Friday, December 26, 2008

Von Der Ahe And The Players League, Part Two

There have been any number of odd incidents in the fight, now about over, between the new base ball league and the old. One of the incidents which will have a place in traditions of the diamonds occurred last week from an unexpected point-New Orleans. Its well-spring was Chris Von der Ahe, the St. Louis magnate, who has lost nearly all his base ball jewels in the battle. One bright morning came a telegram from that town. It was fifty words long, signed C.A. Comiskey. It declared that the writer wanted St. Louis in the Players League instead of Buffalo and that Von der Ahe would bring financial and artistic strength to the new league. Chicago counts on Comiskey to manage and captain its team next season, and at the first glance the telegram was a stunner. But the key was soon found. Von der Ahe, and not Comiskey, had sent the dispatch. Later in the day a telegram from Mark Baldwin confirmed the guess. Not only the Chicago but the other Players League clubs had received similar messages and a little panic was created until the telegraphic conference was held. Von der Ahe's little game was punctured.

Von der Ahe's game was fairly shrewd. He used a friend of the new league for a lever with which to pry his way in and certainly didn't care what became of the rest of the association remnant. There is not one chance in a hundred for any association club being taken into the new league.
-Chicago Daily, December 14, 1889

If you compare Von der Ahe's alleged activities in this piece to his statement in October, which I posted yesterday, you can begin to see why there might be some confusion over VdA's position towards the Brotherhood and the Players League. Certainly one can argue that his position evolved over time as a reaction to events but the Chicago Daily is attributing VdA's behavior to having lost "his base ball jewels"-meaning, one would assume, his players. The piece mentions Comiskey going to Chicago and other Browns' players would also defect to the Players League. But none of this had happened by December of 1889. As I'll write later, Comiskey and the others were still negotiating with the PL in January of 1890. So VdA had not, as of yet, lost his players.

So what was motivating Von der Ahe? Was he seriously attempting to join up with the PL? Was he playing some kind of Machiavellian game pitting the PL against the Association and the League? Or was all of this simply rumor?

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