For the past year or two we have been calling the attention of professional clubmanagers to the importance of doing something to put a stop to the growing abuses connected with their class of the baseball fraternity, the most prominent of which is the evil of fraudulent play in the form of "hippodroming," or the "selling" or "throwing" of games for betting purposes, practiced by knavish members of the club-teams, and countenanced by still worse club officials. While all have acknowledged the existence of the evil in question, and lamented the fact, none have hitherto taken any direct steps towards reform-at least, not prior to the close of the season of 1875. Last December, however, a meeting of club managers of Western organizations was held in Louisville, the object of which was to take the initiatory steps in a movement calculated to remove the existing odium from the professionals, and a reform was looked forward to by the best friends of the national game which could not but greatly add to the success, pecuniary and otherwise, of the professional clubs about to enter upon the promising campaign of the centennial year. In this business of reform it was evident that those who undertook it would have serious work to do; but it was expected that the issue would be met boldly and openly. The evil in question had begun to sap at the very foundations of the national game. It was necessary that the removal of the cancer from the system should be thorough and complete, and it was requisite, therefore, that the operation should be placed in experienced hands. Judging from what took place in the metropolis this past week, it would seem that this important work was not entrusted to men of experience; for, in our opinion, a sad blunder has been committed by the delegates to this club primary-meeting-it cannot be called a convention -- which, on Wednesday night, Feb. 2, terminated in the organization of the "National League of Professional Clubs."
What was the work of reform the clubs in question had to do? It was to put a stop to fraudulent play among professional players, and to punish the clubs and their officials who countenanced it; and with this primary object there was the secondary one of revising the National Association laws so that knavish players could not be engaged after having become "marked" or suspected men. Then, too, by way of supplement, there remained the business of confining the contests of the championship arena to those stock-company organizations who are capable of carrying out the season's programme of tours and club engagements to a satisfactory issue. The business of revising the playing rules of the game was a matter outside of the "reform movement," and therefore was something of secondary importance. Now, what was there to prevent this work from being entered upon boldly, manfully, consistently and openly, at the general convention of the National Association? The object in view was one naturally commanding professional baseball-playing. The opposition to be expected to such a commendable movement was unimportant, and entirely inadequate to any successful resistance to the carrying-out of the needed reformation. Why, therefore, this secret meeting, with closed doors and a starchamber method of attaining the ostensible objects in view? The honest clubs of the professional class are in a large majority, and possess the power to carry out the needed reformation. There is nothing in the laws of the National Association of professional players to prevent them from controlling the convention in the cause of honest play. If the circumstances of the relative positions of the two classes of the professionals-the honest men and the knaves-were such as to render it questionable whether the opposition of the latter could be successfully withstood, or had the existing laws of the National Association been such as to have given the opposition a power of controlling the convention and preventing the reformers from carrying their point, there would then have been some excuse for the secrecy observed, and for the anti-American method of doing their business of reform; but nothing of the kind existed. Why, therefore, was the singular course adopted of holding a meeting prior to the regular convention, and of organizing a new association outside of the regular gathering of delegates, except that there was some secret object in view which it was not considered desirable to have made public?
Again, we ask, what was the work to be done? What was it in detail? Let us answer this question plainly. It is notorious among professional players and club officials that a great deal of what is called "crooked play" was indulged in during the season of 1875, especially in Philadelphia and Brooklyn-not exclusively in those cities, however. In view of this understood fact, what was there for those advocating reform to do? Neither more nor less than to put it out of the power of the clubs in which this "crooked" business had been engaged in and negatively sanctioned, as it were, by the re-engagement of "suspected" or "marked" men, to re-enter the arena in 1876. Has this been done by the newly-organized "National League?" Certainly not. Again, a part of the work of reform was to prevent the reengagement of suspected players, and the adoption of rules rendering such players ineligible. Has this object been accomplished by the League? We think not.
The fact is, there was but one fair, manly way of entering upon this business of reform, and that was to have publicly issued a circular, addressed to all professional clubs, expressing in plain language the existence of the abuses to be remedied, pointing out the necessity for reform, and inviting the co-operation of all clubs favoring the movement. If, at a convention held under regular auspices, it was found, that under the rules of the National Association, and at its convention, the reform desired could not be attained, it would then be time to have done what was done at the Grand Central Hotel. We are in hearty accord with the objects put forth in the Western Club Committee's circular. Indeed, it is but carrying out the programme time and again suggested in the columns Of THE CLIPPER-that is, the necessity for a reformation. But we do decidedly object to the secret and sudden coup d'etat of the Western club-managers, and the glaring inconsistency of their action in throwing out one club, open to the charge of crooked work last season, while retaining another club equally amenable to censure for the doubtful character of the play of its team. Inconsistent action, too, is apparent in the throwing-out of the Philadelphia Club for its "irregularities" -- that is the mild term, we believe -- while another club in the League is countenanced in the engagement of players guilty of the very "irregularities" for which the former is punished. Instead of boldly confronting the club thus charged, the League "whip the devil round the stump," and exclude the offenders under a rule prohibiting two League clubs from being established in the same city. Then, too, they leave out the New Haven Club -- an organization which, in the high character of its officials, the strength of its team, and its reputation for carrying out its obligations, stands as high as the clubs in the League-under the rule of limiting League clubs to cities having not less than 75,000 inhabitants, while they allow the Hartford Club in their League, though that city has not so many inhabitants by 13,000 as New Haven.
By a glance at the code of rules-not the playing code-governing the intercourse of the League clubs, one with the other, which are to be attempted to be enforced this season, a series of laws will be found to have been enacted which, before half the season is over, will necessarily be dead-letters. As we said before, the action of the meeting of Feb. 2, which resulted in the organization of the National League, will be found to be of as little advantage to true reform or to the pecuniary interests of the League clubs as could well have been taken. It is to be hoped that we will be found to have been mistaken in our conclusions in this respect, but we are afraid it is an "ower (?) true tale."
What effect this secret movement will have on the coming convention of the National Association we cannot say at present. It may render the convention unnecessary, but then, again, it may not. There are plenty of the semi-professional class of clubs which would be glad of a chance of getting into the Association in question; and if one club of the organization now on the roll of the National Association concludes to hold the convention, that alone will give it a support which may cause the semi-professionals to rally to the call. In conclusion, we have to say that we regard the action of the clubs in question as hasty, inconsiderate and inconsistent with their alleged efforts at reform; and though we hope to see the movement in favor of reform successful, we are afraid that the right method to insure success has not been adopted by the League.
The Hartford Times, in commenting on the action of the Leaguers, says that "the players engaged by the Philadelphia and New Haven Clubs will be thrown out by the operation of the League laws." In other words, these twenty odd players, of whom the greater number are as honest as any in the League, are to be branded as "crooked" players unworthy of employment. Such gross injustice presents a striking illustration of the absurdity of some of the laws adopted by the League. We have to say that the players of the clubs in question are to be held to service, and the clubs to their responsibilities until the National Association laws which govern them cease to be operative. The players named are as follows: Seward, Nichols, Cassidy, Sommerville, Spence, S. Wright, Pabor, Waitt, Heifert, Knowdel, Meyerle, Crawley, Craver, Schaffer, Weaver, Malone, Zettlein, Treacy, Nelson, and McMullin. The action of the Philadelphia Club under this hasty and crude legislation at the hands of the League organization will be looked for with curiosity.