battle

"The Battle That Forged Modern Baseball: The Federal League Challenge and Its Legacy" by Daniel R. Levitt.

Every baseball fan knows of Wrigley Field, home of the National League’s Chicago Cubs. But how many know the venerable ballpark on West Addison Street was built 98 years ago for the Chicago Whales of the upstart Federal League?

Launched in 1913, the Federal League declared itself a “major league” that would compete with the National and American leagues.

With eight teams located in Midwestern and Northeastern cities, the rival league was backed by a handful of wealthy owners who saw a chance to cash in on the growing popularity of spectator sports.

But the upstart league struggled to attract top players and failed to turn a profit, folding after the 1915 season.

Author Daniel R. Levitt, in his new book “The Battle That Forged Modern Baseball: The Federal League Challenge and Its Legacy” (Ivan R. Dee), offers up the most authoritative account yet of the short-lived league.

Levitt details how the Federal League posed an economic threat to the established leagues, which were also competing to gain a foothold with a newly affluent sporting public. There were fights in the courts, the press and even on the playing fields. The legal battle eventually culminated in the landmark 1922 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that the Sherman Antitrust Act did not apply to baseball — essentially allowing the monopoly that Major League Baseball enjoys today.

But while the Federal League is long gone, its legendary ballpark still hums with life. Built in seven weeks for $218,000, the ballpark initially seated 14,000 and was named “Weegham Park” by the owner of the Chicago Whales, Charles Weegham. The stadium was then renamed in 1926 in honor of Cubs owner and chewing gum mogul William Wrigley Jr.

Mike Ivey, The Capital Times