Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The 1887 World Series: The Scene In St. Louis

Probably no sporting event in the history of St. Louis ever created so much interest as the present series of games for the world's championship between the Browns and Detroits, and it is extremely doubtful if any event outside of the sporting world that has occurred in this city for a long time past has aroused such a display of enthusiasm and caused so many heated discussions and arguments. For the past week, and even longer, the games have been the leading topic of two-thirds of the male population of the city. The relative merits of the two teams, the result of each contest and the probable outcome of the series have been discussed on the street, and almost everywhere else. The atmosphere in restaurants and hotels during meal hours has been thick enough with base-ball talk to cut and to walk a whole bloc any time during the day or evening in the central part of the city without hearing some mention made of either the Browns or their opponents is an experience which but few have had during the past seven days. The interest taken in the series played between the St. Louis and Chicago clubs last year was thought to be great but it was not a marker compared to the games of the present. All the afternoon, from long before the game commenced until the result of the last inning was made wherever bulletins giving information about the contests were posted.

Watching The Score.

At large establishments where many persons are employed contributions were made to defray the expenses of messenger boys to watch the bulletin board and report to them the progress of the game and office boys of business men were utilized for the same purpose. The principal queries for that went over the telephone wires in the afternoon were "What's the score?" and "How did the game end?" and "Who pitched?" and others of similar nature. The places where this information could be obtained made the persons who were compelled to listen to the almost constant ringing of the telephone, and answer questions of which the above are fair samples, feel like throwing the instrument into the street. Differences of opinion as to the merits of the two teams also have been the cause of any number of quarrels, and in some of them the dispute has been settled by the aid of fists. The best idea, though, of the interest taken in the games, is obtained from the enormous amount of money bet on the results. The amount that has already changed hands on the games played to date is placed at $150,000, and the sum wagered on the result of the series will reach $200,000. These figures are not at all exaggerated, but, if anything, they are not large enough. The business of the pool-rooms for the week just past has never been equaled. Nine-tenths of the betting, too has been done by persons who seldom speculate in this way, and who rarely frequent pool-rooms. The alleys where the rooms are located have seen many new faces, faces that will probably not be seen there again for a long time to come. The crowd that congregated in these places gave them a tone of respectability that is not found in the people who usually haunt them, and the roughs, toughs and broken-down sports were noticeably scarce. Bankers and bankers' clerks, prominent men in business of all kinds, members of 'Change and members of the School Board, lawyers, politicians, doctors and well-known and respectable men engaged in all professions might be enumerated in the list of speculators.

A Youthful Gambler.

An incident which illustrates the range of the betting occurred in one of the base-ball exchanges Friday afternoon. Just before the game commenced, a bright-looking, well-dressed boy, about 9 years old, elbowed his way through the crowd to where the auctioneer was busily engaged selling pools, and, drawing from his pocket a new, crisp $100 bill, held it up to the pool-seller and announced that he wanted to put it on the Browns. He was handed a card with $100 to $80 written on it, and as the little fellow made his way out of the room the Browns enthusiasts gave him three rousing cheers, and some of them put him on their shoulders and carried him safely to the sidewalk. He explained that he had been "saving up" for a long time for the purpose of betting on this series, and that the amount of his "bank" had been increased to $100 by liberal contributions from his father and mother.

Very few bets of less than $8 or $10 have been made at any of the pool-rooms during the week, and from that they run up as high as $1500 and $3000. The betting, though, has by no means been confined to the pool-rooms. In fact, many are inclined to believe that more wagers were made outside than those effected with the assistance of a pool-seller, and that they would amount to more. But few of the big bets are heard of outside of the persons making the compact and their immediate friends, but some of the more peculiar ones are bound to leak out. The story is told, on very good authority, that a certain base-ball "crank" living in the western suburbs, who swears by the Browns, having no ready cash to back them with, wagered his house and lot against $1500, the latter furnished by a sporting man, who too the Detroit end of the bet. A horse and buggy, the value of which is placed at $500, owned by a clerk in a large wholesale establishment on Washington avenue, are known to have been wagered against real estate amounting to $700 that the series would be won by the Association champions. The real estate was bet by a prominent agent on Chestnut street. Pianos, furniture and almost everything else has been wagered, and the number of hats and cigars depending on the result of the contest are countless. In fact, it is doubtful if there is a person in the city who knows anything about the national sport at all who has not made a bet of some kind on the outcome of the struggle. Neither has the betting been confined to the results of games or the series, and any number of wagers as to which team would make the most hits, what player would score the greatest number of runs, and any amount of similar bets, have been recorded.

Individual Players.

The following odds are offered by a local base-ball exchange as to which player places the most runs to his credit during the series: 5 to 2 Richardson, 5 to 2 Dunlap, 10 to 2 Twitchell, 12 to 2 Ganzel, 12 to 2 Getzein, 6 to 2 Bennett, 7 to 5 Thompson, 6 to 2 Rowe, 10 to 2 White, 10 to 2 Brouthers, 14 to 2 Conway, 25 to 2 Baldwin, 8 to 2 Hanlon, 100 to 2 Beatin, 100 to 2 Gruber, 10 to 2 Gleason, 8 to 2 Robinson, 6 to 2 Comiskey, 15 to 2 Welch, 7 to 5 O'Neill, 4 to 2 Latham, 20 to 2 Boyle, 15 to 1 Bushong, 10 to 2 Foutz, 5 to 2 Caruthers, 40 to 2 Hudson, 100 to 2 Knouff, 100 to 2 King, 200 to 2 Lyons. Richardson, Dunlap, Ganzel, Bennett and Rowe have been backed the heaviest on the Detroit side, and Comiskey, O'Neill, Latham and Caruthers have been favored with the Largest amount on the Browns side.

The betting on the result of the games thus far played has, on the average, been about even. On Monday's game the odds were $10 to $8 on the Browns; on Tuesday, $10 to $9 on the Browns; on Wednesday, $10 to $8 on the Detorits; on Thursday, $10 to 9 on the Detroits; on Friday, $10 to 8 on the Browns, and yesterday, $10 to $9 on the Browns.

Local Disappointment.

The Browns enthusiasts have been not a little disappointed at the performances of the champions thus far in their contests with the League giants. There were any number of people in the city who really believed that the Association cracks were simply invincible. Their comparatively easy defeat of the Chicagos last fall, and their walk-over for the Association pennant this season led many to believe that they would have no difficulty in again capturing the world's championship. They put up their money firmly convinced that it could not be lost, but the result of the series up to the present time has made them feel rather uncertain as to its safety. The most devoted admirers of the Browns are bound to acknowledge that they have met their match in the Detroits, and if they win the present series they will have played their very best to do so. Any one who believes that the Detroits are not a good team of ballplayers is very sadly mistaken. They have up to the present time demonstrated the fact that they can hit harder than the Browns, that their pitchers are just as strong and that their general team playing is just as good.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 16, 1887

Again, I just love the stuff about the goings-on in the pool-rooms. After doing a little looking around, I found that there were pool-rooms in St. Louis in the 1840s and there were some still open in the early 1900s. So the pool-rooms predated baseball in St. Louis and they're very much a part of the story of 19th century St. Louis baseball. There's a really nice tale to be told about gambling, baseball and pool-rooms in St. Louis if I ever found the time to write it up.

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