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.


David Ball said...

Well, this was exactly what I meant about the AA nailing the NL to the wall by stealing the Cleveland players, in my response to the previous post

Lucas lost the Cleveland lawsuit, which meant he did have to pay the Cleveland owners, and he actually didn't get what he wanted, either. What he did get from Cleveland was something they did not own that had already been handed him for free by another party that did have the power to dispose of it (the franchise, granted by the NL). He agreed to this in the first place because he thought Cleveland would deliver him something else he needed that they actually had already disposed of to someone else (their players, sold to Brooklyn).

The Cleveland people insisted they had made Lucas no promises concerning the players and in fact had explicitly told him they could not help him sign them as free agents, even by giving him their addresses. I'd guess they were telling the truth, strictly construed, but, having no love lost for Lucas after he had gutted their club with player raids in 1884, they took his money, giving him a wink and a nod of some sort and hoodwinking him into thinking they were giving him more than they could say explicitly.

The NL people had accepted Lucas on condition that they would blaclist all players who had violated contracts or the NL reserve to sign with the Union Association. They expected Lucas to replace these men with the Cleveland players. When they went to an AA club, the NL ultimately had no alternative to a humiliating recantation, made much against their will I'm sure, reinstating the UA jumpers, since there was no other source of talent to give Lucas a competitive team.

Jeff Kittel said...

Interesting. So the big dust-up at the League meeting about changing the National Agreement was retaliation for Brooklyn swiping the Cleveland players? In retaliation, the League magnates were going to force a StL League team down the throats of the AA regardless of what VdA thought or did?

So if Brooklyn hadn't taken the Cleveland players then most of the Cleveland guys would have ended up on the Maroons and all the jumpers would have been blacklisted as had been threatened. They would still have had to deal with VdA though. Was part of VdA's obstinacy a result of all of this? Was the AA using the threat of withholding the StL market as a part of a strategy to reach a deal with the NL over the allocation of players following the collapse of the UA?