Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pud Galvin's Obituary

James Galvin, the once famous ball pitcher, is dead at his home in Allegheny, Pa., aged 47. He had been ill for four months with (an ailment) of the stomach. Galvin was a product of the famous "Kerry Patch," St. Louis, which produced such players as Scrappy Joyce...and Jack O'Connor. In 1877 he was purchased from Buffalo by the Pittsburg National league club and played there three seasons. He went back to the famous Buffalo organization and played four season, and joined Pittsburg again in 1893, but was released to St. Louis. In 1894 he played in the Eastern league, but his pitching arm gave out. He was appointed umpire in the National league, but lasted only a short time. He started a saloon in Allegheny, but not being a man of business he lost his place. He was foreman for a contractor, and lately a bartender.

I found Galvin's obit at The Deadball Era and it's dated March 8, 1902. While I assume that it originally appeared in The Sporting News, there is no source listed and I was unable to independently verify it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Maybe We Should Go Find Some Professional Players (Or Chicago Adds Insult To Injury)

In 1874, according to E.H. Tobias, the Chicago White Stockings "came to St. Louis under an arrangement to play four games each with the Empire, Red Stocking and Turner Clubs..." These were probably the three best clubs in St. Louis at the time and the Chicagos cleaned their clocks. While there were a couple of close games, the White Stockings went undefeated on their St. Louis trip and embarrassed the St. Louis baseball fraternity.

Below is the dates of the games played and their results:

April 21 Chicago 24 Empire 2
April 23 Chicago 6 Reds 0
April 26 Chicago 6 Empire 4
April 28 Chicago 22 Turners 5
April 29 Chicago 30 Empire 9
April 30 Chicago 31 Reds 10
May 1 Chicago 21 Empire 10
May 2 Chicago 31 Reds 13

Thankfully, the weather in St. Louis was rather rainy (as it usually is at that time of year) and the rest of the games were unable to be played-although the Reds did make a trip to Chicago and finished their series with the White Stockings on May 6 (when they promptly lost by a score of 14-7). The Chicagos came to St. Louis, went 7-0 on the trip and outscored the best teams in St. Louis by an aggregate score of 171-53. If you count the Reds game in Chicago, the White Stockings were 8-0 against the best St. Louis had to offer and had a run differential of +125.

To add insult to injury, the Chicagos "perpetrated highway robbery while (in St. Louis) and secretly carried their spoils home with them in the person of Johnnie Peters, second base of the Red Stockings, and (Dan) Collins, the Empire pitcher." So not only did the White Stockings come in and crush everybody, they also stole two of the best players in town.

You can date the beginning of the movement to create a professional baseball team in St. Louis and the beginning of the St. Louis/Chicago baseball rivalry to late April/early May 1874. It was this crushing performance by the Chicagos and the humiliation suffered by the St. Louis baseball community that set into motion the events that would lead to the creation of the Brown Stockings. It also puts into perspective the celebration that erupted following the Brown Stockings 10-0 victory over the White Stockings on May 6, 1875. The Browns 4-3 win over the Chicagos two days later was just icing on the cake (and payback for stealing Peters and Collins).

Edit: This little story keeps getting worse. It seems that the White Stockings came back to St. Louis in October of 1874 and continued their dominance over the St. Louis clubs. On October 15, they defeated the Reds 17-3 and two days later they beat the Empires 13-0, the first time in the proud history of the Empire Base Ball Club that the team had ever been shutout. So for those scoring at home, the Chicagos were 11-0 against St. Louis clubs in 1874, outscoring them 215-63 for a run differential of +152.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The 1873 Championship Series Between the Empires and Reds

The Empire Base Ball Club was first recognized as the Champions of Missouri in 1866 and was the best baseball team in St. Louis going back to 1861 (and possibly 1860). Between 1866 and 1872, they held the championship every year but one, losing the honor to the Union Club in 1867. On May 25, 1873, the Empires faced a "new claimant for popular favor and the State championship" in the form of the Red Stocking Base Ball Club. The Reds would give the Empires their most serious challenge for the championship since the Union Club disbanded. In a back and forth battle, the Empires and Reds would split the first four games of their championship series and the series would not be decided until October when the fifth and decisive game was played.

The first game of the championship series, of course, took place on May 25th and I've written about the game in the past. The Empires scored thirteen runs in the third inning and jumped out to a 18-4 lead as they cruised to a 25-16 victory, the only hick-up being the seven runs that the Reds scored in the fifth. According to E.H. Tobias, this was the first game the Reds ever played.

The second game of the series was played on June 8 and the results were pretty much the same as the first game. The Empires scored nineteen runs in the first five innings and never trailed. The six runs that the Reds scored in the eight and ninth inning made the final score of 26-18 somewhat respectable.

While the Reds showed talent and potential in the first two games, they were never really in either game and were one loss from getting swept aside by the Empires. However, the two teams would not meet again until September and the young Reds used the time to their advantage-working out their best line up and gaining confidence after a string of impressive victories over some of the other top teams in St. Louis. By the time the two teams met for the third game of their championship series, the Reds had developed into a more mature and dangerous club.

On September 7, the two clubs "again contended for supremacy" and the Reds once again fell behind the Empires, giving up two runs in the first. However, unlike in the first two games, the Reds answered the challenge, scoring eighteen runs in the first five innings, while Pidge Morgan, the Reds' pitcher, was able for the first time to shut down the potent Empire bats. The 20-11 victory of the Reds was, according to Empire partisan Tobias, "characterized by out and out laziness...on the part of the Empires owing to the extreme heat."

This victory by the Reds created a situation "interesting enough to attract a large attendance" to the fourth game of the series on October 12. In an incredible back and forth battle, the Reds jumped out to a two run lead only to fall behind 4-2 after two innings. In the third, the Reds' bats came alive, scoring seven runs for a 9-4 lead. Entering the bottom of the fifth, the Reds still led 11-6 only to see the Empires explode for seven runs and take a 13-11 lead. The Empires extended that advantage to 15-11 after six innings. The Reds however refused to fold and scored one run in the seventh and three in the eighth to tie the game. After shutting out the Empires in the bottom of the eight, the Reds scored two runs in the top of the ninth to take a 17-15 lead. In the bottom of the ninth, the champions refused to go quietly and scored a run to make the final 17-16. Tobias, sadly, gives no account of the bottom of the ninth and what kind of threat the Empires made to tie the game and force extra innings. Regardless, the Reds had won a fantastic victory, tied the championship series at two games apiece and forced a decisive fifth game.

This fifth and deciding game was played one week later on October 19 before "an immense audience...eager to see the fur fly" and "(both) clubs were eager for...the encounter..." However, this game failed to live up to the previous one and after the Empires scored five runs in the third for a 7-1 lead the champions were "inspired...and the Reds discouraged." Defending their championship, the Empires cruised to an easy 10-4 victory that was marked by outstanding defense on both sides.

While the veteran Empire players such as Schimper, Barron, Spaulding, and Wirth celebrated yet another championship, the young Reds had shown their mettle and fulfilled the expectations that had surrounded them going into the season. The Empires had survived one of the stiffest challenges to their championship reign while the Reds could take solace in the fact that their 17-16 victory in the fourth game of the series was one of the greatest games ever played in St. Louis. And the two clubs would battle again for the championship in 1874.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Reds First Big Win

If we accept E.H. Tobias' assertion that the Reds came into existence in 1873 (as I believe that the evidence suggests we should) then the Reds first big win against a St. Louis amateur power came on July 19, 1873 against the Turners. The Turner Base Ball Club had been in existence since at least 1869 and was a member of the State Base Ball Association. They challenged for the championship in 1872 and were able to take one game from the Empire Club. In 1873 they challenged the Empires again although they lost all three games to the champions. The Turners' reputation was such that when the Chicago White Stockings visited St. Louis in 1874 one of the teams that they played was the Turners.

Despite the Turners reputation as a top amateur team, the upstart Reds were actually favored in the first game between the two. On July 5, the two teams met and to the surprise of the Red Stocking faithful the Turners hung eleven runs on the new club in the third inning and went on to win the game 19-17. Tobias writes that Packy Dillon, the Reds' catcher, was suffering from a finger injury during the game that caused the Reds to shuffle their lineup to the teams' detriment.

The second game of the series between the two clubs took place on July 19. In what was described as "a splendid exhibition of cool, watchful playing," the Reds avenged their earlier defeat. Jumping out to a 7-0 lead, the Reds defeated the Turners 16-5 behind four runs by Billy Redmon and three each by John Paul Peters and center fielder Dean. Pidge Morgan pitched well, putting up goose eggs in six frames, and the Reds defense played outstandingly behind him, committing only "three or four" errors.

This was a significant victory for the Reds, establishing them as a power on the local baseball scene and validating the hype that had surrounded them entering the 1873 season. It also jump-started a successful season that saw the club take the Empires to a deciding fifth game in their championship series before falling to the defending champs.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

An Old Timers' Game

A very memorable game, one that was and is historic in the career of the Empire Club, was played August 19, in the presence of the largest audience that gathered at the ball park during the entire season of 1873. It partook of the nature of a family re-union, inasmuch as the contestants were the first nine of the club against the veterans, those who at one time or another during the existence of the club had played on the first nine. It was not a burlesque game but was played for points and it is not amiss to say that the vets presented the most unique aggregation of dilapidated ball tossers that ever appeared on any occasion. Crooked fingers, broken noses and ankles weak from sprains, all were there represented in the persons of one or more of the veterans. It was thought that the “old ‘uns” would be able to give their youthful adversaries a good tussle but the game showed that base ball players may be classed among the good things that do not improve with age. It was purely in a desire to include all the vets present that eleven players participated on their side and not at all because they thought it necessary to have extra aid in spanking the “young ‘uns...”

It was a game that will long be remembered by those participating at least if for no other reason than that no casuality occurred to any of the Vets, who while showing what they did know about the game could not help proving what they could not do and base running was one of those things. Shockey demonstrated that his hands had not lost their cunning by capturing five fly balls. Tobias caught a neat liner at short that was almost hot enough to knock him out. Frain held down second base with old time grace but base running was quite another thing with his increased (girth). Duffy made a great effort to be a boy again and succeeded in a measure. Yule and Sexton each divided their efforts equally between outs and runs, of which achievement they were not too obstreperously proof. Jack Barrett was out of place in center field and couldn’t see why he was not made catcher No. 2 “and then you would have seen base ball.” John Murphy could not find where the mile stones were located, obesity having claimed him for its own, and Cooney could not see the ball when Schimper so kindly tossed it in his direction. Robinson would have done better if he had left his shoes outside the park, his limbs not being strong enough to make time with such appendages. John O’Connell acted as though he was at a School Board meeting where they do anything but what they should.

The First Nine might have done better but what they did do was quite enough to show how disrespectful they could be to old age, especially so with Barron, Oran, Spaulding and Klein who just to show their smartness insisted upon double dealings of outs on several separate and distinct occasions. Schimper, too, was mean enough to heat his balls red hot and the ambidextrous Seward’s hands held magnets. Adam Wirth’s traps were freshly greased for the occasion and his sardonic smile at each successful capture was enough of itself to annihilate those poor decrepit Vets. There was on exhibition during the day the championship belt and bat that had been confided to the club’s protection years before and which it lost but for one year to the Union Club, also a photograph of the first nine in ’67. Several of the veterans wore the gold badge of the club that was adopted in ’66 on the occasion of their first trip from home to Freeport, Ill., and one, Tobias, was attired in the original uniform of the club having preserved it since his retirement from the nine.

-E.H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News, January 11, 1896

Several notes of interest:

-The idea that "the 'old ‘uns' would be able to give their youthful adversaries a good tussle" is rather humorous and Tobias can't possibly be serious with this claim. The Empires in 1873 were an outstanding baseball team that had already defeated all of its rivals with no blemishes to their record that I can find. The final score of the game, by the way, was 39-9.

-Tobias mentions a photograph of the 1867 team. Anybody happen to have a copy? I'd certainly like to see it (and that's understatement at its finest).

-While Tobias mentions the championship belt and bat, he makes no mention of the gilded championship ball that was originally used in the Cyclone/Morning Star match game in 1860. One can assume then that the ball had already been "misplaced" by August of 1873. Griswold stated that it was last seen in the possession of the Empire Club and I believe that Tobias also makes mention of it in his series of letters (but I can't remember off the top of my head what he said about it). I'm hoping the thing is in a box in somebody's attic and wasn't thrown out years ago. That ball is the Holy Grail of St. Louis sports memorabilia.

-This game and the events surrounding it speaks to an appreciation that the Empire Club had for its own history and that of the game. How many clubs were in existence in 1873 that had a richer history than the Empire Club? A club formed in the antebellum period, that was active during the Civil War, that dominated the game in a rich baseball market and that had thrived for fourteen seasons-the Empires had a great deal to celebrate.

-Finally, Tobias' reference to his own play (he "caught a neat liner") is by far the nicest thing he says about his own ballplaying abilities in the series. While never a great player or a regular member of the starting nine, Tobias must have been a decent baseball player. He did play with the first nine on several occasions-a few of which were rather big matches. In his letters to TSN, Tobias is rather humble about his own exploits on the field and is usually self-deprecating when referring to them.

Edit: Looking at my notes, it appears that Tobias' last mention of the gilded championship ball was in his November 16, 1895 letter to TSN. He wrote that after the Union Club defeated the Empires for the championship in 1867, Jeremiah Fruin presented the ball and the belt to the Unions. He doesn't mention the Unions returning the ball after the Empires defeated them in 1867. One can assume that they returned the belt and that this is the belt that Tobias is talking about in his letter of January 11, 1896. If the belt was returned then you would think that the ball was returned as well. The Empire Club is still the best suspect for the last known holder of the gilded ball.

Rudy Kemmler

Rudy Kemmler played in thirty-five games for the World's Champion Browns in 1886 as a catcher and first baseman. What's notable about Kemmler's stint with the Browns is that over one hundred and twenty-three at bats, he posted a remarkable OPS+ of nine. That's nine (9), as in one short of ten. So I think the question that needs to be asked is was Kemmler the worst player ever to play for a championship team?

Interestingly, the fourth most similar player to Kemmler (according to Baseball Reference) is Charlie Sweasy, the manager and second baseman of the 1875 St. Louis Reds. The tenth most similar player was Tom Dolan, who played with the Browns, Maroons, and Whites. The list of Kemmler's comps is not exactly Murderer's Row.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Still On Vacation

A quick and lazy post while I'm on vacation. Here's pictures of Ed Herr, Jim Devlin, and Tom Dolan's Old Judge baseball cards-three members of the 1888 St. Louis Whites who also played for the Browns that season.

Adam Wirth Gets Some National Ink (Sort Of)

We present to our base ball readers in this week's issue, the third of our series of illustrations, and the second of the portraits of leading players of the country, the subject of our present sketch being Mr. Adam North, of the Empire Base Ball Club of St. Louis, Mo.

The furore for base ball which existed in the Middle States in 1860 to such an extent, reached as far West as St. Louis, and in that year it led to the organization of the Empire Club of that city-then, as now, the champion club of the Western States. The war, however, affected the Empire Club, as it did all base ball clubs, and for four years, play was, in a measure, suspended. In 1865, however, the activity and enterprise which marked the action of the Empire Club in 1860 were resumed, and by several finely-contested games with leading organizations of sister States and cities, the Empires fully established their claim to the title of the Champion of the West, and it will, doubtless, be some time ere the laurels will be wrested from them; for this season they open play stronger and seem more enthusiastic than ever before.

In accordance with our request, we have to acknowledge a prompt reply to our circular from Mr. H.C. Sexton of the Empire Club, the first Vice-President of the National Association, who has sent us the name of Mr. Adam North, the first baseman of the Empire Club of St. Louis. Mr. North is of the typographical fraternity, and as such, as a matter of course, is "a gentleman and a scholar," and, moreover, a first-class ball-player. His strong points of play are his accuracy in throwing and his certainty in holding a ball, these two physical attributes making his services exceedingly useful in other positions besides the one he has made his specialty-viz., the first base of the nine. To these desirable qualifications he adds calmness and steadiness of play, and presence of mind and evenness of temper in exciting and critical positions of the game.

Mr. North is about twenty-two years of age, possesses a manly physique, and considerable power of endurance, and his strength of muscle is shown in his batting skill-his average play at the bat being of the best of his club. At present he is an employee in the office of the Missouri Democrat, and is highly esteemed by his companions and employers. Among the games in which Mr. North has conspicuously figured are the contests between his club and those of Freeport, Ill., Dubuque, Iowa, and with the Morning Star and Commercial Union Clubs of St. Louis.
-Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, August 4, 1866

This is a great piece and I have to give a hat tip to Richard Hershberger who was kind enough to send it to me. There's just one little problem with it though. The Empire Club never had a first baseman named Adam North. The guy they're talking about is the great Adam Wirth, first baseman extraordinaire and arguably the best player the Empires ever had. How would you like to be Adam Wirth in 1866? You get some serious national ink but they get your last name wrong. Such is life.

Friday, July 25, 2008

More On Pat Deasley

New York purchased catcher Tom Deasley from St. Louis, or more probably Deasley purchased his own release after negotiating a contract with New York that made it worth his while. In order to forestall Deasley's jumping to the outlaw Union Association in the fall of 1884 St. Louis owner Chris Von der Ahe had signed him to a contract that included a provision he would not be reserved for 1885. Probably in anger over Deasley's chronic drinking and other disciplinary infractions, Von der Ahe refused to honor the commitment and the American Association would not intervene in Deasley's favor on the grounds that it regarded the provision as an attempt to "evade the reserve rule." Deasley's release was then purchased for $400 and he immediately signed with New York for a salary reported as high as $3000 or even $3500. Most sources say Deasley paid the entire $400, though according to the Brooklyn Eagle the New York club agreed to pay $300 but would go no higher, so that Deasley contributed the last hundred dollars.
-David Ball, Nineteenth Century Transaction Register

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Too Wild And Jovial

In the race for catching honors in the National League in 1882 Tom Deasley, then catching for Boston, tied Bennett of Detroit.

A great catcher and thrower was Deasley, so great indeed that Ted Sullivan brought him to St. Louis and here he really wound up his career.

Deasley was a fine receiver and thrower, but too wild and jovial a fellow to last long in league company. His life on the center of the baseball stage was brief.
-The National Game

The description of Pat Deasley as "too wild and jovial a fellow" wins the award for best euphemism of the week. Deasley was an alcoholic whose escapades were part of the Browns' "team discipline" problem in 1884.

On a trip to Indianapolis that year, several members of the team were, as the Post-Dispatch said at the time, "(pouring) liquor down their throats." A drunken Deasley, according to Jon David Cash, "approached two women on the street. He apparently propositioned them, and, when his overtures were rejected, Deasley grabbed one of them by her arm. Both women escaped to the safety of a store that sold women's hats. Deasley steadfastly pursued them, and the Indianapolis police quickly arrived to arrest him 'for drunkenness and insulting ladies.' After being convicted on charges of drunkenness and assault, Deasley paid a ten-dollar fine and court costs for each offense."

Later, when the team was in Toledo, Deasley was beaten up by teammates Joe Quinn and Tom Dolan. Deasley was injured in the fight and was unable to play in "an embarrassing 16-2 shellacking at the hands of the first-year Brooklyn Trolley-Dodgers..."

On July 2, Deasley showed up drunk for a game against Baltimore. Held out of the game by Jimmy Williams, Deasley, according to Cash, "bitterly condemned the team's manager to the crowd" while his teammates were in the process of losing the game. As a result of his "jovial" antics, he was fined by the team and forced to sign an affidavit stating that he would refrain from alcohol for the rest of the season.

Late in the season, Deasley got into another fight with a teammate. This time it was Daisy Davis who Deasley battled in the dinning room of the Louisville Hotel. Deasley may also have been responsible for the Tom Dolan jumping to the Maroons. It seems that Dolan, who didn't much care for the "wild and jovial" Deasley, was unhappy that Deasley was starting at catcher ahead of him.

At the end of the 1884 season, the Browns sold Deasley to New York for $400 (although Baseball Reference states that Deasley was released by the Browns and signed with New York as a free agent). The Browns were on the verge of putting together their championship run and didn't need the kind of problems that Deasley brought. In a concise summation, Comiskey stated that Deasley was "a continual source of trouble to the team."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vacation's All I Ever Wanted

Starting today, I'm on vacation. While I'll have some posts programed to go, I'm going to be unplugged for the next week. No internet, no computer, no phone-nothing. The plan is to completely disengage from civilization for a week and just relax. So any blog comments or emails are going to have to wait until I get back.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sullivan Joins The Maroons

The St. Louis Union Base-ball Club to-day closed a contract by which T.P. Sullivan is to manage the Union Base-ball Club during the season of 1884. His contract gives him full control of the Union Club and guarantees him a full season's work. To-day President Lucas, of the Union Association, received a letter from Boston stating that the club of that city which is to join the Union Association had secured its full complement of men and that the club would send a representative to the Cincinnati meeting.
-The New York Times, March 15, 1884

Ted Sullivan's relationship with the Maroons
didn't last that long but Sullivan never really did stay in one place too long.

Monday, July 21, 2008

O'Neill's Contract

James E. O'Neil, the pitcher of the New York Club, who signed a contract to play with the Metropolitans, will probably give his services to the St. Louis Club. Through some technicality, the contract made with the "Mets" is void. According to one of the rules of the American Association, a player must remain disengaged for at least 10 days before he can be engaged. After being released by the New-Yorks, the Metropolitans hired O'Neil before the necessary 10 days had expired. Mr. Von der Ahe, the President of the St. Louis Club, took advantage of the error committed by the manager of the Metropolitan nine, and made a contract with O'Neil to play in that city. Last year the same thing occurred in the case of Rowen, who was engaged in the same manner by Von der Ahe, but Rowen was compelled to fulfill his second contract, which was made with the Athletic Club.
-The New York Times, December 3, 1883

Of course Jimmy Williams' little conflict of intrest was helpful in securing Tip O'Neill's services for the Browns.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jimmy Williams

The St. Louis Base-ball Club to-day engaged a new manager in the person of J.A. Williams, well known as the present Secretary of the American Association. President Von der Ahe to-day makes the announcement that while he lost the championship of the American Association in 1883 he will make a bold bid for it in 1884, and will appear in the field with the strongest nine that can be go together. He says the club of this year cost him $45,000 and that he will expend twice that amount to get a winning team here in 1884. Williams is to be given full management of the team and he is to be allowed the privilege of engaging players without regard to the expenses entailed.
-The New York Times, October 16, 1883

J.A. Williams is Jimmy Williams, the manager, and not Jimmy Williams, the player, who was born in St. Louis and played for the AL Browns. And for that matter, it's also not James Alfred Williams, who played for the Padres in 1969 and 1970, or Jimy Williams, the manager of Blow Jays fame.

Williams' tenure as manager of the Browns in 1884 is seen as a bit of a disaster and a set-back in the team's growth towards championship status. While the team played well, they finished fourth in the AA as compared to a second place finish the previous year. Also, in 1884, there were a string of embarrassing incidents involving Browns' players that many believed reflected a lack of managerial discipline. On September 4th, Williams resigned amid accusations that he had lost control of the team. He was replaced by Charlie Comiskey.

One positive that came out of Williams' tenure was the acquisition of Tip O'Neill. Jon David Cash writes that Williams "had been hired by Von der Ahe in late October 1883 to manage the Browns. Nevertheless, he still remained the American Association secretary until December 12, pending the appointment of his replacement at the winter meeting. In his capacity of league secretary, Williams voided O'Neill's contract with the Metropolitans; then in his role as Browns' manager, Williams signed O'Neill to a St. Louis contract...National League president Abraham G. Mills, functioning as chairman of the Arbitration Committee, upheld the Browns' claim to O'Neill's services..."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

An Index To Posts About The St. Louis Whites

Here's a quick and easy index to this weeks posts on the Whites (just click on the link to go to that post):

A Sort Of Farm Team-The 1888 St. Louis Whites, Part 1
A Sort Of Farm Team-The 1888 St. Louis Whites, Part 2
A Sort Of Farm Team-The 1888 St. Louis Whites, Part 3
A Sort Of Farm Team-The 1888 St. Louis Whites, Part 4
A Sort Of Farm Team-The 1888 St. Louis Whites, Part 5
A Sort Of Farm Team-The 1888 St. Louis Whites, Part 6

The Apollo Of The Box Stiffs The Maroons

The news that Tony Mullane had broken his contract with the St. Louis Union Base-ball Team, and signed an affidavit to the effect that he would pitch for the Toledo Club, caused considerable commotion in (St. Louis) base-ball circles to-day. Mullane some time ago had a talk with the managers of the Toledo club who offered him $2,500, $500 in advance, for the season's play. This was what the St. Louis Unions paid him. He told the Toledo manager that he would accept this offer, provided the St. Louis American Club would release him from the reserve rule. The latter were willing to do this, and then Mullane sent back the advance money Lucas had given him and also asked to be released from his contract. Subsequently, it is said, although no good authority is given, Mullane signed the affidavit in which he took oath that he would play in Toledo next year. This is the whole and true story. When spoken to to-day concerning Mullane's action Lucas said that he had received no authoritative notification that Mullane had signed the affidavit named "but if he has done such a thing," said Mr. Lucas, "then has the time come for the Union Association to fight the enemy with their own weapons. If I lose Mullane I will have as good a man if I have to enter some of the associations fighting us."

-The New York Times, February 2, 1884

I've covered the Mullane situation before but I wanted to share this article because I really liked Lucas' quote at the end. It made me think of Bugs Bunny.

Just Another Day At The Office

At the close of yesterday's game between the Baltimore and St. Louis clubs, President Von der Ahe of the St. Louis club wired President Young of the League, preferring charges of drinking against Umpire Gaffney and protesting the game. Von der Ahe also read the riot act to the members of the Browns, and, as a consequence, George Miller resigned as Captain. The players are dissatisfied at a system of petty fines which are inflicted for excusable errors, and but few of them play an earnest game.
-The New York Times, July 17, 1894

If Doggie Miller resigned in a huff, it appears that the situation quickly blew over and he finished the season as Browns' manager. This looks like one of those classic Von der Ahe moments from which his modern reputation is derived. He's protesting a game, calling the umpire a drunk, going off on his team, and driving his manager to distraction.

One of Von der Ahe's flaws was his inability to master his emotions. He was prone to outbursts, raging against the world around him for slights both real and imagined, returning to his senses only after the release gained by the outburst. To work for Von der Ahe and to be able to deal with him, one had to accept this and be able to handle it. Not many could.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Kind Of Farm Team-The 1888 St. Louis Whites, Part 6

Part Six? Are you kidding me? I certainly can prattle on, can't I? That's a lot of words on a subject that I don't really feel I have a complete handle on. Anyway, on to the summation.

The original question at hand was "Were the St. Louis Whites a farm club for the St. Louis Browns?" David Nemec called them "a kind of farm club" and Peter Morris wrote that Von derAhe "operated the St. Louis Whites of the Western Association as a farm club..." So the general consensus among baseball historians appears to be that the Whites were indeed a farm club. I would have to agree that the evidence supports this consensus.

However (and for Pete's sake, why can't I just reach a conclusion and stick to it without having to qualify it?), I would have to say that Von der Ahe had other motives in operating the Whites beyond the desire to put together a farm club and develop young talent. He certainly was interested in having another gate attraction for Sportsman's Park. While the Whites failed to draw a crowd in their short history, the appeal of having a team playing at home while the Browns were on the road is obvious.

While I certainly see the flaws in the argument, I still believe that the idea that the Whites were a Western Association stalking horse for Von der Ahe's baseball interests has merit. Von der Ahe saw the threat of the Eastern clubs breaking off from the NL and AA and forming their own league as a real possibility and it makes sense that he would make plans to deal with the fallout from such a threat. The Whites and the WA can be seen as central to Von der Ahe's plans to establish a Western major league if and when the Eastern teams made good on their threat.

So, yes, the Whites were a farm club for the Browns and, if the intent was to identify and develop future major league players, they were a successful one despite only existing for part of one season. The Browns were able to identify and sign Beckley, Staley, Devlin, Herr, and Crooks, all good young players. If the Browns had kept those players and continued to develop young talent, they most likely would have had more success in the 1890's then they did.

But the team also existed to further Von der Ahe's business interests. They were designed to draw a crowd to Sportsman's Park when the Browns were out of town and they were a fall-back position in the event that the contemporary major league structure fell apart. So while the Whites can be identified as a farm club, they certainly were more than that.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Kind Of Farm Team-The 1888 St. Louis Whites, Part 5

I'm done speculating on the nature of the Whites. Let's take a look at the roster.

The following players were members of the St. Louis Whites in 1888:

Tug Arundel: catcher; played on and off in the major leagues between 1882 and 1888; after the breakup of the Whites, Arundel was released and received an offer from the Kansas City Association team although he ended up with the Washington Nationals.

Jake Beckley: first base; a heck of a player, Beckley was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971; he played 20 seasons in the major leagues between 1888 and 1907, ending his career with the Cardinals; after the breakup of the Whites, he was sold, along with Harry Staley, to Pittsburgh for $4500.

Ernie Burch: outfielder; played with Cleveland in 1884 and Brooklyn in 1886 and 1887.

Bart Cantz: catcher; played three seasons in the major leagues between 1888 and 1890; has a career batting average of .157; The Sporting News reported in June of 1888 that, after the breakup of the Whites, Cantz was going to join the Browns but it appears that he was sold to the Baltimore Association team.

Jack Crooks: third base; played eight seasons in the major leagues between 1889 and 1898, including two stints with the Browns (1892-1893 and 1898); was the manager of the Browns in 1892; led the NL in walks in 1892 and 1893, finished second in the AA in walks in 1890 and 1891; his 136 walks in 1892 set a major league record that stood until 1911; Crooks was sold to Omaha for $500 upon the breakup of the Whites.

Jim Devlin: pitcher; played four seasons in the major leagues between 1886 and 1889; played with the Browns after the breakup of the Whites and ended his major league career with the team the next year; I wrote a little bit about Devlin before.

Tom Dolan: catcher; played seven seasons in the major leagues between 1879 and 1888; played with the Browns in 1883 and 1884 before jumping to the Maroons (for whom he played in all three seasons of their existence); after the breakup of the Whites, Dolan rejoined the Browns; played baseball in St. Louis in four different leagues: the AA, UA, NL, and WA; after he retired from baseball, Dolan served as a fireman in St. Louis; I've written about Dolan a few times, most notably here.

Ed Herr: shortstop; played three seasons in the majors between 1887 and 1890; played with the Browns after the breakup of the Whites (and again in 1890); after he was finished with baseball, Herr worked as a carpenter in St. Louis; he died in 1933, drowning in the Mississippi.

Hunkey Hines: outfielder; born Henry Fred Hines; played one season in the majors with Brooklyn in 1895; after the breakup of the Whites, Hines was released and signed with a club in Rockford, where he lived the rest of his life.

Jerry McCormick: outfielder; played two seasons in the majors in 1883 and 1884.

Parson Nicholson: second base; born Thomas C. Nicholson, also called "Deacon"; played three seasons in the major leagues between 1888 and 1895; after the breakup of the Whites, he was released and it appears that he then signed with Detroit.

Harry Staley: pitcher; played eight years in the majors between 1888 and 1895; he finished his career playing with the Browns; after the breakup of the Browns, Staley was sold to Pittsburgh, along with Beckley, for $4,500; when Von der Ahe was attempting to sell the club, the player that most teams wanted to buy was Staley.

C. Alcott: shortstop; some sources list his first name as Charles.

Kenyon: outfielder; some sources list him as J.J. Kenyon or O.J. Kenyon; after the breakup of the Whites, Kenyon remained in St. Louis although it was expected that he would sign with a team in the Ohio League.

Fred Nyce: outfielder, pitcher; after the breakup of the Whites, Nyce received offers Kalamazoo and Canton and it was assumed by TSN that he would sign with the Kalamazoo.

Sproat: pitcher.

I put together this roster based on box scores, articles in TSN, and the Old Judge baseball card series. All players on this list either played in a game for the Whites, was mentioned as a member of the team, or were identified in the Old Judge set as a member of the Whites. I can state with certainty that the following players played in games for the Whites: Nicholson, Beckley, Crooks, Burch, Herr, Hines, Kenyon, Dolan, Staley, Sproat, Gantz, and Nyce. There is no record that I've found of Alcott, McCormick, Devlin, or Arundel playing in a game for the club.

Looking at the roster, it doesn't seem to be that bad of a team. There was a nice mix of veterans and youth. I would say that if the intent was to create a farm team and develop talent then the Browns did a good job putting the team together. Out of the sixteen players identified as members of the Whites, Beckley and Staley were outstanding young players who the Browns would have been wise to hold on to. Ed Herr looks like a good young prospect and I know that many clubs were interested in him. What happened to his career, I can't say but I'd certainly like to find out. Jim Devlin also was a young guy who looked like a promising major leaguer and then disappeared. Jack Crooks was twenty-two years old in 1888 and went on to have a nice career. So by my count and evaluation, that's five legitimate major league prospects on a sixteen man roster, three of whom went on to have better than average major league careers and one of whom was a Hall of Famer. I don't think you can do better than that and it speaks to the Browns' outstanding scouting ability.

Tomorrow, I'm going to try and wrap this thing up.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Kind Of Farm Team-The 1888 St. Louis Whites, Part 4

The available evidence make it easy to state that the Whites existed as a farm club for the Browns. Players are moving back and forth between the teams and the pattern fits a general baseball trend towards farming relationships that had been established in 1887. However, Von der Ahe's own words and actions in 1887 and 1888 cast some doubt on that relationship. He explicitly denied that the Whites were a farm club, quickly pulled the plug on the enterprise, and attempted to sell the franchise and players to another city rather than breakup the team and sell off the player individually. This attempt to keep the team intact in an effort to preserve the viability of the Western Association is fascinating and leads to another explanation for Von der Ahe's actions with regards to the Whites.

There are two articles that may possibly speak to Von der Ahe's intent. The first appeared in The New York Times on November 20, 1887:

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 other appeared in The Sporting News on February 4, 1888:

St. Louis Will Be in The Big Western Association Next Year

And the Eastern Clubs Will Have an Association of Their Own

It seems to be the prevailing opinion among ball men that great changes will take place in the make-up of the base ball map after the present season. Said a gentleman, who is way up in ball circles, to me the other day:

“You will find that before the season of 1888 commences Brooklyn and Cincinnati will be full-flogged members of the National League. St. Louis will be in the New Western Association, leaving Cleveland, Louisville, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Kansas City to shift for themselves. Mark the prediction.”

While I don't find much evidence supporting the rumored geographical split in the baseball world, this doesn't mean that the rumors weren't floating about and being taken seriously by Von der Ahe. If you look at the language of the Times piece, I think it conveys how Von der Ahe may have seen the threat of the breakup of the National League and American Association along geographical lines. The Times uses the words "alarm," "startling," and "dead" and speaks of "war" and business going "to smash." The Times implies that Von der Ahe took these rumors very seriously and that he was concerned about the survival of his baseball interests.

The Sporting News article presented the rumor as a done deal. In the case of a geographical split, the Western Association would attempt to compete as a major league. In 1888, the WA had teams in St. Louis, Chicago, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Des Moines, Omaha, Davenport, and Sioux City. If you added Indianapolis to the Association, this would have made for a decent Western major league, although certainly it would have been at a financial disadvantage against the Eastern major league.

I believe that it's entirely possible that Von der Ahe was using the Whites and the Western Association as a stalking horse for the establishment of a potential Western major league in the face of the threat from the Eastern teams. If the threat materialized, Von der Ahe had a viable backup plan for his baseball interests. If the American Association fell apart, he could simply consolidate his baseball holdings and continue to operate in the Western Association.

Von der Ahe's attempts to sell the Whites in May of 1888 lends some credence to this interpretation. When the Eastern threat failed to materialize, Von der Ahe simply decided that he no longer needed the Whites or the players and entered into negotiations to sell them. His decision to sell the franchise and players rather than simply disband the team and sell off the players was defended by Von der Ahe as a move designed not to cause "irreparable damage to the Western Association." While Von der Ahe may have concluded that the threat had passed, he may have still had some concerns and wished to keep his Western Association option open.

Certainly this is highly speculative. But the rumors of the Eastern threat were floating about and Von der Ahe took them seriously. His ownership of the Whites and their participation in the WA would have allowed him to continue his baseball operations in St. Louis in the eventuality of the materialization of the Eastern threat. The Western Association also could have been quickly transformed into a major league with the participation of people like Von der Ahe and Spaulding, whose Chicago team also had a farm club in the WA. When the threat passed, Von der Ahe was able to dispose of the Whites while attempting to preserve the WA-just in case.

Tomorrow, I'll talk a bit about the players on the Whites.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Kind Of Farm Team-The 1888 St. Louis Whites, Part 3

We can see evidence of a farming relationship between the Browns and Whites, with players moving between the two teams, and Peter Morris has written that this relationship fits within a general 19th century trend towards the establishment of the farm system. This seems sufficient to declare that the Whites were indeed a Browns' farm club. However, there is some contradictory evidence that most be dealt with.

In the November 9, 1887 issue of Sporting Life, there is an article that discusses Von der Ahe's purchase of the Whites and mentions that Tom Loftus would be the club's manager. In this article, Von der Ahe explicitly states that the Whites would not be run as the Browns' farm club. What are we to make of this? It's possible that Von der Ahe was simply being disingenuous. Some of the farming relationships developed by major league clubs in 1887 had been controversial and many stated at the time that they were illegal. So Von der Ahe, in denying a farming relationship between the Browns and Whites, may have simply been trying to cover up the true nature of the relationship in an attempt to avoid controversy. It's also possible, however, that Von der Ahe was stating the truth and that while there may have been the appearance of a farming relationship, the intent to establish a farm club did not exist.

If Von der Ahe did not intend for the Whites to exist as a farm club, what was the purpose of his ownership of the club? It is entirely possible that the Whites existed for their own sake-to play baseball, to win games, to capture a pennant, to draw fans to Sportsman's Park. On February 25, 1888, The Sporting News wrote that "Talking of the coming season's prospects Mr. Von der Ahe said they were unusually bright. He will have two splendidly equipped teams in the field, and when one is away the other will be found at work entertaining the local patrons." I don't think then that it's outside the realm of possibility that Von der Ahe established the Whites simply as another tenant for his ballpark. St. Louis had shown to a certain extent that it was able to support two teams. In 1884, the Browns and the Maroons finished first and fourth among all major league teams in attendance. While the Maroons' attendance fell off in their final two years, between 1884 and 1886 the two clubs drew over 800,000 fans between them. With the Browns drawing almost 250,000 fans in 1887, it's conceivable that Von der Ahe believed that there was room in the St. Louis baseball market for another team and that he could profit from the addition of that team.

However, the Whites, most likely as a result of their poor play, did not draw well and, at the same time, the Browns' attendance fell by almost 100,000 due to the St. Louis fans' displeasure over Von der Ahe's fire sale after the 1887 season. The market was unable to sustain both teams and Von der Ahe quickly decided to dispose of the Whites. It's Von der Ahe's quick decision to sell the Whites and the manner in which he went about it that casts a great deal of doubt on the status of the Whites and Von der Ahe's original intent with regards to the team.

The Whites first game was played against Milwaukee at Sportsman's Park on April 28, 1888. Less than a month later, Von der Ahe was actively attempting to sell the team. By May 27th, Von der Ahe was in serious negotiations with both "Mr. McClintock of Denver and Mr. Keith of Lincoln" to sell his Western Association franchise and all of its players. The Sporting News explained that Von der Ahe had received "good cash offers for several members of the team and notably for (Harry) Staley. He had not accepted any of those for the simple reason that he did not care to break up the team, a move that would be of irreparable damage to the Western Association. He believed that the only fair thing to do was to transfer the team bodily to some other city and he would only do this after receiving fair compensation."

This raises several questions. If Von der Ahe was operating the Whites as a farm club, why was he attempting to sell the franchise and the players less than four weeks after the club began playing? If the goal of owning the Whites was to operate a reserve club and develop players for the Browns, why was Von der Ahe pulling the plug in May? I understand that the Whites were drawing poorly and Von der Ahe was running the operation at a loss but wouldn't that loss have been acceptable to a certain extent if the Whites were operating as a farm club for the Browns? Even if the Whites were losing money, how substantial could the loss have been after only four weeks of operation? As far as selling the players is concerned, if the Whites were simply a farm club for the Browns why would Von der Ahe not simply sell off the players and fold the team? He had offers on the table for the players so why not take them? Why was he concerned about the viability of the Western Association? Why was his original intent to sell the franchise and the players?

While Von der Ahe originally wanted $10,000 for the franchise and players, by the first week of June he had reached an agreement with James Keith to sell the team for $7,000. At the time of the agreement, Von der Ahe had offers on the table from various teams to purchase members of the Whites. These included offers from Louisville, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Wilkes-Barre. If he had wanted to, Von der Ahe could have sold off the players at the beginning of June and received more money than Keith was offering him.

In the end, the agreement with Keith fell apart and McClintock never raised his offer over $5,000 so Von der Ahe, on June 20th, disbanded the Whites and sold off several of the players. He received $4500 from Pittsburgh for Jake Beckley and Harry Staley and sold Jack Crooks to Omaha for $500. Tom Dolan, Ed Herr, and Jim Devlin all joined the Browns. Bart Cantz also was assigned to the Browns but was transferred to Baltimore in a transaction for which I have no details. So out of the breakup of the Whites, Von der Ahe received, at the very least, $5,000 plus Dolan, Herr, and Devlin. If he had sold those three players, Von der Ahe would have most likely gotten well over the $7,000 that Keith had offered him for the entire franchise. The rest of the players were released.

It's Von der Ahe's own words and actions in 1887 and 1888 that raises doubts about the status of the Whites. While his comments that the Whites were not a farm club can be dismissed, he also stated in late May of 1888 that he saw no difference between the Whites and Browns and that he treated both clubs the same. At no time did Von der Ahe ever state or imply that the Whites were a farm club and were subservient to the needs of the Browns-this at a time when farming relationships were accepted and in the open.

Von der Ahe's attempts to pursue the viability of the Western Association is rather fascinating and the possible explanation for this also cast doubt about his intent regarding the Whites. I'll talk about this tomorrow.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Kind Of Farm Team-The 1888 St. Louis Whites, Part 2

So while researching the status of the 1888 St. Louis Whites, I found enough evidence to establish a relationship between the Whites and the Browns that involved players moving back and forth between the two teams. However, in the face of contradictory evidence, I was still struggling to get a handle on the nature of the relationship between the two teams. At that point I got smart and pulled Peter Morris' A Game of Inches: The Game Behind The Scenes off the shelf. Morris has a great deal to say regarding the development of the farm system and specifically mentions the Whites.

Most sources credit Branch Rickey with inventing the practice of farming, but this is at best an oversimplification. Rickey was unquestionably the first man to put together what we now call a farm system, in which a player could advance from the lowest rung of the minor leagues to the major leagues while remaining the property of the same organization. But the system of major league clubs using minor league clubs as farm clubs had a lengthy, well-organized, and controversial history before Rickey's entry into the field.

It could be argued that the use of farm clubs dates all the way back to the very earliest baseball clubs. These clubs were represented in matches by their "first nine," but they also had second and third nines and often junior nines. These extra nines provided reserves when a member of the first nine was injured or unavailable and also helped develop new players.
-A Game Of Inches: The Game Behind The Scenes

Morris goes on to write about how the National League and American Association clubs formed reserve teams in the face of the threat posed by the Union Association in 1884. While the aim of these teams was to keep players away from UA teams, they became "virtually a training school" for players. Sporting Life noted that these reserve teams "served to develop some strong young players, a number of whom are now playing on the regular nines." However, with the collapse of the UA following the 1884 season, the reason for the existence of the reserve teams had been removed and teams no longer felt the need to sign extra players.

"But major league owners had seen the advantages to having additional players available," Morris writes, "and soon found ways to resurrect the scheme." In January of 1887, Cincinnati attempted to make arrangements whereby they would loan out two of their players to a club in Kansas who at the end of the season would return them to the Red Stockings. While this scheme fell through, the Detroit Wolverines in the same year loaned out three of their players (Jimmy Manning, Bill Shindle, and George Knowlton) to Kansas City of the Western League. According to the Detroit Free Press, the players "will not sever their connection with the Detroits, neither will the club have to pay their salaries. If by sickness or accident any of the others of the club should be laid up, the team will not be weakened perceptibly, as a dispatch will bring either or all of the loaned players into the breach..." Later in 1887, Cincinnati would lend Henry Kappel to Nashville, imitating the Detroit/Kansas City arrangement. These moves were controversial at the time and many believed them to be illegal.

"With that tactic meeting such concerted resistance," Morris said, "the 1888 season instead saw many clubs take the route of purchasing minor league teams and operating them as farm clubs. In contrast to the season before, this practice was conducted openly and created relatively little controversy." This trend saw the Washingtons purchase Troy of the International Association in order to operate it as "a training-school or feeder..." John Day bought the Jersey City club of the Central League and planned to "run it as a reserve for the New-York Club." While it's unclear if Philadelphia owned Allentown of the Central league, the two teams had a relationship which "amounted to farming."

St. Louis Brown Stockings owner Chris Von der Ahe operated the St. Louis Whites of the Western Association as a farm club, signing no fewer than twenty-nine players to 1888 contracts by December of 1887. Chicago White Stockings president A.G. Spaulding appears to have pursued a similar course with another Western Association club, the Chicago Maroons. Although Sam Morton was the nominal president of the Maroons, the club had close connections with the local major league franchise...

Like so many nineteenth-century minor league clubs, the farm clubs were not financial successes. The St. Louis Whites folded in June 1888, and while the other clubs made it through the season, none seem to have been in the black. The Maroons disbanded at season's end, while the Washington club quietly disposed of its Troy farm club...Ownership of the Jersey City club in 1888 was reported to have resulted in a $17,500 loss, and although it returned as "an annex to the New York League Club" in 1889, Day apparently sold out in June...Not surprisingly, a consensus emerged that such ventures were too expensive to be maintained.

That perception was one of several factors that led to the multiple experiments with farm clubs in 1888 being followed by six lean years for farming. A second was the concern voiced by Sporting Life's Columbus correspondent that farming could destroy a minor league's competitive balance. Another important reason was that the attention of the established leagues was focused on the player revolt that led to the creation of the Player's League in 1890. In addition...any exchange of contracts during this period meant releasing the players with the risk of losing them altogether.
-A Game Of Inches: The Game Behind The Scenes

So Morris places the Browns relationship with the Whites squarely in the 19th century trend towards the development of the farm system and explicitly states that Von der Ahe operated the Whites as a farm club. However, there is evidence that contradicts this and lends itself to other interpretations. I'll discuss this tomorrow.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Kind Of Farm Team-The 1888 St. Louis Whites, Part 1

So top-heavy were the Browns with raw and untested players in the spring of 1888 that Von der Ahe formed the St. Louis Whites as a kind of farm team to play in the Western Association.
-David Nemec, The Beer & Whiskey League

I was recently involved in a very pleasant conversation about Chris Von der Ahe over at Baseball Fever when the subject of the 1888 St. Louis Whites came up. It was the contention of one of the posters that the Browns had developed the first minor league system and that the Whites were the farm club in that system. While I was aware of Nemec's statement regarding the Whites, I thought that the idea that the Whites were a farm club and represented one of the first steps in the development of the modern minor league system to be overstated. However, I soon realized how little I really knew about the Whites (and don't think for a minute that just because I don't have all the facts I won't opine on a subject).

If the Browns were operating the Whites as a farm club, I thought that we would be able to see some player movement between the two clubs. That seemed logical. If there was a farming arrangement between the clubs, one would think that players would move from the Browns to the Whites and vice versa just as players today move between the parent club and the AAA club. While I didn't think the arrangement would be as tidy as it is today, I wanted to see that sort of player movement before I was willing to declare the Whites a Browns' farm club.

So I started doing some research.

The St. Louis Whites were a Western Association club, owned by Chris Von der Ahe and managed by Tom Loftus, that operated during the 1888 season. They had a 10-18 record before disbanding on June 20th.

The first reference to the Whites that I'm aware of comes from the November 9, 1887 issue of Sporting Life. In an article, it states that Loftus was to be the manager and that some Browns' players could be transferred to the club. Interestingly, Von der Ahe denied in the article that the Whites would be run as a Browns' farm club.

Von der Ahe had gone East in the Fall of 1887 selling off the rights to Doc Bushong, Curt Welch, Bill Gleason, Dave Foutz and Bob Caruthers in the Browns' great fire sale. In the process, he created holes in the Browns roster at catcher, pitcher, and in the outfield. To fill those holes, Von der Ahe received some players back from Philadelphia in exchange for Gleason and Welch and he and his agents signed numerous players. Eight of the players that Von der Ahe signed in the Fall of 1887 would play for the Whites.

A question that goes directly to Von der Ahe's intent in 1887 regarding the Whites is whether he signed the players to compete for roster spots on the Browns or whether they were signed specifically for his new WA club. In the December 3, 1887 issue of The Sporting News, Von der Ahe, in an article where he addresses the fire sale and the make-up of the 1888 Browns, mentions the players that he had signed and states that "Out of them, have you or anyone else the idea that we will not be able to pick a good player of two?" He specifically mentioned Parson Nicholson and stated that he would be playing second base for the Browns in 1888. The fact that Nicholson and most of the others Von der Ahe mentioned in the article ended up playing for the Whites in 1888 implies that he was signing players for the Browns, the players failed to make the team, and they were then assigned to the Whites.

There is other evidence that the players Von der Ahe was signing in the Fall of 1887 were to compete for roster spots on the Browns and only after failing to make the club were assigned to the Whites. In the February 18, 1888 issue of The Sporting News, Tom Loftus stated that he had signed Ernie Burch specifically for the Whites. The implication here is that Loftus and the Whites were in the process of stocking their own roster. There was no mention of the players signed in 1887 playing for the Whites. What we see is the Browns signing players and the Whites signing players-each team attempting to fill out their roster independently of the other.

If one accepts this logic then the players signed by the Browns in the Fall of 1887 who end up playing for the Whites in 1888 are evidence of player movement from the parent club to the farm club. Harry Staley, Jim Devlin, Hunkey Hines, Tom Dolan, Jerry McCormick, Bart Cantz, Parson Nicholson, and pitcher Sproat, one can say, were demoted to the "minor leagues" after failing to make the Browns.

There is also evidence of player movement in the opposite directions-from the Whites to the Browns. After the Whites were disbanded in June, The Sporting News reported in their June 30, 1888 issue that "Cantz and Dolan have been doing such splendid work behind the bat that President Von der Ahe has signed both for the Browns. Cantz has been hitting the ball hard and
is a good fielder, while Tom Dolan’s ability is well known."
While it appears that Cantz was either traded or sold to Baltimore before he had a chance to play for the Browns, Dolan appeared in eleven games for the Browns in 1888.

Besides Dolan, two other members of the Whites played for the Browns in 1888. While it's unknown under what circumstances the two were transferred, Ed Herr and Jim Devlin were members of both the Whites and the Browns in 1888. I have found boxscores of Whites' games were Herr was playing with the team as late as May 2nd and Devlin is mentioned as a member of the team as late as May 5th. It's insinuated by The Sporting News that both were with the Browns prior to the Whites being disbanded on June 20th.

So the evidence of player movement between the Browns and the Whites exist. This was the minimum threshold of evidence that I thought had to be established before I could accept the idea that the Whites existed in 1888 as a Browns' farm club.

There also exists a great deal of evidence that this relationship was part of a general trend in 1887 and 1888 towards the establishment of farm clubs. I'll address that tomorrow.

The Browns Are Sold (And Then Sold Again)

St. Louis, March 14.-Under the foreclosure of a deed of trust, Sheriff Pohlmann sold at public auction to-day the Sportsman's Park and Club, including the franchise held by the St. Louis Browns, to G.A. Gruner, one of the Directors of the club, for $33,000. Mr. Gruner is Treasurer of the Phil Gruner & Brother Lumber Company. After the sale he said: "I bought the property for the creditors and bondholders." Ramell & Muerch, attorneys for the bondholders, said: "This is a bona fide purchase of the property by the creditors who will probably run the club themselves."
-The New York Times, March 15, 1899

St. Louis, March 17.-Edward C. Becker, a capitalist of this city, has purchased the St. Louis Browns from the creditors who bought the club's assets last Tuesday at Sheriff's sale.
-The New York Times, March 18, 1899

Icebox Chamberlain On Umpires

Pitcher Chamberlain says: "I don't see why anybody can't make a good umpire. The way I figure it out there are only two requisites. One is to keep your eye on the ball at all times. Then there is no chance of missing the play, for no play can be made without the ball. Another thing is to keep the players from talking back. Don't let them argue with you under any circumstances. That is how Lynch and Gaffney succeeded. They make mistakes just as other umpires do; but they won't allow any back talk and the consequences is their decisions are now roasted from the stands."
-The New York Times, September 6, 1892

Keep your eye on the ball and don't take any guff-that's good advice for anybody.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Elegant New Grounds

The St. Louis Browns will have elegant new grounds next year. They will be easily accessible by electric and cable cars. The field will be 450 feet wide and 580 feet long. The home plate will be 120 feet from the grand stand. There will be carriage accommodations outside of this space. The design of the grand stand will be of the Romanesque order. The stand will be 300 feet long and 60 feet deep and have a seating capacity of 3,000. Directly adjoining it are two handsomely-arranged pavilions with a seating capacity of 3,500. The open seats will have a capacity of 7,000. The grand stand will have three towers 8 feet high, one at each end and one in the centre. The towers will contain four tiers of private boxes, six seats to a tier, making twenty-four seats to a tower. In the centre tower will be finely-arranged quarters for the press and newspaper men will be well provided for. The reserved seats will be folding chairs, cushioned, and grand stand patrons will have plenty of space. A clubhouse will be erected and a quarter-mile cinder track will also be a feature. The total outlay will foot up to nearly $50,000.
-The New York Times, September 6, 1892

Several interesting things here. First, the plans for seats and a press box in the towers is pretty neat. I've never heard about seats in the towers at New Sportsman's Park before but if you look at the picture at the top of the post it does look like there's seating in the tower. Second, the article gives the cost of building the park at around $50,000 which is consistent with other sources. Lastly, when I wrote about the 1898 fire at New Sportsman's Park the question of how far home plate was from the grandstand came up. This article answers that question (or at least answers how far the plate was planned to be from the grandstand.).

1888 Browns Ad

This ad for a series between the Browns and Brooklyn appeared in The Sporting News on July 7, 1888. The player pictured in the ad is Doc Bushong, who along with Dave Foutz and Bob Caruthers had been traded to Brooklyn prior to the 1888 season.

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Disgraceful Scene

Beer Glasses Thrown By An Angry Baseball Mob

At St. Louis yesterday the biggest crowd of the season saw the Browns beaten. The contest was full of disgraceful wrangling, in which players and spectators participated. Schafer of the (Athletics) knocked Wells of the Browns down at the home plate, and when Schafer took his place in the field, the police were summoned to protect him from beer glasses. There was a heap of dirty ball playing and several of the local players narrowly missed serious injury. Errors by Fuller and Cartwright lost the game for St. Louis. Hughes and Hart both pitched in fine form.
-The New York Times, August 18, 1890

The more things change the more they stay the same. I can think of at least two instances, in my own lifetime, when St. Louis fans have pelted the field with foreign objects. Both of these happened to be Seat Cushion Night at the ballpark. There was also a game the Cardinals played in L.A. in 1995 where the Dodgers were giving away baseballs and, after some questionable umpiring decisions, Dodger fans pelted the field with their souvenirs, causing the Cards to leave the field and the Dodgers to forfeit the game. I guess we should be thankful that they don't hand out beer mugs at the ballpark anymore.

Here's a video of the second Seat Cushion Night:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A New Baseball Manager

President Von Der Ahe Will Handle His Own Team

The Teutonic Magnate Thinks that He Has Mastered the Intricacies of the Game and Will Be Able to Hold His End Up with Other Managers-Von der Ahe Was After Hanlon's Interest in the Baltimore Team, but Did Not Get It.

President Von der Ahe of the St. Louis Browns, having failed to secure the services of Harry Wright or P.J. Powers as manager for his team, has announced that he will take charge of the nine himself and try his hand at piloting the St. Louis aggregation. This news will be regarded as a joke, but, nevertheless, Mr. Von der Ahe means what he says, and he has already made overtures for the transfer of desirable players to his club.

It is reported that President Von der Ahe offered President Hanlon $8,000 for his interest in the Baltimore Club. Hanlon asked twenty-four hours to consider the matter, and then declined the offer. Von der Ahe is also said to have offered Hanlon the management of the St. Louis Club, in case he sold out his interest in the Baltimores. Hanlon at first considered the matter a joke, but when he learned that it was a serious offer he promptly declined, as he considered that negotiations might cause a lack of confidence in the team's work in getting into shape for the season. Hanlon stated that Von der Ahe made the offer, but he considered it another one of the Western man's attempts to boom himself.

"Of course I felt disappointed at not getting Harry Wright," said Von der Ahe after he got home, "but the League clubs, through their representatives, came to me and asked me not to interfere with their plans to make him chief of the umpire staff. I saw the way matters stood and did not force my claims."
-The New York Times, March 6, 1894

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Portrait Of Arlie Latham

This picture of Arlie Latham appeared on the front page of The Sporting News on October 18, 1890.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Burying The Hatchet

Broad and big-hearted Jim Byrne captured Chris Von der Ahe (on) Thursday night, invited him into the Lindell Hotel and introduced him to Charles Comiskey, captain, and George Munson, secretary of the Chicago Brotherhood Club. Tom Loftus, manager of the Cincinnatis, and Latham the only, were also there and as the old trio shook hands...Lath gave a war whoop that could be heard on the roof of the Lindell. It was the first time Von der Ahe, Comiskey and Munson had spoken to each other since last fall, when they parted company. Von der Ahe seemed ready to bury the hatchet. The others were in the same humor and over brimming glasses of wine they drank to the days of auld lang syne when base ball was on top and the Brotherhood and other nightmare things were unknown.

Comiskey suggested to Von der Ahe that they bury the hatchet and play a series of games between the Chicago players and the St. Louis Brown Stocking team.

Von der Ahe thought it a good scheme and said he would enter into it if the League and other American Association clubs interposed no objection.

Other propositions were made and accepted and the probability is that the old ill feeling that has existed between Von der Ahe, Comiskey and Munson has been wiped out for good.
-The Sporting News, October 18, 1890

The Chicago Brotherhood club and the Cincinnati League team were in St. Louis to play a game on October 18th. This meeting laid the foundation for both Comiskey and Munson's return to the Browns in 1891.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Color Line Has Been Drawn



Philadelphia, Sept. 11.-The Philadelphia Times will say to-morrow that for the first time in the history of baseball the color line has been drawn, and that the "world's champions," the St. Louis Browns, are the men who have established the precedent that white players must not play with colored men. There have been little dissensions before, but only about a player here and there. The Browns were in open revolt last night. Some time ago President Von Der Ahe arranged for his club to play an exhibition game at West Farms, near New York, with the Cuban Giants, the noted colored club. He was promised a big guarantee, and it was expected that fully 15,000 persons would be present. The game was to have been played to-day, and President Von Der Ahe yesterday purchased railroad tickets for all his players and made all the arrangements for the trip. While he was at supper at the Continental Hotel last night thinking over the misfortune that had befallen Capt. Comiskey, he was approached by "Tip" O'Neill, the heavy slugging left fielder, who laid out a letter on the table and then hastily slipped out of the room. The letter read as follows:

Philadelphia, Penn., Sept. 10.
To Chris Von Der Ahe, Esq.:
Dear Sir: We, the undersigned members of the St. Louis Baseball Club, do not agree to play against negroes to-morrow. We will cheerfully play against white people at any time, and think, by refusing to play, we are only doing what is right, taking everything into consideration and the shape the team is in at the present.

W.A. Latham, John Boyle, J.E. O'Neill, R.L. Caruthers, W.E. Gleason, W.H. Robinson, Charles King, Curt Welch.

President Von Der Ahe did not wait to finish his meal. He left the table hastily and went downstairs into the corridor, where he found the players talking in a group. The sudden appearance of their manager among them surprised the players and they acted like a ship's crew about to mutiny. When Von Der Ahe asked the meaning of the letter he had just received, nobody answered him. "Yank" Robinson hung his head and sneaked to the rear of the crowd. "Silver" King opened his mouth, but his tongue refused to move, and even Arlie Latham, whose jaws are always going, couldn't get out a word. Receiving no reply, President Von Der Ahe said quietly: "As it seems to be a matter of principle with you, you need not play to-morrow."

President Von Der Ahe said to a Times reporter to-night: "I am sorry to have disappointed the people of West Farms to-day, as I always fulfill my engagements. I was surprised at the action of my men, especially as they knew a week ago that the game was arranged, and yet they waited until the very last minute before they informed me of their opposition."

The St. Louis players were not disposed to talk of their action. Latham, Boyle, and O'Neill were the leaders, it is said, and they had considerable trouble in securing the signatures of some of the men. Capt. Comiskey didn't know anything about the matter, and Knouff refused to sign the letter. They ad played with the Cuban Giants once before last season, and they seemed to enjoy it better than a contest with white players. Curtis Welch, the centre fielder, played with the Toledo Club when The Walker, the colored player, was a member of the team. "I think some of the boys wanted a day to themselves," said Capt. Comiskey. "They have played against colored clubs before without a murmur and I think they are sorry for their hasty action already."

The Cuban Giants were originally organized at Trenton about two years ago as an independent club. This season they have been in various places in close proximity to New York City. They are good players and the team has made money. They have played games with the Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Louisville, Athletic, and other prominent clubs, and this is the first time that any club has refused to play with them on account of their color. The International League recently adopted a resolution prohibiting the employment of colored players by its clubs. This was caused by opposition from the players, who objected to playing with Second Baseman Grant, of the Buffalo Club, and colored Pitcher Stovey, of the Newark Club.
-The New York Times, September 12, 1887

I think that the significance of the Browns' refusal to play the Cuban Giants in 1887 has been overstated and, while it does not reflect well on the club, the reasons for it are more complex than is usually stated.

Comiskey, who due to injury was not with the team at the time, said that the reason for the Browns' refusal to play the Cuban Giants was that the players did not want to give up their day off just to play an exhibition game. The Browns were in Philadelphia at the time, playing the Athletics. They had a game on September 9th and 10th, a day off, a game on the 12th, had to travel to Baltimore , and then play three games against the Orioles on the 14th and 15th. According to the Globe-Democrat, several of the players had tickets to a Philadelphia theatre on the 11th. The desire for a night on the town, coupled with the team's schedule, and the injuries that the team was suffering led to the refusal to play the exhibition game.

Under this interpretation, the reasons stated in the letter to Von der Ahe for the refusal to play the exhibition game was merely a pretext. The fact that the desire not to play baseball with African-Americans would be a socially acceptable pretext says more about that day and age than it does about baseball in general or the Browns specifically.

The conventional interpretation of this event has the Browns in "revolt" or "on strike" because of the racism that was systemic in baseball. The incident is then used to support a specific narrative about the creation and sustainment of the color barrier. However, there is a very real possibility that the conventional interpretation is wrong. It's possible that all that was going on was that a physically beat up team in the middle of grinding road trip who had already clinched a pennant and were looking at a postseason series in a few weeks just wanted to enjoy their day off.

Comiskey, Dave Foutz, and Doc Bushong were all in St. Louis getting treatment for injuries and the Browns were down to nine players. Curt Welch, Bob Caruthers, and Yank Robinson were banged up but had to play because the team had no other option. The Browns couldn't put nine healthy players on the field but Von der Ahe wanted them to play an exhibition game on a scheduled day off.

Von der Ahe stated that "(if) it was a question of principle with any of my players, I would not say a word, but it is not." Comiskey reminded that Globe that the Browns had played the Cuban Giants, as well as other African-American teams, in the past with no problems and said that "I think some of the boys wanted a day to themselves." So at the time all of this went down neither Von der Ahe nor Comiskey believed that the players were refusing to play the Cuban Giants because of the color of their skin.

Von der Ahe obviously lost money because of the cancellation of the game but he also had to reach a financial settlement with Giant's owner John Bright. Supposedly, there was some kind of contractual arrangement with regards to the game and tickets had already been sold. Bright demanded financial compensation for his losses and Von der Ahe was forced to pony up. He told the Globe that "(the) refusal of my men to play the Cuban Giants cost me at least $1000..."

The idea that this event created the color line in baseball is simply not accurate. While I'm not an expert on the color line or black baseball, the above Times article states that the International League had already passed laws "prohibiting the employment of colored players" and as early as 1867 the National Association moved to exclude African-Americans from their league. These events are certainly more significant than the Browns' actions in 1887. While the Browns refusal to play the Cuban Giants can be seen as a milestone on the road to the establishment of the color line, if looked at in context the idea that the Browns "established the precedent that white players must not play with colored men" is ridiculous.