Nearly a Century before his Time

22 Oct

Baseball’s Reserve Clause was first instituted in September of 1879; the eight National League clubs agreed at a meeting in Buffalo, New York, that each team would be able to “reserve” five players for the following season.

In August of 1880, as it appeared the league would renew the agreement, Oliver Perry “O.P.” Caylor of The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote a scathing article about the practice; one that could have been written 10 years later by John Montgomery Ward during the creation of the Players League, or almost 90 years later by Curt Flood.

opcaylor11

O.P. Caylor

“It has frequently been urged in these columns that the so-called Buffalo agreement made by the league clubs last year…was a gross outrage and unworthy of the organization.  We did not believe until recently that the league would have gall enough to enact the disgrace.  But already there is log-rolling going on to bring it into existence for next season.”

Caylor said the only way to defeat the “five-men fraud” was for the players to stand up against it.

“What right has the league to say to any player where he shall play ball next year?  The days of slavery are over.  This system of Ku-Kluxism in ball-playing ought to be quashed.  A ballplayer has no better right than to place a price on his services in Cincinnati, and another for his services in Chicago.  It may be that he would rather play in Chicago for $100 less than in Cincinnati, or vice versa.  Let him name his price for each place.  Let the city which considers him worth the salary asked pay for it.  If he asks too much; that city need not engage him.  No man with common business sense would engage a clerk at a salary he could not earn”

Caylor did seem to miss the point that several owners did lack “common business sense” and that the Reserve Clause was instituted in large part to protect them from themselves.  He also overestimated the resolve of players to exercise their influence.

“It is time such outrageous policy was ended.  If the league will not do it, the players must.  It is a poor rule that will not work both ways.  Let the players then anticipate the fraud, and meet it half way.  Let every league player sign a solemn agreement with every other league player not to play ball next season for any club that shall attempt to coerce players in this manner.  The players command the field.  Clubs cannot do without them; but they can do without clubs.  If the league intends to repeat the fraud, it should deserve to have its existence ended.  Such men as George Wright, Jim (Deacon) White and John Clapp cannot afford to be driven out of the profession by such repeated outrages.  If the players, or, at least, the better part of them, will but demand their rights as men—freemen—they can have them.  If they go on supremely careless and do nothing until forty of them are under the yoke of despotism, they will richly deserve all that they suffer by it.  This is the time to act.  We warn players that the log is already rolling which is intended to pin them down again under the dictation of a despotic power.”

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One Response to “Nearly a Century before his Time”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “The result is interesting. Incidentally, also, repulsive.” | Baseball History Daily - April 14, 2014

    […] writing for The New York Herald in 1895 Oliver Perry “OP” Caylor had the hands of several members of the New York Giants photographed.  The Chicago Inter Ocean […]

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