John Ransom, Chicago Cougars Owner

At the close of the 1886 season, Century League President Ned Wilson completed what he saw as a coup: he "purloined" the Border Association's champions by convincing Pittsburgh Quarries owner Martin Elswich to jump leagues. Both sides had been stealing players from each other since the Association showed up in 1882, but this was a whole new level of larceny. 

Naturally the reaction from the BA President James Tice was not fit for print. But Tice was also a smart man, and he decided that though he could not duplicate Wilson's coup, he could escalate things in his own way. Wilson's office was in Chicago, the Century League's headquarters from its birth. Tice needed a replacement for Pittsburgh and decided there'd be no better place for his league's new franchise than.... Chicago. 

The Chicago Cougars weren't particularly good, but they did serve their purpose of splitting the Chicago baseball fans. It probably helped that the Chiefs were in a rut and not very good themselves (they finished 6th), but the Cougars' presence drove down the Chiefs' attendance and that hurt league founder (and, according to some, CL shadow President) William Whitney in the pocketbook. So the Cougars, despite a 7th-place finish, were - to James Tice - a resounding success.

The Century League's pennant race was a race in name only: the Providence Gems ran away with things, finishing 88-37 and 18.5 games ahead of second-place Washington. With Jim Jones winning yet another batting title (this was five straight and six of seven), plus Freeman Rogers (.360 average, 112 RBIs) and a pitching staff led by Henry Page (20-8, 2.28 ERA) and George Payne (25-9, 3.69), the Gems lived up to their nickname. People feted club manager Edward Wakeham with some wags saying that he was so good that other clubs hired his brothers hoping the magic was genetic - Edward's younger siblings Jack and Park were running Border Association clubs (Brooklyn and Cincinnati, respectively).

Jones and Rogers were 1-2 in batting, with Zeb Banks of Philly third at .366, while Banks' Keystones team mate Ned Clark tied with New York's Denny Fuller for the HR lead (17). New York's other star hitter, George Blankenship paced the circuit in RBIs with 119. Page led the league in ERA and Payne in wins and Providence's third starter - Peanuts Cronauer, went 22-12 with a 3.09 ERA (he was tied for 2nd in wins) with Washington's Eddie Boyd (22-12, 2.91) who was also 2nd in ERA.

Pittsburgh didn't do much in its first season in the Century League - the newly-remonikered Miners were fifth at 63-65. New York (68-59) was third with Philadelphia just behind (68-61) in fourth. Chicago (56-70) was sixth, a new entry in Boston (the Minutemen, who replaced the departed St. Paul Crusaders - who went back to the Western Federation and still finished last) finished 7th at 52-74 and Buffalo limped home last with a 42-85 mark.

Over in the Border Association there was a good pennant race - and three-way one at that. The New York Stars (87-51) ultimately topped St. Louis (85-52) and Montreal (84-55) by being good, but not great, both at the plate and in the pitcher's box (they finished 3rd in the league in both runs scored and runs allowed). St. Louis had the best offense in the league and Montreal was 2nd in hitting and pitching, but still managed to finish third. Brewers outfielder Jack Easton won his first batting title with a .406 average, just edging out Montreal's Gustav Gray and his .405 average. Jacob Gray (no relation) of Toronto was third at .362 for the year. Easton actually was the BA's first Triple Crown winner, collecting 27 homers and an astounding 145 RBIs (it was not a good year for pitching in the Association). Montreal's Clarence Young repeated as ERA (2.44) and strikeout (261) champ, but missed the Triple Crown by one win as his 29 victories was just shy of the 30 collected by St. Louis' Frank Ford (30-17, 3.66 as a pitcher and a .386 batter as the Brewers left fielder when not pitching).

Brooklyn (73-68) was fourth, followed by Cincinnati (61-75) and Toronto (61-77) with the new Chicago club seventh and last-place going to the financially strapped Kansas City Westerns who managed to hold on to Joe Johnson (and his .360 average) and not much else in what turned out to be the franchise's swan song.