Saturday, January 21, 2017

DA Fletcher's 1910 All-Star Series

In 1910, Daniel A. Fletcher, a promoter from Cincinnati, set out plans to conduct an "All-Star Series" that Fall. The plan was to sign the biggest stars he could and then essentially barnstorm following the completion of the World Series.

As one would expect from a promoter, Fletcher did everything he could to draw attention to the series of games he had planned -- 10 games in total. And he succeeded in garnering a lot of attention. One party that followed him very closely was the group of Major League club owners. At first, they watched from a distance and really didn't take him too seriously.

Fletcher signed players to contracts for between $500 and $1000 for the series, and claimed to have succeeded in signing Walter Johnson, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and Nap Lajoie. Also signed to a contract for the series was the Pirates' premier backstop George Gibson.

Once the public learned of the calibre of play expected for the series, Fletcher began to gain real momentum. The magnates could remain quiet no longer. Organized baseball argued against the series claiming concerns over player injuries, and fears that the series would tarnish the glamour of the World Series[1]. One also wonders if they were unhappy with somebody coming up with a way to profit off of their players without cutting them in for a share.

Eventually the National Commission, "set forth a ban of all organized baseball stadiums to allow Fletcher's games to be played within." [2] They went one step further and threatened to ban any player that participated in Fletcher's series from participating in the World Series.

Eventually, the commission succeeded in squashing Fletcher's plan.
Players were asked to return their cheques and Fletcher was forced to cancel the series.

In November, 2011, Hunt Auctions, included assorted correspondence and signed contracts in their Louisville Slugger Auction. Among the items auctioned was a signed contract between George Gibson and D.A. Fletcher that would have paid Gibson $500 to participate in the series. An image of that contract is included in this post.

In a classic case of coulda-woulda-shoulda, I found out about this auction after it had completed, and immediately wished I had known about it in time to participate. This contract is an incredibly significant document. And as much as I'd love to say I own it, it really belongs in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Since I don't believe it is there (didn't see it on my last visit), I am left wondering who actually does have it. I wonder if some other museum bought it and actually has it on display for the public to see. Does anyone out there know if this item landed in a public collection?

[1], [2]

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