Monday, April 18, 2011

Exaggerated In Nearly Every Instance

[From the Pittsburg Dispatch, November 18.]

It is now a settled fact that Mike Mansell will not play ball with the Allegheny team next season, notwithstanding all assertions to the contrary. The press of the country has been flooded of late with telegrams concerning the new St. Louis club, and among these was one published in the columns of this paper saying that Mansell had signed with Lucas for 1884. This statement was correct, but in nearly every instance the reports from Mr. Lucas' team have been exaggerated, especially so in the matter of salaries received by players. There are some details in the case of Mansell that may prove of interest to the base ball public, that have not heretofore been made public.

As is known, Mansell was one of the players reserved by the Alleghany managers, but for various reasons the blonde did not care to play in this city for another season, and so accordingly made a strong effort to obtain his release, but without success. One reason why he did not care to remain in Pittsburg next year was that the Allegheny Club would not give him enough money. After indulging in considerable haggling over the matter, Mansell returned to his home in Auburn, N.Y., and nothing more was heard of him until Mr. Lucas made his appearance in this city and declared his intention of securing Mansell if possible for his team. Then the Allegheny manager awoke to the necessity of prompt action, and accordingly President McKnight wrote Mansell a letter in which he offered him $1,200 for his services for next season, and further intimated in very strong language that in case he did not accept this, but signed with Lucas instead, that he would be promptly blacklisted by the Allegheny Club.

In the meantime Mansell had anticipated trouble, and having made up his mind not to play in this city wrote to Secretary Williams, asking that gentleman to aid him in securing his release. Before a reply to this last letter was received Mr. Lucas had seen Mansell and succeeded in signing him at a salary of $1,800, with $300 advance money, which was paid on the spot and a promise of more if needed through the winter. Hardly had this agreement been completed when a letter was received from Secretary Williams, which contained an offer of $1,600 for Mansell's services with Von der Ahe's team, in case the Allegheny would release him (Mansell) for $100, which he also promised to pay. As a guarantee against Mansell's being blacklisted by the Allegheny, Mr. Lucas agrees in the contract which Mansell signed with that gentleman to give him $250 extra with which to fight the case in the courts, and Mr. Lucas also agrees to proceed against the Allegheny managers in a suit to recover damages, as he has been advised the club would be liable.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 21, 1883

I almost passed on posting this because I'm a little tired of shorting through rumors and rumors of rumors about players that would never play for the Maroons. And while Mansell did play in the UA in 1884, he never played for the Maroons. But, as you'll see tomorrow, Lucas stated that he did indeed sign Mansell and, therefore, this is something more than rumor.


David Ball said...

It's a very interesting item, to me at least, and I'm glad you did post it.

It demonstrates in detail that why one shouldn't underestimate the impact of the Union Association, which put upward pressure on salaries even of players they wound up failing to sign.

It shows the Allegheny club already threatening to blacklist a player who violated the reserve agreement, although that policy was not yet official with the established leagues, and it would be reasonable enough to hold that a private business agreement made by the established clubs to respect one another's reserve rights could not be binding on parties who were not participants in the agreement, such as Lucas and Mansell.

It indicates what appears to be a standard practice of Lucas' for dealing with players concerning the threat of blacklisting, in that he made the same promises he made to Mullane: $250 to onduct a lawsuit on his own behalf, with Lucas to open a second legal front against the Alleghenys by conducting his own suit for damages.

Finally, it shows Von der Ahe making a bargain basement offer of $100 for Mansell's rights, and suggests that he may have been systematically trying to keep as many well known players as possible out of the hands of his new local rivals (although he may well have felt the Browns did need another outfielder)

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I did like the part about VdA swooping in and trying to get Mansell. That was a nice little ploy on his part.

Lucas' motivation in all of this is really beginning to interest me. In the press, he's talking up the injustice of the reserve clause and mentioning the inevitable possibility of a players' revolt. Now that all may be smoke and Lucas may have been more interested in making a buck, seizing control of the StL baseball market and/or forcing his way into the NL. And I always figured that the talk about the injustice of the reserve clause and players' rights was just an excuse to circumvent the National Agreement and get players.

But I'm not so sure now. Lucas was a baseball fan, a former player and operated an amateur club prior to all of this. Events would prove that he wasn't a particularly great businessman so maybe it's possible that he was doing this out of love of the game. Maybe he truly believed that the players were getting mistreated and decided to doing something that benefited them. As you say, one of the results of the UA was to increase players' salaries. So in that, at least for a short time, Lucas did improve the lot of the players.

The Brotherhood and the Players' Revolt rightly gets a great deal of attention as far as attempting to improve the lot of the players is concerned. I'm beginning to think that maybe Lucas and the UA should be mentioned in the same conversation.

David Ball said...

I think it's kind of a no-brainer for someone in Lucas' position that opposition to the reserve rule was an opportunity to do well by doing good. Its objectionable features from an objective point of view were obvious, and any league with pretensions to major league status could not accept it.

On the other hand, the NL had defined its original limited version of the reserve as a business agreement binding only the signatory clubs, so that even new clubs entering the League were allowed to sign reserved players. Once a really credible league willing to pay high salaries appeared, however, the League really had no choice to coopt it into the reserve system. as the League had done with the AA, or declare total war, as it did with the UA. These posts have illustrated the point very well: just about all the cost-containment advantages of the reserve would be lost for everybody if some teams honored each others' reserve rights, but others did not.