Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The 1886 World Series: Von der Ahe's Challenge

Towards the end of September of 1886, the Browns were running away from the rest of the clubs in the American Association and were up double digits in games. At the same time, Chicago had a strong lead in the National League and it looked like both of the 1885 championship clubs were going to repeat. Naturally enough, the thoughts of many began to turn to the idea of a rematch of the 1885 world's championship series. However, an 1886 World Series was not a given and the details of the series had to be negotiated.

President Spalding, of the Chicago club, has stated in several interviews recently that he would not permit his club to play the Browns a series of games for the championship of the world under any circumstances. The reason he gives for not consenting to such a contest is because the players would wager money on the result, and he does not want any gambling in his club. Perhaps, however, the real reason that Mr. Spalding does not want to play the Browns is simply because he is afraid that he will be beaten and as to the remark that he does not want his pets to put up any money, he is probably looking to their own interests, and does not want to see them lose their hard-earned cash. At any rate, Mr. Von der Ahe sent a challenge to President Spalding last night, in which he requests that a series of games be arranged, and sincerely hopes that the noted President of the celebrated "babies," which may become more famous by beating the Browns, will think favorably of the proposition, and not disappoint thousands of patrons of the game, both in this city and Chicago, who are dying to see the two clubs come together. Mr. Von der Ahe's challenge is as follows:

A.G. Spalding, President Chicago League Club, Chicago, Ill.: Dear Sir-The championship season is fast approaching an end, and it now seems reasonably sure that the Chicago White Stockings and the St. Louis Brown Stockings will win the championship of their respective associations. I therefore take this opportunity of challenging your team, on behalf of the Browns, for a series of contests to be known as the world's championship series. It is immaterial to me whether the series be composed of five, seven or nine games. I would respectfully suggest, however, that it would be better, from a financial standpoint, to play the entire series on the two home grounds, and not travel around as we did last season. I would like to hear from you at your earliest convenience, in order that the dates and other details may be arranged. I am yours respectfully,

C. Von Der Ahe.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, September 26, 1886

Interestingly, these two clubs had a bit of a run in when Chicago was in St. Louis in mid-July to play the Maroons. At that time, Anson was asked how the Browns would do in the League and he said something along the lines that they would finish fifth or sixth. The Browns didn't take that too kindly. Comiskey just pointed out the results of the 1885 series but Foutz and Caruthers confronted Anson at the Lindell Hotel and offered to bet $1,000 that St. Louis could beat Chicago. Jon David Cash writes that "a week after Fouts and Caruthers dared Anson to put his money where his mouth was, White Stocking shortstop Ned Williamson responded to the offer of the Browns' aces: 'Anson and the rest of us will stand ready to cover all bets which Foutz and others of the Brown Stockings wish to make.' The St. Louis Merchants Exchange got into the act by claiming that it would wager ten thousand dollars on the Browns in a series with the White Stockings. Then the Chicago Board of Trade engaged in a bit of one-upmanship by offering to bet up to one million dollars on the White Stockings. While dismissing most of these maneuverings as 'a big game of bluff,' the Sporting News editorialized, 'If the Chicago folks think that their team can beat ours, they have simply to put up their stuff. Ours has been up...Anson and others were asked to cover it, but they politely declined. Money is the only thing that talks nowadays so our Chicago friends will do well to either put up or shut up.'"

I would guess that this incident and the subsequent talk of money and betting was what Spalding was talking about when he stated that he didn't want to play the series because of the influence that gambling would have on his club.

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