Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fifty-two Runs A Game

In 1867, in the published averages of the previous season's play, we find the Athletic Club's average of runs to a match reaching the high figure of fifty-one; the Cincinnati Club, fifty-one; the Active of Indianapolis, fifty-two; the Union of St. Louis, fifty-two...
-The New York Clipper Almanac 1877

So if I'm reading this correctly, the Union Club averaged fifty-two runs a game in 1866, the club's first season of play after reorganizing following the end of the Civil War.  In 1867 and 1868, the Unions would go on to win the championship of Missouri.   

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ned Cuthbert

"Our Neddy's" happy face appears in the Clipper of this week.  Beneath it is a history of that player's career in the base ball world.  Says the writer: Edgar E. Cuthbert is well known to the patrons of base ball all over the country by his graceful skill in handling the ball and bat while connected with the leading clubs during the past seventeen seasons.  He was born in Philadelphia, Pa., about thirty-four years ago, and commenced playing ball with the Keystones of his native city, with whom during the seasons of 1865 and 1866 he filled at times every position in the nine except that of pitcher.  He commenced the season of 1867 as catcher of the West Philadelphia Club, but afterward joined the Athletics, playing right field during the remainder of that season.  He continued with the Athletics during 1868 and 1869 as their left fielder and change catcher.  In 1870 Cuthbert was the center fielder of the then newly-organized Chicago Club, and during the seasons of 1871 and 1872 he was again filling his old position at left field for the Athletics, and under whose colors he had participated in upwards of 300 games.  Cuthbert was chiefly instrumental in organizing the Philadelphia Club in 1873, and his fine fielding, batting and base running materially helped the "Phillies" to attain their phenomenal success during that season, and led to his re-engagement by the Chicago Club in 1874.  He was one of the first players engaged by the St. Louis Club, with whom he made a brilliant record, during the seasons of 1875 and 1876, both with the ball and the bat.  The Centennial season was the last in which he played professionally, being engaged in business in St. Louis, Mo., where he has taken up his permanent residence.  He has, however, occasionally played in local games during the past five seasons, and but a few weeks ago was credited with having made the most wonderful catch in the outfield ever witnessed in St. Louis.  For many years Cuthbert occupied a prominent position as a player, his magnificent outfielding, safe and sure batting and fast base-running being each in turn deserving of commendation.  Recalling with a friendly and cordial recollection his antics and drollery both on and off the ball-field, and the enjoyment and zeal with which he used to enter into the spirit of the game, we hope to have the pleasure of chronicling his appearance on the ball-field many seasons still to come.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 20, 1881

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Beer, Base Ball, And A Bullet

A party of young men and boys residing in South St. Louis went across the river yesterday afternoon to play a game of base ball.  They took with them a keg of beer to drink while the game was in progress.  After the beer had been disposed of it was determined to buy another keg, and a collection was started, George Lauman, a youth of twenty-one, passing around the hat.  William Brennan, one of the crowd, refused to contribute anything, and Lauman became angry.  A quarrel ensued, and both boys engaged in it.  Lauman drew a small pistol to shoot brennan, but in the scuffle the muzzle was turned towards him, and the load went off, lodging in his abdomen.  He was taken to his home, 1713 Columbus street, by several of his companions.  

Drs. Hartman and Garcia were called in and dressed the boy's wound.  The ball was not extracted, and the doctors pronounced Lauman's condition dangerous.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 19, 1880

I'm fascinated by this article and its portrait of life in St. Louis in 1880.  A quick trip across the river for a Sunday afternoon game of baseball combined with some drinking and gunplay-what a great story.  

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Champions Of Madison County

This afternoon the champions of Madison County, Ill., are to put in an appearance at the Grand Avenue Park, where they will endeavor to trounce the crack club of St. Louis.  The Edwardsville Club gained its title by defeating the Alton cracks and other organizations of a like caliber, and their friends are not a bit uneasy as to the outcome of to-day's contest.  The Edwardsville Club plays a splendid game, both at the bat and in the field, and will undoubtedly make it warm for the St. Louis professionals.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 6, 1879

The game of base ball played yesterday afternoon, between the Edwardsville, Illinois, team and the St. Louis Browns, at the Grand Avenue Park, proved to be a one-sided affair, as at the end of the ninth round the Madison County Suckers had a whole nest full of goose eggs while the Browns had twenty-six runs on their side of the book.  A great many pretty plays were made by both sides, and the 300 spectators in attendance applauded them heartily.  The Browns batted splendidly.  Twenty-four safe hits were made by the Browns, while only one was got in by the Illinois crew...
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 7, 1879

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Bit More On Decker

The Herald says: In regard to the engagement of Syracuse Decker, the St. Louis player, by the Stars, Mr. Robert Townsend, Secretary of the Stars, writes to this paper as follows: "On the recommendation of Peters and Flint, of the Chicagos, and on their assurance that the St. Louis Club was an independent, co-operative club, I telegraphed Decker, offering him a position in the Star nine.  He accepted by wire before it was known in St. Louis that the 'Browns' had been admitted to the National Association.  From the above statement of facts it will be patent that our record is as clean as it always has been in the past."
 -St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 3, 1879

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Guardians Of Baseball High Culture

Between 1881 and 1882, St. Louis newspapers offered sparse coverage of the city's colored clubs...Why the poor coverage? One answer was column space.  Critics complained that editors gave baseball too much column space.  And the press doted on the white professional club, the Brown Stockings, which it viewed as a lucrative, civic-minded enterprise.  On the other hand, the Black Stockings colored nine hardly qualified as the city's iconic sports symbol...Throughout the 1870's, the white press' coverage of colored baseball declined.  In 1878, when the Globe-Democrat reported only games the sports editor "deemed sufficiently interesting," colored clubs became the first casualties.  In 1876, newspapers reported over thirty games; in 1877, only three contests appear in print, among them the Black Stockings vs. Our Boys (the "Blacks" won 6 to 4).  Colored clubs disappeared from the sports pages until 1881.  Of course, the Red Stockings, Brown Stockings, and Empires received coverage.  And sports editors devoted attention to white business and trade nines.  Coverage seems to have been based on their social and business relations with newspapers.  This exclusion represented only part of a strategic plan, that being the desire of the professional league to control labor, eliminate the numerous teams competing for attention (the Globe-Democrat identified over 200 nines in the city), and consolidate the market.

In the Mound City, guardians of baseball high culture-the Spink brothers, the McNeary brothers, Gus Solari, and Christopher Von der Ahe-wielded the civic clout and socioeconomic control to push an exclusionary agenda. 
-James Brunson, Henry Bridgewater's Black Stockings of St. Louis, 1881-1889

While Brunson goes on to place Bridgewater and the Black Stockings within the context of Reconstruction era St. Louis and the politics inherent to the era, I find his interpretation of the actions of the Spink brothers, McNeary, Solari, and Von der Ahe to be fascinating.  Throw in J.B.C. Lucas and some of the members of the Union Club and one can construct an argument that there was a cabal of men attempting to organize and control the St. Louis baseball market.  

However, the problem with the argument is that these men were actually in competition with each other.  While certainly the Spink brothers used their position as editors to promote and publicize the game, this was well within the tradition of "upbuilding" and a common practice of time.  But, in the late 1870's, when they were involved in the running of the Interregnum Brown Stockings, they were in direct competition with McNeary's Red Stockings.  McNeary originally was a part of the group that organized the NA Brown Stockings but, after the club decided to play its home games at the Grand Avenue Grounds, he placed the Red Stockings in the NA to directly compete against the Brown Stockings.  McNeary's Compton Avenue Grounds competed with Solari's Grand Avenue Grounds for clubs, games, and fans and the Reds were in competition against the Grand Avenue Club.  Von der Ahe had worked with Solari when they were both board members of the Grand Avenue Club and part of the Sportsman's Park and Club Association but essentially forced him out in the early 1880's.  

While these men worked together to promote baseball in St. Louis, they were just as often competitors.  There was no cabal.  There was no grand strategic plan.  The only exclusionary agenda was that of single-minded businessmen who were attempting to make money and establish the professional game in St. Louis.  They weren't out to destroy the black clubs or the mercantile clubs or the old amateur clubs but, rather, their goal was to establish something more.  These men were instrumental in transitioning St. Louis baseball from the amateur to the professional era and by simply looking at the history of the period-the starts and stops, the failures and successes-one can see that there was no over-arching grand vision being driven by a monopolistic establishment. 

As I said, I see some merit to the argument.  If one was looking at the situation from the view of someone like Bridgewater, who was not a member of the white St. Louis establishment, then you might see a monopolistic baseball establishment that marginalized Bridgewater's contribution.  But in the end, what I see is a group of businessmen fighting each other for control of the baseball market rather than working together to monopolize the market.           

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The 1879 Brown Stockings Struggle To Schedule Games

The Brown Stockings, who now have a nine well able to cope with any professional team in the country, have thus far found it a matter of difficulty to arrange contests with outside clubs, and as they are more than a match for the really skillful amateurs with whom they have crossed bats this season, their games have not proved as exciting as their admirers desire.  This afternoon, however, should the weather permit, the St. Louis favorites will meet a club strong enough to make them play ball to win, the Alton boys, who have been easily defeating everything in their neck of the woods, having arranged to do battle with the Brown Stockings at the Grand Avenue Park.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 29, 1879

Ironically, the Alton club failed, without explanation, to show up for the game and the Brown Stockings were forced to play a picked nine.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Decker's Dilemma

All lovers of the national game here hailed with pleasure the announcement made in the Globe-Democrat a few days ago to the effect that the Brown Stocking Base Ball Club had been admitted to the National League.  Among the many players signing contracts to play with the Browns throughout the season were young Decker, who has played behind the bat so well and pluckily throughout the season for the present team.  On Saturday evening last this gentlemen received an offer from the Stars of Syracuse, and, without waiting to consult with any party or parties, left for his new quarters.  Manager Solari, hearing of his movement, at once telegraphed to Secretary Williams, of the National Association, notifying that gentleman that Decker had inexcusably violated his contract, and asking him to notify the Stars that the Browns would protest against his playing with their team.  The action of the Star management is anxiously looked for in this matter.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 23, 1879

The admirers of the Brown Stockings will be pleased to learn that young Decker, their catcher, has decided to return to the fold, and that he will resume his position behind the bat in the Brown Stocking team next Sunday afternoon.  A meeting of the Club was held a week ago, when it was decided that Decker should be invited to return and that if he did not comply with the request that he should be expelled.  Frank was promptly notified of the action taken, and the following was received yesterday by telegraph:

Cincinnati, O., July 8.-Manager St. Louis Brown Stockings, St. Louis, Mo.: Will be back for Sunday's game.  (Signed), Frank Decker.

Although Decker's position has been admirably filled by Marble, since the former left, McGinnis will have more confidence in his old catcher, and the team will be materially strengthened.  It is now fully as strong as any professional club in the country, and when some first-class teams come this way there will be rare sport at Grand Avenue Park.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 9, 1879

It appears that Decker played in three games with Syracuse before returning to the fold.  

The Brown Stockings Join the N.B.B.A.

Bulletin No. 14.-National Base Ball Association, Columbus, O., June 14, 1879: To the Members of the N.B.B.A.-You are hereby notified that the St. Louis Brown Stocking Base Ball Club has been admitted to membership in this Association, and has engaged the following players: R. Pearce, Chas. T. Boles, J.A. Schenck, Geo. McGinnis, Edgar E. Cuthbert, J.C. Jones, Frank Decker, P.H. Cunningham, Dan. Morgan and R.J. Lancaster.  Aug. Solari, Grand Avenue Base Ball Park, is the Manager...Very respectfully, J.A. Williams, Secretary.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 20, 1879 

Monday, March 23, 2009

The 1879 Brown Stockings

The Globe-Democrat is in a position today to announce that St. Louis is to be represented on the ball field this season with a strong team, made up of several first-class professionals and one or two amateurs who have already made their mark as players of rare skill.  The nine will be known as the Brown Stockings and will make application for membership in the National Association in a day or two.  Contracts have already been signed with seven players, and negotiations are now pending with others.  The team will play its opening game this afternoon at the Grand Avenue Park, when an idea as to its merits can be formed by all who attend.  The Browns will have as opponents the Athletics, to whom the pennant emblematic of the amateur championship was awarded last season...In order that the men may obtain suitable practice, the club will be happy to play the strongest picked team that can be organized at any time and the amateurs should profit by the chance, as it will give them the best kind of training to be utilized in the race for their pennant.  The game to-day will no doubt be watched with a great deal of interest, as one or two engagements hinge on the performances of the men.  It is the intention of the Browns to entertain all foreign clubs who desire to visit St. Louis this summer.  They also intend to invade the dominions of the Northwestern League.  Should the club receive a living patronage it will doubtless be the means of securing a first-class League team in St. Louis next year.    
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 13, 1879

The Globe lists the team as follows:  Decker, catcher; McGinnis, pitcher; Houtz, first base; McDonald, second base; Pearce, third base; Morgan, shortstop; Cuthbert, left field; Croft, center field; Magner, right field.  

Sunday, March 22, 2009

St. Louis Players Rabbit To Dubuque

Jack Gleason, Billy Gleason and Tom Sullivan, three of the best players St. Louis ever turned out, left for Dubuque on Friday evening.  Tom Loftus, who is to Captain the team, having preceded them.  Sullivan, who caught so well for the old Red Stockings and Live Oaks, of Lynn, is to fill the same position in the Hawkeye team.  
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 13, 1879

Some interesting questions: Would Dubuque have come to St. Louis and played if there weren't several St. Louis players on the team?  Would Ted Sullivan and Charles Comiskey have been brought in if the Rabbits hadn't played in St. Louis?  Would the Browns have been a success without Sullivan and Comiskey?  Would professional baseball in St. Louis have suceeded without the success of the Browns?  Was Loftus, Sullivan, and the Gleason's signing with Dubuque one of the more pivotal moments in the history of St. Louis baseball? 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Time-Honored Custom

For the past five or six years the Chicago Base Ball Club has put in an appearance at the Grand Avenue Park during fair week, and although St. Louis is without a club this season, the White Stockings intend keeping up the time-honored custom, and games with the Indianapolis club have been arranged for Wednesday and Thursday.  The Blue Stockings have been in the city for several days, and have been practicing vigorously for the coming contests, yesterday annihilating a strong picked nine by the slab-sided score of eleven to nothing.  The games alluded to will be as exciting as any of the present season, and the friends of the old Brown Stockings and the national pastime generally should attend them if they ever desire to see a League club in St. Louis again.  The support given the visitors may ave a good deal to do towards influencing the gentlemen who have an idea of placing a nine in the field for next season to carry out their project.  Old-time crowds on Wednesday and Thursday would undoubtedly revive the old-time enthusiasm.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 8, 1878

There's some interesting stuff here.  First, this is the first I've heard of a "tradition" of the White Stockings coming down to St. Louis to play during the Fair.  I'll have to go back and check but this probably dates back to 1872 or 1873.  Second, you have to love the argument given by the Globe for people to come out to the ballpark.  Come to the ballpark and that will show everybody that we can support a club.  For several years during the late-1990's, there were people trying to bring an NBA team to St. Louis and they would schedule an exhibition game at the Kiel Center during the preseason.  And the same argument was used to try and draw a crowd to the basketball game.  The more things change... 

Also, I don't think I've ever posted anything about the Chicago/Indianapolis games in St. Louis.  I'll have to get on that at some point.  But if memory serves, the crowds were rather disappointing.   

Friday, March 20, 2009

For The Benefit Of The Orphans

Next Sunday afternoon the best amateur base ball talent in St. Louis will engage in a grand tournament, at Grand Avenue Park, for the benefit of the orphans.  As the time approaches the excitement among the friends of the clubs increases.  The players themselves occupy every spare moment in practicing and each nine feels confident that it will come out ahead.  Marion Simpson, late pitcher of the Worcester Base Ball Club, Worcester, Mass., is now in the city, and it is rumored, will pitch for the Grand Avenue team.  The Athletics are in fine trim, and the Willows will play a strong nine.  The South St. Louis Grays are said to be working with a will.  The prizes are a beautiful pennant and bat.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 11, 1878

While this gives us a little information about what was going on in St. Louis in the first year of the Interregnum, I'm really posting this because I liked the phrase "for the benefit of the orphans."  I like the fact that it's just "the orphans" and not a specific orphanage or group of orphans.  We're doing it for the orphans-all of them.  Also "For the Benefit of the Orphans" sounds like it could be the title of a Brother Cadfael mystery. 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bradley Wants To Learn How To Throw The Curve

It is stated on good authority that Bradley, of the St. Louis Base Ball Club, has been after Jim Devlin, of the Louisville Nine, and endeavored to learn his "curve." But Devlin has refused to explain it to him.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 13, 1875

Peter Morris has this quote in A Game of Inches and writes that "With their livelihoods at stake, and the ever-present threat that a ban would be placed on any effective technique, pitchers often became secretive or proprietary...As noted earlier, late in life Candy Cummings said that he had been 'jealous of his discovery...'"

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The 1876 Reds Have A Nice Trip East

The St. Louis Reds returned home yesterday morning, via the reliable Vandalia Line. While away they played fifteen games, winning ten, losing four, and one being tied. Some of the clubs they had to contend against were first-class in every respect. The following is a record of the games played by them while away:

June 22-Reds vs. Indianapolis, at Indianapolis 6 to 3
24-Reds vs. Buckeye, at Columbus 2 to 3
26-Reds vs. Allegheny, at Allegheny (13 innings) 4 to 5
27-Reds vs. Braddock, at Pittsburg 7 to 5
29-Reds vs. Neshannock, at Newcastle 10 to 4
30-Reds vs. Juniata, at Hollidaysburg 7 to 4
30-Reds vs. Mountain City, at Altoona 15 to 3
July 1-Reds vs. Juniata, at Hollidaysburg 5 to 3
3-Reds vs. Active, at Reading 0 to 5
4-Reds vs. Philadelphia, at Philadelphia 11 to 0
10-Reds vs. Neshannock, at Newcastle 12 to 5
11-Reds vs. Allegheny, at Allegheny 12 to 8
12-Reds vs. Buckeye, at Columbus 4 to 4
13-Reds vs. Buckeye, at Columbus 0 to 8
14-Reds vs. Indianapolis, at Indianapolis, 1 to 0...

Up to yesterday the St. Louis Reds have played 41 games, winning 30, losing 10, and 1 being a tie. They have played, up to same time, fifteen single figure games, which is not a bad record, to say the least.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 16, 1876
Batting and fielding stats from the trip are at the top of the post.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Von Der Ahe Becomes VP Of The Grand Avenue Club

The Grand Avenue Club held its annual meeting on Wednesday night, at Solari's. There was a large attendance, great enthusiasm prevailed and everything passed off cordially. The following gentlemen were elected officers for the ensuring year: E.G. Leslie, President; C. Von Der Ahe, Vice President; A. Solari, Treasurer; F.W. Brockman, Secretary; J.G. Solari, Corresponding Secretary; J.B. Woestman and B. Loeblein, with the officers, constitute the Board of Directors. W. Scott Parr was selected as Manager. The Treasurer's report was read, and showed the financial standing of the club to be first class, there being a comfortable balance stowed away. During the season of '76 the Grands stood at the head of the best of amateur clubs, playing twenty-three games, of which they won twenty...Mr. Solari, after the meeting, entertained his guests in his usual hospitable manner. From present indications, the Grand Avenue team has a bright future before it.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 11, 1877

Monday, March 16, 2009

I'll Take A Rain Check

A National Base Ball Convention seems to be needed to settle the question as to the right of base ball clubs to pocket a couple of thousand dollars of gate money, and then turn the visitors out with only the satisfaction of knowing that if they pay their way in the next day they may see a game-if it does not happen to rain again. The thousands of people who took the chances of the weather yesterday to encourage the game of base ball, were entitled either to see a game, after having paid their money, or to have their money refunded. The former alternative would have been very easy for the managers, as they would have had nothing to do but to return the tickets they had taken and allow them to be used for to-day's game. Instead of this, however, they propose to keep the money, and to take in as much more to-day, if they can get it. Such a policy may be penny wise, but it is pound foolish, as well as dishonest. If the people who pay full price to see a game can be turned out of the grounds at the end of two or three innings, whenever it rains, they will take very good care not to subject themselves to the risk of rain, or of any other interruption, and the will largely avail themselves of the American privilege of staying away.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 5, 1876

As always with things like this, we go to Peter Morris' A Game of Inches:

The origins of the rain check have been complicated by confusion over a couple of issues. The first is the distinction between the concept of a rain check and the means of distributing them. The second is that, as with Ladies Day..., the concept was experimented with many times before owners accepted that it made good business sense.

As a result, while it is often reported that rain checks were first used in baseball in the late 1880's, they are actually much older than that. The National League voted to end the practice on March 8, 1881, so obviously they were being used before then...The issue remained a contentious one, with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporting in 1883: "The crowd insisted that they should get back either money or rain-checks, but President [Chris] Von der Ahe refused to do either"...

It seems (if I'm reading Morris correctly) that the practice of issuing rain checks did become a common and accepted practice until the early part of the 20th century.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Reference To J.P. Freeman?

Mr. W.P. Freeman, a prominent wholesale liquor dealer of St. Louis, has been in the city a number of days, and leaves for Searcy this morning. Mr. Freeman is extensively known to the base ball fraternity, having been catcher in the famous St. Louis Union Base Ball club for some eight years.
-Daily Arkansas Gazette, May 24, 1873

While there is a W.P. Freeman in the census data living in St. Louis at the time and of an appropriate age, I'm assuming that this is actually James P. Freeman. J.P. Freeman is a known member of the Union Club and, according to Tobias, was a catcher with the first nine from 1867-1869.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Some General Thoughts On The 1877 Scandal

The gambling scandal that rocked the St. Louis Brown Stockings organization in 1877 and, combined with the clubs financial troubles, helped bring about their resignation from the League in December of 1877 was not one scandal or one event but rather several.  There are at least four components of the scandal that I can see:

-On August 1, 1877, umpire P.H. Devinney accuses George McManus of offering him money in exchange for favorable ball and strike calls.  Devinney also stated that Joe Blong encouraged him to accept the offer.  Both McManus and Blong denied the accusations.

-On August 24, 1877, Joe Blong and Joe Battin conspire with Chicago gamblers to throw the Brown Stockings' game against Chicago.  The next day they attempt to do the same but are put on notice that Brown Stocking management are aware of their activities when McGeary moves Blong off the mound after suspicious activities in the second inning.  The conspiracy to throw the games of August 24 and 25 does not come to light until William Spink reveals them in the Globe-Democrat on November 1, 1877, although the club was aware of what was happening before the start of the game on August 25.   

-On October 31, 1877, William Spink publishes information about the Louisville scandal in the Globe-Democrat.  The Brown Stockings were caught in an awkward position, having previously signed Devlin and Hall for the 1878 season, just as they were revealing the depths of their financial trouble to stockholders and attempting to raise funds to pay off their debts from the 1877 season.  The next day Spink publishes his expose on the events of August.  

-L.W. Burtis umpires numerous questionable games in St. Louis.  Burtis, who Spink claimed operated as the middleman between St. Louis players and Chicago gamblers in August of 1877, was accused by the Chicago papers of dishonesty in his umpiring.  Devinney accused him of betting on the Brown Stockings and using his position as an umpire to influence the games that he had bet on.  While not specifically a member of the Brown Stockings, the best that can be said is that the club had unknowingly allowed a crooked umpire into the League and access to their club.  

With all of these events exposing a culture of corruption surrounding the club, it's no wonder that the club's management (which was made up generally of honorable men of some standing in St. Louis) decided to resign from the League.  Combined with the financial difficulties of 1876 and 1877, the revelation of this corruption was a death blow.  All one has to do is read William Spinks' expose in the Globe on November 1, 1877 (which is an absolutely brilliant piece) and it's obvious that there was no way the Brown Stockings were going to survive into 1878.

A couple of more thoughts:

-While the Devinney accusation adds to the portrait of a corrupt ball club, there has to be some serious reservations about Devinney's veracity.  McGeary strenuously denied the accusations and his actions on August 25, when he moved Blong off the mound, support the idea that he was uninvolved in the corruption.  Also, after the 1877 season, the Chicago papers made some accusations against Devinney that were similar to those they made against Burtis.  So while the Devinney accusation is relevant and adds to the weight of evidence against the Brown Stockings, Devinney is not exactly a perfect witness.  

-For some time, I've been trying to figure out, from a historiographical point of view, why the Louisville scandal is better remembered than the St. Louis scandal.  I may be wrong but it's my understanding that the Louisville scandal is the substantially more famous or remembered event.  I assume it's because the events of the Louisville scandal had a major impact on the pennant race.  Also, I would think that Devlin's statements to the press had a drama to them that the denials of those involved in the St. Louis scandal lacked.  But the fact that the stories broke at almost the exact same time and were reasonably similar should have linked the two together in historical accounts.  I'm honestly surprised that we don't have "the Louisville/St. Louis scandal" rather than "the Louisville scandal...and, oh yeah, something happened in St. Louis too and baseball in general had a problem with gambling and throwing games."  Not a really big deal but it's kind of interesting.  I think, in the end, I'm just a bit upset because the 1877 Brown Stockings were as corrupt as any team in the nation and have never received their due.    

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Picking Up The Pieces

The St. Louis Herald thus discusses the prospects in its city:

Some papers keep on insisting that there will be no base-ball in St. Louis during the season of 1878.  If these gentry would take the pains to make proper inquiries, they would find out there will be a great sufficiency of it-enough indeed to satisfy the most ardent admirer of the national game.  The St. Louis Reds will, in the first place, be reorganized and put on a footing; so soon as the weather permits, the Compton avenue grounds will be put in splendid condition.  The nine will be entirely local, and the talent we have before mentioned would suffice to make it a first-class team in all respects.  The new nine to be organized by Messrs. McManus and McGeary will be a strong force, and so many players are to be procured at low figures that they have determined to bide their time, and make their engagements close to the opening of the season.  If they secured Bradley-who was, perhaps, the most popular player who ever held forth in St. Louis-it would do much toward putting their team on a good basis.  The plot of ground on Grand avenue has been secured by Supt. Solari, with the exception of the small space at the southern end.  Seats will be erected to accommodate some 1500 persons, and it will be amply large for all intents and purposes.  Sunday games between the this team and the Reds would draw large crowds, and the two could combine to play visiting clubs.
-Chicago Daily Tribune, February 24, 1878

The Browns have adopted last year's uniform and are certain to retain it next year, for it has already leaked out that about a dozen wealthy gentlemen, who are ardent lovers of the national game, are perfecting plans by which they will place a League team in the field in 1879 strong enough to win the championship, and even stronger than the one they had engaged for this season, when the Louisville expose broke them up for the time being.  The play of the present season will demonstrate who are to constitute the team, and no stone will be left unturned to attain the object aimed at-the championship pennant.  This news, which will be gratifying to the many friends of base-ball in this city, having been obtained from a semi-official source, can be relied on.  The gentlemen referred to lack neither funds nor experience, and have entered heart and soul into the enterprise.
-Chicago Daily Tribune, April 21, 1878 (quoting the St. Louis Globe-Democrat)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Aftermath

The annual meeting of professional base ball clubs opened today at the Kennard House in (Cleveland), W.A. Hulbert of Chicago President, and N.E. Young of Washington Secretary.  In this morning's session the Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Milwaukee clubs were admitted to the League.  The resignation of the St. Louis Club was accepted.
-Boston Daily Globe, December 6, 1877

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Disgusted With Base Ball

The base ball nine of (St. Louis) for 1878 has been partly broken up by the expulsion of Devlin and Hall by the Louisville Club for fraud.  They were engaged to play with this club next season and substitutes will be hard to find, as they were experts.  In fact, it is doubtful if the club will try to fill the vacant positions, for there are rumors that the management are disgusted with base ball, and those well posted with the inside workings of the club claim that the club purposely lost several games this season they could have won, and that the Bostons, Louisvilles and Hartfords traded games with them for betting purposes.  An investigation is to be made, when Blong, Battin and others, who are charged with having been bought over by the Bostons and Hartfords, will proably be expelled.  The coming investigation will result in a more startling expose than the Louisville frauds.  Testimony will be forthcoming that will condemn numerous players in the Cincinnati, Hartford and Boston clubs.  In fact nearly all the clubs belonging to the League Association will be implicated, so that a general investigation by the League Association will be necessary.  It is reported that conclusive evidence will be furnished which will result in the expulsion of players from all the clubs.  At a meeting of the (Brown Stockings') stockholders, the Treasurer's report for 1877 shows that the expenses for that period have exceeded that receipts by about $6300.  This amount has been reduced $2000 by the voluntary contributions of the members of the Board of Directors.  The players have agreed to make discounts from their claims for salaries to the extent of $1600, so that the indebtedness will be reduced to $2700.  The amount contributed by the players is not far from uniform, and the per diem charge of 50 cents per day while away from home, and the balance of $2700 still due is for salaries for players.  The directors state that unless this deficit is made up by the friends of the club there will be no nine there next year, notwithstanding the fact that between $2500 and $3000 have already been pledged as a guarantee for 1878.
-Boston Daily Globe, November 11, 1877

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Next Game

The Chicago-St. Louis game to-day was characterized by the heaviest kind of batting both sides, Dorgan, Hines, Clapp, Spalding, and Peters leading.  It was a very exciting contest up to the seventh inning, when a very wild throw by Hines let in two runs, and gave St. Louis a lead which was retained to the end.  Blong started in to pitch, but Nichols relieved him in the second inning after Peters, Hines, and Spalding had made safe hits.  Nichols proved quite effective, Anson striking out twice.  The play of the visitors in the field was loose, passed balls resulting from wild pitching causing McVey and Anson to change places in the sixth inning.  Peters played a perfect game at short, but Spalding, Glenn, and Eden committed the costly errors which lost the game.  The St. Louisians gave a sorry exhibition of outfielding, all but Dorgan, but the infielders did better, Croft's display at first being the best seen here this season.
-Chicago Tribune, August 26, 1877

According to Jon David Cash, Brown Stockings' officials were tipped off about the events of the 24th by the actions of umpire L.W. Burtis, who acted as the middleman between the Chicago gamblers and the St. Louis players.  Cash writes that "The directors of the St. Louis club had cautioned Brown Stockings' captain Mike McGeary about the conspiracy.  In the next day's game, McGeary 'made a judicious change' when it appeared that one of the players 'attempted to duplicate his errors (of the previous day).'  By transferring the suspected player 'to a position where, as luck happened, he had little to do,' McGeary also alerted the other conspirator about the suspicions of the team's management. "  St. Louis won the August 25th game by a score of 12-8.

It's obvious that the player who was judiciously moved was Joe Blong.  St. Louis had jumped to a 3-0 lead after the first inning and Blong was removed in the second as he tried to give the lead back.  While Chicago scored four runs in their half of the second, the Tribune piece makes it sound as if the runs scored after Blong had been switched to center field.  While I don't have any more specific information about what transpired during the inning, we can say that, with a 3-0 lead, Blong gave up three hits before being removed from the mound and this contributed to Chicago scoring four runs.  

McGeary's role in all of this was brought up by the Chicago papers, largely because of the accusations made earlier by Devinney.  However, it seems rather clear that, once informed by management that something was up, McGeary kept a close eye on Blong and Battin and took steps in the August 25th game to make sure that the events of August 24 were not repeated.  It seems reasonable to suggest, based upon his actions of August 25, that McGeary was not part involved in the conspiracy to throw the games against Chicago. 

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Game In Question

Chicago snatched a victory out of the jaws of defeat in fine style here to-day.  A two-base hit by Clapp and a single by Croft gave St. Louis an earned run in the fourth inning.  In the fifth, after two hands were out, Clapp and Dorgan scored on errors by Anson and McVey and two hits, which were all the runs St. Louis could squeeze in.  In the sixth inning an overthrow by Force gave McVey second, and he tallied on Anson's two-base hit.  In the seventh Eggler earned first, and was sent home by Bradley with an earned run, with two men out.  Battin made a miserable muff of Eden's bounder, and Brad got in with the tieing run.  In the eighth inning, with two men out, Anson stole second on Battin's muff of Clapp's fine throw, which reached him in plenty of time to catch the striker, and Hines then brought in the winning run by a solid hit to left.  Clapp's catching, Peter's fielding, Dorgan's throwing, and Croft's first-base play were the features of the game.
-Chicago Daily, August 25, 1877

This is the game, played on August 24, 1877 in St. Louis, that Joe Blong and Joe Battin  were alleged to have thrown.  The Brown Stockings lost to Chicago that day by a score of 4-3 after having a three run lead through five innings. 

(William) Spink alleged that two Brown Stockings had conspired with Chicago gambler Mike McDonald to fix the St. Louis-Chicago game of August 24...it seems clear that (Spink) intended to target pitcher Joe Blong and third baseman Joe Battin as the dishonest Brown Stockings...Evaluating the player performances of August 24, Spink complained, "The game was lost, after it had been won, by Battin, who has been the weakest spot in the St. Louis nine all season.  In the early part of the contest, Blong pitched well, but towards the end went to pieces, his wild pitching and lack of headwork...proving very costly."
  -Before They Were Cardinals

In the game, Blong had three errors and Battin two.  Battin's drop on Anson's steal appears to be the glaring error that had everyone scratching their heads and, in retrospect, pointing fingers.  Force also was named in the scandal by the Chicago papers and his throwing error is probably the reason for that.   

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Some Notes On Bradley's 1877 Season

McVey was not, is not, and never can be a catcher, especially for such a man as Bradley. Mac is a cool-headed, sure, first-class first-baseman; an effective pitcher for a score of games in a season; and a splendid and scientific batsman; but he is not a catcher, because of his aptitude to get sore hands and to weaken his pitcher by making him pitch over the plate too much...Bradley was heavily handicapped by the change of the ball this year, as well as by the failure of McVey to support him properly.  With a "soft" ball on which the cover would loosen up a little, Bradley was the best pitcher in the country; with a hard ball he was not by any means so good.  In 1876 he was given by Clapp's efforts a great leeway in his work and no man used strategy more; but in 1877 he claims that he felt himself confined to a narrower circle by the necessity of always thinking about his catcher, and pitching to him.  There is unquestionably much truth in this; Bradley never could do half the work before McVey that he could before Clapp.  Another thing growing out of this general subject had to do with loss of games, and that was the utter impossibility of Bradley and McVey pulling together.  The former is high-strung, quick-tempered, and nervous to a degree; the latter has also a temper of his own, and when Bradley made a comment Mac sent it back with interest and there was too much growling between those two important men.  Each had his coterie of admirers, and there was not a remark or a hint dropped by one but came to the other.  But both wanted to win all the time, and had no intention of embarrassing each other's play-they simply didn't give way to each other's failings, and especially is that true of McVey.
-Chicago Daily, Oct 28, 1877

These thoughts on Bradley's poor 1877 season come from an article entitled "Some Reasons Why The Chicago Club Could Not Retain the Championship."  

Friday, March 6, 2009

Bad Timing

About thirty gentlemen, interested in base ball matters-most of them shareholders in the St. Louis Base Ball Club-met yesterday evening in parlor No. 22 of the Lindell Hotel. The chair was taken by Mr. J.B.C. Lucas, President of the club, who, after calling the meeting to order, stated that, though the fact was generally well known, he would remind those present that for the past years base ball ventures in St. Louis had not proved financially successful. This season the club found itself considerably in arrears, and the meeting had been called in order to start an effort to raise the necessary amount with which the salaries of players might be paid. Individual Directors had, at their own expense, carried the club through the season, and they wanted now to see if they could not get assistance from shareholders and others. Out of $20,000 of stock only $17,000 had been subscribed, and on this some stockholders had not fully paid up.

After a brief discussion of the situation and the best means of improving it, a motion by Mr. Charles A. Fowle was carried, calling upon the Chair to appoint a committee of six gentlemen to collect subscriptions from stockholders and others to make up the deficiency.

The Chair appointed as such committee Messrs. W.C. Little, P.C. Butler, W.A. Stickney, W.C. Steigers, Aug. Solari and E.S. Brooks.

Subscription lists were opened at the meeting, when the sum of $400 was immediately subscribed.

In answer to a query, the Chair stated that upon the raising of the amount necessary to pay the deficiency, the question of whether there would be a St. Louis nine next year or no virtually depended. At the same time he did not like to say that, if the amount was raised, there would be a club, as this season closed his connection with the club. He believed that $2,500 had already been subscribed by parties towards next year's team.

After a discusion on general base ball topics, the meeting adjourned.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 1, 1877

This attempt to raise funds took place the day before William Spink's long piece about gambling in baseball, the St. Louis connection, and the effect that it would have on the fate of professional baseball appeared in the Globe. The piece must have had a devestating effect on the Brown Stockings' attempt to salvage their financial situation and on the moral of St. Louis baseball supporters. Lucas was stepping aside as club president, the Globe was withdrawing its support for professional baseball, numerous Brown Stocking players were being accused of throwing games, other clubs and players were being accused of crookedness, and the fate of the League itself was in doubt. There could not have been a worse time to go to the public and ask them to financially support the Brown Stockings.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

How St. Louis Was Sold Out, Part Two

The nature of the proof against these men will be found below. It will probably be remembered that on August 24 the St. Louis and Chicago clubs played a game in this city, the home club being beaten by a score of 4 to 3. Two or three days previous a certain St. Louis sharp visited Chicago and was seen to spend a good deal of his time in Mike McDonald's company. He returned to St. Louis in time to witness the game referred to, and on the day on which it was played received a considerable sum of money from McDonald by means of telegraphic orders. These orders were received under an assumed name, but as the Telegraph Company refused to pay them, the address was changed by the sender in Chicago, and the money was paid over to the party referred to. On the same day this individual backed the Chicago club heavily to win and telegraphed McDonald, in substance, as follows: "Buy wheat. Smith is all right. Jones will assist." This game, as previously mentioned was won by Chicago and it was lost to St. Louis by two members of the Brown Stocking nine, who committed the errors which gave Chicago the game at precisely the right moment. To ascertain whether they were "Smith" and "Jones" was now the problem which the officers of the club determined to solve, and a detective was employed to work up the case. That night McDonald's agent and the two men who lost the game for St. Louis met in the back room of a saloon in the northwestern part of the city, held a long and secret interview, and money was seen to change hands. When the conference broke up, the middleman was heard to remark: "For God's sake, don't lose your nerve to-morrow." To still further strengthen the case against these men, it should be stated that on the same day, and before the game, one of them telegraphed to a friend in Philadelphia, "We'll go to Chicago, but don't know when," and as the St. Louis Club had, as was then supposed, paid its last visit to Chicago for the season, and the sender had no business to transact in that city, the idea naturally suggested itself that the word "Chicago" in the dispatch meant a good deal more to the recipient than it would have done to an outsider. The next day the dame clubs again met, and McDonald's miserable tool again telegraphed his employer to dabble in grain, although he was never known to handle anything except the implements of the gambling fraternity. On this occasion, however, the pool-sellers were neatly "whip-sawed," for the suspected men were closely watched, and the instant that one of them attempted to duplicate his errors of the previous day, Capt. McGeary made a judicious change, sending him to a position where, as luck happened, he had little to do, and the result justified the act, for St. Louis won and the gamblers "went broke."

In view of the above, was it not natural that the friends of the club gave up all hope of winning the championship? It must be remembered that the officers did not have sufficient proof to convict these men, nor could they cancel their contracts, and the only punishment in their power to inflict was to make them play on through the season. Otherwise they could have drawn their salary and enjoyed a term of idleness. A similar state of affairs existed in the Chicago and Louisville clubs, and the question has arisen how can these swindlers be driven from the fraternity. The managers of the League are at present busily engaged in devising a plan of action to be adopted at the annual meeting in December, and it is probable that about a dozen men will be "black-listed," and the League clubs will invite the co-operation of all other organizations in weeding these "crooks" out of the profession. It is also highly probable that the League will refuse to play any organization including among its employees any one whose name appears on the list of black sheep.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 1, 1877

One interesting question that arises from this article is how, specifically, did Spink know the content of telegrams sent between the conspirators? Spink came to St. Louis in 1855, at the age of fifteen, to take a job as a telegraph operator with Western Union and was a member of the Telegrapher's Union. Even after he began covering baseball for the St. Louis papers in the 1860's, Spink continued to work for Western Union. While it's unknown when specifically he began to work full time as a newspaper man, it can be assumed that in 1877 he still had numerous friends and contacts with Western Union. On has to assume that it was through these contacts that Spink was able to see the telegrams he quotes in the article.

One more point. Jon David Cash, in Before They Were Cardinals, mentions that the middleman, mentioned in the article as "a certain St. Louis sharp," was identified by the Chicago Tribune as National League umpire L.W. Burtis. Burtis never umpired another League game after the 1877 season.

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."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The All-Absorbing Topic In Base Ball Circles

The announcement that Hall, Devlin, Nicholls and Craver had been expelled from the Louisville club for crooked conduct was the all-absorbing topic in base ball circles yesterday and the general impression prevailed that it would result in killing the national game "deader than a mackerel." The news, of course, created greater excitement in St. Louis than elsewhere, as two of the expelled players were relied on to help bring the championship here next season; and, if the charges against them can be sustained, it is almost a foregone conclusion that the St. Louis club will "throw up the sponge," and never again place a nine in the field. In this event, the days of professional base ball are numbered, and the hundreds of young men who have depended on the pastime as a means of earning a livelihood will be forced to seek some other field of operations. In these hard times this is a result greatly to be regretted but the only parties to be blamed are the ball players themselves who have permitted about a dozen dishonest men to enter their ranks and carry on a systematic method of swindling, which is now likely to result in the death of what has so long been recognized as the national game of America...The veriest greenhorn knows that there is no future for base ball until the confidence of the public can be regained...If Devlin and Hall are of the crooked class, they can not be punished too quickly and St. Louis is lucky to have found it out before the commencement of the playing season...St. Louis, better than any other city in the Union, can afford to do away with professional ball playing, having amateurs by the score who are almost as skillful as men who are paid to play, and the enthusiasm which was aroused in the days of the Unions and Empires, and later the Empires and Red Stockings, will be again witnessed. Concerning Devlin and Hall, one word should be added. The Louisville dispatch states that these men and Craver and Nicholls were expelled for "selling games, disobedience of orders and general misconduct." It does not specify which of the men were expelled for "selling games." This is of course the gravest charge, and if Hall and Devlin are not included in it, the "disobedience of orders and general misconduct" can be easily excused...
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 1, 1877

Monday, March 2, 2009

Devlin And Snyder Sign With The Brown Stockings

The announcement of the engagement of Devlin and Snyder by the St. Louis club, for the season of 1878, is confirmed by the St. Louis papers yesterday, though nothing is said about their intended use for this season. Speaking of the engagement, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat has the following to say:

For some unaccountable reason the impression has been created in certain circles lately that the St. Louis Base Ball Club does not intend to place a nine in the field next season. That this is sheer folly, and that the Directors of the club are still bent on flying the championship pennant, has been evinced by a certain little business transaction which was consummated at Louisville on Monday by Messrs. McManus and McGeary on one side and Messrs. Devlin and Snyder on the other. The Louisville pitcher and catcher will don the Brown Stocking uniform and play in St. Louis next season, contracts to that effect having been signed, sealed and delivered.
-Inter Ocean, July 13, 1877

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dickey Pearce Sues The Brown Stockings

Richard J. Pearce, one of the oldest professional base ballists in the United States, who for the last twenty years has followed the profession for a living, has had some trouble with the "St. Louis Base Ball Association." Yesterday he filed a suit against that corporation, stating that on the 15th of September, 1875, he obligated himself by written contract to play base ball for defendants from the first of November, 1875, to the first of November, 1876, the stipulations of the contract being that he should receive $1,500 for his services, $100 of which was to be paid in advance. A supplemental contract was also made at the same time, by which it was covenanted that in the event of plaintiff being called upon to act as captain of the club, he should receive an additional compensation of $300. That subsequently the plaintiff did act as captain of the club during the month of May, 1876. The petitioner states that the Association is indebted to him in the sum of $350, $50 of which sum is due on the original contract, and $300 due on the supplemental contract.

The plaintiff is better known as Dick Pearce, the celebrated short-stop, and his pitching into the Association will attract the attention of all who go for home runs. He may catch a hot one when the answer is filled, and may be put out with a foul.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, January 21, 1877