Free Fiction Friday: (Running The Wrong Way)
Below is an excerpt from an upcoming E-book about the KRAP League. Fans of the book Kansaska have asked for more about the league itself and I’ve done countless hours of research into the history of league where for one season, the baserunners ran in the opposite direction. Of course, you won’t find the history of this league in the Baseball Hall of Fame library. Or any library for that matter. But you can download the ebook for free when it’s finished. If you want to know when it’s available, click here to sign up for my newsletter.
The Original Six
Americans have been playing baseball in some form since 1839. They have been paying money to watch since 1880’s. Since that time, a hierarchy evolved that distinguished the best of the best from the not-so-great. Those good enough to be paid for their talents played in the major leagues, AAA, AA, and all the way down to A. Those that didn’t make the cut could still get paid to play the game. From the late 1800’s through the 1950’s, semi-pro leagues sprung up all across the country. Americans couldn’t get enough baseball and since there were fewer Major League teams and no television to watch them, semi-pro teams gave people their baseball fix. Semi-Pro leagues were often comprised of businesses that fielded teams from employees. Often a player’s only “job” was to play for the team as owners competed to one-up each other. This wasn’t like the MLB teams of today, where the bottom line dominated the baseball decisions and owners field teams with the cheapest players. Semi-Pro teams were built to win. They were a source of pride for the towns they represented and most of the roster was filled with local boys. Although they didn’t get paid the major league salaries and they weren’t household names, they were every bit the heroes in their communities as the guys with names like Cobb, Ruth, and DiMaggio. In 1901, the Blue Rapids Farm Supply & General Store owner Orville McGhee challenged the owner of the Dorchester Farm Supply & General Store to a baseball contest in order to settle who should be able to use the phrase “Farm Supply & General Store” in their name. Thaddeus Baker, owner of the Dorchester store felt this was a splendid way to solve the dispute and recognized that there was an opportunity for profit. So, unbeknownst to Orville, he sold tickets to the game which he had conceded to be played in Dorchester. Orville won the game, but lost the war so to speak. Thaddeus used the money to hire an attorney to trademark the name he had agreed to surrender if he lost. When Orville realized he had been duped, he drove to Dorchester, marched right into the Farm Supply & General store and proceeded to hit Thaddeus on the head with a shovel. Thaddeus survived the shovel incident, however, his mental faculties were diminished and his top hat tended to slide off his head while he was talking —a huge distraction for the listener. His son took over the daily operations of the store and encouraged by the turnout at the game, decided to see if other businesses in the area would be interested in starting a baseball league. Blue Rapids agreed, but only because Orville was still in prison. The fledgling K.R.A.P. league began in 1903 with six teams. The “Original Six” as they called themselves, were Concordia, Dorchester, Blue Rapids, Geneva, Crete, and Red Cloud. Concordia was set to play host to the first K.R.A.P. League game on May 5, 1903. However, the game was rained out. In fact, the entire first week of K.R.A.P. League games were cancelled due to inclement weather. Therefore, on May 12, 1903, Blue Rapids hosted the first K.R.A.P. League game. Not being able to claim host to the first game would cause much bitterness in Concordia. So much bitterness, in fact, that the club would leave the league after a few seasons. Despite the bitterness, or maybe because of it, Concordia won the first two pennants then left the league to join the Federation of Agriculture, Retailers, and Tradesmen League. That league ran out of gas three seasons later and folded. Concordia rejoined the K.R.A.P. League the following season. Dorchester won its only championship in 1905. The team disbanded the following spring after an inter-squad game lead to a massive bench-clearing brawl. Without enough players healthy enough to play on opening day, the team decided to forfeit the game. After a week of forfeits, they realized they would never be healthy enough or like each other enough to field a team and they folded. Since there was one less team to play, many of the K.R.A.P. League teams supplemented their season by barnstorming throughout the Midwest and Maine. Blue Rapids won its first pennant in 1906. The Blue Rapids Crawfish would be a dominant team in the league until 1925 when they left the league for spite. Spite was cited in at least six teams leaving the league over the years. Other common reasons for K.R.A.P. League defections included finances, rules interpretations, and the plague. Crete, Nebraska won championships in 1907 and 1909.