Sunday, May 18, 2008

St. Louis Is Expelled From The National League (And Then Readmitted)

When the League met late in the day…St. Louis had no delegate and no proxy, and here is where another piece of political strategy came into play. Mr. Muckenfuss was absent but Mr. Becker was in attendance. The latter, however, did not enter the meeting, as he claimed he had no right to do so, not being an officer of the club, although it subsequently developed that he might have entered had he been disposed to do so by virtue of authority delegated by Muckenfuss. In the position assumed by Mr. Becker, St. Louis was left without anyone to offer resignation, as had been the supposed programme and this apparently made expulsion necessary, if the St. Louis muddle were to be settled then and there.

The debate upon Mr. Hart’s motion to expel the St. Louis Base Ball Association, in accordance with the recommendation of the directors, and to admit the new American Base Ball and Athletic Exhibition Company was long and bitter and a show of hands proved Colonel Rogers to be left alone to bear the burden of argument, cajolery and denunciation. Mr. Hart, in support of his motion, stated that the expulsion of the St. Louis Club was only a matter of justice to the League and to its law abiding members and that it was also essential to the successful and satisfactory settlement of the St. Louis question. He furthermore now favored such a course because the situation no longer invited judicial interference. Mr. Brush took the ground that the move was the safest for the League and the best for those who proposed to operate base ball in St. Louis, who would thus be protected against unfair harassment for debts contracted in other ventures by Mr. Von der Ahe. Mr. Robison also made the same plea and stated that Mr. Becker agreed with him in this view. Mr. Becker was called before the meeting and stated that he was decidedly in favor of the step, he having made a satisfactory arrangement with Mr. Robison regarding the new club and the disposition of the Cleveland team. All of the other delegates expressed similar views except Colonel Rodgers…

Finally, however, partly from exhaustion and partly in compliance with the pleas of Soden and Young, (Rodgers) yielded and consented to make the vote for expulsion unanimous…This done, the old St. Louis Club was expelled and the new club admitted by unanimous vote, after a long and exhausting session.

-From Sporting Life, April 1, 1899

There's a lot going on here besides the settlement of the St. Louis "muddle" and I'm not sure that I understand it completely. There seems to be a great deal of political intrigue among various League factions-owner vs. owner, East vs. West, etc-that's difficult to sort through. What the reason for it all is I can't begin to guess. We have lots of egos and lots of money in the same room and that's always going to lead to infighting and turf wars.

In the end though, I'll leave it to others to sort that out because I'm not all that interested in the politics of the National League at the turn of the century except in how it effects baseball in St. Louis. In this case, we have the final brushing aside of the remnants of the Von der Ahe regime, the approval of the Becker/Robison scheme, and the advent of a new era of St. Louis baseball.

For all intents and purposes, the history of 19th century baseball in St. Louis ends at this League meeting in March of 1899.

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