Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rainouts And The 1876 Brown Stockings

A National Base Ball Convention seems to be needed to settle the question as to the right of base ball clubs to pocket a couple of thousand dollars of gate money, and then turn the visitors out with only the satisfaction of knowing that if they pay their way in the next day they may see a game-if does not happen to rain again. The thousands of people who took the chances of the weather yesterday to encourage the game of base ball were entitled either to see a game, after having paid their money, or to have their money refunded. The former alternative would have been very easy for the managers, as they would have had nothing to do put to return the tickets they had taken, and allow them to be used for to-day's game. Instead of this, however, they propose to keep the money, and to take in as much more to-day, if they can get it. Such a policy may bee penny wise, but it is pound foolish, as well as dishonest. If the people who pay full price to see a game can be turned out of the grounds at the end of two or three innings, whenever it rains, they will take very good care not to subject themselves to the risk of rain, or of any other interruption, and they will largely avail themselves of the American privilege of staying away. Our St. Louis base ball players have, as yet, given no promise of attracting unusual crowds in other cities, and the extraordinary concourse yesterday was called out chiefly by the fact that it was the first League game of the season here. It is to be regretted that it was made the occasion for so very undesirable a manifestation of grabbing, and if the Centennial season shall pan out badly for the St. Louis Club, the managers will have chiefly themselves to blame.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 5, 1876

I'm pretty sure that I've run this piece from the Globe before but now I think we can understand it a little bit better in the context of the Brown Stockings' 1876 season.

There was a great deal of excitement around the Brown Stockings going into the season and expectations were high. They opened with four road games and the home opener against their rivals from Chicago was scheduled for May 4, 1876. But the game was rained out. They probably had a huge crowd at the Grand Avenue Grounds and all of those folks who turned out and paid their money did not get to see a baseball game. They also didn't get their money back or a rain check.

While this was the common practice at the time and those who attended games must have understood that, there is an inherent unfairness to the practice of taking someone's money and not giving them what they paid for. It is, as the Globe states, dishonest. Thankfully, baseball would eventually address the issue and solve the problem.

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