Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Reds Throw Up The Sponge

Tom McNeary, of the St. Louis Reds, has thrown up the sponge, and will not put a nine in the field this season. This announcement will be received with regret by the many friends of the "ponies" who have so ably represented St. Louis in past seasons. Mr. McNeary did not allow the Reds to disband without carefully considering the situation. The International Convention at Pittsburg, he claims, was a failure, the only man who would stand up for the rights of the semi-professionals being Gorham, of the Tecumsehs. No sooner had the Convention concluded its labors than half a dozen of the internationals joined the League Alliance without waiting to see whether an obnoxious section of the agreement would be stricken out, as the Internationals had decided it should be. Although the Indianapolis Club owes the Reds three return games, they refused to play them a single one without a guarantee. The Reds, were they in existence, could by the League Constitution only play one League club in St. Louis-the Brown Stockings-other League teams being prohibited from entering their territory. For these and other reasons which carry pecuniary weight with them, the Reds have gone under. Mr. McNeary spent considerable money in his efforts to keep the Reds together, it being the strongest team composed entirely of home talent in the country, and intended placing a strong nine in the field this season, but found that he could not compete with the high salaries offered elsewhere under such disadvantages as have been enumerated above.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 1, 1877

This is rather important information. There were clubs called the Red Stockings that played at the Compton Avenue Grounds into the mid-1880's and there are references to McNeary running the club and grounds until his death. However, based on the above article, the incarnation of the Reds that included their 1875 NA team only existed from 1873 through 1876. While trying to run down the accuracy of this piece, I was unable to find any reference in the Globe to a game played by the Reds in 1877 and, as will be seen over the next few days, there is plenty of evidence to support the idea that McNeary folded the club.

It was certainly an eventful four seasons for the Reds. The 1873 and 1874 clubs were a serious challenger for the Missouri amateur championship and gave the Empire Club all they could handle. The success of the club in those two seasons and their challenge to the Empires helped to increase the popularity of baseball in St. Louis and lead to St. Louis putting clubs on the national championship stage. The Reds' 1875 season was one of the more eventful in the history of St. Louis baseball although it can not be described as anything other than a failure. The 1876 club was loaded with talent and was successful on the field but the club struggled to adapt to the new realities created by the advent of the National League and can be seen as a victim of the League's success.

The 1873-1876 Red Stockings of St. Louis certainly had a record of which they could be proud and theirs is a fascinating tale that has been neglected over the years. Hopefully, TGOG has taken a step in rectifying that neglect.


Richard Hershberger said...

Very interesting item. One of these years I intend to write about the International Association and the League Alliance. Both were intended to organize the non-League professional clubs across the country. As it ended up, most of the LA clubs were in the west, and the IA clubs tended to be in the east. I knew that the a delegate from the Reds had attended the LA meeting, but I didn't know about this fallout from that. This gives insight into the events.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

The delegate was probably L.C. Waite, the Reds' secretary, who was also heavily involved in the IA. Waite, who also was the corresponding secretary for the Grand Avenue club in 1876, is described in the Buffalo Courier as "the father of the International Convention" and by the StL Globe as "the organizer of the International Association." Not knowing much about the IA, I can't speak to the accuracy of those descriptions but Waite was certainly involved as the StL representative in the movement to organize the non-League clubs in the face of what he saw as an attempt by the League to set up a monopoly. I do know that he was a member of the IA's judiciary committee in 1878 and there's a great deal of information in the StL papers during 1876-1878 about his efforts to establish some kind of counter to the League (or, rather, to set up an organization for those clubs excluded by the League).