The League That Failed cuts through the haze that surrounds 19th-century baseball history, and portrays a classic, colorful era when baseball was chaotic, struggled over by players, coaches, sportswriters, fans, and owners. It recounts the stormy atmosphere after the Inter-League Wars of 1890 and 1891, when the victorious National League made a bald-faced bid to monopolize major league baseball in the United States, succeeding for eight years with the self-styled "Big League," which dominated the game while simultaneously gaining infamous notoriety for such high-handed acts as unilaterally capping players' salaries, failing to protect umpires from physical abuse, and threatening city governments if ballpark attendance dipped. By the turn of the century, weakening financial returns and internecine squabbles allowed an interloping upstart, the American League, to gain a toehold, forcing the National League to abandon its fantasies of monopolizing American baseball. An agreement between the two leagues in 1903 ushered in a long era of prosperity and stability under the umbrella of a familiar dual major league system.
Voigt explores the historical origins of baseball from stick-and-ball games, through the popular players, significant rules changes, and seedy business practices of the final years of the 19th century, years that were crucial to the formation of baseball as it is played today. The League That Failed scrutinizes the active promotion of a new, grandiose baseball atmosphere of the "Big League," that included improved stadiums and the increasing importance of until then unknown sports figures: the concessionaire and the sportswriter. The League That Failed convincingly insists that many of the vexing problems of contemporary baseball (falling attendance, embattled club owners, bitter player strikes, and tension between franchises over profitability) originate with the practices of the "Big League" years. Gloomy scenarios touted by many sportswriters today eerily resemble sentim