Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Look At Management And Fans In 1877

It is undoubtedly true that the phases of base ball in the different cities are as varied as to make for an interesting study if one had time to pursue them. (In St. Louis), for instance, the patron and lover of the game is entirely different than anything else in the world and, like the whole development, deserves so much study as you can give space for.

The (Brown Stocking) Club itself is duly incorporated and has a great plenty of officers. Chief among them are Mr. J.B.C. Lucas, the President, a young man whose father left him some such indefinite sum as the average citizen speaks of as "ten or twelve million, sir." Unquestionably Mr. Lucas is a fine head to the Club, and is of course the representative of the young men of wealth who live a part of the time in St. Louis; and, to their great credit be it said, go to the ball-matches instead of to some worse places. Concerning their behavior when there, I may wan to say a word hereafter. Mr. Campbell O. Bishop, who is the Vice-President of the Club, is a lawyer in excellent practice and with a good reputation. He stands for the professional part of the Club's support.

Charles A. Fowle, the Club's Secretary, is a prosperous merchant and represents a street full of stock. He probably suffers more than any other man in the management, because, if his Club should suffer defeat, and he should thereafter appear on the street, he would be at once surrounded by indignant stockholders, who demand an explanation of the cause of the loss of the game. Let it be to Mr. Fowle's credit tat he furnishes the necessary talk, and keeps things smooth where they would most assuredly spike up with a less even-tempered man to run find a more fitting representative in this city would be a difficult matter. Behind the officers named there are a Board, a Treasurer, and a bunch of stockholders, who (spend their time), as far as I could judge, to petting different members of the nine, and, therefore, without the slightest desire or intention to do so, stirring up a row in the camp. I am informed by a gentleman connected with the Club that this "buttering" players from a spirit of partisanship and favoritism, without approving or disapproving their work in the game, was one of the elements which (he said) prevented them from winning the flag last year. I am compelled to add my belief that if Lucas (wealth), Bishop (legal knowledge), and Fowle (Yankee sharpness, shrewdness, and sense) had the whole concern in their own hands, they would win the flag and make money while doing it.

Referring back to the word "buttering" used above, I want to call attention to the fact that the whole credit of games won in St. Louis is given to the pitcher, and he cannot go to the bat without a round of applause-at least that has been the case this year. A more foolish notion can hardly be imagined.

A word is due to the St. Louis Club grounds, called Grand Avenue Park, and one of the prettiest bits of land in the country-when you get to it. I can hardly make a Chicagoan understand its location by comparison. Consider, then, that if you in Chicago were going to a ball game just like in St. Louis, you would have to go down State street fourteen blocks beyond where the cars now run, and then turn off to the right and go about twelve blocks further. In other words, you would have to ride in a street-car to a point twelve blocks beyond the Stock Yards and Dexter Park. When you have got this through your head, you will understand what the St. Louis citizen has to undergo to see his favorites play ball.

This matter of the location of the park has unquestionably a considerable influence on the number of people who attend, because they understand that to go to a ball-match is not a slipping out after work is nearly done but a serious and solemn matter which means a half-day lost. Despite this fact, the crowds are good, and a first-class Club always does well-at least so long as there is interest in the home nine. The Chicagos took more money last Tuesday than they will in both Louisville games...

With the heartiest wishes for the success of the St. Louis Club, it is impossible to compliment the city on its base-ball audiences. The grand stand is filled in good part with real ladies and perfect gentlemen; but, as has before been said, they are so bitterly partisan as to one or two players in their nine that they cannot see anything else. I have been on the watch in front of that stand, and heard a owl like tat of forty demons (well-behaved, well-dressed demons, I mean) go up because one man (say Remsen) made an easy catch, while an almost impossible stop (say Blong) would pass unrecognized. It is impossible not to recognize these little cliques, and they do no end of harm. To describe the outside crowd-the barbarians-hoi-polloi-would break up anybody's objections. They have a long row of seats to themselves and they take their 50 cents out in yelling-and if yells were only a cent apiece they would cheat the management at that rate. Nobody can possibly object to enthusiasm and all that, but when a parcel of men and half-grown boys empty upon the heads of a player opposed to their nine a volley of the most utterly filthy epithets known to the slang language of the world, it is proper to note that fact...The writer has heard a lot of boys and men who must have gone through the grand stand if they were honestly in the ground, shout out to John Glenn while he was running for a fly within a little distance of where the party stood, "God d--n your black soul to hell, drop that ball you ---of a ---." and then a moment after when he was running for a foul, "You black-hearted ---------, drop it or I'll cut you in two." The same things, or nearly, have been said to first basemen so loudly that scorers and reporters on top of the stand, a hundred feet off, could hear them plainly. Evidently, the "pigpen" needs reforming. And lest there should be some question of doubt about a plain matter, your correspondent wishes to add that he blames no part of this filthy or profane language on the management of the St. Louis Club. Being, one and all, gentleman, they have no sympathy with the scoundrels or the mob. They could not very well help themselves if they wanted to, and the whole scurrilous practice must be charged upon the imperfect civilization of the masses, for which the social economist, and not the ball-managers, must find a remedy.

Let no man dare to misunderstand me, and say that I lay the loss of any game to this blackguarding. I disavow all that. Glenn and Spalding caught the balls after which they were running when they were so foully bespattered with muddy names. Passing over the fact that both are gentlemen, and never in their lives did anything to be called names for, thee fact remains that the St. Louis cheap public feel so strongly over their Club that they cannot well refrain from breaking out into their native blackguardism. The question whether a man must submit, whenever he contracts to play ball, to have his mother's good name abused by a St. Louis crowd, is one on which I need not enter. I am not little sorry that the game in St. Louis should be so far an exception to others as to make, so far as my experience goes, a necessity to have loafers as patrons. i think I am right in saying that it is the only city which does.

I wish to add-and I do it with considerable loss of pride in, and respect for, my profession-that I am afraid that the St. Louis press is partly responsible for this state of things. The papers here have faithfully inculcated the idea that their Club was the best in the world, and they have hinted, and once in awhile said, that if they lost it must be corruptly. Let me cite a case: A paper, which stands in St. Louis a shade below the station of the News in Chicago, but which is largely read by the bums and slums, said after the 4-2 game last Tuesday that it was thrown by St. Louis for the purpose of getting a larger crowd Thursday...upon which another paper...gravely reads the League a lecture on the sinfulness of giving away games for gate-money, when assuming to reform the game, taking its facts from the other previous idiot's assertions.
-The Chicago Tribune, May 27, 1877

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