Monday, June 2, 2008

Becker Holds The Majority Of The Stock

As The Sporting News goes to press, the stockholders of Sportsman's Park and Club are holding their annual meeting for the election of five directors, puruant to a warrant issued by Justice of the Peace Henry S. Harmon, at the request of E.C. Becker and B.S. Muckenfuss, two of the stockholders. The majority of the stock is held and will be voted by Mr. E.C. Becker, who acquired it from Chris Von der Ahe to secure advances. Neither Chris or any of his retainers will be elected to the Board and thus Von der Ahe will be without any claim to recognition from the League, should he attempt to represent the local club at the meeting.
-From The Sporting News, February 25, 1899

I've been trying to figure out what exactly happened to the Browns in 1898/1899 for awhile now and I still don't think I have the thing figured out properly. Most general accounts say that the Robisons purchased the club after Von der Ahe went bankrupt and while that's a nice summary, it's not remotely close to what happened.

The problem is that there are at least three story-lines converging here. First, you have the financial collapse of Von der Ahe. This is something that was building for several years and came to a head in the summer of 1898. Second, you have the political machinations of the National League. There was a group of owners attempting to contract teams and establish a more "stable" eight team league. The "St. Louis situation" was caught up in this and a solution to the St. Louis problem, acceptable to League magnates, became central in how the League would be structured in 1899. Third, you had the Becker/Muckenfuss/Robison cabal taking control of the Browns and restructuring the organization. Of course, saying that there was a cabal is an oversimplification and glosses over the relationship between Becker, Muckenfuss, and Von der Ahe and the long-held desire of Frank Robison to get involved in the St. Louis market (and to escape difficulties in Cleveland). On top of all of that, you have the courts involved. To say the situation was muddled is an understatement.

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