Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dead Heads

It has leaked out why the Empires and Red Stockings do not come together again. Negotiations were pending for a match, but the Red Stocking manager refused to accede to them, unless the "dead-head" system was abolished. And this is a good idea. He objects to any person except the players witnessing the game free of charge, and insists on outside members of both clubs paying their entrance fee. If this rule was adhered to by amateur clubs, their balances on hand would be greatly increased.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 14, 1875

The phrase "outside members of both clubs" is rather interesting. One would have to assume that they're talking about the non-playing members of the Empire club for the most part. To the best of my knowledge, the Reds didn't have non-playing members unless you want to count stockholders.


Richard Hershberger said...

I don't know about the Reds, but the Athletics still had dues-paying members in 1875. I assume the Reds started out as a typical fraternal social club. Was it a stock company in 1875? Even if it was, it is likely that ownership of stock included a season ticket. If there were lots of small shareholders, this could make a difference.

Mostly I am surprised that we don't see this issue arise more frequently in this era. We absolutely cannot assume that everyone in attendance paid at the gate, and this affected the visitor's share. But this rarely seemed to be explicitly discussed, at least in the newspapers.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I haven't seen any evidence that suggests that the Reds club had any kind of fraternal/social component to it. Thomas McNeary put the club together in 1873 to win the amateur championship of Missouri and, one assumes, to make some money. In 1875 and 1876, the Globe reported that they sold shares of stock (McNeary buying a majority of the shares) but I don't know enough to say what kind of formal business organization the Reds formed. But there were shareholders in basic sense that there were people who bought stock and financially supported the club to one degree or another. However, as I said, McNeary owned the majority of the stock and his two brothers most likely owned a large chunk as well. I doubt that their were that many people who put money in the club in 1875 although there may have been somewhere around fifty who subscribed to stock.

But the Reds organization was nothing like the Empire Club which, even in 1875, was a social club that fielded a baseball team and was supported by a large, dues-paying membership. It was also supported, or subsidized, by the StL Fire Department which was, to a certain extent, giving jobs to playing members. The Empire Club had a large number of non-playing members. I have a list of the Union Club membership for 1869 that includes 70 names and the Empire Club was acknowledged to be larger than the Union. I think, off the top of my head, that I've seen the number of members put at around 150.

We might easily be talking about 100 people who would want a free ticket to a Reds/Empire game and that's probably 20% of the crowd. If every member of the Empire Club and anyone who subscribed to Reds' stock got in for free, you could bump that up to around a third of the crowd.

Richard Hershberger said...

I hadn't realized that the Reds were formed that late. Yes, the circumstances you describe and that late date do suggest that it was a purely financial organization.

Richard Hershberger said...

As an additional note on the theme of membership and gate receipts, the Athletics of 1871 received complaints from visiting clubs about just this. The following was reported in various papers. This is a quote from the Philadelphia Inquirer of December 12, 1871:

"Mr. Hayhurst, the president, alluding to the complaints that had been made by visiting clubs as to the small amount of gate money received, recommended a reduction in the membership and an increase in the subscriptions. He suggested that the price of membership be fixed at $20 and reserved seats at $5."