Monday, November 30, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: McGeary Vindicated

On June 1, 1876, the Philadelphia City Item published the following letter:

It having been asserted, and published over the country, that the defeat of the St. Louis baseball club in Brooklyn last Saturday was due to the "crooked" playing on the part of Mr. McGeary, he was, in deference to the National League, suspended from play until the matter should be investigated. I immediately came to the city and have made careful inquiry into the matter. Justice to the accused requires me to say publicly through the press that there is no evidence, aside from the fielding errors made by him in that game, that McGeary was false to his club, and therefore he was reinstated today.

To many people the mere restoration of Mr. McGeary to his former position in the club will not be any assurance of his innocence. I am authorized to say that the St. Louis club will pay a reward of $250 for any proof that he was directly or indirectly interested in any pool, wager, or money consideration on the game alluded to.

Yours respectfully,
C.O. Bishop, Vice President, St. Louis

-Daniel Ginsburg, The Fix Is In: A History of Baseball Gambling and Game Fixing Scandals

Mike McGeary has been "vindicated" by the managers of the St. Louis Browns, and he will go back to second base again. An investigation was duly held, and the investigators were "satisfied" that Mike hadn't sold out that Mutual game after all. In the Athletic-Brown Stocking game Saturday Joe Battin made three errors, and it was lucky for him that the Browns were not defeated. If they had been he would certainly have been a subject for an "investigation."
-Chicago Daily Tribune, June 11, 1876 (originally printed in the Cincinnati Enquirer)

They didn't have to worry. Joe Battin's turn was coming.

So, in the end, this was much ado about nothing. Not all that shocking really. I made the comparison before between accusations of game fixing during the 19th century and accusations of PED usage today. Make five errors in a game in 1876 and you were a fixer. Put up historically great numbers between 1990 and 2009 and you're juiced. Of course, there were people fixing games in the 19th century and there were guys on steroids in the 21st century. But it wasn't everybody all the time.

And I'm not drawing a moral equivalence between throwing games and steroids because I don't see one. They are two completely different things. As the old coach once said, "You play the game to win." One of these things helped you win and one didn't. No comparison.

No comments: