Clipping:Richter on the guarantee system, the weakness of the AA, Wikoff, the reserve

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Date Wednesday, August 10, 1887

[from a long editorial signed by “Editor Sporting Life”] ...the Association's greatest dangers are from within. The first, and most serious of these, is the general mistrust, the fruit of past selfish policy fostered and nourished by the guarantee system, which is nothing more than the old, old rule of “might makes right,” or “every one for himself and the devil take the hindmost.” Not one club is exactly sure of the other clubs' plans or intentions. Professionals of loyalty deceive no one nowadays, in view of Pittsburg's chicanery. Von der Ahe has manfully declared himself, but how do Cincinnati, Brooklyn or Baltimore stand?

How can an unbroken front be presented to, and united efforts put forth against, any outward menaces under such circumstances? If the American Association were united, it could even now easily prevent the encroachments of the League, although it is in a less favorable position so to do than it was a season or two ago, but, unfortunately for itself, it is not. It is lacking in business sense, in shrewdness, in knowledge, in foresight, in strategy, in unity of purpose, in faith in each other, and, finally, in a positive head. Some of the men running the clubs are too scheming and overreaching, some too supine, some too ignorant, some too timid and others too distrustful to make united action possible under the existing regime, and so baneful have these influences been that to-day this great organization has as chief executive officer nothing but a lay figure, divested of nearly all authority, subject to the supervision of a “chairman,” and readily intimidated by the more aggressive members of the Association, and has not sufficient esprit de corps to unite upon some one man in its ranks, repose implicit confidence in him and invest him with sufficient authority to guide the floundering ship.

Unless the Association wishes to see itself reduced to the level of a minor league, shorn of its strongest members piecemeal, or possibly wiped out altogether and absorbed in a One-League monopoly, it must awake from its lethargy, inaugurate a new policy and revise its entire method of management, and the best way to accomplish this, it seems to us, is by adopting the percentage system (unwisely discarded by the League, but to which it must ultimately return). The guarantee system has been for years extolled as the greatest factor in the success of the American Association. Upon its face this was seemingly true, but beneath the surface the analytical student will see in that pernicious system the seed of all the ills which to-day afflict the Association. The guarantee system fostered and strengthened the selfish spirit which now encompasses the Association like a chain of steel, and which renders nugatory all efforts at reform, at broader legislation and at united effort for the common good, and which keep it in swaddling clothes. The guarantee plan has weakened the Association financially and has reduced it finally to but three strong financial cities—Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Cincinnati—to which the other cities are as bobs to a kite. The guarantee system indirectly drove the Mets out of New York and will directly drive them out of existence; the guarantee system will land St. Louis in the League because it can't support itself, and working like a two-edged sword will drive some other clubs into that same body because they can support themselves too well and make more money for their owners in the other organization under that system. This vastly extolled system has enriched the few at the expense of the many; it has fostered monopoly; been the potent cause of club cliques and machinations, engendered uncharitableness, selfishness, arrogance, hatred, mistrust, discontent and other evils too numerous to mention, and all for what? Simply that two or three clubs in each organization, favored by fortune with exceptional advantages in the way of large, populous and wealthy cities, may divert to their own exclusive use and profit all that great harvest which others help to sow; or, in plan words, to make these favored few the aristocrats of the diamond and the unlucky majority simply hewers of wood and drawers of water, the one inevitably growing richer and the other poorer year by year. It is un-American, undemocratic and as repellant to the sense of right, justice and equity of the base ball public as are the great odious monopolies in other walks of life, now levying tribute upon the people in general, to the great American public.

Under the guarantee plan, as it has existed in the Association and now exists in the League, none of the poorer or less well-situated clubs would have had, nor would they now have, a chance for existence, except for the reserve rule. That measure luckily enabled them to at least retain their teams in a measure secure from the encroachment of wealthy rivals. But the day of the reserve rule is waning. It has served its purpose and must go; and go soon! of which more later on. And when the reserve rule does go a great savior for the weaker clubs will go with it, and it will be succeeded by something either better or worse in its effect upon the clubs and base ball generally, as the case may be. Under the percentage plan a better and more equitable substitute can be devised, but under the guarantee system there is every possibility and great danger that the yoke may be removed from the players temporarily to the poorer clubs permanently. Without a proper substitute for the present reserve rule the poorer clubs will inevitably be overborne by the power of concentrated capital and frozen out and then the dream of base ball monopolists will be realized, namely, one great League with undisputed arbitrary power, close corporation tendencies, even more galling slavery for the unprotected and refugeless player than now, unmitigated by the salve of salaries, and—either future disturbing Union Association experiments in the many frozen-out cities, or gradual decadence of base ball for lack of healthy rivalry and competition.

This is the situation the Association will be compelled to face and to grapple with; not only for its own good, but for the good of base ball at large, for which it has in the past done much. If it shall adopt percentage it will undoubtedly take a new lease of life; should it ignore the teachings of experience and the signs of the times it will surely sign its own death warrant.

Source Sporting Life
Submitted by Richard Hershberger
Origin Initial Hershberger Clippings


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