Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More On Rainouts In 1876

We cheerfully accede to a request from some gentlemen interested in the St. Louis Base Ball Club to give to their side of the question the same publicity which we gave to what seemed the popular side of the question of the termination of the game of Thursday. They say that the custom that no money nor tickets shall be refunded after the game is called is so universal that no other rule has ever existed since the game was known; that it is a rule against which no complaint is heard in Eastern cities, and that it stands on the same ground as the similar custom at a horse race, a cricket match or a balloon ascension; and they say, moreover, that, as they supposed the public knew the rule, they are free from any imputation of dishonesty in enforcing it. Of course, when we said that the policy was dishonest, we had no intention of imputing personal dishonesty to any one, and should be very sorry to hear that the words had borne such a construction. The whole question is one of expediency rather than of morality, and though the judgment of the base ball managers is entitled to a great deal of weight on the question as to whether any policy is expedient or not, we incline to believe that they have fallen into an error through looking at the question from only one side. A rule which may not injure horse-racing, may injure ball-playing, because the successful maintenance of the base ball clubs depends entirely on the receipts at the gate, while the passion for horse-racing is always strong enough to induce its wealthy patrons to spend thousands and hundreds of thousands, if need be, in keeping it up. While they can afford to be comparatively indifferent to the receipts at the gate, the base ball clubs would be certain to go to pieces in a very few years, if the receipts should uniformly fall short of the expenses. Since the base ball clubs depend as entirely on public favor as if they were so many newspapers, it is a vital matter with them to retain and to increase it by every means in their power. It is because we want to see ten thousand spectators at the Base Ball Park, where we now see only one thousand, that we call attention to a rule which we are sure the better judgment of the League would abrogate. A city of the size of St. Louis can send twenty thousand spectators to a base ball match as easily as it can send two thousand. On one of these pleasant afternoons of May, when the sun is just warm enough to brighten the velvet grass of the Park, and when every instinct urges us to be outdoors, it requires a stronger inducement to keep people away from a base ball match than to draw them to it. All that is wanted is that in the public mind the game shall be freed from every element of unfairness, and from every possible cause of complaint. A great step was taken when the League was formed, and when the exclusion of weak clubs removed a permanent occasion of distrust; but as base ball claims to be the National game, it must not rest content until it has vindicated its title to the name by meeting every just claim, and putting itself wholly in accord with the National spirit of fairness.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 6, 1876

I know I promised a game account and box score from the Brown Stockings/White Stockings 1-0 game today but I meant to post this editorial the other day but couldn't find it in my notes. Obviously, it's a companion to this editorial about the Brown Stockings' rain out policy. Both the Brown Stockings and the Globe made good points in this piece but it's difficult to be sympathetic to the Brown Stockings after a century or so of rain checks.

Again, the context of this debate is that the Brown Stockings home opener in 1876, against rival Chicago, was rained out and a large crowd, that paid NL ticket prices, had nothing to show for their money. The point that the Brown Stockings made, that this was common practice, is well taken. I don't remember ever reading anything in the Globe about the subject before this and there were plenty of rain outs in 1875. It's possible that the increase in ticket prices that went with the creation of the NL had something to do with the fuss.

Anyway, I promise (seriously this time) that I'll post the box score and game account from the 1876 home opener tomorrow.

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