Monday, June 30, 2008

Thomas McNeary's Obituary

Thomas McNeary, for years the proprietor of Uhrig's Cave, a popular place of amusement in St. Louis, died yesterday, aged fifty-one years. He suffered from a complication of diseases, including paralysis and heart trouble. He first became known as manager of the Red Stocking Base Ball club. He leaves an estate worth $200,000.
-The New York Times, September 23, 1893

So McNeary died on September 22, 1893.

Al Spink wrote in The National Game that after McNeary died his brothers, John and Frank McNeary, continued operating both the Compton Avenue Park and the Reds. Therefore, according to Spink, the Reds, whose founding he places in the 1860's, were still playing baseball in the 1890's. I'm not sure if I accept this. Spink's date for the founding of the Reds conflicts with E.H. Tobias who wrote that the Reds began playing in 1873. Joan Thomas, in St. Louis' Big League Ballparks, wrote that the Compton Avenue Park was built in 1874. I always assumed that McNeary built the park and established the team around the same time and have no sources that show the Reds playing games before the 1870's so I'm inclined to accept Tobias' date for the founding of the club. As to the Reds playing after the passing of McNeary, I have no sources for their playing games after 1889. The best evidence to date has the Reds playing baseball from 1873 to 1889. Spink's 1860's to 1890's date range is an outlier that can't be accepted at face value.

Uhrig's Cave, mentioned in McNeary's obituary, was one of several limestone caves that exist in St. Louis. These caves were used as a means of cool storage especially by brewers. Uhrig's Cave, located at what is now the corner of Washington and Jefferson, was first used in the 1850's by the Camp Springs Brewery (which later changed its name to the Uhrig Brewery). According to Lost Caves of St. Louis, "(in) those days, when the city and its population clustered on the levee, Uhrig's was the site of a handsome grove and was only a short buggy ride from the center of town. Uhrig's became a popular spot, and many St. Louisans enjoyed a cool glass of beer there. the success of the business gave rise to the use of caves for entertaining guests, and tables were placed in one of the larger rooms of the caverns." Concerts and picnics were also held at the cave and a beer garden was established there shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War.

In 1884, the Uhrig brothers sold their site to Thomas McNeary, a saloonkeeper. McNeary and his brothers became impresarios as well as salonkeepers, and ushered in the period of Uhrig's Cave's greatest glory. Uhrig's was the first entertainment spot in St. Louis to use electric lights. At its peak, Uhrig's Cave held an audience of three thousand, with weeknight admission prices of fifty to seventy-five cents, and a Sunday rate of twenty-five cents...

But this period of glory was short-lived. In 1888, the McNearys lost their liquor license and the cave was abandoned for a time. In 1900, the family turned the former beer garden into an enclosed theatre, which did not succeed. From 1903 to 1908, the cave was successively the site of a roller-skating rink, a bowling alley, and a mushroom farm. A shifting population and the introduction of streetcars drew theatregoers and beer drinkers to the west, and the McNeary's finally abandoned all attempts to keep Uhrig's Cave open.

In 1908, the McNeary's gave a ninety-nine year lease to a syndicate of businessmen. The group erected a mammoth auditorium, which covered not only the cave, but the beer garden, the theatre and a great deal of the surrounding area as well. The cornerstone was laid on August 22, 1908, and the building was called the "Coliseum." The businessmen planned to create a multipurpose facility to host sporting events, theatrical performances and various exhibitions.
-Lost Caves of St. Louis

I find it rather interesting that the best evidence has the Reds ceasing baseball operations in 1889 which is just after McNeary loses his liquor license and his business fortunes take a turn for the worse. It's certainly not much of a stretch to imagine that with his primary business suffering McNeary saw the operation of a minor professional baseball team as an extravagance and decided to shut it down in order to focus on saving his salon business.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Saving The Best For Last

The second game of the championship series between the Empire and Union Clubs came off on Aug. 8 and proved to be the most brilliant and exciting ever played in St. Louis prior to that time. Though the weather was threatening rain, there was an immense crowd present. The sun was obscured by clouds and the air kept cool by small showers at intervals not prolonged enough to materially interfere with the game except in the early part of the game when a suspension of eight minutes became necessary. The entire game was characterized by superb fielding on both sides and in that respect was never excelled upon the grounds. The Union Club desired to play with a “dead ball” but this did not meet with the approval of the Empire Club presumably for the reason that they had not, like the Union Club, had experience with it and they thought that the middle of a stream is certainly not the place to swap horses.

Things looked gloomy for the Unions, the score standing 12 to 8 against them at the close of the seventh inning. The Empires were allowed but one run in the eighth inning. The Unions started out with such hard ball punching that Stansbury, Turner and Gorman quickly found themselves each holding a base when Strong made a long, swift hit over Fitsgibbons’ head that cleared the bases and gave himself third, he finally reaching home before O’Brien and Greenleaf went out at first. This made the score 13 to 12 in favor of the Empires.

The superb fielding of the Union in the ninth inning prevented the Empire’s score being enlarged and with one run to tie and two to win, the Union went to the bat. Wolff died at first by Spaulding’s throw. Oran muffed Maxwell’s first bound and then Maxwell sent a hot one over Murray’s head that gave him second base. Stansbury followed by a long hit over Barron, bringing Maxwell home and tieing the score at 13. Another muff by Shockey gave Stansbury, the winning run amidst deafening shouts of the Union contingent. By safe batting three more runs made the Union victorious by 17 to 13 in the most remarkable game played during the twelve years of rivalry that existed between these two crack local clubs and not the least remarkable of the many remarkable incidents connected with this game is the one fact that makes the game historical, the Union and Empire Clubs never again crossed bats on the diamond.

-E.H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News, December 21, 1895

Something I Never Noticed Before

Jack Gleason, Bill Gleason's brother, is the only person who played for the NL Brown Stockings, the AA Browns and the UA Maroons. For good measure, he also played with the post-NA Reds, Ted Sullivan's Dubuque team, and the NL Maroons.

Interestingly, over at Baseball Reference they list Keith Miller as the most comparable player to Gleason. I can remember Miller as a utility guy for those good Mets teams of the late 1980's. Miller was also one of the guys shipped over to Kansas City in the Saberhagen deal.

Jack Gleason...started out playing ball with the Stocks team of St. Louis in the early seventies. Later (he) joined the St. Louis Reds. (He) also played with the St. Louis Browns, the co-operative team of 1881. In the following year (he) joined the St. Louis Browns, the first member from this city to join the American Association...Later Jack Gleason went to Louisville...Jack Gleason was the hardest hitter St. Louis ever gave to the professional field. He was one of the few men able to drive the ball over the left field fence in old Sportsman's Park, a feat he accomplished early and often. He was also one of the best of third basemen.
-The National Game

I believe that Gleason played for the Reds in 1876, after they dropped out of the NA. While no person played for every 19th century major league St. Louis club, Jack Gleason came the closest.

Jack Powell

Jack Powell is the big right-handed pitcher of the St. Louis Browns in this 1910 season. He is one of the old members of that team. He has been with them since the organization of the New Browns in 1902. Powell's great forte is pitching with fearful speed. He also has perfect control...He was born at Bloomington, Ill., where he was discovered by Patsy Tebeau in 1895. That year Tebeau signed Powell for the Cleveland Spiders. For years Powell, Cuppy and Young were the pitchers of that team and they were then the best trio in the business. Powell was one of the men brought by the Robinsons to St. Louis when they transferred their Cleveland National League team to this city
-The National Game

John Joseph (Jack) Powell, pitcher for the Cleveland Spiders, was brought to trial in June, 1897, on a charge of playing ball on Sunday. He was fined $5 and court costs, which came to a healthy $153. Stanley Robison, owner of the Spiders, announced his intention to appeal the issue, but Sunday ball in Cleveland was discontinued for the rest of the century.
-The Historical Baseball Abstract

Powell's 1899 season for the Perfectos is rated the ninth best pitching season in Cardinals history according to this post over at Fungoes. I've talked about this list before and some of the problems I have with it but in 1899 Powell did put up the ninth most pitching Win Shares in Cardinals history. Take it for what it's worth.

Powell does have rather interesting stats. You should head over to Baseball Reference and check out his page. He had a lot of top ten finishes in numerous categories (both good and bad) and his similarity scores are fascinating. The four most statistically similar pitchers to Powell are all Hall of Famers-Eppa Rixey, Red Faber, Vic Willis, and Ted Lyons. Does this mean that Powell is or should be a Hall of Famer? No. It's just one of those odd things that's interesting to kick around.

The above photo comes from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat Collection at the University of Missouri's Digital Library, and, while undated, was most likely taken in 1911 or 1912.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Some Pictures of 19th Century St. Louis

I was browsing the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Online Catalog the other day and found some great pictures of St. Louis taken during the 19th century. Since I think it gives a nice feel for what life was like in St. Louis during the 19th century and helps put the history of St. Louis baseball in context, I thought I'd share them with you.

First up is a picture of downtown St. Louis that was taken sometime between 1860 and 1865. This is basically where the Missouri Glass Company, where Merritt Griswold and Ed Bredell worked, would have been located. It's now essentially the northwest section of the Arch grounds and the Laclede's Landing area. This is what the city looked like when the earliest baseball clubs were being formed.

This is a print from 1874 showing the St. Louis Fairground just north of downtown. If you look at the far left of the picture, you'll see the beginning of an open field. According to most sources, this is where the first match game, between the Cyclone and Morning Star baseball clubs, was played.

Here's a picture of the Eads Bridge under construction that must have been taken around 1873. The first bridge that spanned the Mississippi at St. Louis, the bridge was opened in 1874. I think that the bridge is a symbol of the growth and maturity of the city that can also be seen in the entry of two professional teams into the National Association less than a year after the bridge was opened.

Another picture from the 1870's, this one shows the Olympic Theater.

Here's a series of pictures of the riverfront taken between 1870 and 1899 that give you a nice sense of the economic vitality of 19th century St. Louis.

Finally, a series of street scenes taken in the 1890's.

A Unique Trade Proposal

President Von der Ahe left for Cleveland last night to make a proposition to President Robison. His idea is that the Cleveland Club lend to the St. Louis Club pitchers Cuppy and Wallace, second baseman Childs and shortstop McKean, in exchange for catcher Douglas, pitcher Kissinger, shortstop Cross and outfielder Parrot. In return the St. Louis Club will give to the Cleveland Club one-fourth of the profits derived from base ball in this city this year and at the end of the year the players will be returned to their original clubs. Secretary Muckenfuss, of the Browns, believes that the deal will be consummated. There are only a few others, however, who share his belief. If such a deal were made the local club would indeed be the beneficiary. Cuppy, Wallace, Childs and McKean form the nucleus of a winning team. The quartette are all stars. Cleveland would receive about $10,000 or $15,000 of the profits of the Browns, as it has been demonstrated in St. Louis in days gone by that a winning team can earn at least $50,000.
-Sporting Life, February 6, 1897

How is this a good idea? Von der Ahe was willing to give up one quarter of the profits to rent four players for one year? It doesn't make a lot of sense.

The interesting thing about this is the financial information we get at the end. The implication is that the Browns were netting "at least $50,000" a year during the 1880's. For comparison's sake, it's known that the Browns only cleared $12,000 in 1896.

Now that I think about it, the Browns would only have to clear $16,000 on the year to break even on the deal and you would think they would have no problem doing that if they put a better product on the field. But it still seems extraordinarily shortsighted.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Arlie Latham's Obituary

Walter Arlington (Arlie) Latham, former baseball star for the St. Louis Browns, died yesterday at his home, 111 Seventh Street, Garden City, L.I. He was 92 years old.

One of the last in the thinning line of links to baseball's infancy as an organized sport in this country snapped with the passing of Arlie Latham. Until slightly more than a year ago, he was a familiar, interested, critical figure at the ball games in the Yankee Stadium and the Polo Grounds.

Arlie, as he was familiarly called by all who hailed him, retained a keen interest in the sport in which he was a pioneer and which brought him fame. His interest came naturally for, in his day, Latham was the most famous base-stealer in the country, a player who in different times and under different conditions was to boast of having stolen "about 150 bases a year." Often he recalled that with Harry Stovey and Billy Hamilton, the combination would account for about 450 base thefts in a single season.

Latham knew baseball intimately as player, manager, umpire and instructor before he became press-box attendant in the Yankee Stadium and in the Polo Grounds. Out of the wealth of his experience he could afford to be critical of today's players, and he was. A specialist in speed himself, Latham was particularly intolerant of the base-running of today. he resented, in his own way, the emphasis on hitting for pushing a runner around at the sacrifice of base-running technique.

Baseball's first comedy relief, Latham was the Al Schacht of his day with the St. Louis Browns of the old American Association for whom he played third base. The only difference was that Arlie, owner of an irrepressible spirit, could not restrain the impulse to inject his comedy into the game as it progressed.

Latham was noted as a hitter as well as for his speed on the bases. Early historians record that in several seasons Arlie hit .300 or better. In the off-season he added to his income by touring with an ice skating troupe with which he was considered one of the topnotch performers.

He was a link to the days when $1,600 as a salary for a ball player was something in the nature of a king's ransom. His own salary of $1,000, he often said, was fabulous.

Latham started playing at the age of 15 for $5 a game. When he was 22 years old e joined the St. Louis Browns. He was with that club through its championship days of 1885, 1886, 1887, and 1888, campaigning in the days when only the catcher and the first-baseman wore gloves, through the ancient world series, which regarded as an innovation the action of the catcher in 1885 in adopting a mask.

Latham's playing days ended with the '88 campaign. He used to recall days when his club played before "a dozen people and a billy goat." On his visits to New York with the Browns, they were quartered at the old Grand Central Hotel and journeyed by elevated train to 116th Street for games played at the old Polo Grounds, then at 110th Street and Fifth Avenue. They were days when "everything above Seventy-second Street was country; vegetable gardens tended by Italian squatters," as Arlie used to say.

His umpiring duties carried him through a short career in the Southern Association. In 1909 he was engaged by the late John McGraw to coach young Giants in the art of base-running. This association was interrupted in 1912 when Latham went to England where he spent the next seventeen years working to give the sport a solid foundation in the country of "rounders." In one capacity or another he was associated with baseball on his return from abroad until his death.

Surviving are three daughters, Mrs. James Tait, Mrs. Frank Wakeman and Mrs. Claude Sanford, and a son, Walter A. Latham, Jr.
-The New York Times, November 30, 1952

Latham's obituary can be found online at The Deadball Era.

When I first read this all I could think about was how much I would have enjoyed watching a ballgame with Arlie Latham at Yankee Stadium or the Polo Grounds in the late forties or early fifties. Tell me that wouldn't have been fun.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The First Meeting Of The Union Association

The first annual meeting of the Union Association of Professional Base-ball Clubs was begun at the Bingham House (in Philadelphia) to-day, and after two long sessions an adjournment was had until to-morrow morning. The delegates were: From Baltimore-B.F. Matthews and J.W. Lowe; Chicago-A.H. Henderson and E.S. Henzel; Cincinnati-Justus Thorner; Philadelphia-Thomas J. Pratt; St. Louis-Henry V. Lucas and Theodore Benoist; Washington-A.B. Bennett and M.B. Scanlan. The first business was the election of the new Cincinnati Club as a member. Applications from Dayton, Ohio, Covington, Ky., and Kingston, N.Y., were referred to the Board of Directors. The remainder of the day and evening was spent by the convention in revising the constitution, by-laws, and playing rules of the American Association, which were first adopted as a whole. Among the changes made in the constitution was the rule on the election of new members. A majority vote now elects-no exhibition games will be made with association clubs and managers will not hereafter be engaged by written contract. A player released by one club will not be eligible to contract with another club until 10 days have elapsed. The championship is to be decided by the greatest number of games won. An alliance clause was adopted and the initiation fee was placed at $10. The following officers were elected for the ensuing year: President-Henry Lucas, of St. Louis; Vice-President-Thomas J. Pratt, of Philadelphia; Secretary and Treasurer-William Warren White, of Washington; Directors-Justus Thorner, of Cincinnati, H.B. Bennett, of Washington, and A.H. Henderson, of Chicago. Messrs. Pratt, Thorner, and Henzel were appointed a Schedule Committee, to meet at Washington in March.
-The New York Times, December 19, 1883

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This Is Rich

Concerning a dispatch from Indianapolis to the effect that Henry V. Lucas, the millionaire baseball enthusiast, had purchased the Cleveland Club, and that an agreement had been reached between the officers of the National League and himself by which the St. Louis and Cincinnati Unions were to be admitted into the league, President Spalding said: "I have had no notification that such a transaction had taken place. Mr. Lucas may have purchased the franchise of the Cleveland Club, but for him to say-if he is correctly reported-that McCormick, Glasscock, and Briordy would be reinstated is putting it rather strong. Those men jumped their contracts; it was a deliberate stab in the dark to the Cleveland Club and the Chicago Club will never vote to reinstate them or any other contract jumpers. With Dunlap and Shaefer the case is somewhat different. They were jumpers of the reserve rule and, while the circumstances are somewhat mitigated, they should be punished."

Later dispatches confirm the story of the withdrawal of the Cleveland Club from the league and of the purchase of its franchise by Lucas. That the players who signed for next year are to be consolidated with the St. Louis Union is denied and it is positively said that seven have signed new contracts to play in Brooklyn.
-The New York Times, January 7, 1885

An interesting suit is to be tried this week in the Supreme Court in (Buffalo). It is an action begun by the Cleveland Baseball Association against Henry V. Lucas, manager of the St. Louis League Club. Charles B. Wheeler, of (Buffalo), is the attorney for the Cleveland parties. The complainants allege that they agreed to dispose of the franchise of the Cleveland Club to Lucas for $2,500 and Lucas paid them $500 down to bind the agreement, stipulating to pay $2,000 additional upon the admission of the St. Louisans to the League. Thereafter the Missouri club was taken into the fold and the Cleveland managers repeatedly asked Lucas to send on his check for the sum of $2,000. Instead Lucas surprised them by telling them "to play ball with themselves," and finally ignored their demands and rights entirely. This angered the Clevelanders and they mean to spend more than $2,000 if necessary to compel the wary baseball manager to keep his agreement. Quite a number of well known professionals will be called as witnesses.
-The New York Times, February 16, 1886

I'm not sure what amuses me more here: the idea of Lucas stiffing the Clevelanders after he got what he wanted or the bloviating of Spaulding on the blacklisted players. It's a tough call. In the end, though, I think my sense of irony is much more developed than my tolerance for hypocrisy.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Word "Machiavellian" Comes To Mind

Last evening, it seems, Henry V. Lucas and Chris Von der Ahe, the respective Presidents of the Union and St. Louis Baseball Clubs, had a conference, Mr. Lucas calling at Mr. Von der Ahe's office to see what could be done toward an amicable arrangement for the admission of the Union Club into the League. No definite agreement was reached but Mr. Von der Ahe promised to have the Hon. J. O'Neill represent him at the League meeting to be held in New York to-morrow. Mr. Lucas left for New York last night. He will alone represent his team at to-morrow's meeting. It is rumored here that should he not be admitted to the League to-morrow he will organize a Western League, including the cities of Cleveland, Toledo, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Springfield, and St. Louis.
-The New York Times, January 21, 1885

A special meeting of the Baseball League was held in Parlor D of the Fifth Avenue Hotel yesterday...The object of the meeting was to take some action in regard to the refusal of Christian Von der Ahe to allow Henry V. Lucas to have a League club in St. Louis. At a recent meeting of the League Mr. Lucas was given the place left vacant by the withdrawal of the Cleveland Club. Mr. Von der Ahe is the proprietor of the St. Louis American Association Club, and according to a compact entered into by all the leading associations, known as the national agreement, h has the power to refuse to allow another club in St. Louis. He objected to Mr. Lucas's admission, and yesterday's meeting was called to see what action would be taken. The delegates present were determined to have the St. Louis League Club in their ranks, and sharp words were used. The action of Von der Ahe was denounced, and it was intimated that if necessary the national agreement would be broken in order to allow Mr. Lucas to have a League club in St. Louis.

Early in the day Mr. Lucas and Congressman J.J. O'Neill, who represented Mr. Von der Ahe, were allowed to confer with the delegates. They expressed their views, and their words were listened to with great attention by all present. President McKnight, of the American Association, was in the corridor of the hotel and when he heard rumors that the national agreement would be broken he immediately held a conference with C.H. Byrne, of the Brooklyn Club. It was resolved to offer a proposition to the League delegates. At the suggestion of Mr. Byrne, President McKnight asked that a committee of the League men be appointed to confer with a committee of the American Association and endeavor to settle the question amicably. This coincided with the views of the majority of the delegates in session and the suggestion was acted upon...
-The New York Times, January 22, 1885

Victory over the Unions created problems which nearly led to a falling-out among the victors. The League's determination to establish a club in St. Louis headed by Lucas, even if it meant breaking the National Agreement, began a baseball cold war which lasted through the season of 1885 and several times threatened to bring open conflict between the League and Association. Outright war was avoided mainly because the Association was unwilling to take a strong stand against the League during this year of strain.

The League admitted Lucas and Newton Crane, his attorney, to its special meeting January 10, 1885, furnished them with contracts, and to all intents and purposes accepted them as members. A wire was sent to Von der Ahe requesting his consent for Lucas to share the St. Louis territory, and League owners pledged themselves to admit formally Lucas's club as soon as the Browns' owner gave his approval. Lucas was also supposed to see Von der Ahe personally.

...(At) first (Von der Ahe) indicated he would not oppose a settlement. But Lucas delayed seeing him until the last minute, and then was "so exact in his manner" that he annoyed Von der Ahe greatly. Besides, Von der Ahe saw a chance to extract a price for his consent. He demanded that Lucas pay him for losses suffered in the Union War and for giving the Union chief a "valuable business privilege." This Lucas "positively declined" to do.

To undercut Von der Ahe, the League, at a second special meeting in New York on January 21, called for a change in the National Agreement making St. Louis an exception to the rule covering territorial rights. At the same time more telegrams were sent pressing Von der Ahe to modify his demands. Relations between the two groups became tenser. The Association men were so concerned that a full complement of them were present in the city and were earnestly discussing the crisis in the bar and corridors while the National League was meeting. While the Association was willing to compromise, it wanted to go slow on changing the National Agreement. But the League was determined to have its way. When Von der Ahe still refused to yield, Denny McKnight, president of the Association, was called into the League meeting and told that the Association had already violated the National Agreement by breaking the ten-day rule in the Brooklyn-Cleveland player deal. The League demanded that the Association either expel Brooklyn or let Lucas move to St. Louis...

By reviving (the Brooklyn-Cleveland deal) and confronting McKnight with it, the League was plainly preparing to break the National Agreement by pleading that the Association had already done so. McKnight's answer was to call a special Association meeting at Pittsburgh later in the month. The League agreed to take no action until that time.

The situation was saved by a chance meeting of Lucas with Von der Ahe's representative, Congressman John J. O'Neill, on the train returning to St. Louis. O'Neill, who was also vice president of the Browns, had been looking after Von der Ahe's interests at the baseball sessions in New York. He arranged for the two men to have dinner at the popular St. Louis restaurant, Tony Faust's place, where they made a secret agreement which resolved their differences...

Von der Ahe then wired Association leaders, who by then were convened at Pittsburgh, that matters had been amicably adjusted, clearing the way for the Association and the League to come together again...
-From Baseball: The Early Years

Harold Seymour, in Baseball: The Early Years, noted that the agreement between Von der Ahe and Lucas may have come about as a result of Lucas paying Von der Ahe $2500.

And have I ever mentioned how much I dislike trying to untangle 19th century baseball politics. The stuff gives me a headache.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Fascinating Rumor Part 2

There are several rumors in baseball circles regarding a deal between Henry V. Lucas, of the League club of (St. Louis), and Chris Von der Ahe, the President of the American Association club. Lucas says that he is sick of baseball enterprises and he will shortly retire from the business. Mr. Von der Ahe, it is said, will purchase the franchise of the League club and reverse the teams, placing the Browns in the League and the Black Diamonds in the American Association. If this can be done he thinks that the Browns will make a strong bid for the League pennant, notwithstanding the present position held by the League club of St. Louis. Another report says that the Lucas team, in the event of the purchase by Mr. Von der Ahe, will represent Cleveland in the American Association.
-The New York Times, July 10, 1886

A variation of this rumor appeared in The Sporting News in December of 1886 and, when posting about it, I dismissed it as ridiculous. However, there does seem to be a lot of smoke here. There were continuous rumors in the mid-80's regarding Von der Ahe wanting to move the Browns to the NL. Lucas was looking to get out of the baseball business at this time and by late August would resign as president of the Maroons and sell all of his interest in the club. So in July of 1886, Lucas is probably already looking to sell and Von der Ahe may have been looking for some way to get into the League. Sell the Maroons to Von der Ahe and you're killing two birds with one stone.

Would the League have accepted this? I don't see why not. It's not like they were opposed to syndicate baseball or somebody owning a club in both the League and the Association. Moving the Browns to the NL would only have strengthened the League, giving it a strong team in an important baseball market. The Association magnates wouldn't have been pleased with these maneuvers because they would lose both a strong team and a strong market. There was no way Von der Ahe would have kept the Maroons in St. Louis and moving them to Cleveland (or anywhere else) would mean the loss of the St. Louis market to the Association (added to the loss of the Browns).

The problem that always came up when talking about moving the Browns to the NL was Sunday baseball and 25 cent tickets. These were important issues that Von der Ahe would not have wanted to compromise on. Certainly, they were very popular in St. Louis and added to the advantage that the Browns had over the Maroons. However, early in 1887, in an attempt (however half-hearted) to save the Maroons, the League was ready to compromise to a certain extent on the issue of Sunday games. It's possible that the League would have been willing to go further in order to strengthen their hold on the St. Louis market.

Of course, this is all speculation because we'll probably never know how serious these rumors were. I think that Lucas would have liked to have sold out to Von der Ahe. How serious Von der Ahe was about all of this is the wild card. I'm going to post something this week about how the Maroons joined the NL and I quote Harold Seymour on the relationship between Von der Ahe and Lucas. It seems that Von der Ahe didn't much care for Lucas-which is not altogether surprising. Lucas just rubbed him the wrong way-which, again, is not surprising. They were two very different men and, based on what Seymour wrote, I doubt that Von der Ahe would have wanted to do Lucas any favors. Der Boss probably enjoyed watching Lucas and the Maroons drown and probably wasn't inclined to throw them a lifeline. Of course, this interpretation is rather rich in irony. There would be many who enjoyed watching Von der Ahe's demise a decade latter.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Only Real History Of Base Ball Ever Published

Best Base Ball History

Interesting to Fans and Invaluable to All Connected With the Game

At last a standard work on base ball has made his appearance-the only complete history of the national game ever published. The book is called "The National Game."

In the earliest days of base ball in St. Louis, William Spink was the first real base ball editor. When he died his brother Al took up the reins and held unto the early records kept by his brother. From these early records and figures obtained since securing them, Al Spink has written the only bona fide history of base ball that has ever been published. It is a story woven out of real wool and is not only well and interestingly written but is beautifully illustrated with portraits of old and also of upcoming players.

Mr. Spink's story of "base ball in the cities," which is part of this book, covers the upbuilding of the game in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, St. Louis, Cincinnati and other major league cities and gives the book a national and widespread importance.

The book also contains sketches of very man who has played in the major base ball leagues from the days of the old Professional Association in the early 70's up to the present moment.

Mr. Spink in his time was associated with the great base ball leaders like Reach, Spalding, Johnson, Comiskey, Brash, Ewing, Anson, the Wright Brothers, George and Harry, Ward and others and he has written lively and interesting stories about them.

The book is not only an interesting one to read but it will prove of great value to managers, club-owners and base ball writers containing as it does all sorts of information which until this book was published was unobtainable.
-The Sporting News, November 17, 1910

Who would have imagined TSN giving The National Game a positive review? I don't really see any sort of conflict of interest there. Anyway, the image at the top of the post is an ad for The National Game that appeared in the same issue as the review.

News Of Such A Startling Character

A dispatch from St. Louis says the proposed new baseball League in the East is creating alarm among the stockholders of the St. Louis Browns. President Von der Ahe, since his return from the East, has had several conferences with other stockholders in the club, and he has imparted to them news of such a startling character that many of them are publicly asserting that baseball in the West next year will be practically dead. The President of the Browns says that Day, Byrne, and Barnie are heartily in favor of the scheme, and that if they pulled the other strong Eastern clubs into line the scheme would be adopted. "Without the big Eastern clubs," said he, "the business would go to smash, and if war was declared the East would have the advantage from the beginning." Foutz, Welch, and Bushong of the home team are to be traded off or sold, and if the proposed Eastern League is an assured fact the stars of the Browns will doubtless be sold and St. Louis will be contented with its little Western League Club.
-The New York Times, November 20, 1887

The rumor about the Eastern clubs splitting off to form their own league is relatively interesting and I was vaguely aware of it but the idea that this potential threat was one of the reasons for the Browns' sell-off in 1887 is a new one to me. I'm not certain that I'm buying it. There were already enough reasons for the fire sale (which I've written about before on a few occasions) without complicating the matter with rumors of potential threats to the Browns' viability. Most likely, this news was disseminated to the stockholders and the public in order to lessen a potential uproar over the breaking up of the championship team. It was probably easier to say that we need to move these players to strengthen our financial position in the face of a grave threat from the Eastern clubs rather than to talk about how Von der Ahe needed to squeeze more money out of the Browns' in order to fund his other ventures, how Comiskey was unhappy with attitudes of some of his star players, and how Von der Ahe felt it was in the Browns' best interests to strengthen some of the other AA clubs.

A New Base Ball Club

Henry V. Lucas and Ellis Wainwright, St. Louis capitalists, have rented a large plot of ground at Twenty-fifth and Biddle streets and intend fitting it up for base ball purposes. Mr. Lucas said to-day that his grandstand alone would cost him $8,500 and that he intended putting a first class team in the field. Flint, Williamson, and Gore, of the Chicago Club, are here and it is rumored that they have been negotiating with the management of the new club. Flint especially seems to be a warm friend of Mr. Lucas. It is said that Mullane and Deasley, of the present St. Louis Club, have been approached, and this is the reason they have not signed with the old organization. It is known that Pureell and three other players of the Philadelphia Club are going to "jump" that organization and go into the St. Louis scheme. It is also known that negotiations have been in progress with Keefe and Holbert, of the Metropolitan nine. The new club, it is said, will be a member of the new Union Association.
-The New York Times, October 25, 1883

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Henry Lucas Is One Of The Bankrupt

Henry V. Lucas was one of the 164 bankrupts for whom the United States District Court to-day wiped out $40,000 in debts. The schedule filed by the petitioner contained no assets, and showed that in 1882 Mr. Lucas fell heir to $2,000,000 as his portion of a nine-million-dollar estate left by his father. Twenty years ago Judge Lucas, the petitioner's father, was reckoned the wealthiest man west of the Alleghanies. He was a money king in St. Louis, where a street is named in his honor.

Among other ventures the son is said to have lost $300,000 by the failure of a barge line which he started between St. Louis and New Orleans. Mr. Lucas's fortune slipped rapidly from his possession and he came to Chicago to work for a living.
-The New York Times, April 8, 1902

Lucas did not lose his fortune as a result of his baseball enterprises. In an interview with The Sporting News, after resigning as president of the Maroons, Lucas claimed that he had lost $17,000 in 1884 and $10,000 in 1885 while breaking even in 1886 largely due to the sale of Fred Dunlap. Richard Leech, in The Evolution of Baseball in St. Louis, writes that Lucas lost $23,000 over the three years. While those are substantial losses, they pale in comparison to losing $300,000 on a barge line. In the end, I think the fact that Lucas didn't file for bankruptcy until seventeen years after he left baseball speaks for itself and establishes that the failure of the UA and Maroons had nothing to do with Lucas' later financial troubles.

The Forest City Club Comes To St. Louis

The Forest City Club of Rockford, Ill., one of the oldest and most reputable of Western clubs, gave an exhibition of their fine qualities in a match with the Union Club at the ball park on August 31, that drew out a goodly attendance and proved void of all disappointment inasmuch as the reputation of the visitors preceded all hope of victory...

The game of the Forest City Club with the Empire on September 1 was hurriedly played and on the part of the home team, a horribly played one. The visitors were compelled to leave the city at an early hour and it would have been very much better for the reputation of the Empires if they had departed the night before inasmuch as the Empires allowed themselves to suffer such a shameful defeat that the local press made no further mention of it than to give the score: Forest City 70, Empire 6.
-E.H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News, December 7, 1895

Friday, June 20, 2008

Shepard Barclay's Biography

I now have a copy of Shepard Barclay's biography. Privately published in St. Louis in 1931, the book appears to have been edited by William L. R. Gifford. The biographical sketch was prepared by Clarence E. Miller and the book also includes a brief essay on Barclay's legal career written by S. Mayner Wallace. The primary source for the biography was Barclay's private papers. The book was written at the request of Edward Mallinckrodt, Barclay's nephew, "(in) affectionate remembrance of a long and happy relationship."

A couple of interesting things:

-With regards to Barclay's parentage, there appears to be a reason why it wasn't mentioned in other sources. It's a bit complicated and a tad scandalous. Shepard Barclay was born on November 3, 1847 to Britton Armstrong Hill and Mary Shepard Hill. Britton Armstrong Hill was a lawyer from New York who had come to St. Louis in 1841 and married Elihu Shepard's daughter on October 8, 1845. The marriage was not a happy one and ended on March 2, 1849 when the two were divorced "by act of the state legislature." On June 26, 1854, Mary Shepard married David Robert Barclay, a lawyer and native of Pennsylvania, who had moved to St. Louis in 1850.

-While he was known as Shepard Barclay to his teachers and friends, the man's legal name was actually Shepard Hill. In 1868, "upon reaching his majority," he had his name legally changed from Hill to Barclay.

-There are a couple of references to baseball in the book although not much in the way of detail. Miller quotes Barclay with regards to his days at St. Louis University as saying that "(in) 1867, the year of my graduation, we held the local college championship in base ball, after a great game with our leading rival in St. Louis." This game is most likely the one between SLU and Washington University that Kelsoe wrote about in his book. There is also a reference to Barclay enjoying athletics and the outdoors and as someone who had a lifelong love of baseball. There is no mention of his having played baseball at the University of Virginia or in Europe. There also is no mention of the Union Club.

-Of the top of my head, I can't imagine Barclay having played that much with the Union Club or having been a rather prominent member. I can't imagine him playing with the club in 1860 when he was 12 or 13 and Kelsoe wrote that Barclay pitched for SLU before joining the club. So based on that, Barclay most likely didn't join the Union Club until 1867. In December of 1869, he left for Europe and would not return home until May of 1872, by which time the Union Club had stopped playing baseball. At best, if Kelsoe is correct and Barclay didn't join the club until after he graduated from SLU, Shepard Barclay was a playing member of the Union Club for two years.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Perry Werden

A fine, stalwart player was Perry Werden, at one time one of the best known of major league players. Werden's home position was at first base although he set out as a pitcher. Werden won his first honors in the baseball line while pitching for the Peach Pies in St. Louis. His first professional engagement came to him in 1882 when he joined the Lincoln (Neb.) team. He was with other teams in the Western League until 1884 when he was signed to pitch for the St. Louis Unions with Jack Brennan as his receiver. After the Union smash-up Werden set out as a first baseman and he held down the initial bag for several major league clubs, notably St. Louis. Three years ago Werdon went to Indianapolis and was the coach and trainer of the American Association Championship team of Indianapolis. Werden is a giant and while he has been playing ball for nearly thirty years, he is still active and can get around as well as the liveliest youngster. In his day he was a fine first baseman as well as one of the hardest hitters in the business.
-The National Game

In The Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James names Perry Werden as the best minor league player of the 1890's (for whatever it's worth). David Nemec, in The Beer & Whiskey League, writes that "Werden set a 19th century record when he slammed 45 homers for Minneapolis of the Western League in 1895. Minneapolis's tiny park had a lot to do with his feat. During Werden's AA sojourn in Toledo and Baltimore, most of his long blasts were only good for triples. He had 38 in 1890-91."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ted Sullivan

Born in Ireland in 1851, Timothy Paul Sullivan came to the United States when he was about 10. He got the baseball bug while studying at St. Mary’s College in Kansas, where Comiskey was his roommate. Thus began a lifelong personal and professional friendship between Sullivan and “The Old Roman.” A few years later, the friends married sisters from Dubuque.

For most of 1883, Sullivan managed the St. Louis Browns, who lost the American Association title to the Philadelphia Athletics by just one game. (Comiskey managed 19 games that season.) The next year, Sullivan won 35 of 39 games with the St. Louis Maroons of the Union Association before taking over the lowly Kansas City Unions (13-46). After a couple of years managing in the Texas League, which he helped create, Sullivan in 1888 managed the Washington Senators, then of the National League.

Sullivan’s greatest contributions to the game were as a scout and an administrator. He briefly owned the minor-league franchise in Clinton, Iowa (Northern Association). In addition to serving as Comiskey’s confidante and aide, he helped establish several minor leagues, including the Northwestern, Southern, Atlantic Association and Texas.
The above comes from Brian Cooper's piece on the 1879 games between Dubuque and Chicago.

T.P. Sullivan, Writer and Dramatist. That is what he calls himself; to others he is known as the "Scout" of the Chicago White Sox, the man to whom Comiskey goes for advice in so far as the worth of this, that or the other professional player is concerned.

To me he is today and always has been plain Ted Sullivan, the best judge of a ball player in America, the man of widest vision in the baseball world, who predicted much for the National game years ago, and whose predictions have all come true...

Sullivan early proved the worth that was in him and proved it at a time when real players were scarce, when club discipline was a thing unknown and when the conduct of the so-called professionals often tried the soul of the best and most patient of managers.

Built on the lines of McGraw and Ward, with a face and eyes that beam intelligence, and a head which reflects nothing so much as the wide awake, go-ahead and aggressive spirit of the owner, Sullivan is a marked figure in any gathering. His long experience in the baseball world, his travel and brisk acquaintance have added to his natural fund of Irish wit and make him delightful as a raconteur. No man in the baseball world, indeed, can compare with Sullivan as a story teller...

Ted Sullivan and Charles Comiskey grew up together. In their boyhood days they went to school together at St. Mary's, Kansas College and, Sullivan being the elder, a born wit and a leader in sport, even then Comiskey received his first real lessons from him. That was in the early seventies.

When they left school Sullivan and Comiskey went to Dubuque, Iowa, Sullivan to accept the news agency of all the roads running out of Dubuque to Chicago, and Comiskey to act as his assistant in that line. Later, Sioux City, Iowa and LaCrosse, Wis., were added to Sullivan's territory.

But while acting in this capacity Ted's mind still ran often to baseball and almost alone and unaided, he organized the first minor baseball league ever known, its roster including the cities of Dubuque and Davenport, Iowa, Rockford, Ill., and Omaha, Neb.

It was in this league that Sullivan first showed his skill in picking players for in its playing teams were men like Charles Radbourne, Charles Comiskey, "Bid" McPhee, Jim Whitney, Jack and Dave Rowe, Tom Loftus, the Gleason brothers, Jack and Billy; and many others, who subsequently shone as stars in the major leagues and nearly all of whom owed their real start to Sullivan.

It was in 1881 that I first met Ted Sullivan. I was then managing the co-operative St. Louis Browns, and was looking about the country for teams to play them. I had heard of Sullivan and I wrote to him at Dubuque and asked him to bring a team to St. Louis to play three or four games. In another part of the work I refer to the team he brought here then. It included, among others, Comiskey and Loftus, and it was this visit that led to Comiskey's coming to St. Louis a year afterwards to manage the St. Louis Browns. It was from this team, strengthened a year or two later, that came the four-time winner, St. Louis Browns, the team that won successive pennants in the American Association, and then captured world's honors. During the time of the building up of this team, Sullivan was the leader. Comiskey, true enough, was even then the team's first baseman, but he had not yet mastered the inner points, nor did he possess the spirit, nor the aggressiveness needed then by the real commander.

It was not indeed until Sullivan had put the St. Louis team into real shape that Comiskey took hold of it as its captain and manager. That was in 1885. Prior to that, the work of building up had been done by Sullivan for the strong and aggressive personality of Comiskey did not really mature until later. The great players who went to make up the wonderful winning combination for St. Louis were gathered together from all parts of the country by Sullivan.

One of his first strokes was to bring little Hugh Nicol here to play right field. He took him from the champion White Stockings. Then he went East and picked up Tom Deasley, the Boston catcher, and Arlie Latham, the crack third baseman of the Athletics of Philadelphia. He got other players from other directions, put together a stone wall infield and an outer works to match and then turned the guns over to Comiskey.

In 1884 Sullivan's active mind and aggressiveness led to his joining forces with Henry V. Lucas of St. Louis and that combination resulted in the organization of the Union Association of baseball players, the most powerful and widespread movement of independent players that up to this time had ever been taken in opposition to the owners of the clubs of the National League and American Association.

When this organization disbanded in 1885, Sullivan set out as an organizer of minor baseball leagues and that year he organized the Western League, with clubs in Kansas City, Omaha, Milwaukee, Toledo, Indianapolis and Cleveland.

In 1888, Sullivan appeared as the manager of the Washington Club of the National League.

In 1900 he established the Atlantic League and in 1902 and for a couple of years later he organized the Texas League and put the game on a proper footing in the Lone Star State. In 1904 he put the strong Virginia League in motion.

In recent years he has devoted nearly all his time to the selecting of players for the major league teams...

I might go on forever telling of what Sullivan has done for the game, for his labors have been increasing and have been continued from the earliest days of the real professional sport up to the present time, and so I will conclude this sketch of him with a few words spoken on the same subject by Charles Comiskey, Sullivan's life-long friend:

"Ted Sullivan's standing in the profession of baseball," said Comiskey, "cannot be measured by modern standards. He is in a class all by himself. he is ever and always ahead of his time, with a knowledge of the game and a versatility that no other man of my acquaintance has ever possessed."

Of what Sullivan did to bring about the organization of the American League, I have told elsewhere in this work.
-Al Spink, writing in The National Game

I think that I have as much admiration and respect for Ted Sullivan as anybody but I have to take exception with a couple of things in Spink's piece. The idea that Sullivan formed the first minor league is inaccurate and a misrepresentation of the modern idea of "the minor leagues." Was the Northwestern League minor in comparison to the NL or the AA? Of course it was but that didn't make it the first minor league in the sense that it was controlled by the major leagues and used as a developing ground for young players who would graduate to "the Majors." The Northwest League was just one baseball league among many and while it didn't have teams in large markets and the quality of play was most likely inferior to that of the NL and AA, it wasn't what Spink was making it out to be.

I also take exception to Spink's representation of the UA as "
the most powerful and widespread movement of independent players that up to this time had ever been taken in opposition to the owners of the clubs of the National League and American Association." If by "up to this time" he means 1910 (when The National Game was published) then I think that honor would belong to the Players League. If he's talking about 1884 then the statement doesn't mean much because the AA had only formed two years earlier. Both the AA and the PL were stronger and more significant challengers to the baseball status quo than was the UA.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Stanley Robison's Obituary

Stanley Robison's obituary appeared in The New York Times on March 25, 1911.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Lew Phelan

I was cleaning up my bookmarks last night and found this link to Peter Morris' piece on Lew Phelan. Since I mentioned him and the Brown's revolving door managerial situation in yesterday's post, I thought I'd pass it along.

During the 1880s, Chris Von der Ahe's St. Louis Brown Stockings were a baseball dynasty, winning a string of American Association pennants and attracting throngs of fans to Sportsman's Park. But during the 1890s Von der Ahe encountered a series of personal and financial setbacks, and his ballclub's plight mirrored his downward spiral. After the 1892 merger of the American Association and National League, the Browns sunk lower and lower in the standings of the "big league," and the irascible owner tried to combat declining attendance by a disastrous effort to turn Sportsman's Park into a combination of ballpark, racetrack and amusement park.

One of the many manifestations of the turmoil was the revolving door approach that he used in selecting the club's managers during the mid-1890s. Between 1895 and 1897, the club had at least four managers every season. Von der Ahe himself served two stints as manager, but neither lasted more than a few days, with one of these tenures prompting the Sporting News to quip: "It appears that 'Der Boss' was only able to get along with himself for two days." (Sporting News, May 16, 1896)

One of the many reasons for this dismal state of affairs was that Von der Ahe seemed more inclined to listen to his paramours and their relatives than to anyone with practical knowledge of baseball. As a result, when he appointed Lou Phelan as manager of the ballclub in August of 1895, it seemed to epitomize a team in disarray.

Louis A. Phelan was born in March of 1864 in St. Louis, the son of Dr. Richard A. Phelan and the former Sarah Doyle. Louis was one of many children, but the family was blighted often by tragedy. At least four of Louis's brothers died in childhood, while his two sisters passed away in 1880 and 1887. In 1881, Sarah Phelan died and her husband remarried and started a new family. Thus, while Louis had a much younger brother and eventually had many stepbrothers and stepsisters, it was his brother Frank, three years older, with whom he had his closest bond.

What little we know about Louis's youth and young adulthood does not form a very coherent picture. The 1880 census shows him working as a dry goods clerk. He appears in the 1889 St. Louis city directory as a student, living at the same address as his father, but that same year he was married in Chicago on April 17 to a young woman named Maud Wells. The marriage license lists Maud as a resident of St. Louis and Louis as a resident of Cook County, Illinois. Louis then reappears in the St. Louis city directory in 1893 as a foreman.

Over the next few years, however, both Louis Phelan and his brother Frank began to make names for themselves. Louis became the manager of well-known boxer Dan Creedon, a New Zealand native who had claimed the Australian middleweight championship and then relocated to St. Louis. He and Creedon also opened a saloon on Olive Street in St. Louis. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 1895)

Frank Phelan meanwhile was figuring in national headlines, having befriended Eugene V. Debs, organizer of the American Railway Union, and became one of his key lieutenants during the great railroad strike of 1894...

By this time, Creedon's boxing career was also on the decline, and Louis Phelan began to take on new projects. Meanwhile, Von der Ahe had gotten himself entangled with a woman named Della Wells, who used her influence to get her friends and relatives hired at Sportsman's Park. Della's sister just happened to be Lou Phelan's wife, so he soon was a fixture at the ballpark-racetrack. But he could hardly have been prepared for what happened next. (Hetrick, 176)

With the Browns possessing a 28-62 record that left them eleventh in the twelve-team league, a "stormy interview" with Von der Ahe led player-manager Joe Quinn to resign as manager. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 1895) The Sporting News offered this account of what then transpired: "Phelan owes his appointment to nepotism. The 'Done Browns' are a family affair now. When it was suggested to Chris that he would do well to secure as manager a man with some ability and reputation in the base ball world, he looked on the plan with favor and promised to sleep on it. Upon his arrival at Sportsman's Park the next morning, Von der Ha! Ha! announced that 'the old woman wanted Lou and I got to give it to him, don't I?' That is the explanation generally accepted by the players and public." (Sporting News, August 17, 1895, 4)

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch did its best to be charitable, writing that Phelan "is a clever fellow personally, but just where he got his experience as a base ball manager is a mystery to the local fans." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 11, 1895) But The Sporting News showed no such restraint, raging: "Fancy a National League team managed by a man who knows next to nothing about baseball! That is the state of affairs in St. Louis, since that honest player and competent general, Joe Quinn, resigned and Lou Phelan was appointed his successor. If Mr. Phelan were to go into the dressing room of any major or minor league club in the country, he would find himself a stranger. He knows nobody in the base ball world and nobody in the business knows him. Still he is placed at the head of the team which of all others needs a competent and experienced manager." (The Sporting News, August 17, 1895, 4)

And the Philadelphia Record reported, "Joe Quinn has given up his task as manager of the St. Louis Club and has been succeeded by a St. Louis saloon-keeper named Phelan. One of his principal qualifications is said to be that he knows less about the national game than Von der Ahe, and that is what Chris wants." (Philadelphia Record, quoted in The Sporting News, August 24, 1895)

Phelan pledged to spend the off-season learning the game's finer points, but for the time being he was in an untenable situation. (Hetrick, 176) Naturally, he merited little respect from his new charges. Pitcher Ted Breitenstein related this telling anecdote about Phelan's tenure after the season: "Last season … we had a smart Alec with the Browns named Lou Phelan, who was appointed manager by Chris. Phelan had a balloon head, and he prided himself on bluffing umpires. When [umpire] Tim Hurst walked on the field Phelan yelled from the bench: 'Say, Hurst, if any of those decisions are close make them in our favor, and if you don't you'll hear from it through [league president] Nick Young.' Tim trotted over to Phelan with that funny little pigeon-toed walk of his, and fanning his finger under Phelan's nose said: 'See here, you big stiff, if you make any more cracks like that I'll give you a punch in the nose.' Phelan turned white, and apologized, and afterward addressed Tim as Mr. Hurst." (Washington Post, February 12, 1896, 8)

The Browns went 11-30 under Phelan's leadership, being saved from the National League cellar only by the fact that the Louisville franchise was even more downtrodden. After the season, he was replaced as manager by Henry Diddlebock, whose appointment prompted The Sporting News to sarcastically remark that, "Mr. Diddlebock's mission will be to repair the damage Von der Ahe has done the game and the St. Louis Club." (The Sporting News, December 21, 1895) That was Louis Phelan's last association with baseball...

Louis Phelan's life also entered a downward cycle after his brother's death. Von der Ahe had married Della Wells and offered his brother-in-law work as a bookmaker at Sportsman's Park. But soon the mercurial owner's marriage was also on the rocks and, with bankruptcy staring him in the face, he got rid of his estranged wife's friends and relatives. Then, Louis Phelan and his wife separated.

With little left to keep him in St. Louis, Phelan found work as a traveling salesman. By 1900, he was living in Butte, Montana. On August 10, 1903, he was remarried there to Angelina Arbeck, who was still a few months shy of her sixteenth birthday. The couple welcomed two children, daughter Camille in 1904 and son Louis Jr. in 1912. Louis Sr. quit the road and is listed as living on his own income on the 1910 census and as a hotel proprietor on the 1920 census.

During the 1920s, the family relocated from Butte to Los Angeles, where Louis Phelan died on November 2, 1933. A death notice in the Times listed the names of his wife, son and daughter, but made no mention of the eventful life that Louis Phelan had led.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shepard Barclay

Shepard Barclay, a member of the Union Base Ball Club, was a lawyer, jurist, and Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.

Born November 3, 1847, Barclay was the son of Capt. Elihu H. Shepard, "of pioneer American settlers." A member of the St. Louis University baseball club, he graduated in 1867 and received his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1869. After studying law at the University of Berlin, Barclay returned to St. Louis in 1872 and set up his practice. On June 11, 1873, he married Katie Anderson.

In 1882, Barclay was elected as a judge to the circuit court in St. Louis and in 1888 he won election to the Missouri Supreme Court. Barclay was named the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court in 1897 and resigned that position the next year, returning to St. Louis to practice law as a partner in the firm of Barclay, Fauntleroy, & Cullen. In 1901, he returned to the bench after being appointed to the St. Louis Court of Appeals and served until 1903, once again returning to private practice.

Barclay passed away in St. Louis on November 17, 1925.

Shepard Barclay is the source for the Fruin myth. In The National Game, Al Spink quotes Barclay as saying that "(it) was in the early fifties...that Mr. Fruin brought the game to St. Louis. I was a little fellow at the time and with other boys I played all sorts of games on a field located right where Lafayette Park is now. I remember while playing there one day Jere Fruin, a great tall boy came among us. He was a stranger who had come from somewhere in the East and on our field he laid out a diamond much the same as the diamond in use to-day, and in fact, showed us just how to play the game. That was really the introduction of the game to St. Louis."

Of course, this claim is without merit and is demonstratively false. Fruin himself, quoted in The National Game, states explicitly that he did not introduce baseball to St. Louis. But this hasn't stopped the myth from being repeated, accepted as fact, and published in histories and on websites. It makes for a nice story but Barclay, when relating it to Spink, was sixty-three years old and talking about events more than fifty years past. I've always felt a bit of scorn for Barclay for perpetrating this myth on us and I'm still working on finding it my heart to forgive him.

W.E. Kelsoe, in A Newspaper Man's Motion-Picture of the City, has a nice piece on Barclay and his baseball exploits:

The night of the conversation with Pitcher Fitzgibbon I had one also with Judge Shepard Barclay, referred to in a former paragraph as a crack pitcher of the Unions in his St. Louis college days. The judge had pitched for the Pickwicks of St. Louis University in their games with the Olympics of Washington University before he joined the Unions. He pitched the Unions to victory in one of their games with the Empires for the championship of Missouri and was their pitcher when the St. Louis Unions (played) the Nationals of Washington City. His fame as a pitcher for a college club continued with him after he left St. Louis University. This was the Barclay who pitched in the game that won for University of Virginia the championship of the South over the Washington and Lee University, the contest being reported by Chadwick for his publication. Nor was that all. Not content with his pitching victories in America, the St. Louisan crossed the ocean and pitched a winning game for "Columbia," a newly organized college club in the University of Berlin. The victory, however, dearest to his heart, the one this ex-member of the Missouri State Supreme Court loves to talk about most, was the one played in St. Louis, May 23, 1867, by the Olympics and the Pickwicks, a contest between the college clubs of, respectively, Washington University of St. Louis and St. Louis University, the latter winning with Barclay as the pitcher. The Judge remembers that Nat Hazard pitched for the Olympics and that the only player in that locally famous game still living, besides the two pitchers, is George A. Strong, now a New York lawyer,who played second base for Washington University. The umpire of the game was Adam Wirth, of the St. Louis Fire Department, as before stated, and nationally famous (because of the honor of having his picture in Harper's Weekly) as the first baseman of the old St. Louis Empire Club. The judge told of a game in which one side scored 127 runs, but I think that was another contest, perhaps one between the Unions and Nationals.

Note: The Book Of St. Louisians, from which I took the biographical information, lists Barclay as the son of Elihu Shepard while my notes list him as Shepard's grandson. I lean rather strongly to idea that he was Shepard's grandson but have to admit that I haven't run down the information. I've bought a copy of a 1931 biography of Barclay (first edition no less) and it's on the way. Hopefully, it will answer the question of Barclay's parentage. Once I get my hands on the book expect to be hearing more about Shepard Barclay.

The 1896 St. Louis Browns

Here's a picture I found in my files and for the life of me I can't remember where I got it from. While the pic is labeled the "St. Louis Base Ball Club of 1895," this is actually the 1896 team.

Another in a line of bad Browns teams in the 1890's, the 1896 team is remembered for the return of Arlie Latham, who was at the end of his career, as captain and sometime manager. 1896 was also The Year Of The Five Managers.

Beginning in 1895, the Browns managerial position became somewhat unstable. Between 1895 and 1897, the following people managed the Browns: Al Buckenberger, Joe Quinn, Lew Phelan, Harry Diddlebock, Arlie Latham, Roger Conner, Tommy Dowd, Hugh Nicol, Bill Hallman, and Chris Von der Ahe. Der Boss actually took a turn managing the Browns on three separate occasions. He went 1-0 as a manager in 1895, 0-2 in 1896, and 2-12 in 1897. Altogether, the Browns went through thirteen managers in three years (with Dowd getting two cracks at managing the mess that the Browns had become).

Shockingly, this revolving door managerial strategy did not bring much success on the field. The Browns, who had lost 76 games in 1894, went on to lose 92 games in 1895, 90 games in 1896, and 102 games in 1897. Of course, after the position stabilized and Tim Hurst was allowed to keep his job through the entire 1898 season, the team still lost a whopping 111 games. So maybe it was the players.

Below is the 1896 Browns team photo.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lion Of The Valley

I've been reading Lion of the Valley, Jame Neal Primm's great history of St. Louis, recently. Without a doubt the best general history of the city out there, I finally found a nice hardback copy at a decent price and have been enjoying the book immensely. If you're interested in the history of St. Louis (and if you're reading this blog, there's a good chance that you are), I highly recommend Primm's book.

One of the reason's that I'm reading about the general history of St. Louis is, of course, to be better able to put the history of 19th century St. Louis baseball in context. It's important to not only put the game in St. Louis in the context of 19th century baseball in general but to also place it in the context of place in which it was played. The people who were involved in the game in St. Louis did not spring forth, like Athena, fully formed from the head of Zeus but rather were a product of the time and place in which they lived. To better understand these people, it's important to understand the history of the city in which they lived.

There are several things about the history of St. Louis that have struck me as being important to the development of baseball in the city. The first is the relative youth of the city. St. Louis wasn't founded until 1763, less then a century before baseball was being played there. It didn't become part of the United States until 1804 and wouldn't be incorporated as a town until 1809. Prior to that the people of St. Louis had never experienced democratic government. It was a young frontier town and in 1860 there were still many people living from the generation that had experienced that colonial life under the French and Spanish. To put this in perspective, New York was founded in 1624, Boston in 1630, and Philadelphia in 1682.

I think that the relative youth of the city had an impact on the way the game developed there. A more maturely developed urban area would have more readily adapted to the national baseball trends. In St. Louis, these trends where for the most part ignored to the extent that by the 1865-1870 period St. Louis baseball is hopelessly behind the national trends. It took a strong leader and visionary like Asa Smith to begin to drag St. Louis baseball into the national mainstream and he succeeded only to a certain extent. It's arguable that St. Louis never truly caught up with national trends until the mid 1880's, under the influence of Ted Sullivan and Charles Comiskey, and never became a trendsetter until the 1920's. While its geographical location played a large part in this, I believe that the relative immaturity of the city played an important part.

One of the results of the youth of the city, and one that directly impacted who played the game in St. Louis, was a highly stratified class structure. The people who had founded the city, who had worked with the French, Spanish, and Americans in governing the city, who controlled the fur trade, who owned most of the land were, obviously, the upper class. They lived almost a separate existence than the one lived by the craftsmen, the dockworkers, and the farmers of the outlying villages. What's interesting is that for such a small city, this upper class was fairly large, especially when one remembers that prior to the 1830's the population of St. Louis was never more than a few thousand.

Obviously, the people who founded the city and ran the city had organized the economic and social organizations of St. Louis to their advantage and the only way for an "outsider" to enter that structure was by marriage. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've may have noticed that when writing about a baseball club member from the 1860's I've often mentioned that so and so was a member of the prominent Chouteau family. The Chouteau's and the Lucas', who have also been mentioned a great deal here at TGOG, were the two most prominent families in St. Louis in the 18th and 19th century. They owned everything and they ran everything and these families, by 1860, were rather large due to intermarriage. And the descendants of Augustus Chouteau and J.B.C. Lucas were playing baseball in 1860 with the Cyclone Club and, especially, the Union Club. In 1875, these men would organize the Brown Stockings.

I should make the caveat that this is a generalization and that there were other prominent families in St. Louis other than the Chouteau's and Lucas' but the "pervasive feature" of the dominant families of the city was their connection or relationship to the Chouteau's and Lucas'. Also, baseball was played in St. Louis by others besides the scions of the city elite. But it seems to be something peculiar to St. Louis that these upper class young men played such a prominent role in the development of the early game.

One more thing that grabbed my attention while reading Lion of the Valley had to do with the Creole traditions regarding Sabbath observance. According to Primm, "The weekly ball after Mass; the singing of profane songs; the horse racing, billiards, and card playing for money; the gaiety and excitement of Sundays and Feast days were parts of a pattern that served the community well...(helping) to bond the community...The Creoles were reported to believe that their Sunday fun contained a 'true and undefiled religion' which pleased their creator as themselves. They distrusted the gloomy and stiff Sunday worshipper as one who was planning to cheat his neighbor the rest of the week." I read this and immediately thought of Sunday baseball.

While I don't think I've really touched on it and it's something I should definitely write about, Sunday baseball was something that developed early on in St. Louis. It quickly became a tradition that was enjoyed and valued by the people of the city and one that would lead to a great deal of conflict in the future. While not completely unique to St. Louis, one can easily see how the tradition of Sunday baseball grew out of the St. Louis Creole traditions.

While Primm doesn't touch much on baseball and the cultural impact it's had on St. Louis, I find it fascinating how much of his book is relevant to the history of the game in St. Louis. Who played the game, how the game was played, when the game was played, where the game was played-all of these things were impacted by the history and development of the city of St. Louis. The game did not, and does not, exist in a vacuum. It is a product of the environment in which it's played. In Lion of the Valley, Primm does a extraordinary job of describing that environment.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Packy Dillon's Grave

These shots of the Dillon family plot at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis were taken by Connie Nisinger. Packy Dillon's grave is unmarked but the records indicate that he was laid to rest here with other members of his family.

I honestly can't thank Connie enough for her work in getting these pictures. I basicly cold called her with the information about Dillon and the grave location and she was kind enough to go out of her way to search for the location and get me the pictures. It was extremely kind of her.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

C. Orrick Bishop And The Brown Stockings

Bishop had played amateur baseball while attending Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, and pursuing legal studies in Louisville. His playing career ended when he opened a law practice in St. Louis during 1867, but Bishop remained active in promoting local amateur baseball. This long-time love for the sport persuaded Bishop to accept a major role in the development of the Brown Stockings. Team officials, impressed by his intimate knowledge of the game, appointed him as managing director and entrusted him with recruiting players for the team. Approaching this mission very seriously, Bishop spent a month away from his thriving legal practice to travel the East Coast in search of ballplayers. He focused his efforts in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, cities whose teams had previously traveled to St. Louis.

Bishop signed three players-shortstop Dickey Pearce, right fielder Jack Chapman, and first baseman Herman "Dutch" Dehlman-from the roster of the 1874 Brooklyn Atlantics. While in Brooklyn, Bishop also secured the services of Lipman Pike, who had played the previous season with the Harford Dark Blues...

Bishop discovered the rest of his starting nine in and around Philadelphia...(specifically among) the Easton, Pennsylvania, amateur team...

Bishop had put together a fine team, and the Brown Stockings' shareholders commended him for performing his duty "in a manner highly satisfactory to his confreres in the new venture." But by hiring a starting lineup of ballplayers born in either New York or Pennsylvania, Bishop had risked alienating some sectors of St. Louis society that yearned to see the city represented by homegrown talent.
-From Before They Were Cardinals

I think the interesting question here is who specifically made the decision to bring in the "Atlantic/Easton professionals." While I had always assumed that it was a collective decision by the Brown Stockings board, Jon David Cash makes it sound here as if it was Bishop's decision alone. As managing director, he was tasked by the board to put together the team and he then proceeded to head East to sign the players. Certainly he had the support of the board in this decision to bring in "outsiders" but a great deal of credit must be given to Bishop.

This decision to bring in the Eastern players was a watershed event in the history of St. Louis baseball and had a tremendous impact on the future of the game in St. Louis. I don't think that it's a coincidence that the Brown Stockings' board was made up of several members of the Union Base Ball Club, whose former president was Asa Smith, the visionary and forward-thinking modenizer of the St. Louis game in the 1860's. Certainly Smith had had a tremendous impact on the thinking of his fellow club members who sat on the Brown Stockings' board and I believe that if Smith had been alive in 1875 he would have approved of bringing in the Eastern players.