Thursday, October 11, 2007
Al Spink, in the National Game, tells an interesting story about the St. Louis Red Stockings.
According to Spink, the Reds made a trip to Chicago in 1874 to play a few games. On the train trip home, Andy Blong was carrying a large amount of cash with him-the Reds' share of the gate receipts from the games they had just played. Blong, during the long ride back to St. Louis, met several gentlemen who engaged him in a game of three card monte. During this "game", Blong proceeded to loss all of the Reds' money.
Going back to the train car where the Reds' players were, Blong told them what had just happened to him and the money. Taking their bats, the Reds went to the car where the grifters were operating and, blocking the entrance and exit, threatened to beat the men to death unless they got the money back.
"The monte men," wrote Spink, "gave up willingly and the St. Louis boys came home with money in their pockets and much richer in experience than when they started."
This story is interesting for several reasons. First, it sheds some light on Andy Blong's role with the Reds. Spink identifies Blong, who would represent the Reds at the NA's convention in 1875, as the team's "manager" and is another source that puts Blong in the Reds management structure. Second, the story certainly adds some color to our knowledge about the players on the Reds. Several of the 1875 Reds, such as Packy Dillon, Joe Blong, Trick McSorley, Pidge Morgan, and Billy Redmon, were playing for the team in 1874. This story tells us more than a little about the character of these men. Lastly, the story raises questions about the status of the team. Prior to 1875, St. Louis was supposedly a bastion of amateur baseball. The Reds are normally described as a local amateur team that "went pro" in 1875. Spink's statement that the players "came home with money in their pockets" is the first hint I've ever come across that contradicts this conventional wisdom.