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.

The pennant winners didn't change in 1896 - which wasn't really a surprise given how dominating both the New York Gothams and Chicago Cougars had been in 1895. Both teams did come back to the pack a bit, however, and this was especially true of Chicago which found itself in a bona fide pennant fight with the Philadelphia Sailors. The Sailors gave the Cougars all they could handle throughout September and for a while it looked like they would reclaim the Continental Association crown they had won as recently as 1894. 

Not too long ago pitchers had begun to gain the upper-hand on batters. New pitches - especially the curveball - gave the hurlers an edge, and offense bottomed out in 1892 when the brand-new FABL collectively hit .249 and only five hitters topped the .330 mark, led by a young centerfielder in Philadelphia named Fred Roby, who hit .360 for the Keystones.

The next year, things began swinging the other way and hitters - led by Roby's team mate (catcher Claude Jones who hit .370) brought that league-wide average up twenty points. In 1894, Roby put together the best season by a hitter in the not-quite-two-decade-old history of professional baseball.

There wasn't a lot of drama to be found in the pennant races in 1895 - the New York Gothams and Chicago Cougars both came out fast, stayed that way, and powered their way to pennants in their respective leagues. There was some excitement to be found outside the standings, however. A pair of hitters who shared a last name but weren't related had terrific seasons. Last season's big story was a story for another reason this time around. And the grand old man of baseball reached a milestone that was hardly acknowledged at the time but has since become known as one of the primary yardsticks by which greatness is measured.

More than a decade after the appearance of a second top-tier baseball league, fans were finally treated to a postseason showdown between the champions of both circuits. They were no longer called the Century League or Border Association, but the champs of the Federal and Continental Associations squared off in a best-of-seven series in early October of 1893 for the title of World Champions.

No one really knew what to expect - each circuit had its own sense of being the best, but aside from a handful of exhibitions in previous years, no one had ever put it to the test. This time there was a trophy, money and prestige on the line and both clubs went into that series looking to win.