Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Opening Day

This is usually one of my favorite days of the year. You have the start of the baseball season and, in St. Louis, we have the parade of players, the Clydesdales, Stan the Man and all the general festivities. It's like a holiday (and it should be a national holiday; we should all have the day off and watch a tripleheader).

But this year, I"m feeling a little ambivalent about the season. It just kind of snuck up on me this year and I'm not ready for it yet. Plus, it's not warm enough. And to top it all off, I think the Cards are in for a very rough year. They look like a .500 ball club to me-which means, of course, that they can finish anywhere between 75 and 90 wins. But I think the 75 is more likely than the 90.

Regardless, Carp takes the mound at 3:15. It's his sixth opening day start for the good guys. Go Cards.

Edit: It's just about 2:30, the festivities are about to begin and I take back all that nonsense about not being excited about the season starting. I've watched the Yankees/Tigers and Braves/Nationals already on and I'm ready for my boys to start the season. Go Cards!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The 1884 Maroons: I Will Have No Trouble In Getting A First Class Nine Together

The new base ball club is a fruitful theme of conversation in professional and amateur ball circles, and numerous calculations and predictions are being made as to the personnel of the nine that it will place in the field next season. As early as yesterday noon some of the gossipers had the team all figured out. Among the players that were named as sure to be in it, in fact, already engaged, were Mullane and Deasley, of the St. Louis Club; Purceil, of the Philadelphias; Holbert, of the Metropolitans, and Carroll, of the Providence. In order to get at the facts, a Globe-Democrat reporter called on Henry V. Lucas at his office yesterday afternoon. That gentleman, when advised of the reports that were in circulation, referred to the matter as follows:

"You can say that all reports to the effect that I have engaged any player for my club are without foundation. I have got ground for a base ball park, and that is as far as I have gone at present. As for engaging players, first of all, I would not think of such a thing without consulting the gentleman who are to be associated with me in the club. Then, again, I am not foolish enough to engage players who are under obligations to clubs in the League and American Associations, for if I do I know that I will have to assume their fights individually and collectively, and consequently have both associations arrayed against me. I shall have the best nine I can get, but will not disregard the rules of any association or ask any player to violate his obligations. My opinion is that there will be plenty of players, and good ones, too, in the market a month from now, and that I will have no trouble in getting a first class nine together. We won't be stingy about salaries if we can get the men we want, but if we can't do any better we will run with an amateur team next season. One thing is a certainty: the ground we have engaged is going to be used next season as a ball park, even if it has to be run on a 10 cent admission plan."
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 26, 1883

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The 1884 Maroons: The St. Louis Scheme

Henry V. Lucas and Ellis Wainwright, St. Louis capitalists, have rented a large plot of ground at Twenty-fifth and Biddle streets, and intend fitting it up for base ball purposes. Mr. Lucas said to-day that his grand stand alone would cost him $8,500, and that he intended putting a first-class team in the field. Flint, Williamson, and Gore, of the Chicago Club, are here and it is rumored that they have been negotiating with the management of the new club. Flint especially seems to be a warm friend with Mr. Lucas. It is said that Mullane and Deasley, of the present St. Louis Club, have been approached, and this is the reason they have not signed with the old organization. It is known that Purcell and three other players of the Philadelphia Club are going to "jump" that organization and go into the St. Louis scheme. It is also known that negotiations have been in progress with Keefe and Holbert, of the Metropolitan nine. The new club, it is said, will be a member of the new Union Association.
-New York Times, October 25, 1883

Monday, March 28, 2011

The 1884 Maroons: Two More Clubs Are Wanted

A meeting of the Union Association of base ball clubs was held at the Bingham House this afternoon. Representatives of clubs in Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Washington and St. Louis were present. H.B. Bennett, of Washington, D.C., the President of the association, presided. Applications for admittance into the association were received from Lancaster, Pa., New York City, Richmond, Va., and Kingston, N.Y. They were referred to the Board of Directors for action. two more clubs are wanted to make the number eight, but preferences will be given the Brooklyn and Indianapolis clubs, both of which have promised to enter this association, providing they can not get into the American Association. The feeling among the gentlemen present at the meeting seemed unanimous as to the advisability of carrying on the association, and on a suggestion made by one of the delegates, each representative of a club present turned in $100 to W. Warren White, of Washington, D.C., the Secretary and Treasurer of the association, as a guarantee of the good faith of his club. This puts $600 in the treasury. The Baltimore, Chicago, Pittsburg and Washington clubs have already signed a part of their players, and it was reported that twenty-five other players had applied for positions on the teams. It was unanimously voted to hold to their original action in ignoring the reserve rule, although the contracts of any League or American Association clubs are to be respected, and no players approached with inducements until the term of his engagement with the club with which he is playing has expired. The association will meet again at the Bingham House about the middle of December.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 21, 1883

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The 1884 Maroons: The UA Still Organizing

The Union Base Ball League has another meeting in New York next Tuesday.
-Cleveland Herald, September 21, 1883

A meeting of the Union Base Ball Association will be held at the Bingham House on Saturday next for the purpose of taking action on application for membership.
-The North American, October 17, 1883

Harold Seymour writes in Baseball: The Early Years that the Union Association was founded on September 12, 1883 and the article that I posted yesterday supports his claim. David Nemec, however, in The Beer & Whiskey League states that the UA was essentially put together in November of 1883 and its first meeting was on December 18. I don't believe that these two views are mutually exclusive.

The earliest evidence that I've seen regarding the organization of the UA dates to the middle of September, 1883 and, as I said, this supports Seymour's claim, which is repeated by Jon David Cash in Before They Were Cardinals. But while the original plan for the league may have been put in place in September, it's obvious that the formation of the league was an ongoing process and wasn't finished for some months.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The 1884 Maroons: The Union Ball League

The proposed new National base ball association, to be known as the Union Association, is attracting considerable attention throughout the country. It is claimed that it will consist of clubs from Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, Boston, Newark, N.J., and St. Louis, and that its abrogation of the reserve rule will be the means of breaking up the American Association and the League. Mr. Charles Mason, one of the owners of the Athletic Club, said to-day that he did not think the new association would succeed because there were no men of experience or prominence backing it, and because the tripartite associations were too strong to be hurt by the new organization. Secretary Williams agrees with Mason, and does not fear the Union Association. He says at their meeting representatives were present only from two or three cities, and that the talk of a club from Philadelphia entering the Union was absurd. He is sure Dan O'Leary, who already has his entire nine engaged for next year, will not risk anything in the new venture. He also believes that the Brooklyns will not enter.
-The Cleveland Herald, September 14, 1883

Friday, March 25, 2011

The 1884 Maroons: A First-Class Ball Club For Next Season

For some time past rumors of a new local base ball organization have been in circulation, but nothing beyond vague intimations of undefined efforts to revive the old Stocks Park as an active ball field came to the surface. That there were efforts in that direction is vouched for by persons who were solicited to interest themselves in the project. That they have been discontinued is quite probable from the fact that nothing has been heard of them recently. Another movement, and one of recent origin, has, however, assumed a tangible form, and the Globe-Democrat is able to state positively that a new base ball club, with wealthy and liberal backing, is assured, and a plot of ground, 500 by 400 feet, situated on the southeast corner of Jefferson avenue and Dayton street, has been secured as the field of its operations. The organization is not yet perfected, and will not be for a few weeks, but another month will see it established on a firm basis, and bidding for first-class talent. Mr. Henry V. Lucas and a number of other young men of means and enterprise will control the new organization.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, October 23, 1883

So this is where we begin with the story of the 1884 Maroons. However, this is not exactly where the story begins.

There is no way to tell this tale without going into the background of Henry Lucas and how he reached the point, in October of 1883, where he formed a new club and a new league. So I'll have to talk about that for a bit and get into how the Union Association came about before I can start talking about the Maroons' first season.

And fair warning to my regular, loyal, brilliant readers (both of you): some of the material I'm going to post will be stuff that has already appeared on the site. In the past, I've touched on a lot of this stuff but I think it'll be interesting to see it all laid out in a chronological order. So bear with me and hopefully, without to much muss and fuss, we'll quickly get to baseball action.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Some Final Thoughts On The Browns' 1887 Player Sales

The first thing I should mention is that I no longer know what to call the events that took place in the fall of 1887. I used to call it a fire sale but it really wasn't that. A fire sale implies that the seller is being forced to sell because of financial stress and that wasn't what these moves were about. So I've taken to generically calling it a players sale. That's esthetically unpleasing but more accurate. Regardless, what I want to do here is give a quick summary of what took place and then look at the reasons for why the sales happened.

By the time the 1887 world's championship series ended, it was clear that the Browns were going to make some changes to their roster for the 1888 season. There had been rumors going back to the summer that some players were unhappy and wanted out of St. Louis. The events surrounding the players' refusal to play the Cuban Giants damaged the relationship between players and management. Von der Ahe was disappointed in the performance of some of the players in the world's series loss. A few players complained about their world's series share and others felt unappreciated. Essentially, the relationship between management and some of the players had broken down. The egos of players who had won three consecutive championships and the egos of management were in conflict and it was evident by the time the season ended that some players were going to be sold.

On November 22, it was reported that Curt Welch and Bill Gleason had been sold to Philadelphia. On November 24, Charles Byrne stated that he had completed the purchase of Doc Bushong and, a day later, it was reported that St. Louis had sold Bob Caruthers to Brooklyn. On November 29, Dave Foutz was sold to Brooklyn. In eight days, Chris Von der Ahe had sold the rights to five of the core members of his championship club for approximately $21,000 and the rights to Fredd Mann, Chippy McGarr and Jocko Milligan.

I think that the conventional historical wisdom is that Von der Ahe made the moves for financial reasons and out of a general unhappiness with some of his players. Financially, the club had seen its profits decline from 1886 to 1887 and there were rumors that Von der Ahe was going to move the club to New York for the 1888 season. However, the club was profitable. Von der Ahe, himself, stated that his club never lost money except during the 1890 Players' Revolt. It's true that attendance had declined somewhat but the club had made money and there was no reason to believe that it wouldn't continue to do so in the future.

Money certainly played a role in the sales. But the reason the players were sold for cash is that that was the way players were moved from team to team during the era. The rights to players were sold, not traded for other players. Brooklyn could not obtain Caruthers, Foutz and Bushong without purchasing their rights from St. Louis. Money was the means by which player transactions were conducted. So if Von der Ahe wanted to move his players for reasons other than financial, he was still going to receive money for their rights.

I think that people saw the fact that the players were sold and the amount of money the Browns received and naturally believed that the transactions were financially motivated. I do believe that finances played a part in the sales. The Browns were a successful club with many star players and there was stress placed by the players on management to increase salaries. By moving many of his stars, Von der Ahe removed some of the financial stress on the club. By replacing those stars with younger and cheaper players, the Browns became more profitable. But I don't believe that the transactions were motivated specifically by the money the club was receiving in return for the players. There was a financial motive in moving the players but it's not the one that most people believe.

As to Von der Ahe's unhappiness with his players, that absolutely played a role in the transactions. He was not happy with the world's series loss and the play of some the players, specifically Gleason, during the series. He was not happy with the players' refusal to play the Cuban Giants. He was not happy with the constant complaints about salary. Von der Ahe was unhappy with some of the players and some of the players were unhappy with Von der Ahe. In the end, Von der Ahe owned the team and the players got shipped out. In this clash of egos, the owner won, as they tend to do.

However, there's another aspect of this which doesn't fit neatly into the story of Chris Von der Ahe the greedy and egomaniacal owner who dumped his stars for cash and that is the role of Charlie Comiskey in all of this. Comiskey, while a player, ran the club on the field and was, for all intents and purposes, a part of management. The extent to which Comiskey was involved in the management of the club as a whole has been overblown historically, as a slight to Von der Ahe, but he did play a role. He had, for the most part, a good relationship with Von der Ahe and the Browns' owner respected his captain as a person and a baseball man. So if club management was unhappy with some of the players and wanted to move them, I think a relevant question is to what extent was Comiskey, as a part of the management team, involved in the decision to the move the players?

The evidence is conflicting and doesn't lend itself to an easy answer. Contemporary accounts at the time the transactions were happening state that the moves came as a surprise to Comiskey and that he was unhappy with the moves. However, a few months later, it was reported that Comiskey had been unhappy with some of his players. He felt that their egos had gotten a bit too large, that they were no longer manageable and he wanted them gone. According to these accounts, Comiskey was the driving force behind the moves. While it's difficult to resolve the contradictions, I don't believe that the moves would have been made without Comiskey's knowledge and approval. There are reports that Von der Ahe had wanted to sell Latham in the fall of 1887 but Comiskey disapproved and the sale never went through. I believe that Comiskey's reported unhappiness in December of 1887 has to do with the sale of Foutz, specifically, rather than the sale of the players in general.

While there had been rumors that Foutz was going to be one of the players moved, after the Caruthers' sale, Von der Ahe stated that he was finished moving players. Less than a week later, Foutz was sold to Brooklyn. The reasons for the Foutz sale are, to me, obvious. After Caruthers was sold to Brooklyn, he refused to sign and presented the club with financial demands. When the club met those demands, Caruthers still refused to sign. At that point, the Foutz deal was made. I believe that Brooklyn went back to Von der Ahe and bought Foutz because it was not clear that they would be able to sign Caruthers. The Foutz deal was not part of the original plan and was made only after the Caruthers deal looked like it was falling through. I think this was the source of Comiskey's unhappiness. Losing Foutz left him with an unexpected hole in right field.

Regardless of Comiskey's specific role in the transactions and his level of approval for the moves, it's clear that the ego of management was one of the reasons for the sale of the players. But there are a couple of other reasons for the sales, one of which has been brought up by other historians and one which seems to always be overlooked.

One of the reasons for the sales which has been brought up in the past is that Von der Ahe was attempting to strengthen some of the other teams in the American Association and, by doing so, strengthen the league as a whole. As mentioned earlier, attendance in St. Louis was down in 1887. The reason for this, it appears, is due the uncompetitive nature of the AA race in 1887, when the Browns won the league by fourteen games. In 1885, the Browns won the league by sixteen games and, in 1886, they won by twelve games. The Browns were the class of the AA and had run away with the championship for three straight seasons. By 1887, a sense of boredom or inevitability may have set in among the St. Louis baseball fans and driven down attendance. By strengthening Brooklyn and Philadelphia, Von der Ahe may have hoped to create a more balanced league and a more exciting pennant race. Also, by strengthening those two specific clubs, he was making the league stronger in two of the most important baseball markets in the country. If this was one of the goals of the sales, and Byrnes stated that it was, Von der Ahe succeeded to a certain extent. In 1888, the Browns still won the pennant but by only six and a half games. Brooklyn and Philadelphia finished second and third, respectively. In 1889, the AA experienced one of the great pennant races in baseball history with Brooklyn winning the pennant by two games over St. Louis and Philadelphia finishing a distant third. Von der Ahe, through his moves, strengthened the league in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, got a more competitive league and his club remained profitable. If these were indeed the motivating factors for the sales then Von der Ahe's moves succeeded.

The one thing that always gets overlooked when the sales are discussed is the possibility that the moves were made for pure baseball reasons. Doc Bushong was being phased out as the starting catcher in 1887 and the club had Jack Boyle to replace him. Bill Gleason had his worst year as a professional in 1887 and was in permanent decline. Curt Welch had a poor year at the plate that season and was a drunk. Both he and Gleason had been involved in altercations with their teammates, effecting the chemistry of the club. Dave Foutz had suffered a thumb injury to his throwing hand and it was unknown if he would ever be an effective pitcher again. Comiskey held to a theory of pitching that believed that pitchers, after a few years of hard use, quickly lost their effectiveness. He had ridden Caruthers and Foutz hard for several seasons and the club had good, young pitching in reserve so the Browns' two star pitchers were replaceable.

The Browns had an abundance of young talent and Von der Ahe, in the fall of 1887, was gathering more. They had Silver King and Nat Hudson on the mound and bought Icebox Chamberlain, giving Comiskey three pitchers who were twenty years old or younger. They had Jack Boyle, who was 22. They picked up the young Tommy McCarthy and had the players they obtained from Philadelphia. On top of that, Von der Ahe was putting together the St. Louis Whites and stocking the club with guys like Jake Beckley, Jack Crooks, Jim Devlin, Harry Staley and Joseph Herr. If you consider the Whites to be a farm club for the Browns, Von der Ahe's AA team was loaded with young talent and could afford to cycle out older stars. By selling some of the older guys, the Browns got younger and the payroll got smaller, without much of a loss in quality. By making these moves, the Browns remained a competitive club through the 1891 season. It's not certain that if they had kept Caruthers, Foutz, Welch, Bushong and Gleason, the club would have been anymore successful. That has to be the bottom line. The Browns, through these sales, got younger and cheaper and remained successful for four more seasons.

One could make the argument that if Von der Ahe had continued his experiment in farming players with the Whites, the club would have remained competitive throughout the 1890s. For some reason, it appears that, within a historical context, the player sales and the collapse of the club in the 1890s are linked, the common thread being Von der Ahe's suppossed mismangement of the team. Obviously, the two events have nothing to do with each other and it's interesting to consider how Von der Ahe's legacy would be different if he had continued operating the Whites and phased in their young players in the early 1890s.

In the end, there is no one reason for why the sales took place. It was a complicated series of transactions that involved multiple motives and I don't think it's possible to explain them in one simple sentance. It's wrong to say that Von der Ahe sold off his players for the money but money was one of the motivating factors. The players were also sold because Von der Ahe was attempting to manage not only his own club but also because he was involved in the management of the American Association as a whole. Where there altruistic reasons behind the sale? Sure. Von der Ahe was trying to strengthen the league so that it could succeed but, at the same time, it was selfish in that by strengthening the league, Von der Ahe strengthened his own position. The club, on the field, was strengthened in the long term by these moves and, in the short term, they rid themselves of some of the more egotistical, problem players. All of these motives came together in the fall of 1887 and led to the sales.

One point that I think is important to make is that if you look at all the things motivating Von der Ahe in the fall of 1887, the player sales were a success. The club won the championship in 1888. They continued to be profitable. There were more competitive pennant races. The club got younger. The payroll went down. They shipped out some, if not all, of the problem players. The AA was strengthened by having two good clubs in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. These transactions have historically been portrayed negatively and Von der Ahe criticized for them. But the club was successful until they moved to the National League in 1892, which probably says more about the comparative quality of the AA and the NL than it does about Von der Ahe's management of the club in the late 1880s and early 1890s. The sales were a bold move and I think they worked. I think they achieved every imaginable thing that you could possibly have wanted them to achieve. Instead of viewing them as a negative product of Von der Ahe's baseball management, they should be seen as a daring, unconventional and successful move by one of the great figures of 19th century baseball.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Did Sweasy End Up In St. Louis?

The St. Louis base ball nine for 1875 will be composed as follows:-Catcher, Miller, of Easton, Pennsylvania; pitcher, Bradley, Easton; short stop, Pearce, Atlantic; first base, Dehlman, Atlantic; second base, Battin, Athletic; third base, Fleet, Atlantic; right field, Waite, Easton; center field, Pike, Hartford; left field, Cuthbert, Chicago; substitute, Sweasy. The men will rendezvous in St. Louis, January 1, 1875, and will go into winter training after the Boston fashion, at the Missouri gymnasium, in St. Charles street.
-Hartford Daily Courant, November 23, 1874

The question of how Charlie Sweasy ended up in St. Louis, playing for the Reds, is one that has bothered me for many years now. It's rather frustrating that I've never found the answer because I'm sure it's not that hard to find.

The Reds were, for the most part, made up of St. Louis players who had been with the club in 1874 and the core of the team had been together for two years. Sweasy arrived in St. Louis around April 12 and, according to the Chicago Tribune, he was "engaged to Captain and steady" the young Reds. What I don't know is when the Reds contacted Sweasy and why Sweasy agreed to play with the club.

The above article sheds some light on the question. It appears that the Browns Stockings, as they were putting their club together in the fall of 1874, had some interest in Sweasy and may have contacted him about coming to St. Louis. So it's the Brown Stockings who probably first gave Sweasy the idea of coming to St. Louis to play baseball. It's also probable that after the Brown Stockings passed on the second baseman, the Reds picked up the idea of bringing Sweasy in.

This is all rather speculative and based on scant evidence but it's the best explanation of why Sweasy was playing for the Reds in 1875 that I've yet to see.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Rent's Due

Miss Mary E. Boyce began an attachment suit in the Circuit Court yesterday against Wm. Stromberg, late President of the Maroons Base Ball Club, for the purpose of recovering $450, money due for the rent of the grounds on the corner of Cass and Jefferson avenues.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 1, 1887

A couple of weeks ago, I was in North St. Louis, driving down Grand Avenue. I realized, rather quickly, that I was in an area where a lot of the old ballparks had been. I actually drove right past where the Grand Avenue Grounds had stood and turned off to get to Illinois at the old Fairgrounds, where the Cyclone/Morning Star match was played. I also passed within a few blocks of the Union Grounds at Cass and Jefferson and of the site of New Sportsman's Park on Vandeventer and Natural Bridge.

One of these days, I need to take a camera up to the area and get pictures of all of these sites. That would make for a nice post.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Game Called On Account Of The Arrival Of The Boat

Notwithstanding the extreme warm weather and the short announcement given that a match game of base ball was to be played on Alstyne's prairie yesterday afternoon, a large crowd of spectators assembled to see the sport. The game was between the Nationals of St. Louis and Occidentals of [Quincy.] At 4 1/4 o'clock, the game was called. Mr. Rod Gurley, having been chosen as umpire. The O's were again lucky, won the "toss up" and took the field. In the first inning the St. Louis boys succeeded in getting in two runs, while in the third they made but one. The O's were "whitewashed" nicely the first two innings, but in the first half of the third they got down to their work bravely and sent their opponents to the field with a blank. In this inning the O's did their best batting, and scored three runs, the game then standing 3 to 3, which made it exceedingly interesting. As the N's were to leave on the down boat, the 4th inning was announced as the last. The excitement at this stage consequently increased. In this inning the N's made two runs, while the O's got in but one, when the N's gave up the game on account of the arrival of the boat, leaving the Quincy boys with only one man out. The Nationals are a strong nine, but we are of the opinion that the Occidentals are more than a match for them in a full game. The game was decided a draw.
-Quincy Daily Herald, July 7, 1874

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I have a busy weekend planned. While I actually have the entire weekend off of work, I have a wedding to go to and there's this basketball tournament going on that's taking up a lot of my time. So I haven't written the final post on the 1887 player's sale. I'm going to post some random stuff from my notes over the next few days, just to clear that stuff out. Then hopefully, by the middle of next week, I'll write something wrapping up the sale. I'm sure I'll have very little of interest to say.

Anyway, my point here is that I'm pretty sure that I'm going to cover the Maroons' 1884 season next. I'm not certain how far back I'll go. But I guess I have to cover the creation of the Union Association before I get to the games.

I'm a bit tired of the Browns and I'm going to pass on going over the 1888 world's series for now. Maybe I'll come back to it after I finish with the Maroons.

So that's the plan. And now I have to get back to watching some basketball.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Our Long National Nightmare Is Over

The sensational deal by which Bob Caruthers was transferred from the Browns to Brooklyn was completed yesterday when Caruthers placed his name to a Brooklyn contract for 1888. Joe Pritchard, as stated in yesterday's Globe-Democrat, left Monday night for Chicago and signed the Parisian twirler in his home yesterday. The following telegram received last night explains itself:

Signed Caruthers for Brooklyn to-day. Leave for Milwaukee to-night.

Joe Pritchard.

Just what Pritchard went to Milwaukee for it is not known, but he is probably after another player for Mr. Byrnes. The conditions of Caruthers' contract are $5000, with $1000 in advance. It is also stated in the contract that, in the event of Bob laying off for sickness or injury, he is not to be docked. Bob likes to take a rest each summer but does not like for his salary to be stopped while he is enjoying the peace and quiet of home life.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 14, 1888

And with that, we're finished with the Browns' player sales of 1887. All the players have been sold, all the players have been signed, Von der Ahe is off to Europe and the Browns are still in California playing an occasional game. I'll have some kind of a wrap up tomorrow and then it's one to other things.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Love This

Towards the end of December 1887, Von der Ahe left the United States for a vacation in Europe. He was in Philadelphia and was interviewed for an article in the Globe-Democrat that was published on December 20. He talked up the Browns and their chances for the 1888 pennant. My favorite part of the interview was the end:

"Where will Brooklyn finish in 1888?"

"Why, behind St. Louis."

I just thought that was great.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Caruthers Has A New Demand

Joe Pritchard left last night for Chicago, and the chances are that ere night Caruthers will have placed his name to a Brooklyn contract for 1888. Pritchard never returned the $1000 advance received from the Brooklyn people, and he carries it to Chicago to hand to Bob as soon as he signs. Caruthers will receive $5000, the largest salary ever paid to a ball player, and will be a veritable king pin next season. He wants a provision put into his contract that in case of illness he must not be docked. He is evidently preparing himself for the annual rest which he enjoys at his Chicago home about the middle of each summer.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 13, 1887

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Caruthers Vs. Foutz

For years, I've gone round and round regarding the question of who was the better player: Bob Caruthers or Dave Foutz? I've argued on numerous occasions that the two were reasonably equal as players but I believe that the general consensus is that Caruthers was better. Having listened to some rather intelligent people putting forth logical arguments, I came to accept the conventional wisdom to a certain extent. However, I'm back again in the muddy waters of indecision. It's a fantastic question that can be sliced up many different ways and I think the answer to the question depends on which question you ask.

Complicating the matter is the nature of the two men's careers. They were pitchers who also hit well enough to play everyday in the field. Baseball-Reference actually considers Foutz to be a hitter rather than a pitcher. For whatever reason, I view both as pitchers or, more specifically, as pitcher/outfielders. And even that's not totally accurate as Foutz played more games at first base then he did in the outfield. So I guess the most accurate description of Foutz would be that he was a pitcher/first baseman/outfielder or a first baseman/outfielder/pitcher. Caruthers can be described, without complicating things, as a pitcher/outfielder. Regardless, when looking at the two men, you have to take into account not just their pitching but also their hitting, fielding and base running. These men were complete ballplayers who succeeded at all aspects of the game.

The other problem when comparing Caruthers and Foutz is the difference in the lengths of their careers. Foutz had a much longer career than did Caruthers. Foutz played in 1168 games while Caruthers played in only 728. This is a substantial difference. However, their careers were not constructed in exactly the same manner. Caruthers pitched in 340 games and Foutz in 251. The difference in the length of their careers comes mostly from the time Foutz spent as a full time first baseman with Brooklyn. So while Caruthers pitched in almost a hundred more games than Foutz, Foutz had two thousand more at bats than Caruthers.

I tend to see the two players as being very similar and I think that others do as well. This leads to a natural comparison of the two. But were they really that similar? They were both baseball players who played for St. Louis and Brooklyn. They were both pitchers who, at times, played other positions. They were both well-rounded players. But leaving out the teams they played for, that describes any number of players. It describes Babe Ruth. It describes Rick Ankiel. I don't feel the need to compare Ruth and Ankiel but it's a natural inclination to compare Caruthers and Foutz.

But I think that there are more differences between the two men than similarities. Caruthers was a small man, standing five foot seven and weighing around one hundred and forty pounds. Foutz was tall and thin, at six foot two and one hundred and sixty pounds. If the two were standing side by side, you would never mistake one for the other.

There are other differences. Foutz was older than Caruthers by about seven years. Caruthers reached the major leagues by the age of 20 while Foutz didn't join the Browns until he was 27. Caruthers was, to put it as nicely as possible, sometimes difficult to deal with while I've never read anything about Foutz being much of a problem. Caruthers came from money. I don't know a lot about Foutz's personal life but considering that he spent time working in a gold mine as a young man, I doubt his family had a lot of money. The two men seemed to have led very different lives and to have had very different personalities.

And, as I've already mentioned, while their baseball careers seem superficially similar, they really had very different careers. Foutz suffered a hand injury in 1887 that essentially ended his time as a pitcher and forced his move to the field. Caruthers career was extraordinarily short but, with the exception of his final full season in 1892, he was a pitcher who played in the field when not pitching. While that describes Foutz at the beginning of his career, after 1887, he was really a first baseman. Again, we see more differences than similarities.

But we tend to focus on the ways in which they were alike. They were teammates for eight years. They both pitched. They both could hit. They both could play the field. They were both key contributors for several championship teams. And they were two of the best players in the history of 19th century baseball. So we find it natural to compare Bob Caruthers and Dave Foutz and to link the two in our minds.

However, the question at hand is who was better?

I. Caruthers vs. Foutz as Pitchers

On the surface, this doesn't seem to be close. Caruthers appears to have been a much better pitcher than Foutz, over the course of their careers.

Caruthers pitched over 2828 innings in nine seasons (and 2645 innings in seven seasons) while Foutz only threw 1997 innings in eleven seasons. However, Foutz threw 1835 of those innings in only six seasons, for an average of 306 innings pitched per season. Caruthers, throwing out his first and last seasons, threw 378 innings per season. That's a substantial difference but not as great as one would think, looking at their raw IP data.

Caruthers had 52.6 WAR for his career as a pitcher and Foutz 30. Again, this is a significant difference. At his peak, Caruthers had 10.9, 9.6, 8.3, 6.8 and 10.3 wins above replacement. Foutz, during his pitching peak, had seasons of 3.0, 6.2, 12.3, 3.9 and 2.5 WAR. Caruthers was a more valuable pitcher than Foutz every season of their peaks, except for 1886 when Foutz had his monster season.

Looking at other numbers muddies the waters somewhat. Foutz has a better FIP than Caruthers, 3.69 versus 3.88, and I find that rather odd. Foutz struck out more batters and gave up fewer homers than Caruthers but Parisian Bob walked fewer batters. They played in front of the same defense for most of their careers and this was the 19th century, when you didn't have a lot of walks, strikeouts and home runs (relatively speaking), so I didn't expect such a big difference in their FIP numbers. Maybe because there are few walks, strikeouts and home runs, any difference in the numbers will have a greater effect on FIP. Regardless, this tells us that Foutz may have been a more effective pitcher than Caruthers, independent of the defense they played in front of.

If you look at ERA+, the two men are dead even. Caruthers has a career ERA+ of 123 and Foutz of 124. I'm not certain how much that really means but I think it's more evidence that Foutz was just as effective a pitcher as Caruthers.

Just for fun, I'll give you their career winning percentages. Dave Foutz has a career winning percentage of .690 and Bob Caruthers of .688. They rank tied for third and fifth, respectively, on the all-time list. Now that tells us that they played for good pitchers who played for good teams for most of their career but I think it also tells us something else. It again shows that that they were about equally as effective as pitchers in that neither, while playing with the same clubs, were able to raise the winning percentage of their club much higher than the other could.

Caruthers was the more valuable pitcher but almost all of his value comes from his ability to throw more innings than Foutz. At his peak, Caruthers started 228 games (completing all but eight) while Foutz started 185 (completing all but ten). If we accept the idea that the two were equally effective as pitchers, the fact that Caruthers remained healthier than Foutz and pitched more is significant. Foutz may have been just as good a pitcher as Caruthers but Caruthers was able to utilize his pitching skills more often than Foutz and therefore had more value.

In the end, I don't think it's accurate to say that Caruthers was a better pitcher than Foutz but it is a fact that he was the more valuable pitcher.

II. Caruthers vs. Foutz as Hitters

Both Caruthers and Foutz were outstanding hitters who were good enough at the bat to play everyday for multiple championship clubs. When I started looking at this, I figured that this is where Foutz would make up some ground on Caruthers. While both were fine hitters, Foutz essentially had a second career as a full time first baseman. I thought that the runs that Foutz created with his bat in the second half of his career would erase, to some extent, the advantage that Caruthers had as a pitcher. Since Caruthers only real advantage as a pitcher was his durability, it made sense that Foutz's ability to continue to play and rack up at bats after Caruthers was retired would help erase the gap between the two. However, that's not what I find.

There is simply no way to argue that Foutz was a better hitter than Caruthers. Let me that another way: looking at any imaginable metric, Caruthers was simply a much better hitter than Foutz.

In 2906 plate appearences, Caruthers accumulated 18.8 WAR. In 4859 PA, Foutz accumulated 18.1. Caruthers was more productive than Foutz while using 2000 fewer PA. However, WAR includes base running and defense, which we'll look at in the next section. If we take that out and just look at their productivity as hitters, the difference between the two becomes clearer.

Looking at their weighted on base average, Caruthers had a career wOBA of .380 while Foutz's was .332. At his peak, Caruthers was putting up a wOBA of .453, .464, .317, .381 and .371. Foutz's peak wOBA was .400, .319, .352, .384 and .330. Caruthers simply got on base more and had more power than Foutz did. You can take a quick glance at their OPS+ and see this. Caruther's career OPS+ was 133 and Foutz's was 102.

Batting Runs shows the same thing. Caruthers put up 166 Batting Runs over his career while Foutz put up only 64. The large difference there comes not only from Caruthers being a better hitter but also from Foutz being a below replacement level hitter over the last 1800 plate appearances of his career. You can see that in his career OPS+, which shows Foutz to have been basically a league average hitter over the course of his career.

Of course, Foutz really wasn't a league average hitter. At his peak, he was an outstanding hitter and put up Batting Runs of 4, 31, 16, 26 and 38 before he stopped hitting in 1891. But Caruthers, during his peak, put up 47, 51, 9, 15 and 15.

Foutz was a good hitter. He finished in the top ten in batting average once, on base percentage once, slugging percentage twice, OPS once, hits once, total bases twice, double twice, triples twice, RBI four times and extra base hits twice. That's a good career with the bat. Caruthers was just better. He finished in the top five in batting average twice, in the top ten in on base percentage three times (leading the league in 1885), finished second in slugging percentage twice and he led the league in OPS in 1886 and finished third in OPS in 1887. He also finished in the top ten in home runs twice, triples once and walks three times.

Foutz had the opportunity, with his extra 2000 at bats, to erase the difference between he and Caruthers. Caruthers was a better hitter at his peak but Foutz had the opportunity to put up a better career as a hitter. He simply failed to do so. Beginning in 1891, Foutz was a below replacement level hitter every season until he retired in 1896. That's a full 1800 plate appearances as a below replacement level hitter. He didn't get much value at of those PA's and put up -46 Batting Runs over the period. Dave Foutz the manager should have benched Dave Foutz the player and given those PA's to a more productive hitter.

III. Defense and Baserunning

This is the one area where Foutz beats Caruthers hands down.

The modern metrics show that Foutz was a better base runner and better defensively than Caruthers. Foutz, for his career, had 11 Baserunning Runs and a TZ rating of 10. Caruthers was -8 and -19 respectively.

And please don't ask me to explain Baserunning runs and TotalZone. I have a basic understanding of what they mean but I couldn't explain how they're calculated. Also, there are probably some problems with calculating this for 19th century players due to a lack of data. But, regardless, I'm going with the numbers and saying Foutz was a much better defensive player and base runner than Caruthers.

IV. Miscellanea

A few items that I think should be mentioned:

-Caruthers was a bit of a jerk. The way he left the Browns in 1887 didn't exactly cover him in glory and there's the whole fake trip to Paris thing. Foutz may have been a jerk but I haven't seen much evidence of it (at least during his St. Louis days). Al Spink wrote that Foutz was "a thoroughly gentlemanly player" and that "no one saw him lose his temper or heard him speak a harsh word..."

-Foutz was a better manager than Caruthers. Foutz managed Brooklyn for four years and had a 264-257 record. He wasn't exactly John McGraw but he wasn't bad. Caruthers managed the Browns in 1892 for 50 games. He won 16 and lost 32. At some point, I'll have to post something on Caruthers' return to the Browns and his adventures in management. I'm certain it'll be interesting.

-The two men were teammates for eight years and played on five championship clubs.

-Neither are in the Hall of Fame, although I think there is some consensous that Caruthers is one of the best 19th century players outside the Hall. I'd put them both in.

-Spink mention in The National Game that Foutz was the tallest pitcher of his day. Don't know if that's true but I thought I'd mention it.

-Both Caruthers and Foutz were right-handed pitchers. Foutz also hit right but Caruthers batted left-handed.

V. Conclusion

I don't think there's any doubt that Caruthers was a better baseball player than Foutz. At his peak and over the course of his career, he was a better pitcher and a better hitter. Foutz may have been a better base runner, defender, manager and teammate but that's not nearly enough to make up for Caruthers' advantages at bat and on the mound.

If you had to choose one, I think you have to take Caruthers. Chris Von der Ahe essentially said as much when, talking about the player sales that included Caruthers and Foutz, he said "(The) only man I regret losing is Caruthers."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Foutz Signs With Brooklyn

David Foutz, of the St. Louis Browns, has signed a contract to play with the Brooklyn club next season.
-Atchison Daily Champion, December 8, 1887

Just a quick post today, noting the fact that Foutz signed with Brooklyn. And that, at this point, Caruthers still had not.

Tomorrow, I'll have the long awaited and much overdo Caruthers vs. Foutz post.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dave Foutz=Roy Oswalt

Foutz, it appears, is to play first base for the Brooklyns. He has for a year or so wanted to get out of pitching and go to playing either at first base or in the outfield, and it is probable he has talked over the matter with Manager Byrne.
-Milwaukee Sentinel, December 5, 1888

This is not entirely accurate. Foutz played 78 games in the outfield in 1888 and only 42 at first. He pitched in 23 games and, despite the arm injury, was rather effective. But the general point is true. Foutz was on his way to transitioning from being a pitcher/outfielder to being a first baseman.

Foutz just has the strangest stats and it's tough to make sense of them. In the next couple of days, I'm going to write up something comparing Foutz and Caruthers and I'll try to sort out the weirdness. But I'll leave you with this: according to B-Ref, the most similar pitcher to Dave Foutz is Dizzy Dean. The fifth most similar pitcher is Roy Oswalt, which makes absolutely perfect sense to me in a way that I don't think I can really explain. But on a gut level, it just seems right. Roy Oswalt is Dave Foutz without the bat.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Comiskey Is Very Sore

George Munson, the Browns' Secretary, returned from the Pacific Coast yesterday morning. Mr. Munson combined pleasure with business, and made the trip his wedding tour. He was asked last night in regard to the feelings of Foutz, Bushong and Welch at leaving St. Louis. He declared that all regretted leaving here where they had helped win so many championships, although each would receive quite an advance in salary. Comiskey is very sore over the release of his men and thinks it rather hard that he should be compelled to fight with raw material next season. Bushong will soon leave the coast to come to St. Louis and sell the house which he owns. He will then take up a permanent residence in Brooklyn.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 6, 1887

This report of Comiskey's take on the sales is rather significant. My understanding, which I think is based on G.W. Axelson's book, was that Comiskey believed that some of the players were causing problems in the clubhouse and that their egos were getting out of control. Therefore, he was supportive of the moves. He absolutely did not say anything negative about the moves in the book. However, based on Munson's observations, Comiskey was not at all happy with the moves.

The other thing that should be noted here is that Comiskey had no hand in the moves. It's largely assumed that Comiskey was the baseball brains behind the Browns' operation and while I'm sure he had some input and his opinion was valued, it's obvious that Von der Ahe ran the club. This is a point that I've made numerous times but it never hurts to beat a dead horse a bit more.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Von der Ahe On Caruthers, Foutz, the Whites And The Browns Chances In 1888

"Can you confirm the sale of Foutz?"
"I can. Foutz has been signed by Brooklyn already. The price paid for him was even more than the $5000 first published."

"How do you feel over the sale of your players?"

"Well, the only man I regret losing is Caruthers. He is a great ball player, but very stubborn and hard to manage..."

"Do you still think that the Browns are as strong as ever?"

"I think they are stronger and will again win the pennant. I do not say this for a boast, but I mean every word of it."
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 4, 1887

This was part of an interview that Von der Ahe gave just before he left for the annual league meeting. One of the interesting things that he said was in response to the reporters question about the possibility of raising ticket prices to 50 cents. Von der Ahe said that he was in favor of raising ticket prices (naturally) and that, if prices were raised, fans in St. Louis would still have the option of seeing his new Western League club, the Whites, for 25 cents. This probably explains why the Whites lost money. If tickets to see both clubs were 25 cents in 1888, why would anyone pay to see the Whites when you could see the Browns for the same price?

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Boy's Best Friend Is His Mother

[From the Chicago Tribune, December 3.]

Robert L. Caruthers, the famous pitcher of the St. Louis Browns, for whose services next season the Brooklyn and Cincinnati clubs of the American Association have been having an active struggle, supported by offers of $10,000 for his release and $5000 salary by each, arrived home yesterday morning. He looks well, and, notwithstanding his sickness during the summer, appears improved by the season's campaign. A Tribune reporter found him at his mother's residence, No. 530 La Salle avenue, last night. His mother, who is opposed to his playing ball, does not like to talk about the game. When she met him yesterday morning the first question she asked was: "Have you signed a contract to play ball next season, Robert?"

"No, mother, I have not, but I would have if you had not sent me those three telegrams not to," was the reply. This was all the talk they had on base ball during the day.

"I have got my son home and I want to keep him here," said Mrs. Caruthers to the reporter. "I don't want him to play ball, and don't care for the salary he gets or is offered. He does not need the salary, and the only reason he plays is because he likes the game. What I dislike the most is that it keeps him away from home through the whole season. I sent him to Europe to keep him from playing ball, and he came back, and now I have induced him to go into business with his brother James, and I hope he will stick to business and let ball alone. I have never seen a game of base ball, and will not go to see one as long as he is connected with the game. I want to go to California this winter and would like to take him with me, but we won't go together unless he will agree not to play ball while there. He telegraphed me from New Orleans asking permission to go to California, and I answered that I wanted him to come home. During the last two weeks I have received telegrams from base ball presidents and their agents, but paid no attention to any of them. I didn't even answer them. Some of them have sent word that they are coming here. I don't want a single one of them near this house, and will not let them in if I find out their business before they get inside the door. Von der Ahe called here a few times, and we treated him very nicely, and after all he took $100 out of Bobby's salary because he didn't stay in bed all the time when he was sent home sick from Philadelphia. That provoked me, for I coaxed Bob to get up and move around in the fresh air. Why, he knows Bob is not well at any time. Over three years ago Bob had the pneumonia, and since then he has been unable to rest on his right side. We have to build up his bed so that he can lie on his left side and rest easy."
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 4, 1887

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bob Caruthers, Prince Of Denmark

Bob Caruthers left for Chicago last night. He said yesterday that he positively would not play in St. Louis next season, and if he played ball at all it would be with Brooklyn. He liked the idea of playing in Brooklyn, and, as his price had been accepted, he would sign there if he could persuade his mother to give her consent. With reference to Von der ahe's assertion that he would not play except at the Brown's manager figures, Caruthers grew very warm. He said that Von der Ahe was playing a "bluff game" with him, and it wouldn't work. He liked St. Louis and her people, but he hated Chris' methods, and would not work under him if he could help it. He did not have to play ball at all and would just as soon retire as not. "If Von der Ahe attempts to make me play ball in St. Louis," said he, "and I want to go to Brooklyn, I will make Mr. Von der Ahe release me or I will get a salary of $5000 here, the same as I have been offered in Brooklyn and Cincinnati. Von der Ahe has already turned my release over to Brooklyn, I am satisfied of this...Pritchard has been after me all day to telegraph Byrne that I accept his $5000 offer. If I did so they would pull the release on me and I would be as good as signed to the New York club. There is plenty of time yet for me to decide what I will do next year. It may interfere somewhat with Mr. Von der Ahe's arrangements if I do not sign with anybody until the last day in the spring, but no matter, it will give me the privilege of saying my soul is my own for a little while at least.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, December 1, 1887

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Union Park Lies In Shambles

The old home of the ex-champions of the Union Association looks desolate and forlorn nowadays. The late storms have played sad havoc out there. The fence on the Cass avenue side has blown down for a distance of 40 feet, and every one is free to use the grounds. The field is cut to pieces and the cinder track, on which so many great struggles have taken place, is washing away through want of care. It is indeed unfortunate that the property is so tied up in litigation that it can not be preserved. The grounds can be leased if the party who wants it will pay $4000 a year rent, $1600 back rent and liquidate a mortgage of $900. Every one who touches the property seems to have bad luck.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 30, 1887

This is the ballpark that was once referred to as "The Palace Park of America."

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

He Will Sign With Brooklyn

Bob Caruthers failed to leave for home last night, notwithstanding his reiterated assertion that he would do so. He now states that he will positively leave for Chicago to-night. He seems to have changed his mind in regard to Brooklyn, and said last night that he would just as soon play in Brooklyn as not, although his offer from Cincinnati was a better one. He states that when he arrives home he will go to work, and his office hours will be from 8 to 5. The outcome of the matter will be that he will sign with Brooklyn, but not until late in the spring.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 30, 1887

Since I just argued that the reason Foutz was sold to Brooklyn was because Caruthers refused to sign, would it be weird if I now argued that the reason Caruthers suddenly changed his tune was because Foutz had just been sold to Brooklyn?

I don't have the source for this and it may be something that I'm just making up but I don't believe that the two men had the best relationship. That Browns' clubhouse doesn't seem to have been the closest and it just seems that it would be within the character of the two men not to get along. I don't know but the idea that Foutz and Caruthers didn't like each other is something rattling around the back of my head.

And if that's true, how likely would it be that Caruthers would want to sign with Brooklyn after they just picked up Foutz? Would he sign just out of spite? I can see Caruthers, thinking he had played everything perectly, suddenly very upset that Brooklyn had bought Foutz. He would sign and show them that he couldn't be replaced by the likes of Dave Foutz.

Honestly, I don't even know what I'm arguing anymore. All I know is that trying to get into Bob Caruthers' head is very tiring.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Foutz Sold To Brooklyn

Notwithstanding Mr. Von der ahe's assertion that he had no more players for sale, he has all but made arrangements for the transfer of Foutz to Brooklyn, receiving $5000 in return. The transfer of Foutz confirms the opinion that Mr. Von der Ahe is financially interested in the Brooklyn team. The negotiations for Foutz have been of recent date, and were probably commenced as soon as Byrne saw that Caruthers was likely to slip from his grasp. This makes the third player released to Brooklyn, but Foutz's loss will be little felt. He is no good as a pitcher and is a good fielder. His only redeeming feature is his batting. When questioned in regard to the matter, Mr. Von der Ahe stated that he would receive no players in exchange for Foutz. The consideration was purely a monetary one. Should the lean pitcher recover the use of his arm he may be a valuable man next year, but his arm has commenced to draw up like Charley Sweeney's did, and it is probably lost.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 30, 1887

The sale of Foutz shouldn't have come as a surprise. It was reported in the Globe on November 13 that he would probably be sold and it was reported on the November 20 that he was "anxious to get away" from the Browns. However, on November 26, Von der Ahe stated in an interview that "I have no more players for sale" and that he was going to retain Foutz for the Browns. So while Foutz was one of the players who wanted out and there were rumors that he was going to be sold, it appeared, after the Caruthers sale, that Foutz was going to remain a Brown.

So what happened? Given the timing, it does appear that Foutz was sold to Brooklyn after it appeared that they wouldn't be able to sign Caruthers.

Caruthers was sold to Brooklyn on November 24 and was expected to sign a contract the next day. But that didn't happen. He held out for either a higher salary or a larger piece of the sale price. Brooklyn finally gave in to his demands on November 28 and thought they had a deal. At that point, even after all his demands had been met, Caruthers stated that he couldn't sign without the consent of his family, who promptly told him not to sign. He also mentioned that if he was going to sign at all, it would probably be in Cincinnati. Brooklyn was getting the run around and was no closer to signing Caruthers than it had been at the beginning of the process.

I find it completely believable that, at that point, Brooklyn went back to Von der Ahe and told him that they couldn't sign Caruthers and wanted their other pitcher/outfielder. The sale happened quickly because they had already talked about the possibility of Foutz a couple of weeks earlier. The groundwork for the deal had already been laid and they were able to get it done in twenty-four hours.

This seems to me the most logical explanation for why Foutz was sold to Brooklyn.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Subjecting Her To Indignity

Ella D. Latham was awarded a divorce from Walter A. Latham, the base ball player. Mrs. Latham testified that she married her husband June 14, 1886; that shortly afterward, at Baltimore, Md., he knocked her down without provocation. Subsequently, in St. Louis, because she refused to submit to the gratification of unnatural desires he beat her so that she was confined to her room for several days. On another occasion, after she had retired to bed, he brought a man into her room, thereby subjecting her to indignity. On February 26 last, at Lynn, Mass., he struck and beat her and attempted to choke her, and on May 12 last he knocked her down on the street; and that he wholly failed to contribute anything toward her support. She was restored to her maiden name of Garvin.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 29, 1887

I know that I posted some stuff about Latham's domestic troubles before but this article goes into much more detail than anything I've read on the subject. This kind of stuff makes Latham rather unlikable but it's interesting how the historical image of Latham overwhelms the fact that he beat his wife. I knew this stuff and other negative information about him but I just think of Latham as a mouthy, scrappy ballplayer because that's the image that's been conveyed over the years. I tend to think of him as a loud version of David Eckstein. But he was much better ballplayer than Eckstein and a much worse person.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Influence Of A Mother

Joe Pritchard's face wore a happy smile yesterday afternoon, but when night came the smile had vanished and a look of deep and lasting sorrow succeeded it. Joe has manipulated the deal for the transfer of Caruthers to Brooklyn, and thought he saw an end to his labor. He has worked hard and incessantly, and still Caruthers remains unsigned and is likely to remain so for some time to come. As announced exclusively in Friday's Globe-Democrat Caruthers was sold to the Brooklyns, and the only obstacle in the way of his signing was a difference of $500 in the salary question. This difficulty was removed yesterday. A telegram was brought to Joe Pritchard yesterday afternoon from Byrne of Brooklyn, stating that he would pay Caruthers the $500 demanded, making the pitcher's salary $5000. Upon receipt of the telegram Pritchard hastened to the Laclede Hotel, where he found a notice from the American Express Company announcing that it held the $1000 advance ready to hand over to Caruthers. Joe, thinking the deal settled, hunted up Caruthers, and the pair, accompanied by a Globe-Democrat reporter, repaired to the writing-room, where Joe asked Caruthers to sign for $4500. This Bob refused to do, then Joe with a smile of triumph, placed a contract for $5000 under Bob's nose, and asked him to sign it. Caruthers refused again until he could wire home and obtain the consent of his family. After sending there, the pair repaired to the Olympic Theater, to pass the time until an answer came to the message. After the theater the interested parties hastened back to the Laclede, where Caruthers received the replies to three telegrams. The first was from his mother, reading:

Do not sign under any circumstances. Come home at once.

The second was from his brother, saying:

Take mother's advice; do not sign.

The third one he refused to show. But the first two had done their work. After reading them Caruthers turned to Pritchard with the remark: "Well, Joe, I can not sign now. I leave for home to-morrow night. I am satisfied with my salary and all that, but will not go against my mother's wish. I may never play ball again."

Pritchard was sorely put out at this division, as he has obtained everything Caruthers demanded, and thought he held the pitcher safe. Caruthers positively leaves for home to-night. He is outspoken in his preference to play in Cincinnati, but says he would sign in Brooklyn if he could obtain the consent of his family. The Cincinnati offer to Caruthers is regarded in the light of an advertising dodge. A Cleveland paper, speaking of the matter, says: Around this neck of the woods the suspicion lurks that the $15,000 offer was in the nature of a catch-the-public bluff. Caruthers is worth no such money. Nor is any other player. And the Cincinnati management, generally astute and careful, never offered such a sum in good faith. It is a good thing for the Association that Caruthers didn't go to Cincinnati. What is needed is an equalization of strength.

Thus the matter stands. If Caruthers goes home the influence of a mother may win him from his passion. He loves to play ball, however, and he loves the money to be made at it, and it will take wonderful persuasion to keep him off the diamond.

Information was received yesterday that Bushong had signed with Brooklyn and Welch with the Athletics. This completes these deals. Gleason will probably sign in a few days.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 29, 1887

Friday, March 4, 2011

As It Has For Many Afternoons Past

The usual daily interview, whispered and long drawn out, between Joe Pritchard, the St. Louis representative of the Brooklyn club, and Bob Caruthers, took place yesterday afternoon, as it has for many afternoons past, at the Laclede Hotel. The star pitcher was a little late in showing up, and Pritchard paced up and down the rotunda for a couple of hours waiting for him. When Bobby finally arrived the enterprising agent rushed him over to a secluded place and repeated his oft-told story about Byrne's generosity and the beauties of the City of Churches. Caruthers was not a very willing listener apparently, for he made several attempts to get away during Pritchard's recital of facts and fancies which to Bob have a very chestnuty oder. The great pitcher's intentions were not changed by the Brooklyn representative's eloquent appeals, and he emphatically refused to consider any of his propositions. To a reporter of the Globe-Democrat, Caruthers said that he would not go to Brooklyn under any circumstances. He wanted to play next season in Cincinnati, and was satisfied with the offer made him from that city. He said that if he couldn't play there he would remain in St. Louis rather than join the Brooklyns. He denounced Von der Ahe's methods in trying to dictate what club he should play with, and what salary he should receive in bitter and emphatic terms. The deal, therefore, is about as far from being consummated as it was a week ago. Mr. Von der Ahe says Caruthers goes to Brooklyn and the pitcher says not.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 28, 1887

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Some Notes From San Francisco

It may be interesting to note what the papers in San Francisco are saying of the ball players in their midst. Below may be found a few extracts from the coast papers:

Latham has his mother with him, bringing her all the way from Lynn, Mass.

Speaking of Latham, Curt Welch says: "You'll have to pour molten metal down his throat to shut him up..."

Doc Bushong is here. The celebrated catcher is considered the most scientific man in his line. He coaches his pitcher, signaling him how to throw the ball, and was the direct cause of the developing of many a colt.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 27, 1887

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One Thing Is Certain

Mr. Von der Ahe says that he expects to win the pennant again next year, but how he will do it is hard to say. From present prospects the Cincinnatis will be very much stronger than the Browns and it is almost certain that Porkopolis will fly the pennant in 1888. Brooklyn, too, is stronger than the Browns, and the once world champions will be about third or fourth in the race next season. In the middle of last season the Globe-Democrat announced that the Browns were to be weakened, as it was certain they were much too strong for the clubs of the Association. The idea was laughed at the, and the cranks said Von der Ahe was not foolish enough to part with his best players. Mr. Von der Ahe determined to hold on to his team as then constituted for a time at least. The beggarly attendance towards the close of the season convinced him that in order to make base ball pay he would have to place his team on a level with the other clubs of the Association, hence the weeding out process lately undergone. Now, the question arises: Will the public pay to see a second-class club after being used to first-class ball? That the Browns have been greatly weakened there can be no question. Behind the bat they have about the same strength. In the pitcher's box they are lamentably weak. Foutz's arm is gone, and Devlin, a rank failure, takes the place of the nonpareil, Bob Caruthers. Devlin is a south paw, who is best known by his miserable failures in attempting to pitch to first-class clubs. Hudson and Knouff are of no account, and this leaves the Browns with one pitcher, King. The latter, too, is very young, and needs considerable experience before he will be able to rank with Smith, of Cincinnati, or Kilroy, of Baltimore. At short stop the team is very much weakened. McGarr is no better fielder than Gleason, and he is a miserable batter. In the outfield the club has been terribly pulled down from its former high standard. For Welch, the king of outfielders, a youngster is to be supplied; a mere boy, who was not fast enough for the Philadelphia club, and who has been earning a great reputation among the "jay" clubs in minor leagues. The Browns will soon be composed of the cast-off players of the Philadelphia club, there now being transferred four on that team-Wilson, Devlin, McCarthy and Lyons. If these men were not good enough for the Phillies why should they be for the Browns? One thing is certain, that local patrons of the game will have no chance to complain next year that the Browns have too much of a walk-over.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 27, 1887

Baseball is a strange game. "The glorious uncertainty of baseball" sums it up nicely.

The Globe was right to look at the Browns and see a weakened and inferior club, compared to the previous champions. And yet, they won their fourth straight pennant in 1888. As that great sage, Joaquin Andujar, once said: "You never know."

This is very relevant to my baseball reality at the moment. I'm a Cardinals fan (for those who don't know) and, if you haven't heard, we're having problems resigning our first baseman and our number one starter just underwent Tommy John surgery. Also, we're playing a left fielder at second, a second baseman at short and a first baseman/DH in right. Our third baseman is injury prone, our catcher can't hit and our manager hates our center fielder. Our number two starter was talking about how he'd be open to a trade and then went and pulled his hamstring in his first spring training start. Our number three starter is a second year player who overachieved his rookie season, is a prime candidate to regress to the means and walks too many batters. Our number four starter is a year or so removed from Tommy John surgery. Our fifth starter is Kyle Lohse.

I know all of that. And I still think they can win their division. Why not? Baseball is a strange game.

The more interesting thing in the Globe's article is their assertion that all of the Browns' moves were designed to weaken the club and, at the same time, strengthen their opponents in the AA. This isn't earth-shattering and it's been written about before but here it's laid out explicitly in the contemporary press. I'm more of the opinion that the moves were made to improve the club in the long-term and to get rid of some problem players but the Globe's idea has to be part of the explanation for the moves.

This is why I've been saying that these sales are much more complicated than we've been led to believe. I don't think there is one reason for the moves but rather several reasons for each transaction. This wasn't a fire sale. This was a complex series of transactions, arranged by Von der Ahe, that were designed to achieve multiple goals.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

He Is Now Trying To Obtain All He Can

The Caruthers deal still hangs fire. Joe Pritchard has done everything in his power to sign the pitcher, but in vain. Caruthers says that he will not sign unless given the $500 bonus he demands. In this he makes a mistake. Byrne offers him $4500, with $1000 advance, which is more than he is worth, and he should appreciate this fact and sign. Mr. Byrne did not arrive in the city yesterday as expected. Joe Pritchard received word from Brooklyn that the team would not pay Caruthers the $500 he demands, and thus the matter stands. The whole deal may be closed to-day by Caruthers signing, but this is not certain. The outcome of the matter will be that Caruthers will sign, but he is now trying to obtain all he can out of Brooklyn.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 27, 1887