Baseball's Upstart Federal League

By | August 22, 2019

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Pennant features baseball player Joe Tinker of the Chicago Federals (later known as the Chicago Whales), Chicago, Illinois, 1914. Source: (Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)

By the early 20th century, baseball’s American and National Leagues were well-established and dominated the sport. It was also generally recognized that organized baseball was a money-making business. In 1913, John T. Powers attempted to upend the status quo with the creation of a third major baseball league, the Federal League of Base Ball Clubs.

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Washington Park, home of the Federal League's Brooklyn TipTops.

Powers had attempted to start a third major league in 1912, called the Columbian League. This failed, but in 1913 he was able to use the remnants of another short-lived minor league, the United States League, to give it another go.

In early 1913, construction or renovation of six ballparks began in major cities. During the 1913 season, they were considered to be a minor league team according to the Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball. Six teams competed in a 120-game schedule and there were no major stars on any team except the retired pitcher Cy Young managed the Cleveland club.