The Boston Minutemen had reached manager-turned-part-owner George Theobald termed an "untenable financial situation." By this he meant that his team, winners of four straight Federal Association pennants, was nearly broke. All that talent was expensive, so Theobald, with the blessing of his co-owners (including majority boss Steve Cunningham, who at 72 was turning more and more of the running of the club over to Theobald), started making trades.

On the surface, the 1905 season didn't really seem that much different from those that came just before it - the Boston Minutemen were cruising towards another pennant in the Federal Association and the Continental Association was shaping up as a two-horse race between New York and Toronto. And everyone assumed that whichever team managed to win the Continental would probably fall quickly to George Theobald's juggernaut in the World Championship Series. And it... almost worked out that way.

One of the biggest open secrets in baseball was that Bill Temple, the young, exceedingly fast and talented left-hander of the New York Stars, was a raging alcoholic. Temple's frequent drunken antics - some of them on the field during games - kept the star pitcher in hot water with Stars management. So it was only a moderate surprise when in January of 1903, New York dealt him to Detroit. Not only did it remove a lingering problem, but it sent that problem to the other Federal Association, where it'd be less likely to come back to bite them someplace uncomfortable.

Modern fans know what calling a team a "dynasty" denotes. But the first time that term was used in reference to a sports team rather than a list of kings/queens/emperors/etc was when it was used to describe the Boston Minutemen. The Boston club earned the moniker by winning it's third straight World Championship in 1904 - and just like in 1903, they did it in a sweep of the Continental Association champions. But in retrospect, they almost didn't even get to the World Series and if that hadn't happened, they might never been called a dynasty.

1904 was a good year for baseball. For more than a decade the sport had been at relative peace. The reserve clause was firmly entrenched, no new "outlaw" leagues were active or on the horizon, and even the minors were starting to line up to get into the Federation. And on the field, the game was good as well - pitching was dominating, but what we'd call "small ball" today was very much in vogue and speed, defense and moving runners over were the accepted strategies of the time - and the fans were enamored of this more strategic approach to the game with the game's top managers (such as Boston's George Theobald) often as famous as the players themselves.

It was also a good year for Woody Trease. The 24-year-old was now accepted as part of a holy pitching trinity that consisted of himself, Toronto's Allan Allen and Detroit's Bill Temple. All three had good years in '04 but Trease was otherworldly. For one thing, the team had hired his father as a coach - and then activated the 54-year-old Lynwood Trease Sr in July for a weekend set with Detroit, which activated 46-year-old Jim Jones so the old guys could relive past glories. The elder Trease went behind the plate and caught his son in what turned out to be his 15th victory of the season, a 4-3, 10-inning affair. His father played two games that weekend, and went for 3-for-8 before hanging up his bat for good (Jones went 0-for-4 against Woody and though technically on the roster for the remainder of Detroit's season, never appeared in another contest). Woody finished the season with a 28-14 record and 1.87 ERA (for you sabremetricians out there, he also had a ridiculous 14.5 WAR). He then won two games in the World Series, including the game four clincher. Of course, he only led the league in wins (as well as innings pitched, games, WHIP and WAR).

Boston posted a 96-42 record, another stellar year for a great club. They only had one .300 hitter (2B John Cook hit .323) but they did finish 2nd in runs scored (537) - and they allowed a league-low 351 runs with Bill McDaniel (26-9, 1.56) and George Wilson (10-1, 1.08 in an injury-shortened season) also having great years. And yet, they won the pennant with the help of a rainout. The rainout in question shortened the Pittsburgh Miners season by one game - and Pittsburgh finished 95-42. In 1904, the league didn't necessarily make the teams play their entire schedules, so the Miners didn't get a chance to get that 96th win which would have resulted in a one-game playoff where anything could have happened. The Miners were every bit as good as Boston: they had a true ace of their own in Ike Bell (27-11, 1.25) who was overlooked in the Trease-Allen-Temple discussion and was second in runs allowed at 393. They also led the league in runs scored with 572 (even though they too only had one .300 hitter in, yep, their 2B - Henry Clapp who hit .327). 

The two horse race didn't leave many wins for the other six Federal Association clubs. Third-place Chicago won 74 games and St. Louis finished at 68-68. Detroit (60-79), Washington (58-82), New York (54-83) and Philadelphia (43-92) rounded out the standings table. Clapp's .327 average topped the league with Cook's .323 second and Washington CF Ed Ault (.309) third. Detroit's Frank Castle hit 10 homers to lead in that category and Dave Dunn of the Miners had 94 RBIs. Bell's 1.25 was the top ERA and his 27 wins 2nd to Trease. Bill Temple still threw (and drank) hard and struck out a league-best 318 batters, 11 more than Trease did.

Over in the Continental the two-horse race was between Toronto (88-51) and New York (81-54). Toronto was powered by Allan Allen, who led the Continental in both wins (31) and ERA (1.45), anchoring the league's stingiest staff. Bob Lewis (.293-4-63), Nelson Bambery (.303-4-68) and Rich Rowley (.288-1-50) powered the league's second-best offense. New York kept the pressure on all season, and led the race for a stretch in mid-summer, but was not quite up to par with the Wolves in '04. They had probably the best offense in baseball with a trio of .300 hitters led by RF George Reid (.343-8-90), shortstop John Waggoner (.335-5-75), and C George Cary (.302-2-39). The Stars scored 616 runs and the pitching, led by Gil Purdy (29-12, 1.81), allowed the 2nd-fewest runs at 431. 

Allen Allan made some history on September 8. He shut down the Philadelphia Sailors 4-1 to earn his 400th victory - the first pitcher in history to reach that mark. Allan, now 37 years old, no longer threw with much speed (he had only 156 strikeouts in his league-high 385 innings), but he was a master of putting the ball precisely where he wanted, knew when to "cruise" and conserve his strength and had been around long enough to know the hitters and their weaknesses. 

Cleveland (77-61), Baltimore (73-66) and Philadelphia (70-66) all played above .500, finishing ahead of Chicago (68-72) and the cellar dwellers Montreal (48-89) and Brooklyn (46-92). Cleveland's Jack Arabian won the batting title with a .346 average, while Reid won the RBI title (90). Philadelphia's Frank Tyson hit 10 homers to lead in that category. Allen led in both wins and ERA with Purdy leading in strikeouts (245), finishing 2nd in ERA and tied for 2nd in wins (29) with Cougars' ace Jack Long (29-10, 2.05).

The World Series unfolded much as it had in 1903 with only the CA's participant being different. Trease out-dueled Allan in game one, a 2-1 home win for Boston. McDaniel came out and shackled the Wolves in a 5-1 game two victory and George Wilson did the same in game three, also a 5-1 win, this time in Toronto. Game four was a wilder affair, but the outcome was still a Trease-led Boston win in an 11-5 contest. Trease finished the series 2-0 with a 2.16 ERA - Allan was nearly as good, but went 0-2 with a 2.35 ERA. The hitting hero was a surprise - Boston CF John Matyas, who hit just .225 for the season, went 11-for-17 in the Series with 5 RBIs.

Two minor leagues joined the FABL in 1904: the Great Western League, the first West Coast loop to join "organized baseball" and the Heartland League which formed around a pair of disgruntled Western Federation clubs. The GWL's first pennant was won by the San Diego Conquistadors. William Whitney, FABL founder and former Chicago Chiefs owner, was now in Los Angeles and was the organizer of the GWL and the LA club's majority owner (his Los Angeles Excelsiors finished third). The Peoria Bunnies and Cedar Rapids Colts both bolted the Western Federation after the 1903 season. The WF rebranded itself as the Century League, laying claim to the discarded mantle of the first professional league (now known as the Federal Association) and replaced the Peoria and Cedar Rapids clubs with new teams in Columbus (Titans) and Kansas City (Packers). Meanwhile Peoria and Cedar Rapids joined the Heartland League where Cedar Rapids finished 2nd to the Omaha Cowboys and Peoria finished last.

 

Several things came together in 1902 for a certain city that had seen its ups & downs over the years. The city was Boston and it had lost two clubs before the current incarnation that joined FABL from the Peerless League after the 1892 season. This third incarnation had been playing under the "Brahmins" nickname but owner Steve Cunningham decided it was time for a change and to pay homage to the original Boston club, renamed his team the Minutemen.