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.