The Players' National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs, popularly known as the Players' League , was a short-lived but star-studded professional American baseball league of the 19th century. It emerged from the Brotherhood of Professional Base-Ball Players, the sport's first players' union.
The Brotherhood included most of the best players of the National League. Brotherhood members, led by John Montgomery Ward, left the National League and formed the Players' League after failing to change the lopsided player-management relationship of the National League.
Although the league was started by the players themselves, essentially as an elaborate job-action to improve their lot, the venture proved to be a setback for them in the longer term. The infamous reserve clause remained intact, and would remain thus for the next 85 years or so. The already-shaky AA had been further weakened by the presence of the PL. The Lou Bierbauer incident caused a schism between the NL and the AA, and the AA failed a year later, reducing the total number of major league teams (and players) significantly, giving the remaining owners much greater leverage for years to come.
The league lasted just the one season of 1890, and the Boston franchise won the championship. Although known to historians as the Players' League, newspapers often reported the standings with the shorthand titles of "League", "Association" and "Brotherhood". League games were well-attended, at least in some cities, but was underfunded and its owners lacked the confidence to continue beyond the one season.