Friday, July 10, 2009

Whiskey And Flattery

Since the last issue of our paper, events have been transpiring of an interesting character, particularly to the friends of the Stars. Last Saturday the "exhibition game" between the Stars and Ludlows, for the benefit of the players, came off. The result of the game was-Stars five, Ludlows seven; and the conduct of Blong, captain and regular pitcher of the club was such that Capt. Hawes, president, and acting manager of the club in the absence of Mr. Bostwick, felt it his duty to reprimand him during the progress of the game, and to suspend him immediately after it, making Mr. Dennis McGee, who plays ball under the name of "Mack," captain of the nine.

On Monday the Stars played the Hartfords an interesting game, the score standing eight to three. Strief tried to play, but had to give up at the end of the second inning, his not being able to run for a fly costing the Stars three runs. Dennison, the new acquisition from New Orleans, made five passed balls behind the bat in the first two innings, and Dillon was put there afterwards, making only one passed ball. The new man went to center, and caught flies well. Our boys batted very well, making eight base hits. Mack and Dillon led the score.

Last evening the Board of Trustees of the Star club met and, after a hearing from Mr. Blong and a full statement of his case, unanimously passed the following resolution:

"Resolved, That, for conduct unbecoming a player, and gross neglect of duty as captain of our nine, Mr. Joseph Blong be, and is hereby, expelled from the Star base-ball club."

The evidence against Mr. Blong was very strong. There can be no doubt that he was under the influence of liquor on the grounds, Saturday, nor but little that he purposely threw the game. In fact, he acknowledged as much to one directors, saying he thought it would make the clubs draw at the next game. Whiskey and flattery have made Blong of no use to the Star club.

The contemptible and false articles on this subject in the Enquirer are, it is hardly necessary to state, from the pen of Henry Hallam, a man who was kicked out of the Star club last spring, and has tried to injure it ever since.

Blong claims to have a contract with the St. Louis Browns to play next season for $1,500.
-The Ticket, September 21, 1875

Just when you think we've covered Blong's Covington escapade from every conceivable angle...

I was going to write that, even given everything that we know (or think we know), the quote about Blong admitting to being drunk and throwing the game to drive up the gate for the next game was rather damning. But, thinking about it, that really isn't anything we haven't heard already. At first glance it seems solid but in the end it's hearsay. If the club director was named and quoted directly, I would certainly take it seriously. Unless the club director had bet on the game and was looking to punish Blong for his role in the loss.

This particular item was passed on to me by Cam Miller who is working on some projects involving baseball in Northern Kentucky. Over the next few days I'm going to post some of the other stuff Cam sent me and I want to take this opportunity to once again thank him for sending it along.

Also, I was going to name this post "Conduct Unbecoming And Gross Neglect Of Duty" but I went with "Whiskey And Flattery" because it reminded me of one of my favorite albums, Fear and Whiskey by the Mekons. I'm easily the worst headline writer of all-time.


David Ball said...

Jeff, if I'm not anticipating material you're going to be introducing...

The game was a benefit played for the financial gain of the Star and Ludlow players, and managed by them. One of the complaints was that Blong had played the outfield and had resisted going in to pitch. It seems pretty plausible to me that Blong may have been guilty at most of speaking tactlessly out of irritation at a meddling club official. "Why are you all after me about this? What do you care whether I pitched? If we lost, it will just increase the gate for the next game!"

Why should the Stars' officials care so much about winning what was regarded as an exhibition game? It may not be irrelevant to note that Smith Hawes was a Covington public official who absconded to Canada a few months later because he had used public money to cover gambling losses.

Pretty strange that three people today should be interested in a minor controversy from more than a century and a quarter ago.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

It's really not that strange coming from me. This is easily one of my favorite topics. I checked the post tags and the only people I've mentioned on this blog more than Blong is Von der Ahe and Packy Dillon, with Henry Lucas a close fourth. Shockingly, Fred Dunlap was a distant fifth. Expect a week of posts on Dunlap coming up.

I honestly think that, with your help and input, I've covered this particular subject pretty well and have managed to seperate truth from myth. Blong leaving for Covington is absolutely central to the story of the Reds and the 1875 season in StL. He's one of the major figures in 1870s StL baseball and his story deserves to be told truthfully. I think we've come a long way in putting his 1875 actions (as well as those of his accusers) in the proper context.

Sometimes I feel as if I'm spinning my wheels with the blog but I know that one of the good things that's come from it is that I've done a decent job of documenting the Reds' 1875 season. One of the reasons I started doing this is because I couldn't find anything about the Reds online or in books. But at least now, if anyone feels compelled to dig into the club, they can find the material. So I have that going for me.