Saturday, December 4, 2010

The 1887 World Series: The Game Two Betting News

There was a slight falling off in the betting on the result of yesterday's game, which is accounted for by the absence of Detroit money, not many caring to back them after their poor showing against the Browns on Monday. There were not a few, though, whose confidence in the League champion's ability remained unshaken, and these accepted all the liberal offers that their pocket-books would permit them. There were many bets registered at various pool-rooms in the morning. The Browns' backers gave odds of $12 to $10, and some were even bold enough to bet $10 to $6 on the home club. In the afternoon the betting grew more spirited, and when the ticker announced that the Wolverines had made 2 runs in the second inning, the Detroit backers grew confident and bet accordingly. These 2 runs, though, did not drive all the Brown money out of sight and the friends of the home team accepted all the bets they could get. When in the next inning, however, the Detroits made 2 more runs and the Browns' score was still blank, the backers of the Association team did not feel quite so confident, and many of them who had a considerable amount up commenced to hedge out as much as possible. At this stage of the game the odds changed around in favor of the Detroits, the latter's backers offering $10 to $7 and $10 to $6 that the Leaguers would win. As the game progressed and nothing but ciphers loomed up in the Browns' score, the Detroit people grew more liberal in their propositions, and their offers of 2 to 1 were in most cases rejected. The Browns' stock went up somewhat when they scored in the seventh and eighth, and many then backed them for a considerable amount. It is estimated that $15,000 changed hands on the result. The betting on the result of the series last night was slightly in favor of the Detroits, odds of $10 to $9 being offered on them.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 12, 1887


David Ball said...

While looking for something entirely different, I came across this Sporting Life quote from the Detroit president Fred Stearns on the finances of the series:

"We will draw well all over the country, and the series is a lucky thing for both St. Louis and Detroit, neither of which has made any money this season. The only thing we fear is the weather. We have to play seven or eight games to pay expenses. Our expenses (jointly) will aggregate between $28,000 and $30,000, and if we encounter bad weather from start to finish we will come out at the little end of the horn. A great many people are complaining because we have raised the price of admission a little. These people that are complaining are the very ones that would like to have a finger -- yes, and a thumb, too -- in the pie."

For the sake of context, player salaries were the predominant element in any club's expenses, amounting to more than all other costs combined, and a "forty thousand dollar nine" was the watchword for a very expensively salaried team. So when two clubs spent $30,000 or close to it on a series of post-season exhibition games, they were spending a great deal of money, and I imagine even if the games drew well they might not have paid.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

That's a good find and I appreciate you passing it along. The Sporting Life's coverage of the series seemed a little sparse in comparison to the year before and I missed the quote you found.

I think that Stearns was correct in saying that Detroit didn't make any money in 1887 because there was a lot of stuff in the papers about their financial problems that year. Not certain about the Browns. VdA insisted that the club always made money except for the 1890 season but it's tough to know what the truth is. These postseason series certainly helped the bottom line and it would be interesting to know to what extent the Browns' profitability was tied to their postseason income.

The first two games in StL did not appear to draw well; each game most likely drawing less than 10,000 fans. The weather was poor and the matchup was not as attractive as in 85 and 86. Also, one would think the novelty of the championship series might have been wearing out. We'll see next week what kind of crowd they had in Detroit but I can't imagine the series drawing too well in the other cities.

$30,000 in expenses is, as you say, a great deal of money. The contracts for the Detroit players had run out before the series and the club had to negotiate some kind of compensation for them prior to the series, so that was an added expense to go along with trains, hotels, umpires, paying for the ballparks, etc. But at $1 a ticket, it wouldn't take much in the way of attendance for the clubs to make money. Even if they only drew 5,000 a game, that's still a $75,000 gate. With 75% going to the winner, Detroit surely made money on the series and I'd assume that StL, at the very least, broke even and I have to assume the club made a little money on the thing.