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.

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