John Ward

John Ward

P, 3B, OF, SS, 2B
March 3, 1860
5' 9"
165 lbs
Major League Debut:
7-15-1878 with PRO
Hall of Fame:

Monte Ward is remembered for his integrity, but he was also a talented player. As a pitcher for Providence, he won 47 games in 1879 and 40 the next year, including the second perfect game in NL history.

When his arm gave out he switched to shortstop and helped the New York Giants win pennants in 1888-89. He was a top basestealer and solid hitter. When he wasn't winning games with his skills on the field, he was planning the strategy as team captain and manager. His instinct for administration and his magnetic personality made him a natural leader.

At the time, the reserve rule, binding a player to a team by self-renewing contracts, was the main source of friction between the owners and players. Ward, assisted by Ned Hanlon, organized the Brotherhood of National League Players and they succeeded in negotiating a compromise with the league: The reserve clause could not be used to bind a player while his salary was being cut. It worked for a year.

Then, while Ward and most of the Brotherhood leaders were on a world tour in 1888, playing as all-stars against the Chicago team in exhibition games arranged by A.G. Spalding, the National League owners met. They adopted a classification system grading the players and established a fixed scale of salaries. The most a player could make, regardless of ability or the team's success, was $2,500 a season.

When Ward and the others learned the league had discarded its agreement with the Brotherhood, they were given no opportunity to appeal. Denied a meeting until the 1889 season was over, Ward and others lined up financial backing for a new league, to be called the Players' League, which the ballplayers would control.

The new league lasted one season, 1890. Ward managed and played for the Brooklyn entry and other teams went into head-on competition with the established franchises. The competition created a financial disaster for both leagues.

The more stable National League won out and Ward joined the new Brooklyn team of the reorganized National League. That team won the pennant in its first season. The next year Ward organized an early all-star game, raising nearly $3,000 for the widow of teammate Hub Collins.

New York welcomed Ward back in 1893 as a player/manager to overcome box office and on-field disaster. Within two seasons, the Giants led in attendance, rising from eighth place to win the 1894 postseason championship. Though only 34, Ward immediately retired to enter a profitable law career.

Montgomery never managed again, but his concern for ballplayers and loathing for imperious management continued. When the very unpopular Andrew Freedman, who then owned the Giants, discharged Fred Pfeffer, a veteran player, as "a played out old stiff," Ward took the case to court and won Pfeffer his salary. The Giants' owner paid the court costs, appealed the case, and lost again. When Freedman's next legal tangle was a libel suit against the New York Sun, the newspaper retained Ward, and Freedman withdrew his suit. As a lawyer, Ward was described as "shrewd, quick-witted and humorous; smiling and sarcastic."

Ward returned to baseball twice. He was president of the Boston Braves in 1911, and when the Federal League arose to challenge the major leagues in 1914, he joined their cause. He became business manager for the Brooklyn Tip Tops, the team backed by the Ward brothers and their baking company. Ward, unrelated to his new associates, became a spokesman for the league. Disappointed with the objectives of the owners and feeling the players were merely pawns in an attempt to force the granting of franchises in the established leagues, he later withdrew.

Ward's legal practice in New York City flourished and he almost became the president of the National League, lacking one vote for confirmation. Too many old enemies still remained among the owners.


Early life
At 13 years of age, he was sent to Penn State University. In his short time there, he helped jump start a baseball program and is often credited for developing the first curve ball. The following year, in 1874, his parents died. As a result he was forced to quit school and try to earn his own way. He tried to make it as a travelling salesman, but when that proved unsuccessful, he returned to his hometown. It was there that he re-discovered baseball. In 1878, the semi-pro team that he was playing for folded, which opened the door for him to move on to a new opportunity. He was offered a contract to pitch for the Providence Grays of the still new National League, an all professional major league that had begun its operations in 1876.

Providence Grays
Ward's first season with the Grays was a successful one, going 22-13 with a 1.51 ERA. He played that season exclusively as a pitcher, but during the following two seasons he played increasingly in the outfield and at third base. Ward had his two finest seasons as a pitcher, going 47-19 with 239 strikeouts and a 2.15 ERA in 1879 and 39-24 with 230 strikeouts and a 1.74 ERA in 1880. He pitched nearly 600 innings each year (587.0 in 1879 and 595.0 in 1880). As a 19 year old pitcher, he won 47 games and led the 1879 Providence Grays to a first place finish.

In 1880, he began to play other positions and also expanded his leadership role to include managing when he became a player-manager for 32 games, winning 18 of them, as the Grays finished in second place. On June 17, 1880, Ward pitched the second perfect game in baseball history, defeating future Hall of Famer Pud Galvin and the Buffalo Bisons, 5-0. Lee Richmond had thrown baseball's first perfect game just five days before, on June 12. The next perfect game by a National League pitcher would not happen for 84 years, when Jim Bunning pitched a perfect game in 1964.

The seasons of 1881 and 1882 were the first in which he played more games in the outfield than he pitched, this was due to a nagging arm injury he originally incurred sliding into a base. He still pitched well when he did pitch, winning 37 games over those two seasons and having ERAs of 2.13 and 2.59 respectively, and on August 17, 1882, he pitched the longest complete game shutout in history, blanking the Detroit Wolverines 1-0 in 18 innings. By this time, however, the Grays felt his best days were behind him and sold their former ace hurler to the New York Giants.

New York and Reserve Clause
Ward moved to the New York Gothams (renamed the Giants in 1885) in 1883, and completed his transition from a pitcher to an everyday player in 1884. With his pitching career over due to his arm injury, he could not wait for his arm to heal before he returned to the field, so he taught himself to throw left-handed in order to play center field for the remainder of the 1884 season. With his arm fully recuperated, he became the every day shortstop in 1885.

Ward graduated from Columbia Law School in 1885 and led the players in forming the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players, the first sports labor union. Ward and the players had become frustrated with the owners reserve clause, which allowed them to sign players to one year contracts and then not allow them to negotiate with other teams when those contracts expired. The players felt that the owners had absolute power. At first, the players had some success, gaining the freedom to negotiate with other teams when they were asked to take a pay cut by their current team. In October 1887, Ward married actress Helen Dauvray.

In 1888, after the Giants had finished first in the National League, and had won a playoff series known today as a "World Series". They played the St. Louis Browns of the American Association for the "Dauvray Cup", which was named after Ward's wife. The team never actually received the trophy as it was stolen and its whereabouts are still unknown. Ward and a group of All Stars then headed off on a barnstorming world tour. The owners held their winter meetings, and created a classification system that would determine a player's salary. Under the system the most a player could earn was $2,500. The Giants then sold Ward to the Washington Nationals for a record price of $12,000. Ward was furious and left the tour early. He then demanded a meeting with the owners, and said he would refuse to play for Washington unless he received a large portion of his record sale price. Washington would eventually refuse payment on the transaction, nullifying the deal.

The owners denied Ward's request for a meeting to discuss the new classification system, saying there would be no talks until after the upcoming season. Though Ward and the union fought hard for these issues, this did not distract him or his Giants team as he hit .299 and helped the Giants capture their second straight "World Series" title in 1889.

The Players' League
Ward realized that negotiations with the owners were going nowhere and threatened to create a Players' League. The owners thought of it as nothing more than an idle threat but had failed to realize Ward's connections in the business community, and he began to launch the new league. This new Players' League included a profit sharing system for the players and had no reserve clause or classification plan.

The season began in 1890 with over half of the National League's players from the previous year in its ranks. Ward acted as a player-manager for the Brooklyn club, nicknamed the Ward's Wonders, and finished seventh in the league with a .335 batting average. While the Players' League drew well at the box office, the teams' owners grew nervous when the money did not come in as expected because of the profit sharing system. Soon they began holding secret meetings with their National League counterparts and, one by one, sold their teams to the rival league.

Later career
Due to an agreement after the dissolution of the Players' League, Ward stayed in Brooklyn as player-manager for the National League team, the Brooklyn Grooms. Following the 1892 season, Ward expressed his desire to return to the Giants and was sold to his former club for $6,000. Following the 1894 season, he retired at the age of 34. He finished his career with a .275 average, 2,104 hits, and 540 stolen bases. He is the only man in history to win over 100 games as a pitcher and collect over 2,000 hits.

John Montgomery Ward also holds the third-best career WHIP in major league baseball history behind only Addie Joss and Ed Walsh.

Ward retired from baseball at age 34 in order to enter the legal profession. As a successful lawyer he represented baseball players against the National League. Later he acted as president and part-owner of the Boston Braves franchise and became an official in the short-lived Federal League in 1914, acting a the business manager of the Brooklyn Tip-Tops.

In the last quarter century of his life, Ward’s sporting passion became golf. He won several championships around New York, played all over Europe, and competed regularly in the United States Golf Association U.S. Amateur, he finished second in the prestigious North and South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina in 1903. The North and South Amateur was the equal of any major golf event at the turn of the century. The first North and South event took place in 1901. Ever the organizer, he was one of the founders of the New York Golf Association and the Long Island Golf Association.

Ward died in Augusta, Georgia, the day following his 65th birthday on March 4, 1925 after a bout of pneumonia, and is interred in Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale, Long Island, New York. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1964.

John Ward
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