Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Browsing my library - The 1884 Kansas City Unions

Since my reading for pleasure is already going downhill, I thought it would be nice to randomly select a book from my baseball library to feature once again. This one is a dandy and holds a spot in my heart for many reasons.

In 1977, H.L. Dellinger self-published three books on baseball in Kansas City. This was back in the day before Lulu or XLibris. Heck, this was before Kinko's or Staples. If you wanted to self-publish, you typed out all the copies you wanted and then stapled them together. Maybe you could find a photocopier to make life a little easier. Needless to say, print runs were pretty tiny. This book was limited to 250 copies.

This particular book is about the Kansas City entry in the Union Association (UA) of 1884. The Union Association was a league that lasted only one season. Because of its short existence, the lack of quality players, and the lack of major league caliber cities comprising it, there are many folks who think that the UA should not be considered a major league. It was created as a rival to the National League and American Association in an effort to abolish the reserve clause which allowed teams to renew a players contract each season thereby capping what a player could earn. It wasn't until Curt Flood challenged the notion of the clause in 1967 and Andy Messersmith became a free agent in 1975 that the clause was abolished altogether. It was this intent, as much as anything, that created the perception of the UA as a rival major league.

One of the reasons the UA struggled was because the creator of the league, Henry Lucas, made his team the most talented of the bunch. His St. Louis Maroons had the best record in the league with a 94-19 record.

The reason why this book is near and dear to me, in part, is because the Union Association launched my interest in baseball history. When I was a young lad, I received a copy of Total Baseball for Christmas. In it, I discovered my birthplace, Altoona, Pennsylvania, had a major league team for one year. Any guesses as to the year and the league? Also, Delaware's only major league team happened to also play for the 1884 Union Association. Learning more about the Altoona Mountain City and the Union Association sparked my interest in baseball history, led me to joining the Society for American Baseball Research and is the impetus for my love of baseball today.

Interestingly, the Kansas City team joined the Union Association as a replacement after the Altoona team folded. It didn't make much difference. Teams folded left and right, no one cared because the Maroons won no matter who they played. Chaos reigned.

There aren't many books out there on the Union Association. This is one. It isn't easy finding Dellinger's books because of the print runs but sometimes you can and they aren't too expensive because people overlook them based on the perceived quality. If you ever get the chance, I recommend taking a flyer and picking it up.

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