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.

The new club in the Border Association was the Philadelphia Sailors. Along with the New York Stars and Chicago Cougars, the newly-minted Sailors were aimed at directly competing with the Century Leaguers in the nation's three most prominent cities. Meanwhile, the Century League's best team, the Providence Gems, suddenly fell apart due to bad money management (and high salaries). The Gems were bought outright by Chicago owner William Whitney, who promptly grabbed the team's best players (except Peanuts Cronauer) for the Chiefs and sold the ones he didn't want to other teams (like Cronauer, who ended up in Boston). In theory, this made the Chiefs the best team in the league - they even got back manager Edward Wakeham who had started his career as a player-manager for Whitney back in '76.

Things didn't really work out as expected. For the Bordermen, the Sailors played well enough (73-59, 4th place), but didn't draw much. For the Chiefs, former Gem Jim Jones hit well again (.330, good for 5th in the league and tops on the team) but even with their improved roster, they finished third, 12 games back of the pennant-winning St. Louis Pioneers. Yep, that's right, the new guys came over from the Association and promptly won the pennant. The ex-Brewers went 84-49 just ahead of the New York Gothams (82-52). Ike Edwards of the Pioneers won the ERA title (1.83) and was second in wins (30) to help the new team win it. Pete Hood went 32-3 for the Gothams in one of the best seasons yet for a pitcher (he finished second in ERA at 2.53). Fellow Gothamite George Blankenship hit .358 to lead the league in batting and a third New Yorker led the league in steals (Jason Young with 89).

Boston's pitching was improved enough for them to finish fourth (68-64) ahead of Philadelphia (62-68 but winners of the attendance derby with the new Sailors club), Pittsburgh (57-72), Washington (50-76) and again in last place, Buffalo (51-84).

The Border Association pennant-winners were a complete shocker. The Brooklyn Kings flipped their 1888 season on its head, turning a last-place finish in '88 to a pennant in '89 with a 86-44 mark. Cincinnati (79-54) was 2nd and New York (76-55) fourth. The Stars and Gothams were giving the New York fans a lot of good baseball to watch. Philadelphia (73-59) was 4th in its first season but had a lot of star power to overcome in their fight with the Keystones. Chicago was a disappointing fifth and the last team over .500 - Toronto (62-71) was respectable, but the Syracuse Olympics (44-85) and Montreal Saints (37-96) were not.

Toronto's Sam Mills (.369) won the batting title. The Sailors Alton Davis jumped over from the Keystones and won the ERA (2.20) and strikeout (230) crowns in his first year in the Association. Brooklyn ace Ferd Hawkins went 26-10 to lead the league in wins.

While all this was unfolding on the fields, a group of men bearing grudges was meeting in smoke-filled rooms planning something big, that would dominate the baseball news just a few short months later.