CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – A short-lived 3rd major league filed a lawsuit in United States District Court in Chicago on this day in 1915, the effects of which are still being felt more than 100 years later. The Federal League claimed the National and American Leagues created an illegal monopoly, making it difficult for the upstart league to survive.
The lawsuit was presided over by Federal Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis who was known for his hard line against monopolies. The result was not exactly what Federal League owners hoped for.
The case never went to trial. Landis helped bring about a settlement whereby the American and National Leagues bought-out some of the Federal League owners who were heavy in debt. A couple Federal League owners became owners of American and National League teams.
The bottom line is the Federal League lawsuit went away. The American and National League owners got their way. A few years later major league baseball hired its first commissioner – Kenesaw Mountain Landis.
The Federal League was the last major attempt at a 3rd major league. It was put together by a group of businessmen in 1913 hoping to cash in on the popularity of baseball. The league competed against the National and American Leagues in 1914 and 1915. It signed some established stars and had decent attendance, but the established major leagues felt threatened and began to match salaries and tie the Federal League up in court. The Federal League won the lawsuits, but the costs became a burden. Owners went heavy into debt, so FL owners tried to turn the tables on the American and National Leagues by filing the lawsuit mentioned above.
There is an interesting and lasting postscript to this story. One of the Federal League teams neither bought out nor absorbed by the National and American Leagues was the Baltimore Terrapins, so they filed their own lawsuit against the major leagues. The result was a 1922 Supreme Court decision saying Major League Baseball was primarily entertainment and therefore except from the Sherman Antitrust Act. The exception remains basically intact today, though it’s been eroded somewhat by free-agency.
And one of the most famous venues in sports owes its birth to the long-deceased league. The ballpark now known as Wrigley Field was initially built for the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. It was called Weeghman Field after its owner Charles Weeghman. The park was originally one level. The upper deck was added later.
Federal League Teams
Indianapolis Hoosiers (1914 only)
Newark Peppers (1915 only)
Kansas City Packers
St. Louis Terriers
Kenesaw Mountain Landis
Sherman Antitrust Act
The Chicago Whales & Weeghman Park