Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Question Of A Professional Team

The agitation of the question of a professional team for St. Louis culminated in a meeting in parlor No. 2 of the Southern Hotel on the evening of Sept. 22 (1874). The attendance was large, among whom were W. McGreery, Joseph P. Carr, W.C. Stiegers, D. Maxwell, Chris Overbeck, W. Darrell, E.H. Tobias, Thos. McNeary and C. H. Bragg, all ex-players, besides many other admirers of the National game. Mr. Carr being called to the chair announced the object of the meeting and at his suggestion Mr. Stiegers was chosen secretary. After a protracted discussion as to what amount would be required to put a club upon a solid basis, the best methods to adopt in organizing a club and other business questions, the following resolutions, offered by Mr. E.H. Tobias, were adopted:

Resolved, That it is the sense of this meeting that a professional base ball club for this city is highly desirable.

Resolved, That we the undersigned pledge ourselves to take the amount of stock set opposite our names in the accompanying paper.

Resolved, That a committee of six be appointed by the chair, who are to be authorized to solicit subscriptions to the stock of the St. Louis Base Ball Club and to report at a meeting to be held Tuesday evening, Sept. 29.

It was also resolved to make the shares of stock $50 each...The chair appointed on the committee Fred. Williams, secretary of the Red Stocking Club, E.H. Tobias, Chris Overbeck, (W.) McGreery, Chas. Bragg and Chas. Fowle to which was added the chairman and secretary of the meeting. Six thousand dollars was subscribed on the spot. A committee of three, Messrs. Tobias, Rice, and Williams, was appointed to draw up articles of incorporation for presentation to the next meeting. This was the first business-like step taken that eventuated in the organization of the old Brown Stocking Club of professional ball players.
-E.H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News, February 1, 1896

This is rather interesting. It seems that Thomas McNeary, manager of the Reds and proprietor of the Compton Avenue Grounds, was involved in the early organization of the Brown Stockings. In light of the fact that the Reds would join the NA shortly after the Brown Stockings did, one is left to wonder what happened between McNeary and the Brown Stockings that led McNeary to place the Reds in the NA and in direct competition with the Brown Stockings.

The most obvious (and purely speculative) answer would be that McNeary wanted the Brown Stockings to play at his park. When they chose to play their home games at the Grand Avenue Grounds, McNeary broke with the Brown Stockings. The Reds' entry into the NA can be seen as an attempt by McNeary to protect his economic interests. Under this interpretation, the NA Reds were not put on the field simply to sponge off the other NA teams visiting St. Louis, as some have suggested, but rather were an honest attempt by McNeary to compete economically in the professional baseball market. If the Brown Stockings had arranged to play their home games at the Compton Avenue Grounds, there would have been no need for McNeary to put the Reds in the NA-he would already have had his slice of the professional baseball pie.

This interpretation also helps to explain the rather late decision by McNeary to place the Reds in the NA. The Brown Stockings were setting up their organization, signing players, etc. throughout the fall and winter of 1874 and 1875. By the time the Reds announced, in February 1875, their decision to enter the "professional" ranks, the Brown Stockings' "eastern professionals" had already been training together for a month. If the Brown Stockings didn't make their decision on which grounds to rent until early in 1875 then it would explain the timing of the Reds' decision. If McNeary, who obviously supported the idea of St. Louis competing in the NA, had planned all along to have his team play for the whip pennant in 1875 then the fall of 1874 would have been the time to begin planning. What has always seemed like a spur of the moment decision can, under this interpretation, be explained as a consequence of the Brown Stockings' decision to play their home games at the Grand Avenue Grounds.

No comments: