|Ohio-Pennsylvania League of 1905|
|Written by Jim Holl|
|Wednesday, 29 April 2009 15:26|
The 1905 Ohio-Pennsylvania League was one of those obscure circuits which contributed mightily to the minors' reputation of "bush league". All of the negative connotations of poorly run, under capitalized clubs coupled with a disorganized laissez faire approach to league administration came together to make the 1905 season one easy to forget. Twenty one towns claimed O-P membership at one time or another during the campaign. A majority never made it to the end.
President Charles Morton undoubtedly meant well when he invited six prospective members to Akron in March 1905 to form the Protective Association of Independent Clubs. His was to be an independent league operating outside of the sanction of the National Association, the governing body for minor league baseball. With a $50 entry deposit, each club was free to arrange its own schedule of games and hire its own umpire for home dates. The league charter gave Morton's primary responsibilities as monitoring player contracts and settling disputes between clubs.
The Protective Association was only too eager to accommodate newcomers and by the official start of the season on May 1 eleven clubs had plunked down their entry dues - Youngstown, Akron, Canton, Massillon, Niles, Newark, Mount Vernon and Zanesville in Ohio and Sharon, Braddock and Homestead in Pennsylvania.
Lancaster joined on May 7 and a week later McKeesport entered the fold. The McKeesport entry was originally "blacklisted" and other Protective Association (PA) clubs ordered not to schedule games with the Pennsylvania club which was accused of harboring a player, Andrew Brookwaller, who was under contract to the Braddock club. On May 14, McKeesport relented, released Brookwaller, paid its $50 fee and became a PA member in good standing.
The widely scattered teams and unique scheduling arrangements made for an uneven number of games between league members. Teams played most of their games against nearby opponents and seldom ventured far without assurances of a financially worthwhile trip. Thus, clubs in larger cities like Akron and Youngstown were able to play a majority of their games before hometown fans and local umpires. President Morton inveighed against this practice, calling for better paid traveling umpires to reduce charges of favoritism and the inevitable fights that ensued.
Notwithstanding the problems created by geographic dispersion across two states, the league continued to expand, adding Lima and Bucyrus from the cornfields of western Ohio. Neither of these clubs lasted long. Lima, citing the heavy burden of an $800 a month team payroll, threw in the towel on June 27 after only eight games. Bucyrus, which insisted on playing only Sunday home games, could not find many opponents willing to take the trip west for an uncertain gate, quit on July 11.
But others were always ready to jump in. Steubenville joined the league on July 1, followed by Washington (Pennsylvania) and Kent on July 11. After beating upon local town teams from places like Atwater and Rootstown, Kent decided to test the PA waters. They found the opposition somewhat stiffer, going 0-7 before bowing out on August 6.
The musical chairs game continued through the summer. Canton, saddled with a last place team, withdrew on July 15 when the city inherited the Ft. Wayne Central League franchise. Massillon, losing its nearby rival and chief gate attraction in Canton, lasted until July 26. Teams from Barberton, Wooster and Butler had such short stays in the league it is almost impossible to find out the exact dates when they came and left.
President Morton was not dissuaded however in his attempts to give greater stability and respectability to the circuit. On July 21, he successfully petitioned the National Association for acceptance as an officially recognized minor league. The organization was renamed the Ohio-Pennsylvania League with fifteen charter members - Akron, Youngstown, Wiles, Zanesville, Lancaster, Newark, Mount Vernon, Massillon and Canton (Ohio) and Homestead, Sharon, McKeesport, Braddock, Washington and Butler (Pennsylvania). (see Note 1)
As conditions of acceptance, the National Association agreed to rescind the "outlaw" status of players who had signed with the non-recognized independent clubs and waive National League objections to placement of the Braddock and Homestead clubs, which were within five miles of Pittsburgh.
Ten teams eventually finished the season in September and were counted in the final standings. Youngstown was declared the 1905 O-P League champion. The Youngstown final record varies according to the source used. The Reach Guide (1906) credits Youngstown with an 84-32 won-lost record where the Spalding Guide of the same year lists a 90-35 record. The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (1993) tells a third story, giving Youngstown an 88-35 mark. The differences may be attributed to the incomplete game scoring sheets filed with the league office or counting of post-season exhibition games or other games against non-league teams. Other O-P clubs had similar widely differing records. Individual player records were never published, making a complete review of the 1905 O-P League season a baseball researchers nightmare.
The O-P League settled down in subsequent years, shedding clubs to help form smaller, more competitive circuits such as the Pennsylvania-Ohio-Maryland League (1906), Western Pennsylvania League (1907) and Ohio State League (1908). But back in 1905, anyone with $50 and nine ball players was welcome to try their luck in the growing, small town professional version of the "national pastime".
Note 1. An article in the Akron Beacon-Journal (July 22, 1905) lists fourteen teams joining the new league: Akron, Massillon, Kent, Mount Vernon, Zanesville, Newark, Lancaster, Steubenville, Wiles, Youngstown, Sharon, Braddock, Homestead and McKeesport.