Mr. Von der Ahe thinks some of having the old Grand Avenues play the Browns at Sportsman's Park to-morrow afternoon. Mr. Von der Ahe was the short stop of that famous old nine.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 11, 1886
Von der Ahe was on the board of directors of the Grand Avenue Club in 1876 and was their vice-president in 1877. However, this is the first I've ever heard of Von der Ahe playing baseball with the club. In fact, this is the first I've heard of the possibility that Von der Ahe ever played baseball anywhere.
You have to remember that this is the guy who has been portrayed as knowing nothing about the game. He was the guy who didn't realize all of his customers were leaving to go to the ballgame across the street. He was the guy who didn't know that all baseball diamonds are the same size.
While we already knew that Von der Ahe had been involved in St. Louis baseball going back to at least 1876, here we have evidence that not only was he involved on the business side but he may have been a player as well. I'm not sure exactly what I think about this right now because I literally found this a couple of minutes ago and haven't really processed the information.
If this is true, and I have some doubts, it has to change how we view Chris Von der Ahe. While I've been arguing for a reinterpretation of Von der Ahe's career and I think that I've done it well, this would be a major, important fact that one could point to when arguing that Von der Ahe wasn't the ignorant clown that he's depicted as being. The argument that "He played the game," while superficial, is a powerful one.
Edit: The mind does like to play tricks and since I found this reference and wrote up this post, I've had this odd feeling that I may have seen the reference before. I can't be certain and the point isn't important enough to go looking through all my VdA posts. But the feeling is like an itch I can't scratch.