The Brooklyn Tip Tops

In 1913, a new six team professional league in the midwest saw considerable success as the Columbia League. The league was so successful that its magnates, along with league president James Gilmore, decided to "go major" in 1914, and the Federal League was formed.

The Ward brothers, owners of a major bakery, jumped at the chance to be part of big time baseball, and formed a Brooklyn franchise to join the league. Although formally referred to as the Brookfeds, the team was much more commonly known as the Tip Tops, after the bread made in the Wards' bakery. In 1915 the team's jerseys even sported a prominent patch with the name of the bread. Washington Park, the Dodgers' recent home, was completely rebuilt in concrete and steel and set as home for the next decade.

James Bluejacket, Tom Seaton, Steve Evans

The Wards appointed baseball legend and Players League agitator Montgomery Ward to the post of business manager, which helped to give the new franchise credibility. Bill Bradley, fresh from a decade playing for Cleveland in the American League, was given the reins as manager. A number of big name signings appeared at various stages for the Tip Tops, since players were regularly jumping from the more established leagues throughout the season. Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown, for instance, pitched in a few games. But the star of the squad was Tom Seaton, who had won 27 games for the Phillies in 1913. He did not disappoint in 1914, going 25-14 for the Brookfeds. Right fielder Steve Evans hit .348 and led the league in slugging and triples, too. Along with these feats, Jim Bluejacket achieved the highly unusual one of winning a game against Pittsburgh without facing a batter - his only act was to end the 8th inning with a pickoff.

Production from the rest of the roster, however, was erratic at best, and the Tip Tops lost about as many as they won all season. On September 12, they defeated St. Louis 5 to 3, going to a 67-60 record, just three games behind league leading Indianapolis. Then the Hoosiers came to Brooklyn for a big series, crushed the locals 10 to 0 in the first game, and wound up taking five straight from the hapless Tip Tops, outscoring them 33 to 11. Even though Ed Lafitte no-hit Kansas City for a 6-2 win in the very next game, Brooklyn did not recover, finishing the year 77-77 and in fourth place.

Lee Magee, Ed Lafitte, Benny Kauff

Looking for a spark in 1915, the Wards turned to Lee Magee as player/manager. At the tender age of 25, he was soon dubbed the Boy Manager in the papers and was under pressure from the very start. The big news, though, was the transfer of Benny "Ty Cobb of the Feds" Kauff from 1914 champions Indianapolis. This had been engineered by the league to try to put a more successful team in the big city, but even after he crushed a massive home run in his first at-bat, it backfired badly. While Kauff's hitting was phenomenal - he hit .342 to take his second FL batting title, stole 55 bases, and led the league in most categories - he tried throughout the year to jump to the New York Giants of the National League. There he would suit up and be duly banned from playing, only to return to the Tip Tops.

This scene played out a few times during the 1915 season. Along with the poorer form of Seaton, who won only 12 games, and the midseason transfer of Steve Evans to Baltimore, the Brookfeds slumped badly. Even a late ten game winning streak didn't help. Magee resigned in August, handing the team to veteran coach John Ganzel, who saw them through to a 70-82 finish and seventh place.

The 1914 Tip Tops

Although the 1915 Federal League ended with perhaps the best pennant race in history, in which Chicago beat St. Louis and Pittsburgh by thousandths of a percentage point, that was the last action the league would see. Various teams were bought out by their local counterparts - the Whales of Chicago, for instance, merged with the Cubs, who then moved to Weeghman Park which is now called Wrigley Field. Other teams saw their players leave en masse. The Tip Tops themselves simply ceased to exist.

The owners of the Baltimore Terrapins were not pleased with the way the Federal League wound up, and took it upon themselves to sue the other leagues. This case was fought through various courts until 1922, when the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Terrapins owners had no standing to sue for breaches of the Sherman Antitrust Act. Baseball's exemption to interstate commerce laws persists, still controversially, today. As for the rebel Benny Kauff, he finally did play for the Giants, although he never again produced quite the same form. In the end, he was charged with involvement in a car theft scheme, and banned from baseball by Kenesaw Mountain Landis, even after his acquittal at trial. is brought to you by
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