Professional baseball was destroying itself. There were 24 teams who considered themselves "major" in quality and they were killing each other, and also killing the "minor" league teams as well because a) there wasn't enough top-tier talent to go around and b) they were all overpaying for the talent that was available.

As was the case in 1876, a man with a vision was needed - and again that man was William Whitney. While Whitney was no longer the Century League's President, he did retain a lot of influence. He also was a shrewd businessman and most of the other clubs' owners followed his blueprint in running their own clubs. Some (like the deceased James Tice) felt they knew better, but most knew they didn't.

So in the late fall of 1891, William Whitney called for what he termed a "Baseball Summit" meeting in his adopted hometown of Chicago. He invited all the club owners from the Century and Peerless Leagues and the Border Association as well as representatives of the two minor leagues with which the CL had an agreement (the Dixie League and Western Federation) and several other independent leagues. The goal was to hash out a way for all of them to get back to making money and growing the sport as a business.

There was a lot of pride involved on all sides following the 1890 season. All three leagues - still not working at odds with each other - managed to return the same slate of clubs for the 1891 season, despite mounting financial trouble. In addition to the need for players driving up salaries, the saturation of individual markets with multiple clubs from competing leagues drove attendance down on a per-team level. 

Something had to give, and over the course of the 1891 season this became increasingly apparent to all those involved.

Sometimes the past comes back to haunt you in ways you may not have anticipated. Such was the case for the Century League (and by extension the Border Association simply by virtue of being in the same business) when the Bigsby brothers returned to the professional baseball scene in the winter of 1889-90. 

You may recall that brothers Charles and Miles Bigsby were the de facto kings of baseball in New York when William Whitney launched his Century League in 1876. Charles, as the older (and wealthier) brother, claimed Manhattan as his bailiwick while Miles settled in Brooklyn. The New York Knights fell to the wayside when Charles was sent to prison for crimes committed as part of his Tammany Hall connection. Miles soldiered on with the Brooklyn Kings for a while before attempting - and failing - to oust Whitney and take control of the league itself.

The Peerless League's arrival on the baseball scene exploded the status quo creating a chaotic environment where the club owners had to be even more ruthless than usual. With their rosters gutted by defections to the new, higher-paying, league, both the Century League and Border Association were forced to make raids of their own on the minors (especially the Dixie and Western outfits) and salaries everywhere went up dramatically.

The impact of a third "major" league on the game the fans were paying to watch evolved over the summer. One thing became apparent early - the new guys had the best talent. But loyalty kept some significant portion of the public attending Century and Border games. Still... everyone was losing money.

After a relatively quiet 1888, the war between the Century League and Border Association heated up again in 1889. The first shot was again fired by the Century League as they (again) pilfered one of the Association's top teams, this time luring the St. Louis Brewers whose original owner (Hans Fuchs) had been James Tice's best friend in baseball. With Hans gone and son George running the team, the Brewers jumped. Ironically, Century League rules prohibited selling alcohol at games, so the Fuchs Brewery-owned Brewers were renamed the Pioneers.

The Bordermen wasted little time in responding, again following a familiar script by placing a new team in a Century League stronghold - this time it was Philadelphia, home of one of the CL's original clubs (the Keystones) and arguably its most popular player (Zebulon Banks). Both circuits were so focused on their own games of brinkmanship that they failed to notice a new threat rising right under their noses, which would change the face of the sport just one year later.