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

1 comment:

David Ball said...

Deasley eventually signed to stay with the Browns, on condition that he not be reserved after the season. The leagues refused to enforce pledges of this sort, even if they were written into contracts, so Deasley was frced to pay Von der Ahe for his release after the season so he could sign with New York. However, Buffalo and Louisville did honor similar promises to Jim O'Rourke and Joe Gerhardt respectively, and the Giants signed both of them as free agents.

As long as the Union Association was in the field (which proved not to be very long, but no one could be sure of that in the fall of 1883), Deasley could walk away from the Browns any time he was not under contract; and as long as that was the case, the right to reserve him had little value anyway. This explains why Von der Ahe made the no-reserve promise in the first place.

The same goes for every other player and any other league that didn't participate in the reserve system. Looking at the matter more broadly, it is the dynamic that explains why the NL and AA had no choice but to compel a league such as the Union Association to participate in the reserve system or else give up reserving players, which they were not willing to do.

On the other hand, a startup league with major pretensions like the Unions could not afford to accept the reserve system, not necessarily out of principled conviction, but because they would gain the right to reserve their own players (of whom they started out with none at all) only at the cost of respecting the reserve rights of the old leagues (which had all the established players worth reserving).