Saturday, October 24, 2009

More From The Gambler's Archive

I'm not trying to be a prude about the whole gambling thing but it's just that given the history of baseball gambling specifically and sports gambling in general I find this glorification of the culture of baseball gambling to be a bit strange. I find it difficult to look at this stuff in its proper historical context and without thinking about everything that happened between 1875 and 1920. It's difficult to read this stuff and not think about Pete Rose. Anyway...

The rotunda of the Lindell (Hotel) presents a sad sight to-night. A number of Chicago gentlemen arrived here yesterday morning with their pockets full of blue check, offering any odds on the Chicago Club in its match with the St. Louis nine. The rain yesterday left your boys to their own resources, but Lew. Clarke started up a little game, which beguiled away the hours, and added to the stacks on hand. Early this morning the boys were on hand. Taking three open barouches, they drove out Franklin to Grand avenue and up to the ball ground. A ten-gallon demijohn had been stowed away in the brick house on the corner and the lads opened their bets. Col. Joel, Hunter Bettis, the old Boiler Inspector, Andy Haley, Jack Slevin and Alderman Madden, of (St. Louis), were on hand and ready to take anything. As the demijohn tipped, the bets increased till your boys stood to win or lose everything.

Along about the seventh inning things looked blue. There was no chance to hedge, for there was nothing to hedge with. Upon the last half of the ninth inning the sickest lot of Chicago men that ever struck this town stood around an empty demijohn, flat broke.

Joe Mackin lost $1,500, and has made arrangements to start for home on foot to-morrow. He will take the Alton track, because he insists that the rolling stock on that road is the best, and it is shorter than the Central.

Frank G. Barnes has just received a dispatch from Erby stating that he will not remit the price of a ticket, as walking is good enough for any man who will go to St. Louis for a ball match.

Charley Clayton is trying to negotiate a mortgage on his cigar-stand but Williams has hurt him in the market here by statements that the stock was depreciated, and is not worth the price of a ticket.

Walter Williams tried to borrow $9 from the Water commissioners on an extemporaneous invention of a street-sprinkler. But the Board still remembers McKeever's scheme and they bounced Williams. He tried to spout his overcoat, but McChesney, who has bought out Ahrahams' pawn-shop, dropped on it and refused it at any price. In answer to Williams' telegraph to Chicago, a dispatch has been received that O'Brien has gone to Cincinnati. Walter has sold one of his shoes, with Charles R. Thorne's endorsement, and he is rigging up the other to sail up the Mississippi to the Illinois and up the canal to Chicago...

O.H. Smith has got an annual pass, and is now trying to induce the road to endorse it for meals. If he succeeds he will be home in time for a clean shirt.

Dan Boynton, an old member of the club, expects to get home on half-fare, but Spalding has stabbed his plan and wishes something unpleasant if that Jonah, to whom he ascribes the loss of the game, can ride on the same train with the club.

Cone, formerly a member of the White Stockings, but who now elevates his striped stockings to the Matteson House counter, has gone before a caucus of hotel proprictors here to-night. He has great hopes in a subscription that has already reached $4.85.

Dispatches have been received here from Admiral Bill, saying that he feels it is not good to be here. He admits to having bought pools on the Whites to the whole of his side-roll, but he has got a place to sleep.

So things are blue in the rotunda of the Lindell to-night, and the boys are in sorrow and distress.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 7, 1876 (from the Chicago Tribune)

Now this stuff is certainly being played for humor and can be seen as a bit of a cautionary tale. As far as its historical significance, it paints a nice picture of the gambling culture that surrounded baseball in this era. While I'm interested in all of that, the fascinating thing to me is still that this stuff is getting written up in the Globe. Given the allegations that were floating around in 1875 and William Spinks' role in uncovering the corruption surrounding the Brown Stockings in 1877, it is amazing that the Globe essentially had a pro-baseball gambling editorial policy in 1876. While it may be more accurate to say that they did not have an anti-baseball gambling editorial policy, it is a fact that the Globe was covering the activities of gamblers and the culture of baseball gambling in 1876. Regardless of the amount of humor in the pieces, there was no condemnation of a culture that would help destroy the Brown Stocking club in 1877.

On a lighter note, I learned three new words today: barouche, demijohn and proprictor. That's a good day.

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