Friday, May 9, 2008

A Fascinating Rumor

A well-known sporting man from St. Louis, who was in the city for a few days, states that it would not surprise him in the least to see the Browns and Maroons consolidate and play as the St. Louis Club in the National League. He also said that ball patrons in that city are under the impression that some sort of a deal is at present underway, and that Von der Ahe would rather be in the League than in the Association, the permit to play Sunday games being all he desires.
-From The Sporting News, December 18, 1886

There were always rumors floating around about the Browns jumping to the National League but this is the first I've ever heard of a Browns/Maroons consolidation. I would guess that, in the best tradition of European football, they could have been called St. Louis United.

Of course, the idea is ridiculous. The Maroons were in the process of collapsing and the Browns were at the height of their success. If the Browns would have joined the NL for the 1887 season, it would have happened by brushing aside the Maroons not by any type of merger with them.


David Ball said...

Given the issue of territorial rights, if the Browns were going to jump to the NL -- and there certainly was talk about that already in the summer of 1886 -- the Maroons would have had to be disposed of.

Of course, an exception might have been made allowing two NL teams in St. Louis, just as had been done to allow the Maroons to have their NL franchise on the Browns' territory in the first place, but there would have been no point to that, as the Maroons would no longer have had any reason to exist. Theuwere in the NL in the first place to give the League a foothold in what was considered one of the best cities in the west, and taking the Browns into the NL would have accomplished that. I think most baseball people would have believed by 1886 that a city like St. Louis really couldn't support two teams. It's arguable that no 19th century city, even New York and Philadelphia, ever did that successfully.

Assuming the Browns were jumping leagues, they would have been the obvious purchaser to buy out the Maroons. They really didn't need a lot of extra talent, but bad as the Maroons were, they had a nucleus of genuinely good players who could have strengthened the Browns or been sold to defray the cost of the buyout.

Whether there was a real chance outside the NL's imaginings that the Browns might have jumped is another question. He would have had to accept the NL's higher admission price, ban on liquor sales and (the biggest sticking point) the prohibition on Sunday games.

Richard Hershberger said...

I second the idea that Philadelphia couldn't really support two teams. The attendence problems are well documented. I can't help but think that the reason the Phillies sucked so much in their first decade was that they were never able to overcome this disadvantage. Otherwise, we have to wonder how Harry Wright lost his touch so suddenly. That AA Athletics did well early on, winning the pennant in 1883, but were mediocre at best afterwards.

As for New York, I think if we mean New York City proper, i.e. Manhattan, this is true. I'm less sure if we include the broader metro area.