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JMurr

Professional Hornussen Players League (PHPL)

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Monday, May 6, 1878 – Chicago, Illinois

In 1878 the sporting goods equipment and retail business of Albert Spalding was thriving.  As his wealth began to grow due to the business of sport, Spalding looked for every opportunity he could to foster the love of athletics in every American.  Baseball was and remained his first love but his motive to diversify the love of sport caused him to look for other games he might elevate in stature.  One game he found was the Swiss game of Hornussen.  Spalding found the game fascinating and he felt that if he could get Americans to love the game as well it was one that would require its practitioners to purchase equipment; equipment he could sale to them.  Thus Spalding resolved to organize a professional Hornussen league in the United States.  He called the league the Professional Hornussen Players League (PHPL). 

 

He decided he would serve as the league’s first commissioner and he would sale four franchises.  The charter of the league that he wrote stated that franchise owners would be fully proprietary, maintaining near complete control of their clubs. 

 

The first franchise he sold was to his friend William Hulbert.  Hulbert was the owner of the baseball Chicago White Stockings.  He wanted to name his Hornussen club the White Stockings as well but Spalding did not like this.  He wanted his league to be distinct from any baseball league.  Spalding suggested the name Pioneers to Hulbert and that stuck.  Spalding remembered the name from the Rockford Pioneers, the first baseball team he ever played for.  So William Hulbert’s team will play in Chicago and they will be called the Chicago Pioneers. 

 

The second franchise was sold to Morgan Bulkeley.  Bulkeley was brought into the league by the suggestion of William Hulbert.  He, along with Spalding and Hulbert, was a long time and early organizer of baseball.  Bulkeley decided he would place his team in his hometown of Hartford, Connecticut.  Outside of sports Bulkeley was interested in politics.  As the league was organizing he was beginning to lay the foundation for his political career.  Like many northerners at this time he was an avid fan of Abraham Lincoln and the 16th Presidents party the Republicans.  In tribute to Lincoln, Bulkeley named his team the Hartford Republicans. 

 

The third franchise sold was purchased by Bob “Death to Flying Things” Ferguson.  Ferguson was a player/manager in baseball and had worked for Morgan Bulkeley previously.  He had also worked as a league director in the original National League.  After purchasing his own team, Bulkeley talked Ferguson into picking up the third franchise in the league.  Although Ferguson was very busy traveling with Chicago White Stockings at the time, he decided to place his team in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York.  For a nickname he decided to dub his club the Brooklyn Swats.  The name served as both an homage to his nickname as well as serving as a fitting name for a team in a sport where players attempt to swat a flying flute out of the sky.  

 

Finally Albert Spalding sold the fourth franchise.  He got sports journalist Henry Chadwick to take ownership of the franchise.  Chadwick decided to place the team New York City and call the club the New York Clippers.  He gained inspiration for the name from the magazine that he was working for at the time, The New York Clipper.    

PHPL (1879).png

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Tuesday, May 14, 1878 – Bronx, New York

Big news comes in the development of the PHPL.  Henry Chadwick, owner of the New York Clippers, announced that his team will play their inaugural season at Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx.  Joining them in that stadium for the first season will also be the Brooklyn Swats.  The Swats are waiting for a suitable stadium to be built in Brooklyn.  They anticipate playing just this season or perhaps next as well in the Bronx before they can move to Brooklyn.  Both teams also unveiled their logos. 

 

 

Jerome Park Racetrack (Bronx, New York) 1879.png

Jerome Park Racetrack (Bronx, New York)

New York Clippers (1879).png

New York Clippers (1879)

Brooklyn Swats (1879).png

Brooklyn Swats (1879)

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