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Minor League Presidents

The 1st President (1901-1909)
Patrick Powers gave the NAPBL credibility at its start

Patrick Powers
The year 1901 was a time of war in the world of baseball and the various minor leagues were like innocent bystanders caught in the middle of a struggle between the National League, which pretty much controlled everything in the game in those days, and the fledgling American League, which was trying to muscle in on the territory.

But the presidents of seven of those minor leagues decided they could not stand by and get run over. It was time to stand up and be counted.

No one stood taller than Patrick T. Powers, president of the Eastern League, and a man who knew his way around in the big time of baseball. When the group got together for the original organizing meeting in Chicago on Sept. 5, 1901, they wasted no time in selecting Powers as the first president.

Powers quickly gave the organization a name -- the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, Inc. It is still the official corporate name to this day, although the organization switched to the less cumbersome and better understood title of “Minor League Baseball” a few years ago.

While the group of seven were ready to take on the all-powerful National League, they knew they didn’t have much leverage in the battle. That’s why they turned to Powers.

He was not a true “insider” in the National League at the time, but he had the respect of those who were. In his earlier years, Powers had worked for the New York team and developed a reputation for integrity. Along the way, he had become an expert on rules in the governing of the sport, while honing his skills as a negotiator.

More than that, Powers had been active in New York City in the entertainment business, which put him in contact with many of leaders in Major League baseball. Powers operated out of Madison Square Garden with a variety of public amusement enterprises, including bicycle races, which were quite popular at the time.

The presence of Powers in the leadership of the National Association earned instant respect for the new organization, and convinced many in Major League Baseball that it could be worth supporting.

Powers and the others knew that a high priority had to be getting the National League to restore the National Agreement, which would give protection to all leagues involved, particularly in the key areas of contracts and territorial rights. The National League had ended this agreement as part of its war with the American League.

But the achievements that came out of this new union were lengthy and impressive. The NAPBL set up standards for a player draft, a classification system for the different levels of leagues, a reserve list to limit the number of players for each team, and also a salary structure -- plus territorial and contract protection. All remain integral in the structure of the game today.

Powers gave solid leadership to Minor League Baseball, but did not serve a lengthy tenure. He had remained as president of the Eastern League -- which would become the International. A new war was heating up with the creation of the Federal League, a would-be major.

Many of the club owners whom Powers had brought into the game became involved, and wanted the league to become an independent. While many observers believe that Powers’ beliefs remained strongly behind the NAPBL, he felt an obligation to the members of his league. He felt the conflict of interest required his resignation as head of Minor League Baseball, and he terminated his presidency in 1909.