Sunday, July 11, 2010

The End Of The Interregnum, Part Six

So where were we?

Pittsburg, October 10.-An informal meeting of representatives of the Independent League of Base Ball Clubs was held here this afternoon. After a short discussion it was decided to go no further at the present time than to elect temporary officers, appoint a committee on constitution and by-laws, and call an immediate second meeting. Thereupon the following temporary officers were chosen to act for the association until the election of permanent officers: President, M.F. Day, Metropolitan Club, New York; Vice President, Christ Von der Ahe, St. Louis; Recording Secretary and Treasurer, Jas. J. Williams, Columbus; Corresponding Secretary, H.D. McKnight, Pittsburg. Messes. Thorner of Cincinnati, Chas. Fulmer of Philadelphia, and a delegate to be appointed by the Louisville Club were named a committee to draft and present to the next meeting a constitution and by-laws to govern the association.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 11, 1881

This, I believe, is the first mention of the American Association in the Globe as well as the first mention of Von der Ahe's intention to enter his club into a new national baseball league.

The interesting thing, to me, is the timing of all of this. Von der Ahe's coup, in which he essentially seized control of the Brown Stockings from the StLBBA, took place during the first week of October and Von der Ahe had his new Brown Stocking club in place by October 3rd or 4th. By October 8th, he had the club back on the field at the Grand Avenue Grounds playing the Buckeyes of Cincinnati. On October 10th, he enters the club into the new American Association, ending the St. Louis baseball interregnum of 1878-1881.

I've said many a times that I don't believe in coincidence and I certainly don't believe that it's a coincidence that at the same time VdA was seizing control of the St. Louis professional baseball market, he was also involved in forming the AA. Pulling The Beer & Whiskey League off the shelf, we see that David Nemec writes that O.P. Caylor and Horace Phillips were meeting in Philadelphia in September discussing the formation of the new league and that Phillips had sent invitations to this meeting to baseball men in the various cities that were without League baseball. One has to assume that VdA was aware of the meeting and of this attempt to form a new league. When a new invitation was sent out for the October 10th meeting, VdA took action. His coup against the StLBBA has to be seen in the context of the formation of the AA. Knowing that a new national baseball league was being formed and that St. Louis was being invited into the league, VdA, who already controlled the best baseball park in St. Louis, took control of the best baseball team in the city so that he, and he alone, would control the St. Louis professional baseball market and reap the financial benefits of having that control. It was a masterful power play on VdA's part and one that would, in a few years time, make him rich and famous.

I talked a bit about the 1881 season before and I think it's important to put the formation of the AA in the context of that season, as an anti-League group consisting of St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and New York came together and started playing games against each other. I think that the 1881 season and the games played between clubs from those cities is important because the games were a financial success (or they certainly were in St. Louis at least) and you had what must have been the beginning of a dialogue between people like VdA, Caylor, Phillips, Justus Thorner and others. The October 10th meeting and the AA didn't happen overnight. Caylor's Cincinnati club was in St. Louis in May. Phillips' Athletics were in St. Louis during the first week of September. These guys were most likely talking amongst themselves all year long. This is one of the reasons why I find the August 24th meeting between VdA and the Brown Stockings players to be so significant. Out of context, it doesn't seem like a big deal but if there was a dialogue going on among the anti-League group throughout 1881 and things were coming to head with regards to the formation of a new league then one begins to see what exactly VdA was doing, how it tied in with the formation of the new league and why things happened in October the way they did.

By the beginning of November, after another meeting in Cincinnati, the AA was officially formed with the Brown Stockings as members and VdA on the board of directors. St. Louis had a professional baseball club in a major, national baseball league for the first time since 1877 and the interregnum was officially over. Chris Von der Ahe played a significant roll in all of this. He consolidated the ballpark and the club and helped form the new league. By November of 1881, VdA was the master of the St. Louis professional baseball market and had returned major league baseball to the city. Chris Von der Ahe was the one who ended the interregnum. Not the Spink brothers or August Solori or Ned Cuthbert or anybody else. The end of the interregnum came about because of the vision and efforts of Chis Von der Ahe.

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