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.

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