But the old customs and abuses were not to be crowded out without a struggle. At the end of the season of 1876, two of the strongest clubs, the Mutuals, of New York, and the Athletics, of Philadelphia, were arraigned before the League for violating their scheduled engagements. This was the first crisis the League was called upon to meet, and the world knows how promptly and vigorously it faced the issue by expelling those two prominent clubs, representing, as they did, its most populous and best-paying cities. The following season, 1877, was a disastrous one financially, and ended with but five clubs in the League, in one of which, Louisville, were players publicly accused of dishonesty. The League promptly investigated these charges, and when the four players of that club—Devlin, Hall, Graver and Nichols—were proven guilty of selling games, they were promptly expelled and have never been reinstated. These two steps, boldly taken, when the League was struggling for existence, settled the question as to a club's obligations to the League, and forever banished dishonesty from the ranks, stigmatizing the latter as an unpardonable crime.

The struggle for existence for the next three or four years was desperate, and at each annual meeting there occurred vacancies difficult to fill, because of the almost certain financial disasters threatening clubs in the smaller cities.

Finally, as a check upon competition, the weaker clubs in the League demanded the privilege of reserving five players who would form the nucleus of a team for the ensuing season. This was the origin of the "reserve rule" and from its adoption may be dated the development of better financial results. The system of reserve having proven beneficial, both to clubs and players, the reserve list was increased to eleven, and then to fourteen, or an entire team. Under this rule the game has steadily grown in favor, the salaries of players have been more than trebled, and a higher degree of skill has been obtained.

Out of, and as an incident to, "reservation," arose releases for pecuniary considerations. The right of reservation being conceded, the club's claim on the player's continuous services must be of some value. But, except in cases of disbanding or retiring clubs, that right has never been transferred without the player's coöperation and consent, usually at his request, and for his own pecuniary emolument.

In the exceptional case of the disbandment or retiring of a League club, the involuntary transfer of a player to a new club was the subject of complaint by a committee of the Brotherhood, in November, 1887. But, after several hours' conference with the League Committee, the former were obliged to admit that such involuntary transfer was essential to the welfare, if not the existence, of the