Sunday, July 25, 2010

Speculating About A Rumor

It is said that for Dunlap's obstinacy the Lucas club franchise would have been purchased by Von der Ahe and the Louisville Club jointly, the latter to get the pick of the players, while Von der Ahe would hold the franchise and shut off opposition in St. Louis. Dunlap, however, refused to go to Louisville and his refusal...blocked the deal.
-Sporting Life, October 21, 1885

Being so parochial, I can't say if this took place in other markets at the time but there were constant rumors swirling around St. Louis about changes in ownership and league-affiliation. Von der Ahe, according to the rumors, was always in the process of buying the Maroons or moving the Browns to the NL or starting a new league. I think that it would be understandable if one were to dismiss all of it as rumor but I lean (ever so slightly) in the opposite direction. There was so much smoke here, over such a long period of time, that there may have been some fire. It would be in character for Von der Ahe to constantly attempt to manipulate the baseball market to his advantage and it's possible that a lot of these rumors were at least discussed by Von der Ahe and then leaked out.

I hope I qualified that last statement sufficiently because I recognize these things as rumor and appreciate them as such. However, I can see Van der Ahe sitting around, shooting the breeze and saying "Hey! Maybe I should buy the Maroons, take all their players and then move the new Browns to the National League." In my imagination, this conversation takes place in a bar after five or six beers.

Also, I should mention that it was absolutely in Dunlap's character to refuse a move to Louisville. He would have demanded a new contract with a higher salary before he would have agreed to something like that.

1 comment:

David Ball said...

The problem for Von der Ahe was that National League policy would have required him to give up the twenty-five cent admission price, liquor sales and the very popular Sunday games. Bluffs aside, that probably would have kept him in the American Association.

Of course, several teams actually did jump from the Association to the League. The story I've read a time or two is that the provision allowing this had been originally inserted into the National Agreement in 1882 by O.P. Caylor of Cincinnati because he would have liked to take his own team into the League. Be that as it may, Cincinnati eventually made the jump in 1889. I believe Aaron Stern of the Reds had always preferred the League's fifty-cent admission but had not wanted to give up the Sunday games. When a local Sabbatarian campaign shut off Sunday baseball in 1889, the last incentive to stay in the Association was gone.

When the National and American Leagues created a new National Agreement in 1893, they recognized the destabilizing effect of allowing clubs to jump leagues by requiring a majority vote in both leagues to allow either one to make any change at all in its circuit.