Sunday, February 13, 2011

Caruthers Is Not Happy

The day before the Browns left for the South, Mr. Von der Ahe was paying off his men. When it came Bob Caruthers' turn he took his check, but, on examining it, noticed that $110 had been deducted from it. On inquiry he found that he had been docked for the short rest he enjoyed during the summer, when he spent a few weeks at his home in Chicago. When told of the fact he became very angry and expressed himself in very free terms concerning the matter. As he turned to leave the office he said: "Remember this will be the last chance you will ever have to dock me. This will cost you about $8000." What the little twirler could have meant by the latter proposition it is hard to say, but it is certain that he left the city in no enviable frame of mind and not very kindly disposed towards the Browns' President.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 2, 1887

Just when you thought the 1887 season was over with, the Browns have another exhibition series to play. It seems that they had a series with the Chicagos after the world's series. They played one game in St. Louis (where it was very cold) before heading to Memphis and New Orleans.

The thing that strikes me the most about Caruthers' behavior is that he's acting like a guy who wants out. Regardless of who you are, it's not usually a good idea to get angry at your boss and express yourself in free terms. Nothing good ever comes of that. Caruthers probably knew that and didn't care. He wanted out of St. Louis and he was going to throw a fit until he got his way.

The reasons for the fire sale are myriad but one of the reasons is that some of the players were unhappy in St. Louis and had no problems expressing that unhappiness. It's also true that some of the players allowed their ego to get out of control to the point that the club was fed up with them. These things kind of go hand-in-hand and they accurately describe the Caruthers situation.


David Ball said...

What did Caruthers mean by saying the deduction would cost Von der Ahe $8,000? That was Caruthers' approximate value on the sales market, and the only sense I can make of the remark is that a sale was already in the works and Caruthers was threatening to torpedo it either by refusing to go along or by retiring altogether. He did make a lot of trouble in that direction when he finally was sold to Brooklyn and then held out for more money.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

The sense that I got was that Caruthers was making some kind of threat about retiring. Can't be certain but he probably had some kind of information about the possibility of a sale and was threatening to retire rather than let VdA sell him. That's the only thing I can think of that makes sense of Caruther's remarks.

David Ball said...

Now I find in my notes an item from a Sporting Life column by Joe Pritchard, the St. Louis correspondent, in which Pritchard tells the story of Caruthers $8,000 threat and then explains, “His meaning by that remark is very easily understood. He said at one time that he would pay $8,000 for his own release, but now he probably intends to quit the diamond and thereby keep Von der Ahe from realizing in the sale of his release.”

Caruthers family was in business and seems to have been relatively well off, although of course he may have exaggerated their circumstances to bolster his bargaining position. When he was maneuvering to get more money out of the sale, he talked a lot about going into business with his brother, and there was also a lot of byplay about how old Mrs. Caruthers was aghast at the thought of her young boy living in a wicked city like Brooklyn

I'm not making that up. There's an interesting parallel with the case of John Clarkson, the great Chicago pitcher, who around the same time was forcing a sale and insisted he was only doing it because her wife wanted to live closer to her family.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

That makes sense. I do remember something about Caruthers, at some time, trying to buy his release and arrange a sale with another team. And his family was wealthy. His mother was the heir of a Chicago real estate fortune so he probably could have gotten eight grand if he needed it.

I went back and checked my notes and found the source. The Chicago Daily Tribune reported on December 4, 1887 that Caruthers had offered VdA "$8500 for his release but failed to secure it."

So I guess there is no doubt that Caruthers wanted out of StL, was aggitating to get out and was willing to buy his way out. Given the circumstances, I think VdA did a good job getting the price he did for his disgruntled pitcher/outfielder.