Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Birth Of A Nickname

From The Sporting News, March 17, 1886:

"Paris, France

(Bob) Caruthers will sail from here on one of the Gurion line of steamers for New York on Saturday morning. He says he has received satisfactory answers to the cablegram he sent to the president of the Brown Stocking nine, and he will play with that team the coming season."

Bob Caruthers was not happy in the off-season of 1885/6. Learning that Chris Von der Ahe was going to impose a maximum salary of $2,000 on the Browns, Caruthers, who was running a shoe store in St. Louis, stated that he would rather sell shoes for the rest of his life than sign for what Von der Ahe was offering him.

At that point things get interesting. Caruthers begins to talk about going abroad during the baseball season, possibly taking a trip to Scotland, England, or Australia. Soon after that he disappears. In March, the Browns receive a telegram from Caruthers stating that he was in France and that he would continue his European tour if he didn't get a contract to his liking. Von der Ahe finally offered a $3,200 salary for 1886 and, agreeing to terms, Caruthers telegramed the Browns that he would be arriving in the United States on April 1.

According to David Nemec, in The Beer & Whiskey League, after Caruthers' ship arrived in New York, "Von der Ahe had the passenger lists for transatlantic ships checked" and found no listing for Caruthers. This led "many" to believe that Caruthers had never left the country at all and had bluffed his way into a larger contract. When back in St. Louis and confronted with this accusation, Caruthers insisted that he had gone abroad with Doc Bushong. It's unclear if Bushong ever corroborated Caruthers story. But forever after, Caruthers was known as Parisian Bob even though there is the ironic possibility that Parisian Bob Caruthers never actually went to Paris.

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