The Major League magnates have arrived (in Baltimore) and will begin their spring session at the Hotel Rennert at noon to-day. Rumors of a sensational order are flying thick and fast. They involve the transfer of the Cleveland Club to St. Louis and the location of the Browns in that city...Von der Ahe, who arrived this morning, is accompanied by Mr. E.C. Becker, a St. Louis capitalist, who is regarded as Chris' "Angel." It is said that he has already secured 25 per cent of the Browns' stock and is here to protect his holdings in case Robison makes a deal for the Browns.-From The Sporting News, February 27, 1897
St. Louis is expected to cut a big figure at the League meeting. Not because Von der Ahe carries any influence or that he is apt to offer large sums of money for franchises and blocks of players but because the other owners are expected to help him out by giving him some of their surplus material and in this way strengthen the otherwise weak Browns. The great national sport was never in better repute than it is to-day. This healthful state of affairs is noticeable in every city in the country holding league membership excepting St. Louis. That city is rapidly on the wane as regards base ball. In the old days Comiskey's champions were world-beaters, now (the Browns) as at present constituted have little or no chance of finishing in better than last place. Something may drop at Baltimore and it may be that Chris will cause the dull sickening thud.
Well...isn't this just fascinating. TSN was expecting the Robisons/Cleveland shenanigans to go down in February of 1897-a full two years before it actually happened. Certainly the Robisons were interested in the St. Louis market and wanted to purchase the Browns. Von der Ahe was well aware of their interest and it's likely that they had made several offers to purchase the club prior to 1899 (there are so many rumors floating around about people trying to buy the Browns in the 1890's that it's tough to keep straight). But the fact that people were already talking about a Browns/Cleveland swap with the Robisons ending up owning a club in St. Louis is rather extraordinary.
The other thing that interests me about this article is that it establishes Becker as owning a quarter of the club's stock by 1897. With Becker in place, the Robisons sniffing around, TSN on the attack, and his financial situation being what it was, it's amazing that Von der Ahe was able to last two more seasons.