September 12, 2002

THE LESSONS OF THE LEAGUE CAMPAIGN OF 1888. 07

Among the noteworthy results of the League championship campaign of 1888
meriting special comment as affording lessons to be profited by in the
future, may be named, first, the success of the Eastern Club of New York,
in winning the pennant from the West; secondly, that of the Chicago Club
in attaining second place in the race in the face of drawbacks which,
under any other management, would have sufficed to have left the Club
among the tail-enders; and thirdly, the remarkable failure of the Boston
Club to attain even one of the three leading positions in the race, after
that club had incurred such a heavy expense in strengthening its team with
"star" players. The success of the New York Club in winning the
championship, introducing, as it did, a new possessor of the League
pennant and its accompanying honors, may justly be regarded as an
advantage to the general interests of the National League, inasmuch as it
is anything but desirable that one club should, season after season, carry
off the honors, as the old Boston Club did in the early history of the
professional championship contest; or as the Chicago Club has done in
monopolizing the championship of the National League during the past
thirteen years of its history. Such monopoly of the honors of each
season's campaign, by one or two of the leading clubs of each year,
materially lessens the public interest taken in the annual competition.
Besides which, it interferes, to a costly extent, with the financial
prosperity of a majority of the competing clubs. Now that a club, new to
championship honors, has replaced one of the monopolists, the other
previously unsuccessful clubs will begin to entertain hopes of being able
to "get in at the death," as the fox hunters say, in future pennant races,
if not this ensuing year, and thereby a new interest will be imparted to
coming campaigns.

A feature of the past campaign of 1888 worthy of remark, too, is the fact
of the surprisingly good work on the field accomplished by the so-called
"weakened Chicago team." While this work was unquestionably due in a great
measure to able management, the assisting element of "temperance in the
ranks" had much to do with it. It is equally unquestionable that the very
reverse had a great deal to do with the lamentable failure of the Boston
team to follow up the success with which that club's team opened the
campaign. The contrast, these two clubs presented in this special respect
calls for the most earnest consideration of the vital question of
insisting upon temperate habits in all the club teams during the period of
the championship season each year. The evil of drunkenness among the
professional teams is one which has grown upon the fraternity until it has
become too costly an abuse to be longer tolerated. Drunken professionals
should be driven from service just as the crooks of a dozen years ago
were, never to be allowed to return. Drunken players are not only a costly
drawback to success individually, but they permeate the whole baseball
fraternity with a demoralizing influence. The fact is, professional
baseball playing has arrived at that point of excellence, and reached so
advanced a position in regard to its financial possibilities, that it will
no longer pay, in any solitary respect, to allow players of drinking
habits in first-class teams. The demands of the game, as it is now played,
are such as to require a player to have all his wits about him to play
ball up to the standard it has now reached. He needs the steadiest of
nerves, the clearest eyesight, the most unclouded judgment, and the
healthiest physique to play the game as it is required to be done by the
exacting public patrons of the present day. Another thing, the capitalists
who have ventured thousands of dollars in baseball stock companies, can no
longer allow their money to be risked in teams which are weakened by the
presence of men of drinking habits. Mr. Spalding's plucky and most
successful experiment has conclusively shown that a baseball team run on
temperance principles can successfully compete with teams stronger in
other respects, but which are weakened by the toleration of drinking
habits in their ranks. Here is a lesson taught by the campaign of 1888
which points a moral, if it does not adorn a tale.

Another special lesson of the past campaign which was practically
illustrated by the Boston Club was, that star players do not make a
winning team. The fact is, the pennant cannot be won by any costly outlay
in securing the services of this, that, or the other "greatest player in
the country." It is well managed and harmonious teams, not picked nines
led by special stars, which win in the long run. Now and then--as there
are exceptions in all cases--a picked nine will attain a certain degree of
success. But for steady struggles for permanent success in the
professional championship arena, team work of the very best, and admirably
managed teams will alone achieve steady victory. The old Boston teams
under Harry Wright, and the Chicago teams under Anson, are a standing
proof of this fact. Let the National League magnates ponder these truths
earnestly.