Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Guess Wh-t's Wrong With This Post

I spilled w-ter on my keyp-d yesterdy -nd now the letter th-t comes before "b" doesn't work. I need th-t letter to type my p-sswords. Other words use th-t letter often. It's - r-ther import-nt vowel. I solved the problem with my computer p-ssword but typing is pretty much out of the question. So no posts until I get - new keyp-d for the l-ptop. Sorry but, in -ll honesy, I c-n use - blogging v-c-tion. Hopefully, I'm not down for more th-n - week or so.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The End Of The Interregnum, Part Five

There will be a meeting of the Brown Stocking ball-tossers at Christ Von der Ahe's, on Grand avenue, to-night.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, August 24, 1881

When I first wrote about what happened to the Brown Stockings organization in October of 1881, I described it as a schism. However, I was wrong. It wasn't a schism; it was a coup. In October of 1881, Chris Von der Ahe staged a coup against the St. Louis Baseball Association and seized control of the Brown Stockings as part of a plan to enter a St. Louis ballclub in a new major league.

The fight between Von der Ahe and the SPCA and the St. Louis Baseball Association over control of the Brown Stockings was, as the earlier posts in this series noted, a fight over money. Jon David Cash, in Before They Were Cardinals, noted how the gate receipts generated by the Brown Stockings were divided. According to Cash, the players were given sixty percent of the gate to divide among themselves and the StLBBA "retained the other 40 percent of the proceeds for the upkeep of Sportsman's Park, to cover advertising expenses, and to reimburse the travel expenses of visiting teams. The visitors received no share of the gate receipts [although the clubs were guaranteed a flate fee]...Under this system of distribution, Von der Ahe received his financial reward from concession rights, primarily beer sales." The Globe contradicts this to an extent when it stated that the SPCA received ten percent of the gross receipts and the proceeds from the sale of reserved seats in addition to concession sales. Regardless of how specifically the money was being divided, it's clear that Von der Ahe and the SPCA wanted a larger cut.

I also believe that the players wanted a larger cut as well. Cash noted that earlier incarnations of the Interregnum Brown Stockings had received seventy-five percent of the gate but, for the 1881 season, that was cut to sixty. While the players were making more money because of the larger crowds, there must have been some resentment over the fact that their share had been cut. At the same time as the StLBBA was seeing increased profits and the club was playing well and drawing larger crowds, the players were asked to take a smaller percentage. If Von der Ahe and the SPCA was unhappy about the share of the cut that they were receiving from the StLBBA, they had a group of players who most likely felt the same way. The two groups would come together in their unhappiness over how profits were being distributed by the StLBBA.

I find the notice from the Globe that appears at the top of this post to be rather interesting. If I'm reading it correctly, there was a meeting between the Brown Stocking players and Chris Von der Ahe on August 24, 1881. The meeting either took place at Von der Ahe's house or saloon. Since Von der Ahe was not involved, in 1881, with the actual running of the baseball club, I can think of no reason for him to be meeting with the players other than to discuss the common grievances that they had against the StLBBA. I think that this meeting marks the beginning of Von der Ahe's plan to take control of the Brown Stockings that would come to fruition at the beginning of October.

The plan was rather simple. Von der Ahe would create a new baseball club, called the Brown Stockings, stock that club with members of the old Brown Stockings and that club would play at the Grand Avenue Park. Von der Ahe, after buying out the other investors in the SPCA, would then have full control of the ballpark and the club. The club would be entered into a new, independent major league that was being put together at that exact same time and Von der Ahe would then be the undisputed master of the St. Louis professional baseball market. The major question was whether or not Von der Ahe could get the players to agree to the plan and one would have to think that that was the major topic of conversation at the August 24 meeting.

The Globe did not believe that Von der Ahe could get the players and spoke in their October 4th issue of the loyalty of the players to the StLBBA. In response to Von der Ahe's gambit, the StLBBA had decided to have the Brown Stockings play their games at the Compton Avenue Park and the Globe believed that the players were going with them. However, this didn't happen and the core of the Interregnum Brown Stockings jumped to Von der Ahe's new club. The Gleason brothers, Ned Cuthbert, McGinnis, Baker, McCaffrey and Levis all joined the new Brown Stockings. Von der Ahe had kept six starters and manager Cuthbert, who still had a few games left in him. In advertisements for upcoming Brown Stockings' games, Von der Ahe made the point of listing the new Brown Stockings' starting nine just to make sure that everybody new that he had the players.

Von der Ahe was also able to get the opponents. While, as the coup was working itself out, he lost dates against the Atlantics, Von der Ahe made up for this with games against the Buckeyes of Cincinnati, the Eclipse of Louisville and, most importantly, the White Stockings of Chicago. With the club and the opponents came the crowds and Von der Ahe's coup was complete. The StLBBA soldiered on for a few more games in October of 1881 but their Brown Stockings were a shell of their former self and their opponents not of the same caliber as those engaged by Von der Ahe's Brown Stockings.

In the end, the StLBBA and their Brown Stockings simply disappeared as a business and baseball entity. But the bitterness that the old guard felt in being pushed aside by Von der Ahe, after they had kept baseball alive in St. Louis during the lean years and had just begun to see the fruits of their efforts, remained and would be seen time and again over the course of the next twenty years. I think it's likely that much of the anti-Von der Ahe sentiment that would be seen in St. Louis found it's origins in the way in which Von der Ahe seized control of the Brown Stockings and the St. Louis baseball market from the old guard. While his early success kept a lid on such bitterness and resentment, once the club and Von der Ahe began to struggle in the 1890s, the long knifes, that the old guard had been sharpening for a decade, came out.

As of the first week of October 1881, Chris Von der Ahe had the best ballpark and the best ballclub in St. Louis. He was also in the process of putting that club in a new, independent major league and finally ending the Interregnum. Tomorrow, I'll talk about the timing of Von der Ahe's moves to gain control of the Brown Stockings in relation to his moves to place that club in the new American Association.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The End Of The Interregnum, Part Four

The 1881 season was a successful one in St. Louis, both on the field and at the box office. Several events that took place that season had a profound impact on the St. Louis baseball market and helped to shape that market for a generation. In many ways, the 1881 season is similar to the 1874 St. Louis baseball season in that the success that was found in those seasons led to a St. Louis baseball club entering a major league.

The most significant event that took place in 1881 was the creation of the Sportsman's Park and Club Association under the leadership of Chris Von der Ahe. August Solari, after the disappointments of the Interregnum years, gave up his lease on the Grand Avenue Park and this lease was picked up by Von der Ahe's new organization, which was officially incorporated at the end of March 1881. The SPCA originally had no connection with the St. Louis Baseball Association and the Brown Stockings other than providing the Browns with a home ballpark. Eventually, in October 1881, Von der Ahe and the SPCA would forcibly seize control of the club from the St. Louis Baseball Association and Von der Ahe would, at that point, become the Boss President of both ballclub and park. But we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves.

The important point is that Von der Ahe and the SPCA were running the Grand Avenue Grounds by the spring of 1881 and had made significant improvements to the grounds. Also significant is that Von der Ahe was a relative outsider in St. Louis baseball circles. He had been a member of the board of directors of Solari's Grand Avenue ballclub in the mid-1870s and had some connections in St. Louis politics but he was not, in any real sense, an insider like Solari, the Spink brothers or the former Union Club members who had run the NA/NL Brown Stockings. Von der Ahe and the SPCA represented a new leadership force in the St. Louis baseball market and while this new force at first co-existed with the old, as represented by the St. Louis Baseball Association, eventually the two came into conflict, the result being the consolidation of the St. Louis baseball market under the new leadership of Chris Von der Ahe. It's the advent of this new leadership and their conflict with the old that brought about the end of the Interregnum.

The other significant event of 1881 was the return to the St. Louis baseball market of significant, outside competition. Because of the depressed nature of the St. Louis market from 1878 to 1880, as well as a depressed and disorganized national baseball market in general during the era, St. Louis did not receive many visits from good, nationally competitive baseball clubs. There are several reasons for this. As mentioned, the national baseball market was depressed and disorganized, as clubs and leagues of clubs searched for a business model that would support professional baseball. The effect of the game-fixing scandal and the general corruption that had surrounded the Brown Stockings from 1875 to 1877 on the St. Louis market can not be overstated, as it alienated and turned off what had been a very large fan base. The financial collapse of the Brown Stockings also had a negative impact as it essentially froze St. Louis out of the League system and denied the market visits from the best clubs in the nation. In the end, the St. Louis Baseball Association was unable to schedule many visits from good baseball clubs from large cities and when they were able to get a team like Indianapolis to visit, they couldn't get the fans out. Even the Chicago clubs stopped coming.

But by 1881, things had started to change. That season St. Louis saw visits from clubs from Cincinnati, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York and the fans flocked to the ballpark to see the Brown Stockings take on a higher level of competition. Harold Seymour wrote that it was Al Spink who arranged for these clubs to come to St. Louis and that, in many ways, it was the coming together of an anti-League group. St. Louis, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and New York had all, for various reasons, been frozen out of the League and the arrangements that they made in playing each other in 1881 pre-figured the formation of the American Association the following year. The financial success that was realized in St. Louis by bringing these clubs in and the relationships that were formed among baseball men in the various cities was extraordinarily significant for the history of baseball. If these games had been financial failures or if Spink had not been successful in bringing the clubs to St. Louis, it's unlikely that the AA would have been formed or that St. Louis would have entered a new league. The Interregnum would have continued and possibly would have lasted into the 20th century.

So we have several events taking place in 1881 that combined to bring about the end of the Interregnum. The coming of new leadership under Von der Ahe and the SPCA, a group of anti-League cities and clubs forming relationships and scheduling each other, and the financial success of those scheduled games, by the end of the 1881 season, came together to create a unique situation in the St. Louis baseball market that led to Von der Ahe seizing control of that market and entering a new club in a new league.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about how Von der Ahe seized control of the Brown Stockings and the relationship that action had with the creation of the American Association.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The End Of The Interregnum, Part Three

A bit of background:

The years between 1878 and 1880 were difficult ones for St. Louis baseball. After the collapse of the Brown Stockings following the 1877 season due to financial difficulties and the eruption of a game-fixing scandal, St. Louis lacked a first-class, "big league" baseball club until 1882, when the Brown Stockings joined the nascent American Association. This period, which I've labeled the Interregnum, was marked by a retrenchment and a retreat from the national baseball scene. In that sense, it's a reversal of the 1865-1875 period when the St. Louis baseball establishment, led by the vision of Asa Smith, took steps to compete on the national scene. This effort culminated in the establishment of the Brown Stockings and the bringing in of outside, professional ballplayers. The collapse of the Brown Stockings represented a failure of the St. Louis baseball establishment and their approach to the St. Louis baseball market.

After the collapse of the Brown Stocking organization, there was an attempt to pick up the pieces and rebuild the market. Al Spink writes a great deal about this in The National Game, focusing on the difficulties that he, William Spink, August Solari, Ned Cuthbert and others had in fielding an economically viable baseball club. The combination of a depressed economy and the lingering impact of the game-fixing scandal created an environment where it was difficult to draw crowds sufficient to support a first-class, nationally competitive club. Gone were the days of bringing in the "Atlantic/Easton professionals." Also gone were the days of bringing in the best ballclubs in the country. While the post-bellum era saw clubs from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington and Cincinnati come to town to play the best St. Louis clubs, these types of visits were exceedingly rare during the Interregnum and, when they did occur, failed to draw much of a crowd.

The three seasons after the collapse of the Brown Stockings were dark days for St. Louis baseball but there were some positive developments. First, St. Louis continued to develop young baseball talent and the Brown Stockings were often the beneficiary of that talent. Young players who came of age during the Interregnum included the Gleasons, the Tebeaus, Pud Galvin, Tom Loftus, Perry Werden, Bill Joyce, George Baker, Billy Alvord and others. Also, several of the outside professionals that were brought in by the Brown Stockings from 1875-1877, such as Ned Cuthbert and George Seward, remained in St. Louis and added to the baseball talent pool in the city. Secondly, I believe that the fact that there were men like the Spink brothers, Ned Cuthbert and August Solari who were dedicated to the development of the St. Louis baseball market, in the face of extreme difficulties, was extremely important. If not for the hard work of those men, the St. Louis baseball market may have died. Their work during the Interregnum saved the St. Louis baseball market and helped create the conditions for its revival in 1881.

And the St. Louis baseball market did revive in 1881. I'll write about that tomorrow.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The End Of The Interregnum, Part Two

The base ball breeze alluded to in these columns on Sunday morning culminated in a storm, and the result is that the St. Louis Brown Stockings will play no more games at the Grand Avenue Park. Their organization will be maintained intact, however, and the team that has won thirty-one of the thirty-nine games played this season will continue to represent the Brown Stockings on the ball field. The players, whose names are as familiar as household words to the base ball loving public, and who have decided to cut loose from the Grand Avenue Association, are McGinnis, Baker, Gault, McDonald, J. Gleason, W. Gleason, Magner, McCaffrey, Seward, Morgan and Levis. One and all are agreed that the association has violated faith with them. Its officers, during the last forty-eight hours, have been moving heaven and earth to induce these fine players

To Desert Their Colors,

but have miserably failed, not meeting with success in a single instance. The Grand avenue officials knew that the pick of the local profession were to be found in the Brown Stocking ranks, and that without the aid of some of them they stood no earthly chance to give an exhibition against such an organization as the Brooklyn Atlantics as would attract a corporal’s guard of spectators. While vehicles were in great demand Sunday night and seductive offers many, players when found turned a deaf ear to all entreaties, and the Grand avenue folks found that the only way to place a team in the field was to select an entirely new corps of players from such material as had been discarded when the Brown Stocking organization was being formed. The attempt to swallow up the club at a gulp, as it were, thus proved abortive. The proposition of the association to oust the officers of an organization over which they never had the slightest control, that men of their own choice might fill the positions, received just such a response as its nature was sure to bring forth. As to the guarantees that were given visiting clubs, nothing need be said. They never resulted in the loss of a cent to the association, but on the other hand were paid for by the percentage of gate receipts that the Sportsman’s Club acknowledges having received. It would have been an easy matter for the Brown Stocking Club to have given guarantees itself and made no concession as to percentage, had it not been desirous of avoiding anything like a quarrel. As before stated, the Brown Stockings players are thoroughly in accord. In the list given above, the name of

Every Regular Member

of the team since its organization is to be found. The boys will carry out all present and future arrangements at the Compton Avenue Park, which is now, as it has been all season, in superb trim. There will be no change of dates owing to the clash, but the season’s programme will be carried out as originally arranged. It has been officially stated that the team which the Grand Avenue Association proposes to put in the field is to be called the Brown Stockings. This is a move worthy of its authors, but playing the national game under false pretenses won’t work. The base ball public of St. Louis is pretty well informed on this subject. It knows that a team which includes McGinnis, Baker, Gault, McDonald, the Gleason boys, Magner, Seward, McCaffrey, Morgan and Lewis represents the Brown Stocking Club, and no other. It will have no trouble in discerning between the bogus and the genuine Browns, and the records of wins and losses in future contests will also demonstrate that there is but one Brown Stocking Club in existence. The Browns will take the field against a first-class professional Club at the Compton Avenue Park on Saturday of this week. Their successors at the Grand Avenue Park-whoever they may be-are booked for games with the Atlantics to-day, to-morrow and Thursday, Manager Barnie having been given a guarantee of $300 for the three games. The Browns, at their meeting last night, signed a document reasserting their determination to remain together as of old.

-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 4, 1881

I hope to post some background information on the Interregnum and the very interesting 1881 season over the next couple of days before I start showing how this rather interesting turn of events in October of 1881 ties into things. The basic point I'm trying to get at (and taking my sweet time getting around to) is that the intrigue that we see here is directly related to the formation of the American Association. The argument I'm hoping to lay out is that Chris Von der Ahe forcibly seized control of the St. Louis professional baseball market and that the entry of the Browns into the AA was part of that.

I don't think this is anything really new or earth-shattering but it is interesting, specifically when we compare the machinations of the late summer/fall of 1881 to how Von der Ahe is normally perceived. It's fascinating to look at this and see a rather deliberate and Machiavellian Von der Ahe plotting and scheming and arranging things so that, in the end, he becomes the master of the St. Louis baseball market. This isn't the bumbling Von der Ha Ha Ha falling backwards into a nice situation but rather a smart and calculating businessman maneuvering to come out on top.

Hopefully, I'll pull this series of posts together and be able to show how all the pieces fit together.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The End Of The Interregnum, Part One

A breeze is said to have been stirred up in base ball circles because the officers of the Brown Stocking Club desire to manage that organization in their own way. Some interested individual has seen fit to furnish a one-sided version of the affair to the press. It is claimed that the Brown Stocking Club gets half of the gate receipts, and that the St. Louis Sportsman’s Club gets nothing for the use of its grounds. Such is far from being the case. The association gets 10 per cent of the gross receipts, the proceeds from the sale of reserved seats, the profits for refreshments and the income from all other privileges. The team which, by its superb play throughout the season, has earned the liberal patronage of the public, never cost the association a cent. The boys were solicited to play at the park at the beginning of the season, and a complete outfit, uniforms, etc., for the players was offered as an inducement. The Brown Stockings are under no compliment to any organization nor do they propose to be. They have put a small fortune into the treasury of the association alluded to, and are not indebted to it or any one, except a generous public, in the slightest. The President of the Brown Stocking organization stated last night that no complaints had been brought to his notice, and added that if any dissatisfaction existed the club was ready to sever its connection with the park at once. He also stated that the unprecedented base ball boom was due to the brilliant and reliable work of the home team on all occasions, and that the slurs cast at the playing of the Browns were entirely undeserved. The fact that they had lost but one Sunday game this year was because they are enabled to present their full team on that day, while it is a difficult matter to do so at other times. If any complaint has been made it is because the team has been a much greater success than was anticipated when the season opened. It is certainly entitled to all that it has earned, and lovers of the game, with fair play in view, will undoubtedly look at the question in that light.

-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 2, 1881

I've posted a bit about this before and wrote that I wished I had a bit more information about what was going on. Well, I have a bit more information now. I also have a lot of thoughts about what was happening, why it was happening and the significance of it all but I'm going to save that until I've posted all the information I've found. I'll just say now that the fight between the St. Louis Baseball Association (the Brown Stockings) and the Sportsman's Park and Club Association in October of 1881 brought about the end of the St. Louis baseball interregnum and the beginning of the age of Von der Ahe.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Dirty Sox

Captain Wm. Hambleton was offered the position of pitcher in the new steamboat base ball club Dirty Sox, and would have taken the place, but Captain H. said he could not handle the balls as he used to, and would not therefore be able to fill the place...
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 6, 1875

This item was taken from the Globe's coverage of river news, which (naturally) was a common feature in the paper. I'm really just posting this because I want it noted that there once was a club called the Dirty Sox. Also, at some point, I think we had a brief discussion of the whole Stockings/Socks/Sox thing and here we have Sox being used in 1875.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Clapp's Strategery

[From the New York Clipper.]

We can almost safely say that the finest display of catching we have ever seen in a single game was that exhibited by Clapp, of the St. Louis nine, during the June contests in Brooklyn in 1876. His play close behind the bat on these occasions was excellent. A peculiarity of Clapp's catching the past season was his adoption of the rule to play behind the bat-mentioned in an article on catching, published in 1866-of a rapid return of the ball to the pitcher. This is as important for effective play as is a rapid delivery by the pitcher; we don't mean as regards pace, but in sending in balls in rapid succession, by which the batsman is obliged to be on the alert all the time, with but little opportunity afforded for leisurely judging the balls. Some catchers hold the ball, after receiving it from the pitcher, for some time, with a view of throwing it to a base, or being ready for that play. but the best plan is to promptly return it to the pitcher, unless a base runner has started to run on the actual delivery of the ball. We have seen many a base stolen while the catcher has thus held the ball, apparently in readiness for a throw. A prompt return bothers a base runner, especially if the return throw is swift and accurate to the pitcher. But the main value of it is that it enables the pitcher to play his strong point of catching the batsman napping by a rapid return of straight balls when the batsman is not ready to strike. This point was played by Bradley last season almost as frequently as by Spalding and its success was mainly due to Clapp's quick returns. Clapp is another of those quiet players who are seldom heard of except in the way of fine play in their position. The Athletics never committed a greater mistake than when they allowed Clapp and McBride to leave their service. They fully realized this fact last season.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 31, 1876

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Semi-Professional Baltics

The following, from the New York Clipper, indicates that St. Louis will have more than one semi-professional club next season:

The directors of the newly-organized Baltic Club, of St. Louis, Mo., met at the Phoenix Hall December 12, when, a correspondent informs us, six of the nine were selected, as follows: H. Wilson, J.H. Mills and S.T. Bodine, fielders; W.W. Burke, short-stop; Mayne, of Bloomington, Ill., third base; George Stout, Cincinnati, O., second base. Eugene White, of Philadelphia, will fill the position of catcher, providing he can secure a release from the Aetnas of that place. Harry Woodall, of Iowa, will be the pitcher. Malone, of the Irvington (N.Y.) Club will play at first base. None of the players are over nineteen years of age. The directors are negotiating for the Lafayette Park Grounds. The club will probably come East in June.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 24, 1876

Saturday, May 8, 2010

In Defense Of Nichols

For the benefit of certain foolish friends of the Brown Stockings, who think that the club must necessarily suffer by the loss of Bradley, the following extracts in regard to his successor, picked at random from a few old exchanges, will show that Nichols, backed by such a magnificent fielding team as he will have to support his pitching, is fully capable of winning the championship:

The Boston Herald says: "Nichols is credited with winning the game by his remarkable pitching and batting. No runs were earned off him, and four of the professionals failed to hit safely in a single instance."

The Fall River News says: "Nichols, of the New Havens, is probably one of the best pitchers living; he has a variety of styles (making the catcher lots of work), a hard-hitter, fast-runner, and full of vim when pushed."

The New York Clipper says: "Of the many professional clubs who have met the Resolutes this year, there was none who played the game so sharply and well as did the New Havens. Their pitcher, Nichols, is the best, all points considered, the Resolute Club ever faced."

The Cincinnati Enquirer says: "Much of their strength is due to Nichols, their pitcher. This little fellow is, in our mind, without a peer in his position, except it be Bond. In him the Browns have won a treasure for the next year's nine, and one they can well afford to swap for Bradley. Besides being a good pitcher, he is a good general player, and one of the best-natured and jolliest men we have ever seen on the ball-field."
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 20, 1876

Friday, May 7, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: And The Matter Is Settled

After considering the matter for some time, the Board voted that the ground taken in the St. Louis protest was valid, and that the games due from the Mutuals and Athletic Clubs to the other six clubs should be reckoned as forfeited, and the championship was accordingly awarded on the basis of the following table of games lost and won.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 8, 1876

The final standings, as decided by the League, are a bit different than the one presented at B-Ref. Also, shouldn't Cincinnati and St. Louis have played one more game against each other? I assume their tenth game was a rainout or something that was never made up. I probably have that information somewhere but it's not all that important. Either St. Louis would have won and finished five back of Chicago or they would have thrown the game and finished six back. That's a joke, by the way.

Bottom line: St. Louis finished second in 1876.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


L'Afrique, a home-made comic opera, has been the sensation of the week just closed. It was presented at the Olympic by a company of amateurs who, while they did all in their power and acquitted themselves very creditably, failed to make the musical beauties of the work as prominent as professionals could have done, thereby placing the production before the public almost entirely on its own merits. That a great success was achieved is a personal triumph for the originality and genius of the composer, Mr. W.C. McCreery, who may well feel proud of the reception given to L'Afrique and of the almost unanimous endorsement of it by the large and fashionable audiences that listened to it. It is a triumph for home talent that may be accepted as marking an epoch in the aesthetic growth of St. Louis, as it will encourage further efforts in behalf of the musical art and give an impetus to local theatrical and operatic ventures that may result in very much good.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 22, 1881

After some preliminary announcement, a certain Mr. McCreery, of St. Louis, produced a work which he is pleased to call a new comic opera, entitled "L'Afrique," at the Bijou Theatre last evening. A really new comic opera would doubtless be welcomed; but in "L'Afrique," which is neither new nor comic nor an opera, the public are not likely to find any enjoyment. It is a pity that ambitious writers seem unable to be original, and prefer to be mere servile imitators, as in the case of Mr. McCreery. It is a thankless task to say of this work that it is worthless. There is, of course, nothing American about it. The scene is supposed to be on the border of the Transvaal. the men are British soldiers, Zulu warriors, and Dutchmen with a German accent; the women are the counterparts of the rapturous maidens of "Patience," dressed in bright, short dresses, with sunflowers and other aesthetic adornments. Whatever they may say, either in their speech or songs, it is almost impossible to discover the plot, if there be any, and the result is a dreary representation. Why they should engage in the various scenes, which are of excessive length, is never apparent, and in the absence of a libretto there is no clue to the meaning of the story. As a musical matter, "L'Afrique" demands criticism only to say of it that while the composer seems to know how to orchestrate and to write bright and clever songs, he has done nothing to entitle him to praise. He is a mere imitator. His opera, as he calls it, will never be considered of any value, and will pass from public notice on a calm judgment of its merits. The cast was very weak, and suggested the presence of inexperienced amateurs and a certain variety of minstrel company style that was vulgar and inartistic.
-The New York Times, January 31, 1882

Wayman Crow McCreery, the creator of the new comic opera that was neither new nor comic nor an opera, was a former first baseman with the Union Club. He was actually an outstanding athlete and a champion billiard player, as well as the musical director of Christ Church Cathedral for over twenty-five years. The Times, however, obviously didn't think much of him or his opera.

Do we know of any other ballplayers who wrote an opera? I would imagine that it must be a short list.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Much-Needed Institution

Though St. Louisans have had a first-class base ball club for two years, a suitable resort for the players and their friends has been lacking until now. Last night base-ball headquarters were established permanently by Mr. George McManus, the manager of the Brown Stockings, at the southeast corner of Sixth and Locust streets. The place has been tastefully fitted up with a view to the comfort of the players and the friends of the club. The New York Clipper, New York Mercury, Philadelphia Sunday mercury, Boston Herald, Chicago Tribune, St. Louis Globe-Democrat, and other newspapers will be kept on file, so that all who desire to keep themselves posted in regard to base ball matters free of cost can do so. Desks and writing materials can be had for the asking, while those who desire to enjoy themselves at the card table will be accommodated. Mac has established a much-needed institution, and the fraternity will appreciate his enterprise, during the winter months at least.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 26, 1876

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

They Just Can't Let It Go

The St. Louis Browns do not relish the idea of being swindled out of second place in the championship race, and the following protest, which explains itself, signed by the Secretary of the St. Louis club, will be presented to the Directors of the League for consideration in December:

St. Louis, Mo., November 16, 1876-To the Board of Directors of the National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs: Gentlemen-The St. Louis Base Ball Club of St. Louis, Mo., respectfully presents this, its complaint and claim, against the Mutual Base Ball Club of Brooklyn, New York, and says:

1. That said St. Louis club has faithfully complied with all requirements of the Constitution of the National League, especially with so much thereof as is embraced in section 2 of article xii, and more particularly that during the season of 1876 it played five championship games with said Mutual Club on the grounds of said club in Brooklyn, N.Y., as follows:

The first on the 23rd day of May; the second on the 25th day of May; the third on the 27th day of May; the fourth on the 5th day of September; the fifth on the 6th day of September.

2. That said Mutual Club, during said season, played two championship games with the St. Louis Club, on the grounds of the latter, in St. Louis, MO., as follows: The first on the 27th day of June, and the second on the 29th day of June, and that these seven games were all the games played by said clubs with each other during said season.

3. That by the terms of said section 2 of article xii, said St. Louis club was entitled to have five games played upon its grounds by said Mutual Club, so that three games are still due from said Mutual club to said St. Louis Club, and playable on the grounds of the latter.

4. That when the last game was played, viz: in Brooklyn, N.Y., on the 6th day of September, the St. Louis club then and there required, and was by the Constitution entitled to require, and expect the said Mutual club to play the remaining three games on the grounds of the St. Louis club within a reasonable time, not exceeding two months; that more than two months have elapsed up to and including the 15th day of November, on which last mentioned day the playing season closed, so that it is now impossible to play said games; that the St. Louis Club, ever since the 6th day of September and up to the close of the playing season, offered every facility to the Mutual Club to play said games; and, in addition also guaranteed said Mutual Club a sum of money sufficient to cover its traveling and other expenses if it would come to St. Louis and play said games, but the Mutual Club wholly failed and refused to play said games.

Wherefore, the St. Louis Club claims that, under the provisions of said section 2 of article xii, it is entitled to and should be allowed a forfeiture of said three games from said Mutual Club, and prays the Board to decree that said three games are forfeited to the St. Louis Club by a score, each, of 9 runs to 0, and that they shall be counted in favor of the St. Louis Club as three games won in the championship season of 1876.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 19, 1876

I think that the Browns had a reasonable argument and a fair claim to the three games against the Mutuals. But, at the end of the day, this was a fight over second place and that just doesn't get the blood boiling.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Did The Browns Have A Better Offense Than The Chicagos?

Three or four days ago the Chicago Tribune published the batting averages of the professional base ball players in tabulated form, carefully compiled from the official scores of all League games played during the season...The most important point, however, is one to which the Tribune does not refer at all, in all probability for the reason that it would demonstrate that the White Stockings, although they appear to be on paper, were by no means the strongest batting team in the League. The point referred to is, that no allowance has been made for the fact that while Chicago invariably

Played With A "Lively" Ball

when it had the choice, all the other clubs except the Athletics used a "dead" ball during the entire season. Mr. Meacham, of the Tribune, has on several occasions attributed the defeat of the Chicago Club by the Browns to the soft ball furnished by the latter, which he claimed it was almost impossible to knock base hits out of. Why, then, was no allusion made to this fact in figuring up the averages? Simply because a glance at the record shows that Chicago would have appeared in a very poor light as compared to St. Louis in the matter of willow-wielding...
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 29, 1876

The flip-side of this is, of course, that the dead ball makes the run-prevention numbers of the Brown Stockings look much better. The Chicagos, using a lively ball, didn't give up many more runs than did the Browns. It's a nice try by Mr. Spink but I'm not buying. There is no acceptable argument by which we can say that St. Louis was better than Chicago in 1876.

And just when you think that analyzing 19th century numbers couldn't get any more complicated, I would say that we would have to take the live/dead ball issue into account when applying advanced metrics to the 1876 season. I guess you could treat it like park effects but it does have to be accounted for.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Most Lame And Impotent Conclusion

We are now informed by the New York Herald that the result of the season's playing among the base ball clubs will be decided at the December meeting of the League. This certainly sounds like a most lame and impotent conclusion to a season which started out with so much promise, and base ball must certainly be firmly anchored in the affections of the public if it can stand many such ordeals. A game in which the championship is decided, not by the games played and won, but by the financial condition of the clubs, is certainly a sporting novelty, and one not likely to seize the popular affection all at once. Better luck next year!
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 24, 1876

A game in which the championship is decided by the financial condition of the clubs...Sound like anything we know?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The 1876 Brown Stockings: The Last Box Score I Have

About 100 persons witnessed the game of ball played yesterday afternoon between the Browns and Reds of this city at Grand Avenue Park. The threatening weather doubtless kept a great many from attending. The game did not begin until 3:30, owing to the tardiness of one of the Browns' players. The playing on both sides was a great improvement over that of the day before. A change was made by both nines, Pearce playing instead of Cuthbert for the Browns, and Sullivan instead of Billy Gleason for the Reds. Up to the sixth inning the ponies led the score by three runs, but in the next the Browns got in four runs, two being earned; and as they presented lime to the Reds, they took the lead by one run, which they not only kept, but added another tally in the eighth inning to their side of the book. "Bad Dickey" got a bad "finger" put in him in the fifth inning while taking a red hot grounder from Morgan's bat. It will be seen, by glancing at the score, that the Reds made as many base hits as the Browns, but luck and the umpire seemed to be against them, and their sixth defeat at the hands of the Browns this season had to be chalked down. Although defeated, the Reds have nothing to be ashamed of over their performance yesterday. The pitching on both sides was very good, and both catchers did nobly. The Browns struck out six times, which shows that Galvin's red hot twisters were not easy to light on.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 22, 1876

The Browns may have played a few more exhibition games after this but I didn't find them. The Globe mentioned that the season in St. Louis officially came to a close on November 15, so there were likely more games. However, after this game, players such as Joe Battin started going back East for the off-season. So, for all intents and purposes, the Brown Stockings' 1876 season was over.