Saturday, June 27, 2009

Indianapolis Will Finish The Season In St. Louis

I've been having an interesting email conversation with Lenny DiFranza about St. Louis ballparks and, in the course of this conversation, the subject of Indianapolis playing three "home" games at the Grand Avenue Park against Boston in 1878 came up. I had seen the box scores for at least one of the games before but never did anything with the information. Taking a more in depth look at what was going on, it appears the situation was a bit more interesting than Indianapolis simply playing three games in St. Louis. Over the next few days, I'll post what I found. I'd also be happy to get any input that I can on the situation in Indianapolis.

Mr. Frank N. Scott has been sent by the managers of the Indianapolis Base Ball Club to this city, charged with the soliciting of subscriptions from parties here and the selling of season tickets. It appears, too, if the report in the Pittsburg Gazette is true, that Mr. R.E. McKelvey, of the Indianapolis Club, has been sent to Pittsburg to arrange for the transfer of the nine to that place. At the same time that these agents of the club are at work in St. Louis and Pittsburg, the Indianapolis people are given to understand that the club will still play several games there after it leaves for another diamond field of usefulness. Under the circumstances it would be well for parties in St. Louis to abstain from subscribing or purchasing season tickets until the Indianapolis Club give a guarantee that their nine will play all their Western engagements in this city, and no where else. The tickets which were sold in Indianapolis at the beginning of the season are now useless to the purchasers, although the season is not half over, and St. Louisans should not be placed in the same box. The patrons of the game would be pleased to have the Indianapolis Club come here, and will without doubt support it more liberally than any city in the Union if it plays to win all the time. The President of the club has been assured of this fact, and the Directors should rest content with the gate receipts until such a time as they state emphatically that they intend remaining here throughout the season, and desist from leading the Pittsburg and Indianapolis people to believe that only such games will be played here as may suit their convenience. If the Indianapolis folks do not like the terms, the Milwaukee Club has given notice that it will jump at them.

Mr. Scott...stated positively that the club would finish the remainder of the League season in St. Louis, and that McKelvey's mission to Pittsburg was not authorized by President Pettit...Twenty League games, he says, will be played on the Grand avenue grounds, and the purchaser of a season ticket will be assigned a reserved seat, which will be set apart for his exclusive use. The seating capacity of the grounds, as remodeled, is estimated at 2,000 and there will be ample room for all. Aside from the objectionable feature of the transfer alluded to above, the Indianapolis Club deserves well of the St. Louis public, as i playing strength it ranks with the best, and includes several home players who were always great favorites.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 3, 1878

Indianapolis played three games in St. Louis against Boston on July 9, 11, and 13 in 1878. Al Spink, writing in The National Game, mentioned that he was involved in bringing the Indianapolis club to St. Louis to play a few games but that the enterprise was a failure due to poor attendance. He portrayed the games as an attempt to revive interest in major league baseball in St. Louis.

However, it looks like what we have is an Indianapolis club that was struggling financially and looking for ways to increase revenue. If they weren't drawing well at home (and B-Ref doesn't have any attendance data for the club), it seems likely that Indianapolis may have been looking around for somewhere else to play their home games. St. Louis was a logical choice for several reasons. First, the city had proved to be a baseball hotbed but at the moment was lacking a major league club. Secondly, Indianapolis had Art Croft, Silver Flint and John Clapp on the club. Croft and Flint were St. Louis natives and Clapp had played for the Brown Stockings. If the Indianapolis club was looking to "move" than St. Louis would have been a good place for them to "relocate" to.

And this is how the games were being sold to the St. Louis public. They were being told that the Indianapolis club was now going to play its home games in St. Louis and that it was now the "St. Louis Club." As you'll see over the next couple of days, the team, for a short period of time, was actually being referred to as the "St. Louis Club" and it took awhile for people to realize that the team had not, in fact, "relocated" to St. Louis.

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