Saturday, August 28, 2010

The 1886 World Series: The Betting News

Had the life of the nation been trembling in the scales, there would scarcely have been a more painful anxiety among the people at large than there was yesterday among the base ball public of St. Louis. There were large crowds every place where the returns were being received. In front of the Globe-Democrat office the crowd extended far out into the street. At all the base ball exchanges there were jams, while at Wiseman's the crowd filled the room and both alleyways. At Donovan's the Merchants' Exchange crowd held sway, while at the others the bootblack and the street gamin, the clerk and the more wealthy patron, stood side by side, tramped on each other's corns without complaining, and consoled with each other when the first inning came in, showing a goose-egg for the Browns and two good runs for the Chicagos. It has been demonstrated time and again that the average base ball patron is not much at betting, and so it was that the large majority of the crowd stood with open eyes, open ears and open mouths, which opened wider when the Chicagos' lead was increased to three. But still there was a great deal of betting and it is estimated that $10,000 changed hands on the game in $5 to $100 bets, in addition to the large amount jeopardized on the outcome of the series. One marked feature was the apparent absence of Chicago money, which seemed to disprove the rumor of a sold game circulated a few days ago. Nearly all of the Chicago money was put up by St. Louisians. A number of the Merchants' Exchange crowd backed Chicago, with backers for the Browns also from on 'Change. The betting started out even on the game, but before the first inning came in the odds were $100 to $80 in favor of Chicago, though at the same time it was reported that in Chicago the Browns were selling as the favorites...As the game progressed and big goose eggs were scored on both sides, the betting changed to $100 to $50 in favor of Chicago, and hung at that until the Chicagos added another run in the sixth inning. After that bets were made at $100 to $30 and after the Chicagos made their three runs in the eighth inning one bet of $100 to $4 was offered, in the enthusiasm of a Chicago admirer. In all about $5,000 were put up in the exchanges, and about as much in larger bets on the outside. John Donovan was one of the losers, though he came home from Chicago yesterday morning with the belief that the Browns were going to lose. There was a great deal of betting on the innings, and considerable on the series, but in the latter all bets were even, and when the game was finally scored at 6 to 0, $60 to $100 was offered on to-day's game against the Browns, with no Chicago takers.

The betting at night was very light, and the money on to-day's game will mostly be put up to-day, though during the game yesterday a number of bets were made on to-day's result. Early yesterday the betting orders from Chicago were numerous. In view of the victory of the Chicagos yesterday, the orders were expected to be more numerous last night, but though the exchanges were kept open late, no orders were received. This could not be understood, and by some was interpreted to mean that Chicago betters were disposed to hold off on the second game...
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 19, 1886

This is really a fascinating account of 19th century sports betting. I was totally caught up in the article to the point that when it mentioned that you could get $100 to $50 on the Browns after Chicago scored their third run in the sixth inning, I was thinking to myself that that was a pretty good bet. I'd take two to one odds on the 1886 Browns outscoring anybody by four runs over three innings. But I think I'd want to run the win probability numbers before I started betting with 1886 dollars.

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