Friday, April 30, 2010

The Elephant In The Room

I don't have much evidence for what I'm about to say but that won't stop me.

As I stated yesterday, an argument can be made that the Brown Stockings lost the championship in 1876 because of relatively poor play against losing clubs. Specifically, their opening road trip of the season, to Cincinnati and Louisville, resulted in three loses that they could never make up in the standings. Throw in their loss to New York in the McGeary Game in May and that's four. Chicago was able to withstand losing the season series to St. Louis because they only had four losses against losing clubs, compared to seven by St. Louis. The Brown Stockings lost the championship because they lost games that they should have won.

When the 1875-1877 Brown Stockings lost games that they should have won, a few things come to mind. Crookedness. Gambling. Laying down. Thrown games. Mike McGeary. Joe Blong. Joe Battin. Accusation after accusation after accusation.

Do I have any evidence that the games in Cincinnati and Louisville were fixed? No. But given the culture of corruption that surrounded the Browns, I believe that it's possible and likely that those games were fixed by members of the Brown Stockings, co-ordinating with gambling elements in St. Louis, Cincinnati and Louisville. We have a great deal of evidence that the New York game was fixed and there were accusations that the three losses in Hartford in June were fixed as well.

Just focusing on the McGeary Game, does anyone believe that that game was a isolated incident? Does anyone believe, given accusations in 1875 and 1877, that Mike McGeary, acting alone, fixed a game on just that one occasion? Does anyone believe that there were no other games fixed in 1876?

Why wouldn't the Brown Stockings have thrown games in Cincinnati and Louisville at the beginning of the season? They were on the road, so they weren't doing it in front of the home crowd and driving down ticket sales at the Grand Avenue Grounds. These were games they were supposed to win, so the potential for a nice payday was increased. And nobody knew that Chicago was going to have a season for the ages. Nobody realized how significant those early season games were going to be. I'm sure that the guys doing the fixing figured they could throw a few early season road games, make some money and still win the championship.

Who or what was to stop them from throwing these games? The League? Brown Stocking management? The disapprobation of their peers? Nothing had stopped them before and nothing would stop until the end of the 1877 season.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I don't have much evidence to support the accusation that the Brown Stockings were throwing games at the beginning of the season. However, it fits a pattern and there is almost nothing with this club that you can discuss without taking into account the culture of corruption that surrounded them. It's the elephant in the room.

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