Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I Need Professional Help

I was going through the 1886 issues of The Sporting News last night and caught the above add in the corner of my eye. The first thing I thought was "Cool. An ad for a game between the Prickly Ash and the Sultan Bitters." At first I was disappointed that that wasn't what was being advertised. And then I realized that I needed to get off the computer for a bit. Maybe take a walk. Get some air.

But I do have good news. I've been researching Joe Murphy, a pitcher who played in eleven games in 1886 and 1887. Hopefully next week, once I finish the VdA/PL epic, I'll share his story with you. It's absolutely fascinating. Joe Murphy is now my all time favorite 19th century baseball player.

Season Tickets Were Ten Bucks In 1876

Season tickets to the Brown Stockings' Park can be had at the headquarters, 207 North Fifth street. Stockholders also can get their tickets now. The price of the former has been fixed at $10.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 19, 1876

Just a little quickie post today as I'm busy with work, the holidays, and another baseball related project that needs to be wrapped up this week. Still, for a little throw-away, it's pretty useful information. Anyway, I'm going to try and wrap up the VdA/Players League series after New Year's Day. I really didn't plan on it turning into a ten part epic but what can you do?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Von Der Ahe And The Players League, Part Six

Shockingly, this little series on Chris Von der Ahe's reaction to the formation of the Players League wasn't exactly planned out. It's a bit meandering and about to get more so. It really started as kind of an end of the year notebook dump and has taken on a life of its own. I tell you this as a way of introducing some information from David Nemec's The Beer & Whiskey League that I should have included somewhere around part two or three of the series.

Remember that what we're essentially looking at right now is the question of whether or not VdA was attempting to take his club out of the American Association and join up with the Players Association. I think I've already shown that, despite his public statements to the contrary, VdA actively engaged in negotiations with the PL in December of 1889 and, if the Pittsburgh club had stepped aside or been unable to secure financing, the Browns (with, one assumes, their team intact) would have been playing in the PL in 1890.

What specifically would have motivated Von der Ahe to jump from the AA to the PL? We've already looked at a bit at the financial impact that the PL had on the Browns and the idea that, as a result of the formation of the PL and the loss of their star players, the Browns faced "financial annihilation." But the possibility of financial armegeddon was merely a hypothetical (although one I'm certainly VdA took seriously) and the longterm impact that the Brotherhood War had on the Browns and the St. Louis baseball market is something that we see in hindsight. While I have no doubt that it entered into his calculations, I find it difficult to believe that it was economics alone that drove VdA into negotiations with the PL. David Nemec, in his fine book, provides a bit of historical context that offers a more substantial reason for why VdA may have been looking at the PL in December of 1889.

...Association magnates felt they could put other matters ahead of the impending Brotherhood war when they assembled at the same New York hostelry a week later, on November 12 (1889). Topping the agenda was the selection of a new loop president. A cabal comprised of Von der Ahe, William Whittaker of the Athletics and delegates from the Columbus and Louisville clubs had already caucused prior to the general meeting to handpick a successor to Wheeler Wyckoff. Their choice was Louis Krauthoff, an officer of the Kansas City club, but Krauthoff spurned the invitation upon learning that he would have to agree to meet a certain condition-namely to exclude Brooklyn and Cincinnati from all important Association committees-before the cabal would push for his election. Von der Ahe's bloc then cast its weight with Zach Phelps, by this time the loop's attorney.

Hostilities opened when ex-Missouri congressman John O'Neill, there at Von der Ahe's invitation, nominated Phelps, and Byrne proffered Krauthoff's name. The two aspirants tied 4-4 on the first ballot. For all of the first day of the meeting and deep into the second day, the deadlock continued with Von der Ahe's coalition of St. Louis, Philadelphia, Columbus and Louisville lined up stubbornly against Byrne's foursome of Brooklyn, Cincinnati, Kansas City and Baltimore. Late on the afternoon of November 13, Byrne and Cincinnati president Aaron Stern were called out of the room by a messenger from the League, which was conferencing simultaneously and receiving periodic reports from a spy at the Association meeting. League titans were hopeful that the battle over the Association presidency would tip Brooklyn and Cincinnati over the edge...(Both) clubs could no longer benefit from the Association's major attraction to them. For Brooklyn, Sunday games at Ridgewood Park were certain to be problematic in 1890, and the Reds had definitely lost Sunday ball to the Sabbatarians. What made a new home in the League still more appealing to Byrne and Stern was knowing that Ward's insurrection would decimate the other League clubs while leaving their own relatively unscathed. Perhaps at Byrne's urging, the Cincinnati owner had also hastened to sign most of his key players to contracts for the 1890 season as soon as he saw the Brotherhood trouble brewing.

Half an hour after they had left the Association meeting, Byrne and Stern returned and dropped a bombshell on the assembly by tendering the formal resignation of their clubs from the Association. When they exited, with them went the delegates from Baltimore and Kansas City...Kansas City resigned from the Association and joined the minor Western League, taking its players who were either already under contract or else preferred to stay with the club and auctioning off those who wanted to stay in the majors. Barnie was mum on Baltimore's intentions, but it was presumed that the Orioles would also try to join the National League, perhaps by purchasing the Washington franchise. Sure enough, on November 30, Baltimore added its resignation to the mass exodus from the Association.
-The Beer & Whiskey League

So by December 1, 1889, the Association had torn itself apart and was down to four teams. VdA essentially had three options. One was to join the Western League. This was an option that he had considered in 1888 when rumors circulated that the Association was about to split up upon geographic lines. The second option was to rebuild the Association which, of course, would eventually happen. However, this didn't take place until January of 1890 when the Association started to admit new clubs. The third option was to join up with the Players League. I think the evidence exists to state that in December of 1889, before attempting to rebuild the Association, Von der Ahe attempted to move his club to the Players League.

It's impossible to say what effect a Browns move to the PL would have had on baseball history but I don't think there's any doubt that the Association would have ceased to exist if VdA had been successful in his negotiations with the PL in December of 1889. Would the PL have survived after 1890? Would the relationship between players and owners have been different? Would the Browns still have ended up in the National League? Would the American League have ever existed? I don't have answers to these questions but I don't believe that the Association could have survived the defection of the Browns.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Von Der Ahe And The Players League, Part Five

The Press of (Cleveland) recently published an interview with Secretary Hawley, of the Cleveland League ball club, wherein that gentleman said he believed that the Brotherhood and Chris Von der Ahe, of the St. Louis Browns, had at the recent meeting in New York entered into an agreement through which that club was to take the place of Pittsburg in the Players League. After reading the interview Von der Ahe wrote to Hawley as follows:

St. Louis. Dec. 29-You are greatly mistaken if you think that there is any understanding between the Brotherhood and myself. As I was in New York with Messrs. Whitaker and Lazarus at the time of the Brotherhood meeting, on my way to Rochester to reorganize the Association. I stopped off a few days to find out what was being done, as I was interested to such an extent that they were claiming some of my best men, and I wanted to find out what there was in that. I respect my name too much to do any such dishonorable act as playing a traitor to the association, which I was trying to build up again. I am not dependent on baseball as a livelihood. Also I always was in favor of the national agreement. As for being snubbed by the Brotherhood, as has been reported, I will say that I was never in the Fifth Avenue Hotel during their meeting. Chris. Von Der Ahe.
-The Washington Post, January 4, 1890

Nothing is ever cut and dried when it comes to Chris Von der Ahe. There's always nuance and contradiction and layers. And that's just the primary source material. I don't even want to talk about the secondary sources.

Here we have VdA explicitly stating that he was not negotiating with the Players League and that he was not even at the December 1889 meeting. This is in direct contradiction to the Post's article of December 19, 1889.

However, what else could Von der Ahe say at this point? Having attempted such a "dishonorable act" as moving the Browns to the PL and failing to do so, he had no real choice accept to deny that the machinations ever took place and that he was a loyal soldier all along. I guess he could have stood up and admitted what he was doing but what baseball magnate would have done that? These guys were always playing serious political games against each other and there was always some scheme within some plot within some plan. Von der Ahe was no different. He was always working some angle and he got caught working the PL angle.

But I guess it was easier to pull something like that in 1890 than it would be today. If Bill Dewitt tried to move the Cardinals to the Frontier League, got caught doing it, and then denied it ever happened, there would be an uproar across the internet and on ESPN.

Of course, the other way to look at this is that VdA is telling the truth here and the December 19, 1889 article was wrong. Or that there's truth and falsehood in both accounts. Or that I'm too tired to make heads or tales of this anymore.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Von der Ahe And The Players League, Part Four

Chris Von der Ahe is said to be very much put out over the result of the meeting of the Players League which was concluded here last night. He came here with the belief that he would be admitted to the new league, and in fact many of the delegates acknowledged that the whole thing was cut and dried. But they were mistaken. When the question of the admission of St. Louis to the League came up the Pittsburg delegates exploded a bomb in the shape of a flat refusal to get out. They were in to stay and stay they would. They showed any number of telegrams from men in Pittsburg who offered to take stock in the club. They showed that they were perfectly capable of supporting their club. That settled it and the St. Louis president was notified that there was no chance for his club at present.

Chris, on his own behalf, said he had been reasonably sure of getting in the League but now that he had not been able to do so, he would either try to build up the old American Association or go into the Western League. "It is hard to tell just what I will do just now," said Chris, "but the playing season has not begun yet, and many things are likely to turn up by the time it does."
-The Washington Post, December 19, 1889

This is a rather firm assertion by the Post that Von der Ahe was attempting to jump to the Players League. The assumption, of course, is that the Browns would join the PL with all of their players and with VdA backing the club financially. I think that the fact that the Post is quoting VdA in this article should lay to rest any doubt as to what VdA was attempting to do in the winter of 1889.

In 1889, Chris Von der Ahe attempted to move the Browns from the American Association to the Players League. According to the Post, the only thing that stopped this from happening was the Pittsburgh club's refusal to step aside and their ability to convince the rest of the delegations that they were an economically viable organization. If Pittsburgh club had been unable to convince the other delegations of their economic viability, the St. Louis Browns would have played in the Players League in 1890.

Would joining the PL actually have been a good move for VdA? It's difficult to say. On the one hand, it's likely that the Browns would have been successful in 1890, both on the field and financially. Their success may have been enough carry the PL into 1891 and possibly a merger with the AA. In this scenario, VdA fends off a possible financial annihilation and at the same time becomes the unchallenged leader of the PL/AA combine. He would certainly have been in a stronger position than he was after the AA/NL merger.

On the other hand, it's a rather unlikely scenario. Would the success of a Browns PL club, with Comiskey, O'Neill, Latham, etc., have been enough to keep the PL afloat? Would Von der Ahe have been able to keep the other financial backers of the league from selling out the players? I have no doubt that VdA would have fought tooth and nail to keep the PL afloat. He would have had no choice after burning his bridges with the AA and the NL. But if he failed in keeping the league alive, I seriously doubt that the Browns would have ended up in the NL and while joining the League didn't work out for VdA, the Browns/Perfectos/Cardinals have done reasonably well. Maybe joining the PL would have been the best move for Von der Ahe personally but I think things worked out for the best as far as baseball in St. Louis is concerned.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Von Der Ahe And The Players League, Part Three

The meeting of the brotherhood to effect a permanent organization will be held at the Fifth Avenue Hotel (in New York City) Monday, and already many of the prime movers in the scheme are in the city. Tonight there was quite a gathering of them at an up-town resort, among them being Al Johnson of Cleveland, Arthur Irwin, Jay Faatz, John Ward, George Gore, and Fred Pfeffer. Chris Von Der Ahe of St. Louis is also in the city, and will attend the meeting in the hope that he may be able to prevent the annihilation of his St. Louis Browns.

All the players spoke hopefully of the future of the organization, did not seem at all dismayed at the desertion of some of their members, and predicted that tomorrow would see the organization built on a sounder basis than was generally believed. As to whether or not there would be an amalgamation of the remnants of the American Association with the brotherhood nobody cared to say. Some thought St. Louis would be taken care of, while others were of the opinion that the brotherhood would go along with the cities originally picked out.
-Chicago Tribune, December 15, 1889

I think that there are two rather significant pieces of information here. First, the Tribune attributes Von der Ahe as attempting "to prevent the annihilation of his St. Louis Browns." While it's obvious that the PL had targeted the Browns and their players, I hardly see this as akin to annihilation. Even with the team gutted by defections to the PL, the Browns still managed to finish 78-58, good for third place, in 1890.

However, the defection of the Browns' stars may have had VdA facing financial annihilation. The Browns' attendance data for 1890 is rather ugly. For the season, the club drew 105,000 people which was the lowest attendance the Browns had between 1882 and 1899. Even when the Browns had to compete against the Maroons, they drew more fans. Even when they were losing 100 games a year in the late 1890's, they drew more fans. In 1889, for comparisons sake, the Browns drew 175,000 and in 1891 they drew 220,000. It's obvious, based on this data (incomplete as it is), that VdA took a large financial hit as a result of the Players League.

When one looks a bit deeper at the attendance numbers, the problem doesn't seem quite as bad. Even though 1890 was the worst raw attendance year the Browns had in their history, when compared to other teams in the Association and in the major leagues the Browns' attendance numbers look a little better. In 1890, the Browns finished third in attendance in the Association and had the twelfth best attendance out of the twenty-five major league clubs. Again, for the sake of comparison, the Browns, between 1893 and 1898, never finished better than fifth in attendance in the National League.

There is no doubt that Von der Ahe and the Browns suffered financially in 1890 as a result of the defections of their star players (and also as a result of the reorganization of the American Association, which I'll cover later), specifically when compared to the financial success that the team enjoyed in the mid-1880's. And I'm certain that VdA anticipated the effect the Players League would have on his bottom line. However, it's difficult to argue that it was a financial "annihilation" and the team's attendance bounced back strongly the next year. The negative financial effect of the Brotherhood War on VdA and the Browns was a temporary one. Of course, Von der Ahe had no way of knowing that the PL would last only one season and that, in 1891, he would have his stars back.

The other significant piece of information is the statement that some of the players involved in the organization of the PL "thought St. Louis would be taken care of..." The implication is that there's more than smoke here and there might actually be some fire. If Von der Ahe had serious fears about the financial viability of the Browns then it's possible that he entered into negotiations with the PL about joining the league in some form. VdA had a history of worrying about the financial viability of his team and making plans for the future in case the Association fell apart.

There were always rumors swirling around that VdA was going to sell the club or move the club to another city or jump to another league and that's why it's easy to dismiss the PL rumors as just being more of the same. However, the fact that rumors of this type persisted for almost a decade leads one to take them seriously or, at the very least, take a good look at them rather than simply dismiss them. One way to look at these rumors is to accept that there's a bit of truth to them. Most likely, VdA did from time to time look at selling the club or moving the club to a new city or league. He was a business man and his goal was to make money. If he believed that his market position was in danger, for whatever reason, then he would investigate possible avenues to improve his situation. Maybe that was moving the club to Cleveland. Maybe it was jumping to the Players League. Maybe it was building a new ballpark. Maybe it was selling off some of his stars.

In this context, Von der Ahe's dealings with the Players League can be seen as an attempt to protect or improve his financial situation rather than a desperate move of a fearful man. It's possible that VdA saw the PL as the strongest horse in the race and simply wanted to cast his financial lot with the organization that he believed was going to win the war.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Von Der Ahe And The Players League, Part Two

There have been any number of odd incidents in the fight, now about over, between the new base ball league and the old. One of the incidents which will have a place in traditions of the diamonds occurred last week from an unexpected point-New Orleans. Its well-spring was Chris Von der Ahe, the St. Louis magnate, who has lost nearly all his base ball jewels in the battle. One bright morning came a telegram from that town. It was fifty words long, signed C.A. Comiskey. It declared that the writer wanted St. Louis in the Players League instead of Buffalo and that Von der Ahe would bring financial and artistic strength to the new league. Chicago counts on Comiskey to manage and captain its team next season, and at the first glance the telegram was a stunner. But the key was soon found. Von der Ahe, and not Comiskey, had sent the dispatch. Later in the day a telegram from Mark Baldwin confirmed the guess. Not only the Chicago but the other Players League clubs had received similar messages and a little panic was created until the telegraphic conference was held. Von der Ahe's little game was punctured.

Von der Ahe's game was fairly shrewd. He used a friend of the new league for a lever with which to pry his way in and certainly didn't care what became of the rest of the association remnant. There is not one chance in a hundred for any association club being taken into the new league.
-Chicago Daily, December 14, 1889

If you compare Von der Ahe's alleged activities in this piece to his statement in October, which I posted yesterday, you can begin to see why there might be some confusion over VdA's position towards the Brotherhood and the Players League. Certainly one can argue that his position evolved over time as a reaction to events but the Chicago Daily is attributing VdA's behavior to having lost "his base ball jewels"-meaning, one would assume, his players. The piece mentions Comiskey going to Chicago and other Browns' players would also defect to the Players League. But none of this had happened by December of 1889. As I'll write later, Comiskey and the others were still negotiating with the PL in January of 1890. So VdA had not, as of yet, lost his players.

So what was motivating Von der Ahe? Was he seriously attempting to join up with the PL? Was he playing some kind of Machiavellian game pitting the PL against the Association and the League? Or was all of this simply rumor?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Presents

The crack staff here at TGOG uncovered this little nugget and I felt it necessary to pass it along. For your viewing pleasure: The Star Wars Holiday Special. I personally haven't watched it yet and I'm not sure if I have the stomach for it but I thought there might be a few fanboys out there who might enjoy watching the train wreck.

In all honesty, I forgot where I got the link to this travesty so I apologize to whoever I stole it from. Now on to the music...

Weezer is the bastard son of the Buzzcocks and the Pixies. And I'm starting to get obsessed with Pinkerton. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

The Good Life (the video of this concert is a little too dark but the audio is killer)

Say It Ain't So (this song isn't from Pinkerton but it's a favorite down at the pub)

Speaking of the, you really don't deserve this but it's Christmas. Here's a great video from their 1988 London show. And it kills me that this clip is more than 20 years old. The Pixies will never get old.


Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Von Der Ahe And The Players League, Part One

Chris Von Der Ahe, President of the St. Louis Club, is in this city and held a conference yesterday with President Spalding of the Chicago Club. The supposition is that the talk referred to the proposed independent move of the Brotherhood of Baseball Players. After the conference Mr. Von Der Ahe said to a reporter:

"The Association will have to stand by the League. I don't speak officially as President of the St. Louis Club, but I believe that is the inevitable outcome of the fight. It is a question of capital against labor, and capital must stick by capital. The Brotherhood may think it can command capital on its side, but it will get left on that point. To mention nothing else, there are not six men in the whole Brotherhood who have an ounce of business brains. They are good ball players, but can't manage. They can't even take care of the salaries they are now getting. And capitalists are not going to trust their money in such hands, and right here let me emphasize the fact that it takes capital, and bit capital, to run the ball business. I exhaust this point when I say that A.G. Spalding is the only instance in the history of the game of a ball player developing into a successful manager.

"Johnny Ward," he continued, "no doubt, thinks he could manage. Johnny also calls himself a lawyer. Why doesn't he practice law, then? Simply because he is a ball player-nothing more-and couldn't make enough money at law in a year to pay one week's board."
-New York Times, October 25, 1889

I don't think that it's a stretch to say that the Brotherhood War had a detrimental effect on the fortunes of Chris Von der Ahe and the Browns. The Players League broke up the core of the championship club and, after a brief restoration in 1891, the Browns entered a decline that would culminate in back to back one hundred loss seasons, bankruptcy, and the club being placed in receivership. While all of Von der Ahe's troubles in the 1890's can't be laid at the feet of the Brotherhood, the war with the Players League certainly was the beginning of the end of Von der Ahe's baseball empire.

The interesting thing to me when looking at this period is Von der Ahe's inability to come up with a consistent strategy in dealing with the Brotherhood. More specifically, I should say that Von der Ahe's words didn't match his deeds and neither were consistent with the rumors that swirled around. While Von der Ahe always publicly stated his loyalty to the Association and the League in opposition to the Brotherhood, at the same time he was meeting with representatives of the Brotherhood and rumors were flying as late as May of 1890 that he was trying to join the Players League.

In the next few posts, I'm going to take a look at Von der Ahe's actions during the Brotherhood War and attempt to determine what his position was regarding the Brotherhood, the Players League, and the Browns role in the war.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Little More On Shockey

According to Hether Pearson-Pillman at Find A Grave, John Shockey was the son of Abraham Shockey and Mary Jane Sexton and was born in 1840 in Wheeling, West Virginia. While this is reasonable evidence supporting the idea that Shockey was Henry Clay Sexton's nephew, I've not been able to find anything that shows conclusively that Mary Jane and Henry Clay Sexton were siblings. The best I could find was census data stating that Mary Jane Shockey's parents, like Henry Clay's, were born in Virginia. I don't have any doubt that John Shockey was Henry Clay Sexton's nephew but I can't really prove it.

Also there are a few problems with the Find A Grave information. Shockey's father's name was Abram and not Abraham. His name appears as Abram in the census records, city directories, and on his Missouri death record. Ms. Pearson-Pillman also lists "Abraham" Shockey's occupation as fireman and states that he died in the line of duty. The problem with this is that Abram Shockey was a policeman rather than a fireman and in 1887, when he died, Abram Shockey was 75 years old and not likely running around putting out fires. The Wheeling, West Virginia place of birth for John Shockey also does not conform with the information that I have. According to census records, he was born in Pennsylvania. However, it's possible that he was born in Wheeling and that the census records are wrong.

And for the sake of convenience, here's an index to the posts on Shockey's death:

The Death Of John Shockey, Part One
The Death Of John Shockey, Part Two
The Death Of John Shockey, Part Three
The Death Of John Shockey, Part Four
The Death Of John Shockey, Part Five

Note: I realized that I needed to check Shockey's wife and see if she was Sexton's daughter-the assertion by the Globe being that Shockey was Sexton's son in law. Shockey's wife was named Annie and she was born around 1849 in New York. There is no record of Sexton having a daughter named Annie so we can rule out that Shockey was Sexton's son in law.

Also, while looking up Annie Shockey's information, I found another source that has John Shockey's place of birth as Virginia.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Death Of John Shockey, Part Five

Mr. John Shockey, Assistant chief of the Fire Department, and nephew of Chief Sexton, who was severely injured at the fire at 113 and 115 Bremen avenue just one week ago yesterday, died at his residence, No. 1711 North Eighth street, at 2:30 a.m. yesterday. The details of the accident which caused him to lose his life have previously been given in the Globe-Democrat. The injuries were considered fatal at the time, but many of his friends hoped that his strong constitution would enable him to successfully combat them. The funeral will take place from the residence to Bellefontaine Cemetery at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The funeral discourse will be delivered by Rev. Dr. Vincil, of the M.E. Church, South. chief Sexton, with two representatives of the department from each engine-house, will participate in the obsequies, as also will the Knights Templar, of which organization deceased was a member. No man in the department was better liked than Shockey-a brave and competent fireman-whose death is universally regretted.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 3, 1881

The funeral of the late Assistant Fire Chief, John W. Shockey, will take place at 10 o'clock this morning...Each engine house will send two of its force, and the Salvage Corps will also be represented on the occasion. As yet no successor has been appointed for the lamented deceased. It was thought that there would be two vacancies to fill, as the resignation of Assistant Bame was known to have been tendered, as stated in these columns yesterday. But it is now understood that he has withdrawn his resignation until such time as an investigation can be had. As for Chief Sexton himself, the death of his nephew, Shockey, is just now what concerns him most, and he says he has made no plans as yet.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 4, 1881

In the aftermath of Shockey's death Sexton and John Bame, both of whom had been with the fire department since the late 1850's, threatened to resign. It seems that they felt "harassed" by a group of "enemies" that was questioning their management of the StLFD. While it's unknown if Shockey's death was the cause of this harassment or merely an excuse to increase criticism of the department's leadership, Bame did mention an investigation that would be looking into the events of the Scholtz fire. Of course the investigation and criticism came to nothing and Sexton remained as chief until 1885 when he resigned to take a job with the federal government as a revenue collector.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Death Of John Shockey, Part Four

When these lines reach the reading public it is probable that John W. Shockey, Assistant Chief of the Fire Department, will be no more. He responded to his last call on Sunday morning, when an alarm was sounded for a fire discovered in the St. Louis Picture-frame Works, Broadway and Angelica street. He was among his men in the moment of danger, and when a wall toppled and fell on the little band of fire-fighters their chief was caught in the gap and crushed under a mass of burning bricks. Rescuers were numerous, and not many minutes elapsed before the hands of willing workers had unearthed the injured men from their terrible position. When rescued Assistant Chief Shockey did not utter a syllable of complaint but manfully bore his injuries. It was supposed that the extent of his infliction was a dislocated limb, and he was removed to his home. No serious complications were anticipated, and the condition of the patient was considered favorable until Tuesday, when Dr. Scott, on examination, discovered that Mr. Shockey had sustained injuries to the brain by the weight of the falling wall, which crushed through his helmet, and by outward pressure compressed the brain to a dangerous degree. The development of this feature of the case awakened grievous apprehensions and when delirium intervened it was acknowledged that the derangement was beyond the power of surgical or medical skill to cure. Slowly the patient sank, and last night at 10 o'clock his bedside was surrounded by friends and relatives who, in breathless suspense, awaited the final summons. Mr. John W. Shockey was a native St. Louisan, and his early years were devoted to acquiring a knowledge of carpentry and building, in which he excelled. He subsequently became associated with the Sexton Bros., Clay and John, and managed a prosperous business for many years. Ultimately, in 1875, the partnership was dissolved by the death of John Sexton. Shockey displayed quite a predilection for fire extinguishing, and his efforts won for him many complimentary notices. Together with First Assistant Chief Lindsay, he was introduced into the regular department when the list of assistants was increased from three to five. Since then he has been a prominent figure at every extensive fire, and in the performance of the duties incumbent on him, he recognized no fatigue, and knew no danger too powerful to encounter. His motto invariably was "Come and not Go." He was married some years ago to a daughter of Clay Sexton, and has an only son to mourn the untimely calamity that robbed him of a beloved and indulgent parent.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 29, 1881


Shockey-October 2, at 2 o'clock a.m., John W. Shockey, Assistant Chief of Fire Department, aged 42 years.

The funeral will take place on Tuesday, the 4th inst., at 10 o'clock a.m., from his late residence, No. 1711 North Eight street.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 3, 1881

A couple of notes:

-L.U. Reavis, in Saint Louis: The Future Great City of the World, wrote that "Under an ordinance passed by the City Council in February 1876, two more assistant engineers were added to the force: John Lindsey and John W. Shockey..." Combining this information with that from the Globe's September 29, 1881 piece, we now know that Shockey joined the fire department in February of 1876.

-The Globe has Shockey as the son in law of Henry Clay Sexton while I have another source that says he was Clay's nephew. More research is needed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Death Of John Shockey, Part Three

Assistant Chief Shockey, William Kemper and John Harkins were buried beneath the ruins. Barthel Wetzel, reel driver for the Vetos, was first to get at Kemper, under a pile of hot bricks and burning boards. The poor fellow's head was barely sticking out above the merciless mass that hemmed his body in and was crushing and burning his life away. Other willing hands came to Wetzel's aid, and with their assistance he pulled his brother fireman from a living tomb...

Assistant Chief Shockey had been knocked up against a post near the rear of the factory, and was also lying under some bricks. His left leg was apparently broken, as it was twisted around the post. When Brackham ran up to him and pulled some of the bricks off he saw that Shockey's heavy regulation at had been cut through with a brick. As soon as it was taken off it was found that the top of Shockey's head was cut open and his face was badly bruised.

When the reporter called at Mr. Shockey's house, No. 1711 North Eighth street, he found the Assistant Chief in his cheerful bed room on the second floor front, surrounded by Dr. Hodgen and a number of friends. His face appeared badly scorched, and there was a long gash in the top of his head. His leg had just been set and was strung up slightly above the level of his body in a sort of hammock, formed of a suitable wire frame and a cloth covering, suspended by an ingenious device from the ceiling. The patient endured all this with fortitude, and said he felt perfectly comfortable, and was betting the doctor a quarter that he was mistaken when he said such a matter as a broken thigh would keep him in his house for two or three months.

"Was Mr. Shockey comfortable enough to give the Globe-Democrat reporter a little statement concerning the fire and how he came to be hurt?"

"Of course Mr. Shockey would," piped the cheerful voice that only a couple hours before had nearly stopped forever; "in fact, nothing would please him more, but the story was very short, as his memory gave out when he heard the wall crack in the alley over his head, about twenty-five minutes after he got to the fire, as near as he could recollect."

"How did he happen to be in the alley?"

"He was there trying to get a line of hose to the varnish in the rear of the factory, but was a little slow as he didn't have enough men, and was kindly assisted by three or four citizens who were a little awkward."
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 26, 1881

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Death Of John Shockey, Part Two

The Veto Company, No. 8, were first upon the scene (of the Scholz fire) and first to get a stream into action. Nos. 19 and 20 arrived immediately after and soon got to work. The Vetoes at first attacked the fire from the front and had checked the flames in that direction.

From a one-story gravel roof addition to the main building the 19s were playing their stream upon the fire, which was rapidly gaining headway in the rear and blazing from the ground up to the roof. On the east side of the burning house there was a vacant lot of about twenty feet wide, and in order to gain the rear of the fire it was necessary to pass over this open space close under the treacherous wall. Making up his mind to take the risk, Mr. Shockey said to the Veto company, "Pick up your line, and we will go through with a rush."

William Greenwood, of No. 8, and Edward Lyons, of No. 2 truck, had hold of the nozzle. Then followed Howard, of No. 2 truck, Assistant Fire Chief John Shockey, John Fisher, residing at 3908 Broadway; William Shepard, William Kemper, of No. 8, and lastly John Harkins, foreman in Knapp, Stout, & Co.'s saw mill. All these parties had hold of the Veto's line of hose and were making the run of the dangerous gantlet when Harkins stumbled. In his fall he threw several of his companions off their feet and they rolled down into a sink-hole with the nozzle.

"Come up, come up, come up out of that," shouted Mr. Shockey. At that instant there was a crash from the opposite side of the building. Several shouts went up: "Look out! Look out!" And the poor fellows did look out and up also to see the wall toppling over upon them in the narrow chute. All of them dropped the hose and made a break for their lives. Some tried to escape through the opening to the north, and others attempted to clear themselves from the mass of falling brick and mortar by running out of the south entrance. It was a perilous moment, and the hundreds who had gathered about the scene held their breath in horror until after the debris had settled and the dirt and smoke began to clear above the sufferers who were caught in the trap.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 26, 1881

The image above, and the rest of the images in this series of posts, comes from Fire History, a fantastic website that chronicles the history of North American fire departments. None of the images are of the StLFD or St. Louis firemen but they were all taken around the time of the Scholz fire.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Death Of John Shockey, Part One

Yesterday at 12:40 p.m., a citizen came rushing breathless up to Officer Schmidt on Broadway, and told him there was a fire. Without further ado the officer ran to a fire alarm box, but it would not work, and then to a second, which he found in like condition. At last he managed to get an alarm from box 386, on Broadway and Angelica street, and the Department, with Chief Sexton at its head, responded.

The building that was ablaze was Philip Scholz's picture frame manufactory, or rather finishing establishment, at 113 and 115 Bremen avenue. It consisted of two parts, the main building, to the east, being a two-story frame, 25 X 85 feet, and the addition adjoining, to the west, 16 X 24. The whole formed, as may be judged from these dimensions, a rather irregular-shaped structure. It was situated in the very heart of a conglomeration of wooden buildings, and there was every prospect of another conflagration. Happily this was averted.

How the fire broke out no one could tell. Mr. Scholz, the proprietor, said that he, the foreman, the driver at his mill, and one other workman, had been sitting in the work-room of the addition preparatory to packing up goods to ship Tuesday. There was no fire around. The varnish, of which there was but a small quantity, not more than fifteen gallons, was stored in a separate building in the rear, and not a drop of it was destroyed. Ten minutes after they had left the building some outsiders saw smoke pouring from every crevice in the main building and the flames burst from the first floor. The result was that at least two-thirds of the main building was laid in the ashes, and about one-half of the addition was ruined both by fire and water...

The loss is estimated at $1,500 on the building and about $2,000 on frames...

Unfortunate as Mr. Scholz was, three of the firemen, William Kemper, of No. 8; James King, foreman of No. 19, and Assistant Chief John Shockey, were more so, for in the exercise of their duty they received more or less serious injuries.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 26, 1881

Born in Pennsylvania in 1839, John W. Shockey was the nephew of Henry Clay Sexton and a playing member of the Empire Club. An outfielder, he served as one of the club's two field captains in 1869. Like many members of the club, Shockey was employed with the St. Louis Fire Department and rose to become Assistant Chief.

On October 2, 1881, Shockey died as a result of injuries he suffered while attempting to put out the fire at Scholz's picture frame factory. Over the next few days, I'm going to detail the events of the fire, Shockey's injuries, and his death.

The image at the top of this post is a lithograph of Phelim O'Toole and Michael Hester, members of the St. Louis Fire Department at the same time as Shockey, that I found at History's Time Portal to Old St. Louis.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

St. Louis Jubilant

A party of nine young gentlemen, hailing from nowhere in particular, and distinguished from the rest of the world by wearing white stockings, and a party of nine other young gentlemen, hailing from nowhere in particular, and distinguished from the rest of the world by wearing brown stockings, have met in the City of St. Louis and disputed for the honors of a base-ball field, with the result that the white-hosed young gentlemen were whipped in every inning and the brown-hosed young gentlemen scored 10 runs to their opponents 0. Upon the strength of this discomfiture, the City of St. Louis has risen to its feet in a spirit of exultation, and is rending the air with ecstatic exclamations, and making itself ridiculous generally. These brown-legged young gentlemen having defeated the white-legged ones, we are now prepared to see St. Louis make a new claim for the location of the Mint in that city, prepare new arguments in favor of locating the National Capital there, and immediately issue a new directory with 200,000 additional names in it. The issue of this important brown-legged event will undoubtedly have a cheerful influence upon the stagnant condition of the trade and commerce of that city, and infuse new life into its torpid channels. We presume every citizen of St. Louis breathes more freely and feels more erect, now that nine men with white stockings, hailing from Chicago, have been beaten; that it really has one source of honest exultation; and that, for the first time, it can rejoice in getting ahead of Chicago. We have no desire to depreciate the great physical and moral victory which St. Louis has gained. We acknowledge it in its length and breadth. If necessary, we are prepared to feel mortified, to call these white-legged young gentlemen all sorts of harsh names, and even to invite the brown-legged gentlemen to Chicago and give them an ovation, calling out the Fire Department, the school-children, and the brass bands to assist.

...St. Louis can keep on howling with exultation, and should do so. She may never have another chance. Let her make the most of it. If so slight a thing as a base-ball game can make her happy, it would be cruel to interfere with it or in any way belittle the event.
-Chicago Daily Tribune, May 8, 1875

Wow. This article made me think of four things:

  • the word "condescending"
  • the word "defensive"
  • every whinny Cub fan I've ever met
  • the national media and their treatment of Sarah Palin

You really just want to smack somebody who would write something like this. Or at the very least help them raise money so that they can finally get that operation to remove the stick from their ass.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

St. Louis Players Wanted At Ludlow, Kentucky

Mr. J.H. Gifford, manager of the Ludlow club, which is being reorganized, writes that he is anxious to engage first-class players. He says that the club will not pay any fancy salaries, but that the men will be sure of their money as fast as it falls due. The organization is in need of a catcher, change pitcher, short-stop and third baseman. Manager Gifford would like to hear from Seward, Pearce, Redmond, Gleason, McCaffrey and other players now in St. Louis. If they will write, stating their lowest terms, an agreement may be arrived at. Out of the material mentioned above a very strong team could be placed in the field.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 5, 1877

At first glance, I was rather dismissive of Gifford's attempt to land the mentioned players for the Ludlows. I particularly liked the part about how he wanted the players to mail him their lowest terms and thought it was funny. But if you look at it, the players that Gifford was targeting were certainly attainable. Dickey Pearce was 41 years old and at the end of the line. George Seward and Billy Redmon weren't big stars and neither played more than seventy big league games. The Gleasons and Harry McCaffrey were youngsters. There was no reason, given enough money, that Gifford couldn't have signed all five.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Where Are They Now?

(John) Peters is connected with the water department in St. Louis.

(Daniel) Morgan is a successful businessman in St. Louis.

(Bill) Redmond's whereabouts is unknown.

-Milwaukee Journal, June 1895

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Curt Welch's Obit

Curtis Benton Welch, the ball player, died at an early hour this morning at his home in (East Liverpool, Ohio) of consumption.

Welch became famous as a member of the St. Louis Browns, which won the championship so many times. He was a brilliant fielder, and some of his catches are in history as the most daring efforts in that line. The man had no fear of personal injury and would plunge headlong for the ball. At the bat he would brave the fastest pitching. He frequently permitted the ball to hit him in order to secure a base.

Curtis Welch, the peerless outfielder, was a native of Liverpool, O. and was born in 1862. In 1883 he secured his first engagement to play centerfield with Toledo. He remained with the club during the season of 1884, and in 1885 was sold to St. Louis.

During 85, 86, 87, 88 and a part of 89 he continued with the Browns, and in that time built up his reputation of king pin outfielder of the world. In 1890 he was with the Athletics of Philadelphia, and at the end of that year went to Baltimore.

Welch was, without a doubt, one of the most "heady" ball players in the profession. He knew every point of the game and never lost an opportunity to take advantage of his knowledge. As a fielder he had no superior, and his batting was always steady and reliable. He covered immense amount of territory and his coolness and good judgement made him a terror to catchers when he was on the bases.

"Curt" was called tricky, but never by the members of the team he played upon. Some of his methods were not in precise accord with the rules of the game, but by them he made runs, and the public, wherever he played, was more than satisfied.

He was a man who would rather miss his dinner than a game, and he took defeat sorely to heart. He was always for his team and never for Welch.

He played with Baltimore in 92. In 93 he went to Louisville, which was his last year in the big league. His last engagement was at Syracuse last year.
-Boston Daily Globe, August 30, 1896

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A List Of Minor St. Louis Clubs In 1875

In the August 30, 1875 edition of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, there's a list of eighty-four games that took place "in this city and vicinity" on Sunday, August 29th. The following clubs were listed:


, Jr.
Athletic No. 2

Biddle Market Bank
Blanke & Bro.
Blue Sox

Brown Sox, Jr.

Commercial, Jr.
Conrades & L.
Dr. Mullen
Dolly Varden

Empire, Jr.

Gas Works
Gas Works, Jr.
Golden Star
Green Sox
Grey Eagle

Heller & H.
J.H. Crane
Leggett & Myer

Loft Leaf
Lone Star
Lumber, Jr.

Miller Tobacco
Muffer, Jr.
, Jr.

North St. Louis


Only Star


Peckham Purple Sox
Red Rose
Red Wing
R.E. Lee
, Jr.
Rock Island

Rowena, Jr.
Salvage Corps

Spread Eagle
St. Louis


Tin Roofer

Vinegar Hill
Vornbock & F.

Western Bluffs
White Sox
White Star

Young Anchors
Young Girard

That's 138 clubs. There were also two picked nines and the second nines of several clubs playing that day. If you take out the twelve junior and "young" teams then there were at least 126 "minor" baseball clubs in St. Louis in 1875. This, of course doesn't include the professional Brown Stockings and Red Stockings or the "major" amateur clubs like the Empires or Grand Avenues. I'm not sure how this compares with other cities but the fact that there were somewhere around 150 baseball teams in St. Louis in 1875 certainly speaks to the popularity of the game in the city.

It should be noted, however, that many of these teams probably had an ephemeral existence and some may have only existed for the one game noted in the Globe. On the other hand, you have clubs with first, second and junior nines, implying some kind of solid club structure. This is the kind of mixed information that leads one to realize that a comprehensive list of 19th century St. Louis baseball clubs will most likely never be compiled. It's an impossible task.

For what it's worth, my favorite club name on this list is the Peckham Purple Sox. I also like the Finefielders, Pedros, Sichtings, and Water Towers.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Trick McSorley Joins The Stars

The Stars have been strengthened by the addition of McSorley, of the St. Louis Reds, who will play third for the present. With this improvement the Stars will probably be able to hold second in the contest for the championship of Kentucky.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat (from the Cincinnati Commercial), August 30, 1875

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Silver King's Obit

One of the few remaining hurling aces of the 80's passed away on May 19, when Charles F. (Silver King) Koenig died in St. Louis, following an operation for gallstones and appendicitis. He retired from the game before the turn of the present century and had been a brick contractor for years. Koenig was a native of St. Louis, born January 11, 1868, and had lived in the Mound City all of his life.

The son of a German couple, fittingly enough named Koenig, which is King in English, he later became a king on the mound and because of a blond thatch that resembled burnished silver, the appelation "Silver" was tacked on to the nickname by a St. Joseph, Mo., writer and eventually he became Silver King, few knowing him by any other name. He wrote his deeds high in the pitching records of his day, becoming famed as an iron man in a period when hurlers were expected to show enough stamina to pitch many days in succession, if necessary, and he won more games during his first four years in the big show than many others pitch during a like period. Yet his top salary at the zenith of his career was only $5,000 and frequently much lower.

King worked on the mound under varying conditions. When he broke in the pitching distance was 50 feet and the box consisted of two slabs, set about six feet apart. The pitcher was allowed to place one foot on the hindmost slab and take a hop, step and jump before delivering the ball. While this may have helped to get more speed, it also added to the strain attached to pitching. There was no foul strike rule and a foul was not in favor of the pitcher. Juggling of the pitching rules allowed the batter four strikes and seven balls, five balls and four strike and also six balls and three strikes, all of which made it neccessary for a hurler to make many pitches. Seldom were more than 12 players carried on a team and when a pitcher was knocked out, or not working on the mound, he was expected to play some other position.

Possessing wide shoulders, a barrel chest, long, brawny arms, hands so big that they could completely surround and hide the ball and iron nerves and muscles, Silver King brought an ideal physical make-up to the game. When he was 17 years old, King became a pitcher on a semi-pro team at Jacksonville, Ill., where his batterymate was Jack O'Connor, who also won fame as a catcher. O'Connor went with King to St. Joseph in the Western League the following year, in 1886, and later also played with St. Louis.

Kansas City, then in the National League, sought the services of King and he finished the 1886 season with that club, but had a tough time collecting the $200 he was promised for joining. Returning to St. Louis that winter, the big right-hander was approached by George Munson, a sports writer and aide to Chris von der Ahe, owner of the St. Louis Browns of the American Association, with a view to joining the Browns, under the managership of Charles A. Comiskey. Signing, he immediately made good, winning 30 and losing 12 contests and participating in 43 games, all except one being complete. The Browns won their third straight championship that season and played 15 games with the Detroit National League club for the world's title but won only five of them, King pitching in seven. This series saw the two-umpire system used for the first time.

The next season, 1888, King pitched 707 innings, 594 in the regular season, and 113 in exhibition games, and four games in the World's Series that fall with New York. In the 65 regular games in which he hurled, King yielded only 434 hits to 2,208 batters; in only one contest did the opposition score a double number in runs; he issued only 80 walks; only six home runs were made off him and he won 44 out of the 65, striking out 245, getting 13, 14, 13 and seven strike-outs in four successive games.

King continued his brilliant work in 1889, winning 30 games and losing 15 for the Browns. In 1890, with others of the team, he jumped to Chicago in the Brotherhood League, called an outlaw organization, where he won 30 and lost 18. Then began his decline, for with the weak Pittsburgh National League club in 1891, he won only 14 and lost 29. He bettered that mark in 1892 with New York, winning 22 and losing 24, but dropped back in 1893, when, with New York and Cincinnati, he won only six and lost nine.

Disgusted with the weak support given him by those teams, King quit the game and remained out in 1894 and 1895, but hearkened to the call of Scrappy Bill Joyce, manager of the Washington Nationals, and returned to action in 1896, winning ten and losing five. The following year, he gained seven verdicts against five defeats and then decided to quit the game because he felt it didn't pay. The highest salary he ever received was $5,000, with Pittsburgh. Chris von der Ahe never paid him more than $3,200 and the limit for the brightest luminary in 1897 was $2,400. So he returned to St. Louis and entered the contracting business, in which he continued until 1925.

While speed was King's chief asset, he is credited with having been the first to use the crossfire. He mixed curves and a change of pace with his speed, throwing them all with the same motion and with remarkable control, without a windup.
-The Sporting News, May 26, 1938

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Packy Dillon Had A Temper

Packey Dillon is the regular catcher (of the Reds), and there are very few better as long as he keeps his temper; the want of control in this respect is the only fault Pack's best friends find with him.
-Chicago Tribune, April 18, 1875

I love stuff like this. It's one thing to read a player's stats at Baseball-Reference and another entirely to know what that player was like as a person. A great deal of information about Packy Dillon has come to light over the last year or so and we've finally been able to sort out his biography to a great extent. But it's little tidbits like this that help flesh out the information that we have and allow us to begin to understand Dillon as a person rather than just a stat line.

Having said that, to what extent is this reference to Dillon anything more than a stereotype? Dillon was an Irishman with a temper? I'm a bit surprised that they didn't say he liked to drink and get into fights as well. At least they didn't call him a potato-eating Papist.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Game At Jefferson Barracks

An interesting and, at times, exciting game was played on the parade ground at Jefferson Barracks on the 19th instant, between the Jefferson Barracks and Hill Clubs, the latter team hailing from the hill just north of the Barracks. There were five or six good amateur players on each side. Up to the fifth inning the game was well worth seeing; after that the muffers on both sides began throwing wild, and the hundred spectators had to turn their heads, being ashamed to look at the barn-door throwing indulged in. The pitching of John Adams for the Barracks boys was first class in every particular, although he, like sorrel top Bradley, could not let himself out, his brother Charley, who caught for him, like Cal. McVey, being unable to hold the rifle shots sent in. Kinney, who played third in professional style, John, Charley and Tom Adams did all the fielding for the Barracks nine, and all the batting, too, with John and Will Harrison and little Frank Adams thrown in. Morrisey, the Captain of the Hill crew, played well and for all he was worth, as did also the Murnan boys. During the game the Hillites made a chain-lightning double play. They came out at the small end of the horn, because they could not get in on the "krookt" balls sent in by Johnny Adams to any great extent. The umpiring was wretched. Next Sunday a nine, picked from the Barrack and Hill teams, will give the Our Boys, of Carondelet, any amount of leather to hunt on the parade grounds.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 21, 1877

The Jefferson Barracks team won the game over the Buttermilk Hill club 15 to 10.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Al Spink's Obit

Alfred "Al" Spink, veteran sports writer and a figure in baseball for more than a half century, is dead. After fighting a valiant struggle for several months, the man who helped organize the St. Louis Browns and whose hobby it was to know every baseball player personally succumbed at his home at Oak Park, Ill., last night. He was 74 years old.

Spink, who founded the Sporting News, a baseball publication, was chiefly identified with baseball in St. Louis and Chicago. In Chicago, he gained fame as a newspaper reporter, baseball expert and as the one who gave Charles A. Comiskey, president of the Chicago White Sox, his start in major league baseball. At St. Louis, Spink was sports editor of the Globe-Democrat, later aiding his brother, William, to organize the St. Louis Browns. Funeral services will be held tomorrow.
-The Washington Post, May 29, 1928

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Maurice Alexander

(Maurice W. Alexander), merchant and pharmacist, was born February 9, 1835, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and died in St. Louis, June 6, 1898. His parents were John and Mary (Rittenhouse) Alexander, both natives of Philadelphia, and his paternal grandfather, William Alexander, and his maternal grandfather, Joseph Rittenhouse, were also born in that city. Reared in Philadelphia, Maurice W. Alexander obtained both his academic and professional education in the schools of the Quaker City. After completing his course of study at the high school, he entered the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy, one of the oldest and most noted institutions of its kind in the United States, and was graduated from that college in the class of 1854. Immediately after his graduation he came to St. Louis and entered the employ of Bacon, Hyde & Co., wholesale druggists, engaged in business on Main Street. Leaving their employ in August of 1856, he began business on his own account, purchasing the drug store located at the southeast corner of Fourth and Market Streets, of which he was owner for twenty-three years thereafter. While operating this drug store, noting the trend of trade toward Olive Street, he also opened another store on the northwest corner of Broadway and Olive Streets, in a building then owned by Stilson Hutchins, connected then with the newspaper press of St. Louis and famous later as an Eastern newspaper publisher. This store, which was at that time the handsomest in the West in furnishings and the most complete in its equipment for every branch of the drug business, was destroyed by fire in 1877. A year later, however, Dr. Alexander opened a new drug store at the same location, in a building which had been erected by J. Gonzelman, who had purchased the ground from Hutchins. In this building, which later passed into the hands of Erastus Wells and is still owned by his son, he continued to conduct a large and profitable drug business until 1892, in which year he purchased the stock of goods belonging to the Mellier Drug Company and consolidated the two stores. For forty-two years and more he was a recognized leader among the retail druggists of St. Louis, and for many years his establishment had few rivals in its line in Western cities. Entering the drug business a thoroughly well educated pharmacist, and realizing fully the important responsibilities resting upon those engaged in this trade, Alexander was all his life conspicuous among those who sought to surround it with all the safeguards possible, and to obviate the dangers to life and health resulting from the employment of incompetent persons in the business of compounding drugs and medicines. For nine years he served as Commissioner of Pharmacy for the State of Missouri, and he was long one of the most active and useful members of the American Pharmaceutical Association, and was honored with the presidency of that organization, composed of the leading pharmacists of the United States. A good business man, he was also a good citizen in all the relations of life, and churches, charities and educational movements at all times received his kindly encouragement and support. From 1861 until his death he was a member of St. George's Episcopal Church, and for twenty-one years he was a vestryman of that parish, serving also during the same period as its treasurer. He affiliated with fraternal organizations as a member of the order of Knights of Honor. In 1857 he was married to Clara Virginia Long, whose father was Parks Long, a son of General Gabriel Long, one of the first settlers of Missouri. His widow and four children, two sons and two daughters-all of whom have grown to maturity-survive him.
-Encyclopedia of the history of St. Louis

Alexander was a member of the Cyclone Club and, according to Tobias, the records of the club were lost in the fire that destroyed Alexander's pharmacy at Broadway and Olive.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Joe Blong's Obit

Joe Blong, at one time...identified with the great national game, has passed from this life into that beyond the great dark curtain of which no man knows. He was thirty nine years and six months of age and in the days of the old Red Stockings in this city was looked upon as the greatest all around player on the diamond. He played professionally with the early St. Louis Reds and was one of the best known figures in base ball circles throughout the country. He recently had a brief engagement with the Lucas Union Association, which was his last on the diamond.
-The Sporting News, September 24, 1892

A couple of interesting things here. First, according to Baseball Reference, Blong was born on September 17, 1853 and died on September 17, 1892, making him exactly thirty nine years old when he died. So it's possible that B-R has Blong's date of birth wrong. Secondly, I have a reference to Blong playing with "the Union reserves" against the Maroons in April of 1884, which was the first game ever played at the Union Grounds. I had assumed that Blong was trying and failed to make Lucas' new club and this reference to Blong's "brief engagement" with the Maroons seems to confirm that.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Who Knew This Joke Was That Old?

Base Ball is old in the world, as is proven by the very first line in Genesis: "In the big inning," etc.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 6, 1881

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Joe Blong Gets An Honorable Discharge

The President of the Springfield, Mass., Club pays Joe Blong the following compliment, which will doubtless please that player's friends in this city: Mr. J. M. Blong: Dear Sir-On leaving our club, it gives us great pleasure to certify to your general good conduct with us as a man and a player. You certainly have done yourself and our club credit, and my best wishes go with you for your success in the future. Very truly, L. J. Powers, President Springfield B.B.A.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 15, 1878

Blong had signed with the Springfield Club after his troubles with the Brown Stockings in 1877. Between 1875 and 1877, he had bolted the Reds, been expelled from the Stars of Covington, and was accused of attempting to fix two different games while with the Brown Stockings. Blong's reputation had taken a beating over the previous three years and not all of it was his fault.

It amuses me to think of Joe Blong carrying this letter with him from club to club, asking for a job, and saying "Look, it says here I'm not really a bad guy."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

An Almost Universal High Estimate of Dunlap's Skill

...(Seeking) facts from the old sports who have seen the rise and fall of baseball players for nearly fifty years, it is surprising upon how few points these old experienced men agree. But his difference of opinion serves to show that these old fans have formed opinions of their own and have not blindly followed the lead of others.

Hence, when a very large majority of those ardent followers of the game, who live as fully on the bleachers today as they ever did in the days of their youth, who watch the fine points of the game as keenly and as critically as ever, and who give their judgment of the relative merits of players of this year impartially and justly-when these men agree that any individual was the one greatest player that the game has ever known, the historian of the game must give great weight to their opinions.

If this is to be one's guide in deciding what second baseman was the greatest in the history of the game, one is forced to say that the honor belongs to Fred Dunlap. And as one seeks to verify this almost universal high estimate of Dunlap's skill and searches the professional record of this idol of the old fans, there is much to justify the enthusiastic praise, even in the cold-blooded official records.

...If ever there was a scientific baseball player it was Fred Dunlap.

In fact, he knew nothing else but the game for which he had neglected everything, himself included, and his quickness of action and the sureness of his throwing were surpassed only by the alertness of his mind and the accuracy of his judgment. He caught equally well with both hands and could put the ball on a player sliding to second as well with his left as with his right hand. The great suppleness of his splendidly developed body and his prodigious and unsuspected strength enabled Dunlap to cover an area around second that, in the opinion of men who have seen them all, has never been equaled.
-Los Angeles Times, January 22, 1911

Sadly, both the versions of this article that I was able to find were in rough shape and I wasn't able to read the entire thing. While the author writes of all the old-timers who believed Dunlap was the greatest second baseman of all-time, I was unable to decipher the basis for his assertion. To say the least, this was rather frustrating.

However, looking on the bright side, here is more evidence (as if any more is needed at this point) that Dunlap was not only considered a star player but was in fact considered one of the greatest second basemen who ever played the game. There were many of his contemporaries who considered Dunlap the greatest second baseman who ever lived and several who believed he was the greatest player of all-time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bill Gleason, the Grand Avenue Club, and Player Compensation

William Gleason, the short-stop, is a native of (St. Louis), 27 years old, and was formerly connected with the Fire Department, where he was considered second to none in point of bravery and dash. In 1872 he left the department to join the Peoria Club, having been previously a member of the Co-operative Grand Avenue Club, in which he had earned a good reputation. Gleason is one of the luckiest batters of the season, having been fortunate in hitting the ball on several occasions just where it counted.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 8, 1885

This is an interesting reference to the Grand Avenue Club. The best evidence I have is that the club was founded in 1876 and Tobias, writing in 1895, stated that the club was founded in 1875. The possibility exists that this is a different club than August Solari's Grand Avenue Club but most likely the Globe just got the date wrong.

If this source is correct, and I have serious reservations about that, then this is rather significant. While I assume that players in St. Louis were being compensated to one degree or another by the late 1860's, there is no source that explicitly states this. If accurate, this would be the first source to identify a club that was compensating its players prior to 1875.

Checking The National Game, Al Spink wrote that Gleason started playing baseball with the Stocks in the 1870's, played with the Reds, and then in 1881 was playing with the independent Brown Stockings. No mention of Peoria or the Grand Avenues.

This source, naming the Grand Avenues as a co-op club in 1872, conflicts with too many other sources to be taken seriously at this time.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Joe Blong's Last Game With The Reds

A magnificent fielding game was that played at the Compton Avenue Park yesterday afternoon, between the Red Stocking and Washington base ball clubs, the score at the end of the ninth inning standing three to nothing in favor of the former. It was the first game of the championship series between these organizations, and, as a close contest was anticipated, nearly two thousand spectators were in attendance at the grounds when play was called by Mr. Edward Cuthbert, the mutual choice for umpire. This game was looked forward to with a great deal of interest by the friends of the pony team. Because they had no game their credit since the disbandment of the Westerns, opponents of the organization decried it and ridiculed the idea of the scarlet-hosed team being entered for the championship. They, of course, were willing to overlook the fact that the Reds had not yet met the Washingtons, New Havens and Atlantics, the only nines in the arena that they hoped to win. So far this season the Reds have met the strongest clubs in the country, and defeat at their hands was not to be wondered at. Foemen of their own calibre were yesterday compelled to surrender unconditionally, and the result of the game shows that the Reds will, bar accident, lead the Washingtons, Atlantics and New Havens, at the close of the season, the former having led this trio thus far. Sweazy, for the Reds, lost the toss, which, with his club, is an omen of success. The batting throughout was of the weakest description, Brady, Laurie, Fields, Croft and Houtz being credited with the only five base hits of the game. It will, therefore, be seen that Blong and Parks were very effective. The Reds maintained their nerve throughout, and thus Chicagoed their antagonists. The infield had all the work to do, and Redmon, as usual, played brilliantly, always retiring the third player in time to cause a whitewash. He disposed of nine players and committed but one error. Houtz, Sweazy and McSorley manned the bases splendidly, the latter being the only one charged with an error. Flint also supported Blong in style.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 28, 1875

The Reds' June 27th game against the Nationals, which they won 3-0, was Joe Blong's last game with the team. The next day, Monday, June 28th, Blong would leave for Covington, Kentucky to join the Stars.

On a completely unrelated note, I like the Globe's defense of the Reds' season. Sure, they're in over their heads and got crushed by all the good teams but at least they're not as bad as Keokuk, Washington, New Haven, and the Atlantics. They probably should have mentioned the Centennials too.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Charles A. Comiskey

Charles A. Comiskey is the youngest field captain probably of any professional team, and has no superior. He is a good coach and a favorite with his men. He is a native of Chicago, 24 years of age, and took his first lessons in ball-playing as a boy on the vacant lots around the city. His first professional engagement was with the Dubuque Club, where he played first base with Radbourn, the Gleason brothers, Carroll and other noted players. This club won the Northwestern League pennant in 1879, and in the same year beat every team that visited Dubuque. Comiskey remained with the club until 1882, when he came to St. Louis. As a first baseman he has few superiors, is a good, free, hard hitter, and an excellent base runner. Under his captaincy the discipline of the Browns has been excellent, and petty jealousies are unknown.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 8, 1885

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Wayman Crow McCreery

(Wayman Crow McCreery), son of Phocian R. McCreery and Mary Jane (Hynes) McCreery, was born in St. Louis in the year 1851. His father was born in Kentucky, but had settled in St. Louis eleven years previous to Wayman's birth, and had gone into the dry goods business in partnership with Mr. Wayman Crow, the firm being known as Crow, McCreery & Company. It did a very large amount of profitable business, and Mr. McCreery invested much of his share of the profits in real estate. His name is connected with some of the best buildings in the city, including the building at the corner of Broadway and Chestnut street, now known as Hurst's Hotel, which was erected in 1861, and which was, at that time, the finest building in the city. His enterprise proved a great stimulus to the erection of costly office and public buildings, and his example was very generally followed. His mother, Mary Jane McCreery, was a daughter of Colonel Andrew Hynes, of Nashville, Tennessee, who was a bosom friend of General Andrew Jackson.

Young Wayman received his educational training at the Washington University, where he remained until he was eighteen years of age. He was an apt and industrious pupil and made rapid progress in his studies. On leaving the Washington University he went to Racine, Wisconsin, where he received a thorough university education, graduating with high honors in the year 1871. Returning to the city of his birth and early days, he became connected with the dry goods firm of Crow & McCreery, remaining with it for three years. He then entered the real estate business in partnership with Mr. James Towers, the firm name being McCreery & Towers, with offices at 705 Pine street. The firm continued as thus constituted for a period of twelve years, when Mr. Towers withdrew from the partnership, and Mr. McCreery continued in business alone, at 715 Chestnut street. There is no real estate agent in the West more highly respected or looked up to than Mr. McCreery. He has been appointed sole agent for the magnificent Security Building on Fourth and Locust streets, in which his offices are now located. His principal work during recent years has been the management and control of large and valuable estates, and he has been uniquely successful in the plotting out and development of valuable tracts of land. He was in practical control of the Concordia tract containing fourteen acres, which he subdivided and sold at a very substantial profit for the owners. He also negotiated the ninety-nine years' lease of the corner of Tenth and Olive streets, now occupied by the Bell Telephone Company, and he is practically the pioneer of the long term system in this city.

Mr. McCreery is now consulted by large capitalists as to the best method of investing in St. Louis realty, and is known as one of the most impartial and conservative men in the city. His advice is invariably accepted, and his clients following it have almost invariably made exceedingly handsome profits. Mr. McCreery is now a very wealthy man, but he is kind and courteous to all, and may be regarded as a type of the business men who have forced St. Louis to the front and made it one of the most important cities in the world, commercially, socially and otherwise. He is a notary public, and, although not in practice as an attorney, is well read in real estate law.

Mr. McCreery is a member of the Legion of Honor, and a very active worker in its behalf. A great deal of his spare time is devoted to music. He is the composer of the opera "L'Afrique," which was produced at the Olympic in 1880 with great success. He was also at the head of the St. Louis Musical Union in connection with Mr. Waldauer, and for upwards of seventeen years he has been the musical director at Christ Church Cathedral, and he is also president of the St. Louis Glee Club. Mr. McCreery has always labored earnestly with a view of elevating the music of the city.

He married in the year 1875 Miss Mary Louisa Carr, daughter of Dabney Carr, and granddaughter of Judge Carr, so well known in East St. Louis. They have four children-Mary Louisa, Christine, Wayman and Andrew.
-From Old and new St. Louis

A first baseman for the Union Club, Wayman Crow McCreery is one of the more fascinating figures in the history of 19th century St. Louis baseball. Besides his musical talents, which are mentioned in the biographical sketch from Old and new St. Louis, McCreery was also a national billiards champion. Augustus Thomas, in A Print of My Remembrance, wrote that McCreery was an outstanding athlete, stating that "(few) men are so physically and intellectually equipped as he was. There was nothing that an athlete could do with his body that in a notable degree Wayman McCreery could not do. He was a boxer, wrestler, fencer, runner, and swimmer, and all-round athlete. In addition to these he was a graceful dancer."

McCreery's background is fairly typical for a member of the Union Club. He was one of several members of the club to have attended Washington University, which was co-founded by his namesake, Wayman Crow. While it's been stated that the Union Club was organized by high school students, that appears to be rather anachronistic and many of the early members of the clubs were actually students at Washington University and St. Louis University.

McCreery, like many other club members, was also related to the prominent Laclede and Chouteau family of St. Louis. He was related to the family through his marriage to Mary Louise Carr. The Union Club had numerous members who where part of the Laclede/Chouteau family as well as the Lucas family. These two families were the largest landowners in St. Louis and were also the two wealthiest families. The fact that McCreery's daughter, Marie, was named the St. Louis Veiled Prophet Queen in 1896 speaks to his family's high social standing in the city.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wallace Delafield

Wallace Delafield, a member of the antebellum Commercial Base Ball Club of St. Louis, was born in Cincinnati on May 1, 1840. At some point his family moved to St. Louis and the young Delafield was educated at Edward Wyman's school. In 1854, he went to work as a clerk for F. A. Hunt & Company and then for William N. Newell & Company. By 1857, Delafield was working as a clerk for Pomeroy & Benton, a wholesale dry goods store, and after the Civil War he returned to work for William Benton until 1869. That year he entered the general insurance business with Lewis Snow and the company they formed, Delafield & Snow, was still operating in St. Louis at the time of Delafield's death on August 8, 1915.

The Commercial Club, according to Tobias, "was composed of young businessmen" and was among "the very first of regularly formed clubs in St. Louis..." While the club disbanded at the outbreak of the Civil War, several members went on to join other clubs. Edward Simmons was a member of the Union Club and Tobias was a member of the Empire Club. Edwin Fowler, another club member, had also been a member of the Morning Star Club.