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The Players' League was a short-lived but star-studded baseball league of the 19th century which has been ruled to be one of six leagues officially recognized as major leagues. It emerged from the Brotherhood of Professional Base-Ball Players, the sport's first players' union. The Brotherhood included most of the best players of the National League. Brotherhood members, led by John Ward, left the National League and formed the Players' League after failing to change the lopsided player-management relationship of the National League. The PL lasted just the one season of 1890, and the Boston franchise won the championship that year.

Players League franchises[]

  • Boston Reds
  • Brooklyn Ward's Wonders
  • Buffalo Bisons
  • Chicago Pirates
  • Cleveland Infants
  • New York Giants
  • Philadelphia Quakers
  • Pittsburgh Burghers

Boston and Philadelphia subsequently joined the American Association when the Players' League folded. Brooklyn, New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh franchises each merged with their National League counterparts after the season.

The PL was well-attended, at least in some cities, but was under-funded and its owners lacked the confidence to continue beyond the one season. Although the league was started by the players themselves, essentially as an elaborate job-action to improve their lot, the venture proved to be a setback for the players in the longer term. The infamous reserve clause remained intact, and would remain thus for the next 85 years or so. The already-shaky AA had been further weakened by the presence of the PL, and it failed a year later, reducing the total number of major league teams (and players) significantly.

One benefit of the league, from the management standpoint, was the construction of new facilities, several of which were used for awhile by the established major league clubs. Easily the most prominent of these was a new Polo Grounds, which served as the home of the New York Giants from 1891-1957, and also of the New York Mets in their first two seasons. Once the demolition of the Polo Grounds began in 1964, the game's historians realized that this was not only the end of an era in general, but also the final chapter of the Players' League.

1890 Players League final standings[]

Team Win Loss WPCT GB
Boston Reds 81 48 .628
Brooklyn Ward's Wonders 76 56 .576 6.5
New York Giants 74 57 .565 8.0
Chicago Pirates 75 62 .547 10.0
Philadelphia Quakers 68 63 .519 14.0
Pittsburgh Burghers 60 68 .469 20.5
Cleveland Infants 55 75 .423 26.5
Buffalo Bisons 36 96 .273 46.5

External links[]


  • David Pietrusza Major Leagues: The Formation, Sometimes Absorption and Mostly Inevitable Demise of 18 Professional Baseball Organizations, 1871 to Present Jefferson (NC): McFarland & Company, 1991. ISBN 0-89950-590-2