Wednesday, May 4, 2011

He Is Pretty Slippery

In an interview with a Globe-Democrat reporter last night, President Von Der Ahe stated that he believed that there were sufficient grounds for the expulsion of Dave Rowe by the American Association. "Under our rules," he said, "he could not have signed with any other club after he had given me his terms. I did not do the business with him. It was done by Williams, who reported to me that he had accepted Rowe and had agreed to give him $200 advance money. I then sent on a contract and a draft for $200. The draft, which has come back, was dated November 14. On the 17th, Williams wrote me that he was afraid that Rowe would not keep his agreement, and, to settle the matter, he had written him a sharp letter, requesting him to either sign or refuse to. The next day he wrote that Rowe had signed with another club, and that he had black and white on him, and would present the case to the annual meeting at Cincinnati. Rowe wrote, as well as telegraphed, to Williams, and there is where we have got him fast. He is pretty slippery. He fooled Barnie out of reserving him by assuring him that there was no necessity for naming him, as he wanted to play ball in Baltimore next season. Barnie had made him a sort of assistant manager, and had great confidence in him, and so all that he had to do to get off was to say to Barnie: 'You needn't reserve me. I know that you want more than eleven men, and as I want to remain with you there is no occasion to reserve me. I'll sign with you anyhow.' Barnie took him at his word and did not reserve him. That was the way that Rowe tied up the other Baltimore players and got free himself. For my part, I don't care about a violation of the reserve rule. I never did approve of it, and don't think it will stand; but when a man names terms to a manager and is accepted, and then signs with another club, that is

A Different Thing,

and I think that man ought to be punished. To my mind, the reserve rule is doing more harm than anything else. It is forcing up salaries, because a player feels more important when he has been reserved than he would if left to find employment on his merits, and he won't sign as quickly nor on as reasonable terms as if he had to look for an engagement instead of having one forced on him. And then I don't want any player that I must force into my club. I don't see how any one can think that such a man will do his work as earnestly and as well as a man who works where he pleases. I told all my men they could consider themselves free, and the only one I have lost is Mullane...
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 28, 1883

I must say that it's interesting to hear Von der Ahe's thoughts on the reserve rule. I'm not sure if I'm buying what he's selling but it's interesting none the less.


David Ball said...

I have read that St. Louis opposed the reserve rule, but this is the first time I've seen a quotation to that effect directly from Von der Ahe. Having published an article arguing that the reserve was not the pure boon to club owners that it's often assumed to be, I don't find it at all difficult to believe he looked on it this way.

The essential thesis of my argument is that baseball is a game that requires constant replenishment of team rosters, and any device that so drastically restricted the free movement of players would inevitably cause significant problems. However, I had too much material and had to cut a lot out; the second part is likely never to see the light of day, but in it I would look more particularly at which clubs' interests suffered from the imposition of the reserve. St. Louis and Baltimore are good examples of the two types: the first, teams with a lot of money they wanted to spend on improving their roster; the second, teams with rosters so weak that they absolutely needed to be improved.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

It's the first I've seen of it as well and my initial reaction was that VdA was just kind of jumping on the bandwagon and trying to steal some of Lucas' thunder. Lucas was getting very good press in StL during the fall of 1883 and his attack on the reserve rule was passionate and I bet it rang true with a lot of working class people. I just thought VdA was trying to get back in the papers and show that he supported this kind of populist idea. Then again, he may been just being honest. I don't know.

Your argument about the reserve rule is logical and I understand what you're getting at. But doesn't the argument only apply to clubs trying to get established players? Wasn't there enough of an untapped talent base (at least by the mid 1880s) that you could have went out and found plenty of young guys who weren't bound by the reserve rule? VdA could go out and buy a Foutz or a Caruthers with his money and the Baltimores of the world should have been able to find better players simply by expanding where they looked for talent.

Maybe there simply wasn't enough developed baseball talent outside the big cities of the east and midwest and I'm wrong. If that's the case I can certainly see how the reserve rule would impede the ability of a club to gather talent. And the UA may be an example of the fact that there wasn't enough talent to go around.