In 1897 baseball was then, as it is now, a business. And businesses are ultimately concerned with the bottom line. And the New York Gothams, as successful as they had been, were faced with a situation where they had become victims of their own success - their payroll was too high to be maintained. So changes needed to be made. And those changes would alter the landscape of both the Federal and Continental Associations with immediate impact.

Ossie Julious, New York's stellar third sacker, was the first to go. He was dealt with pitcher Samuel Goode to Toronto for the younger, and cheaper, 3B Jack James and P Tommy Dillard. But the Bigsbys weren't done - they dealt center fielder John Jones to Boston for Willie Rice. This deal shook the baseball world - Jones was just 25 years old, had hit .420 in 1895 to win a batting title and followed that with a .365 season. He was considered one of the best in the business. Rice, on the other hand, was about the same age (26) and had a .363 season on his resume from 1895 when he was with the cross-town Stars. He was not really in the same category as Jones.

Those trades had big repercussions on the pennant races in both leagues. The Gothams tumbled all the way to fifth place, posting a losing record at 67-73, their first time under .500 since 1891. Boston, an also-ran the past two seasons after a surprise pennant in 1894, rose into contention thanks to the addition of Jones (.355-5-97) and former Keystone star Martin Thomas (.348-18-134) who teamed with incumbent 1B Jimmie Dunn (.326-11-100) to give the Brahmins the league's most productive offense (824 runs scored, 1st in FA). Still, the pitching for Boston wasn't great and their 80-60 season was only good for fourth-place in a torrid four-way pennant race.

That pennant race was won by Washington (86-54) who had the league's best defense. The pitching was good, but not stellar - what separated the Eagles was their work afield. Washington committed just 237 errors, the fewest in either league. Philadelphia was second at 82-58 and Chicago third (81-59). The Feds had a trio of hitters crack the .400 mark: Claude Jones of Philly hit .425 to win a close race with George Dunlap of the Gothams (.424). John Carney of NY was third at .411 - interestingly, no other FA hitter topped .355 on the season. Chiefs pitcher Sam Reher went 33-13 with a 2.99 ERA to lead in both categories. Philly's Henry Burton went 27-19 with a 3.88 ERA but led the league in strikeouts with 222.

The Toronto Provincials got a major boost from their deal with the Gothams - Julious ended up 5th in batting with a .383 average and also played a key role as a team leader and slick fielder at third base. Tom Lumpkin became the everyday first baseman for Toronto and hit .328 with 14 HRs while scoring 134 runs - the latter two good enough to lead the league. Best of all, the Provincials were in the pennant race up til the end and finished two games back of pennant-winning Philadelphia with an 87-53 record. Previous power Chicago dropped to third and even dealt away Allan Allen late in the season - Allen finished up in Toronto.

The Sailors were back on top with the league's best pitching, headed up by the incomparable Charlie Wilson (32-15, 2.48) and General Champion (26-14, 2.73). Price Adams also did a good job as the third man, going 21-12 with a solid 3.64 ERA. With George Gardner hitting .384 and Elmer Selders driving in 129 runs, the Sailors were a solid all-around club, just as they had been for the past five seasons. 

Jimmy Massey of Cleveland had the top average in all of baseball with a .431 mark, followed by Tommy Watkins of Baltimore (.389) and Ben Jameson (.387) of Brooklyn. The New York Stars, last place again, had one bright spot in the play of rookie John Waggoner, a 23-year-old rookie center fielder who hit .344 and led the league with 47 doubles. 

The Sailors made a bit of history in the postseason as well - they won the first World Championship for the Continental Association. The first four matchups had all gone to the Feds with the Gothams winning three times and the Brahmins once. This time, the Sailors won the series with the Washington Eagles four games to two. Charlie Wilson was the big star for Philly, winning all three of his games by 6-0, 11-2, and 5-3 margins - and of the five runs scored by Washington against Wilson, only two were earned giving him a 3-0, 0.67 ERA for the series.

In other news, a new minor circuit signed on with the FABL as an affiliated member - the brand-new East Coast Association started play with clubs in Buffalo, Newark, Providence, Rochester, Scranton, Springfield (MA), Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre. Buffalo won the first pennant and Rochester made a splash with long-time star Lynwood Trease as manager.