That was the plan exactly, and at first it worked.
Approximately two-thirds of the National League's 100 or so players signed with the Players' League—or Brotherhood League, as it was also known—along with about 30 from the American Association. At least 14 stars now enshrined in the Hall of Fame made the switch, including Ward, Buck Ewing and King Kelly. As soon as the new league's playing sites for the 1890 season were announced, it was clear that the Players' League and the National League would clash head on. The Brotherhood not only had teams in seven of the eight National League cities, but games also were scheduled for the same dates and times, forcing spectators to choose between the two. Conflict with the American Association was minimal, because common teams were located only in Philadelphia and New York, where the Association had a Brooklyn-Baltimore entry.
So the 1890 season was played with three leagues and bad feelings all around. The Players' League was acknowledged to have the most talent, but its attendance was poor. So were the crowds in the established leagues, as fans grew disgusted with the name calling and the continuous legal and political wrangling. Despite the concern of the backers over mounting losses, the Brotherhood stuck it out by pooling its money. By the end of the season the National League was in bad shape, but the Brotherhood didn't realize how serious its rivals' troubles were. Alarmed by its own losses and the wavering of its backers, it pressed for consolidation with the National League. In the forthcoming negotiations the Brotherhood was outmaneuvered by Spalding, who boldly called for unconditional surrender from the players. He got it.
The star players returned to the National League, which then proceeded to destroy the remains of the American Association, and by 1892 there was only one 12-team league, a monopoly that ended nine years later when the American League was founded.
The mutual destructiveness of the Brotherhood War became the standard example cited to prove many points:
1) that the reserve system is "essential";
2) that unions have no place in sports;
3) that players can't stick together as businessmen while club owners can; and
4) that owning a ball club is a risky and only sometimes profitable enterprise. Many of those ideas still hold sway, although specific reference to the Brotherhood War has faded.
However, quite different conclusions could be drawn from the same incident. Some analysts contend: 1) an avoidable rebellion was provoked by already prosperous owners seeking excessive controls; 2) even in the robber-baron climate of 1889, the reserve system was onerous enough to unify players; 3) sensible scheduling, avoiding instead of creating conflicts, might have let everyone succeed; and 4) if the generally uneducated players of that day, with little professional guidance and no business experience, could put together a viable league, what might today's players and their advisers accomplish if they tried?