Guest blog article by Keith Spalding Robbins
While for the Original Boston Red Stockings fan the players as “The Seceders,” little is known why they left. In leaving the Old National Association the National League was created. And now as spring of 2106 approaches, the MLB will enter its 140th season with only the Braves and Cubs as its continuous member clubs. Thus Major League Baseball is the oldest and longest continual professional sports league on the Planet.
What is not mentioned in the 1 November 2015 posting on “The Seceders” is the core reason for the need of the National League to replace the National Association. This fundamental principle is one rule that is still in part of the game of today. The answer can be found in a speech given on Harry Wright Day (April 13, 1896) at the 20th Anniversary of the National League. With George Wright in attendance this speech was given by one of the seeder’s himself, none other than AG Spalding himself.
The idea of Harry Wright Day was a national baseball wide day set aside for fundraising for a monument to the Old Red Caps Manager who had died that previous winter in poor conditions in Atlantic City. A series of old timers games were staged and 11 of the 12 National League teams participated by playing special exhibition games against minor league teams in minor league cities.
For the record, the Boston Beaneaters, honored their former Manager and Hall of Fame Center Fielder by traveling to Derby, CT and played Springfield, the champions of the Eastern League in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd of over 2500. The final score was 33 to 2 with the Beaneaters in a distinctly un-gentlemanly 19th Century manner taking the game.
At the typically grand 19th Century baseball banquet held in Rockford to honor the Original Rockford Forest City Nine, Ross Barnes, one of the seceders’, was given the tribute as the “greatest second baseman the game ever knew…”
AG Spalding went on to give the core reason for the founding of the National League, as to create fair play and legitimate on-field competition. The man Spalding singles out for establishing this core foundation of the National League was its founder William Hulbert. The same fellow of the Original Chicago White Stockings, now the Cubs, the man who brought othe big four over to establish the Cubs. By that time of this banquet Hulbert had died so his son was present. AG Spalding stood and said the following as noted in the Rockford Morning Star of April 14, 1896, page 5: (The Star had some type issues and referred to Mr. Hulbert as Hurlburt.)
I see here at the table Will Hurlburt, whose father was the head and front of organized baseball. I visited him on my wedding trip and we wrote at that time that was has remained to the present time with a few changes as the constitution of the national league. When he finished the work he said he would be happy if it lasted five years. He did not know how well he had builded. Gamblers at that time had the game by the throat and he was responsible for taking it by the boot straps and lifting it out of the mire. His principals still hold in the management of the league as long as they do the morals of baseball are safe.
Thus what on the surface appears to be an act of seceding from the old National Association and Boston Red Stockings is a singular 19th century event, it is not.
Thanks to four seceders, Major League Baseball and its current “Rule 21” are with us today.
As we inch closer to the start of the 2016 season, for the past exact seven score seasons it has been the Braves and Cubs as the only continuous participants in upholding the goodwill of baseball.