Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How St. Louis Was Sold Out, Part One

The base ball season is virtually at an end, although it does not officially close until November 15, and a few remarks pertaining to the year and its work may not be out of place, especially as numerous rumors have been afloat for some time past to the effect that "crooked" dealing has been indulged in to a great extent. To those who keep thoroughly posted concerning the national game, it has been evident that several screws have been loose in at least three of the leading clubs of the country-the St. Louis, Louisville and Chicago. To this same class of persons it has also been evident that pool sellers and players, instead of club organizers and managers, are alone responsible for the dirty tricks which have been practiced. Ever since pool selling became an established institution of the land a small number of strictly first-class ball players have been suspected of co-operating with the gamblers and throwing games to suit the "box." They were merely suspected, however. So cunningly did they carry out their part in the various swindling schemes, that it was an utter impossibility to obtain sufficient proof on which to base a charge which would terminate in their expulsion from the fraternity. These men have been "marked" for years and will be readily recognized by the patrons of base ball, although no names are given. In the face of innumerable hints thrown out as to their character, the various club managers of the country seem to have thought that by giving them a chance to reform they might be induced to cut loose from the gambling fraternity and remove the odium which, by their conduct, had become attached to the base ball profession. As a result of this mistaken idea, when the season opened the names of one or more of these scoundrels appeared in each of the lists of players furnished by the Louisville, St. Louis, and Chicago clubs. For this reason Chicago dropped from the head to the tail of the League, Louisville did not win the championship, and St. Louis, after opening the season in magnificent style, closed it by pressing Chicago closely for last place. The root of the evil in the St. Louis club was not reached until the season was so far advanced that it was impossible to remedy it, and even then proof necessary to make out a case in a court of justice was not obtainable, although sufficient evidence of a conclusive nature had reached the officers of the St. Louis club to demonstrate that at least two of their men were playing into the hands of Mike McDonald, the notorious Chicago gambler, who carries out a system of pool-selling on an extensive scale.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 1, 1877

I'll post the rest of this long but fascinating article tomorrow.

William Spink, who wrote the article for the Globe, was being rather coy about naming names. However, we know that the two Brown Stocking players that Spink fails to name in the article are Joe Blong and Joe Battin. Davey Force and Mike McGeary would also find themselves accused of improprieties as the Louisville/St. Louis scandal blew up.

Spink, the sports editor of the Globe, did an outstanding job covering the scandal, writing a series of articles about gambling corruption in baseball. According to Jon David Cash, Spink was so disgusted by the scandal that he "temporarily ceased to promote the game and instead pursued an investigation into the negative effect of gambling."

No comments: