Saturday, November 3, 2007

More On The Organization Of Amateur Clubs In 1886

"The amateur clubs of St. Louis will outdo themselves this year in the number and character of their players, clubs and leagues. The Amateur Park Association of clubs will, of course, be first in point of quality and general excellence. The League formed will be the first and only one ever formed in St. Louis on a solid basis. The players will all be required to sign regular contracts with the clubs they join, and should they break any of the rules they will be forever disbarred from taking part in a championship struggle, and also from playing in any St. Louis park: and, moreover, the members of all clubs belonging to the League will be prohibited from taking part in any game where any player under suspension from the League is engaged. This rule will have a tendency to make the sore-heads come to reasonable terms and will prevent all revolving from one club to the other as has been the case in the past, and always to the detriment of strictly amateur ball playing."

"The Business League profiting by past experience will no doubt make some iron-clad rules to prevent clubs from grabbing up such semi-professional players as may chance to be out of an engagement. In fact, all amateur organizations in St. Louis have made a careful study of the word amateur, and they intend to carry out the meaning to the letter. The right men are now at the helm, and, with proper encouragement, will bring out the latent qualities of who now are compelled to play second fiddle for the benefit of older players of reputation."

"The Amateur League will have the following clubs represented: Amateur Park Club, St. Gotthard's, Drummand's, Enterprise, St. Louis Amateur, West Ends, and Union Blues. This will make eight evenly matched teams, and the winners of the bunting will have many a hard fight before securing the trophy."

"The Business League will open the season with six clubs and will try and keep this number as they are anxious to finish the schedule, which would be impossible with more members. The clubs likely to be selected from the score of applicants are as follows: Crow, Hargadine & Co., Sam'l C. Davis & Co., St. Louis News Co., Wm. Barr Dry Goods Co., Rice, Stix, & Co., and Brown, Daughaday, & Co. This will insure good games, as all of the teams will be equal in playing strength, and the struggle for supremacy will be long and hard."

"In fact, from the present outlook, amateur base ball will be a feature in St. Louis this year, something it never has been before. The managers have the correct idea and have only to carry out the policy laid down at the recent meeting to meet with the success their efforts deserve."

-From The Sporting News, March 17, 1886

It's interesting to see the machinations of the smaller clubs in St. Louis as they organize for the season. Groups and leagues and associations are being formed as clubs compete for players, fans, money, and survival. These clubs are competing against not only each other but also the bigger clubs in St. Louis. In 1886, there was not only the Browns and the Maroons in St. Louis but also the Peach Pies, the Prickly Ash, and the Reds while just across the river were the Madisons of Edwardsville, the Alton Club, the Belliville Club, and the East St. Louis Club.

In the face of such competition, organization had to have been crucial for the clubs to survive. Reading between the lines of the above article and some of the other ones posted this week, it's clear that these clubs were in the habit of raiding each other for players. Revolving was obviously a major problem. Making and keeping a schedule also must have been difficult. Arranging games so that they were economically beneficial to both teams was also an issue.

The Sporting News, as an advocate of the game, was not only reporting on these undertakings but was actively encouraging them. They toted the beneficial nature of such organizations and chided the poor management that often stood in the way of achieving them.

One interesting note about the above article is the quote at the end about the status of amateur baseball in St. Louis. Al Spink, of all people, should have known better then to write something like that, given the tradition of 19th century amateur baseball in St. Louis. The "Golden Age" of St. Louis amateur baseball had certainly passed but it had passed only a scant eleven years previous to this article being written and certainly within the living memory of most of the readers of The Sporting News in 1886.


Richard Hershberger said...

I don't know a great deal about amateur play in the 1880s, much less in St. Louis, but this and your post from last Friday seem pretty clear that money was involved, and likely money paid directly to the players (as contrasted with the club merely covering expenses). This looks to me like the co-op clubs of the 1870s.

Can you tell if these clubs had any existence apart from match games and preparing for match games? The old-style amateur clubs of the 1850s and 1860s typically had thirty or forty members, spent most of their time playing intra-club games, and did stuff like festive dinners in the winter. In the 1870s you start to see "clubs" with most of this stripped away: with perhaps a dozen members, the whole point being to play match games. This is more like modern adult rec league play than like the original amateur clubs.

Jeff Kittel said...

Money was definately involved and players were definately being paid. I'm not sure right now how they were being paid though. But baseball in St. Louis had changed in the decade or so previous to 1886. You went from having a handful of amateur teams in 1874, who still retained some of the social aspects of clubs, to the introduction of professional "major league" teams in the second half of the decade. Then you see almost exponential growth in the number of teams and associations in St. Louis in the 1880's. The business of baseball was booming.

It's almost impossible to catalogue all of the teams because one doesn't know where to draw the line. Should I count the teams in the Business League or are they little more than a rec league? You can't really compare them to a team like the Peach Pies or the Madisons. But they did exist and they did play. I'm not sure what to do with them or how to think of them. It's easy to deal with them in the context of the 1886 season but within the broader context of the entire 19th century it starts to get a bit murky.

But I do think you're right to think of these teams as co-ops. They certainly weren't amateurs in the modern sense and they weren't social clubs that played baseball. This is just a guess but I would bet that the owners of the Amateur Park played a large role in the creation of the Amateur League and in the organization of a few of the teams in the League.

I appreciate you sending me your work on the co-op teams. I'm looking forward to reading it.