This Day in Baseball History: February 28th, 1903

I love the hat. I want one.

On February 28, 1903:

Barney Dreyfuss and James Potter lead a syndicate to buy the Philadelphia Phillies for $170,000.

Normally, this wouldn’t seem weird, but there is something you might be missing. Barney Dreyfuss bought the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1900. Not only did he not sell the team before buying the Phillies, he would hold onto the team for 32 years after buying it. When he bought the team, there would be no law against owning two teams. Obviously, owning two teams gives you a conflict of interest. If you have two teams, then they are obviously in competition with each other for the World Series. There is also the possibility of using one team as a “farm system”. You would essentially have two major-league teams with two farm systems, and because you owned both teams, you could force trades between the two to get all the good players on one team. That’s great if you are the one team, but it sucks if you are the other.

Anyway, the Phillies weren’t a very good team at the time. In 1901, they finished second, which was their highest finish since 1887, but they fell back down the standings that same season. Making things worse, a balcony collapsed killng 12 and injuring over 200 more. Al Reach and John Rogers were popular owners, but the situation became too much for them to handle. They sold the team for $170,000 to Dreyfuss and Potter. It would go under Potter’s name, but Dreyfuss still had some influence on the club. It wouldn’t matter that much, however, as Potter would sell the team to long-time manager Bill Shettsline in 1905. Five years later, a rule would be put in place by Major League Baseball to prohibit the ownership of two teams by one person.

This wasn’t the first time Dreyfuss had run up against the idea of owning two teams. While in Louisville, as owner of the Colonels, the National League contracted the league to eight teams in order to prevent cross-ownership of teams. Knowing his team would be contracted, Dreyfuss bought a share of the Pirates and moved some of Louisville’s best players with him.

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