Friday, June 28, 2019

This was always a bad idea...

Yep, those are ballplayers at the Sphinx of Egypt, during Albert Spaulding's 1889-1890 World Tour. And as you can see here, the ancient icon could really use a good mani-pedi (and no, Napoleon's officers did NOT shoot off the nose).

The world tour was supposed to be a big deal, spreading baseball around the world.  In fact, like almost everything having to do with Spaulding, it was a con job.

A few months before, John Montgomery Ward, nothing to do with the late, lamented department store but the remarkable shortstop, pitcher, and lawyer for the New York Giants, had managed to secretly form a "Brotherhood" of baseball players.

The new baseball union actually managed to demand—and get—some rights; their first rights pre-Marvin Miller, really—including some restrictions on the reserve clause, under which baseball owners had declared that all of the basic laws of contract and capitalism didn't really apply to them.

The owners were truly stymied about what to do until Albert Spaulding, the most wily and devious among them, hit on the idea of a great big world tour to spread the American pastime around the globe!  He then invited all the best players—and the leaders of the union—to go with him, in the interests of peace and love and industrial peace.

While they were away, Spaulding's fellow owners presented the remaining players with an even MORE restrictive reserve clause, which included strict limits on how much any player could be paid, up to a ceiling of $2,500—not a whole lot even in 1890s dollars.

The idea was to present the returning players with a fait accompli, sort of like a hidden ball trick or something.  Didn't see that coming, did you? 

Much to the chagrin of the owners, the players simply went out and formed their own Players' League, which essentially ruined the old American Association, one of the two major leagues at the time, and nearly capsized the National League as well, before Spaulding and friends quietly bribed the Players' financial backers to go away.

The Players' League was such a great idea that I don't know why they didn't try it again back in the 1994 strike, but there you are.

Today's big tour, following similar, stupid efforts to play major-league games that count in Australia and Japan and elsewhere, is to give "MLB" "a toehold" in England, according to Grand Vizier Rob Manfred.

Just what good a toehold will do is anybody's guess.  More likely, toes, heels, fingers, hips, and, of course, lats will be busted up on the ridiculous playing surface where the Lords of the Game are willing to risk hundreds of millions in human flesh.

Well, I suppose it's all insured by Lloyd's Suckers of London, which is maybe why they're going over there in the first place.  The 1889-1890 tour ended up in England, too, where the Brits very politely watched everyone gambol about the green for a time, and then said no thanks.

Look, they have their own bat-and-ball game over there, which has caught on in a few of the Dominions, too.  And if it's basically One Old Cat dressed up in spiffy whites and tea breaks, well, that's their business, too.

It's been 130 years—there was another tour in 1913, too, which was yet another ploy to rip off the players—and they still don't want to play baseball.  Their loss.

Rob Manfred, HAL, and the rest of them ought to take their toes and hold them till they turn blue in the face for inflicting this on us.

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