Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Mention Of Art Croft's Death

Arthur Croft, known throughout the professional base ball world, died at St. Louis on Saturday of pneumonia. In 1877 he led the country in fielding, his home position being at first base, and that season he was a member of the Indianapolis Club, which was high in the championship race of the National League. He played professionally with the original St. Louis Browns, with the Browns of 1881, and with the old Troy Club.
-Cleveland Herald, March 18, 1884

Croft, of course, also played with the 1875 St. Louis Red Stockings.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Blamed Fool

Billy Taylor, of the St. Louis Club, has written to Mike Mansell, the contract-breaker, as follows: "Dear Mike, you're a blamed fool to have gone and broke with Lucas, but now that you've done it, Mickey, my boy, I'll give you a pointer: Keep as far away from this town as possible, for if you ever step into it Lucas will have you sent to the pen as sure as my name's Billy Taylor."
-Cleveland Herald, March 17, 1884

Putting aside Taylor's message to Mansell, I want to talk about Bollicky Bill Taylor's nickname. According to my best researching efforts, bollicky is slang for naked. Now I guess bollicky could come from bullock or bollocks but, really, that wouldn't be much of an improvement. Regardless, do I really want to know how Billy Taylor got his nickname? I'm a bit torn.

Friday, July 29, 2011

That Joke Never Gets Old

"It is said" that Charley Sweasy, of old-time fame, is negotiating with the Cincinnati Unions. Where is Douglas Allison and Asa Brainard? Arise, sweet memories of the past.-[Cincinnati Commercial Gazette.]
-Cleveland Herald, March 17, 1884

Heck, I used the joke just last week. The St. Louis Blues signed Jason Arnott and Jaimie Langenbrunner to one year contracts and I told a friend that we should sign Derian Hatcher and Kirk Muller too. Of course, the joke's funnier if you know something about hockey. But still...

Thursday, July 28, 2011

They're Not Kidding

The scores of the first games played by the Union association will be scanned with considerable curiosity in order to ascertain just what players have joined fortunes with that organization. There has been so much talk about contract-breaking in connection with the association that it is difficult to conjecture just who will or will not be on hand.
-Rocky Mountain News, March 17, 1884

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Season Tickets

Persons who have been applying for season tickets to Union Base Ball Park are requested to leave their orders at the office of H.V. Lucas, 322 Pine street, as early as possible, to facilitate the arrangement of seats.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 16, 1884

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Beware Of Pig Iron

Gallagher, the promising young pitcher of the Lucas Amateurs, has had his right hand crushed by a bar of pig iron falling on it, and is in danger of losing some of his fingers.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 16, 1884

Gallagher, whose first name I still don't know, was signed by the Maroons in late November or early December. I think that this accident explains why he never played for the club.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Players Are Praying For Our Success

The Union Club's grounds are fast approaching playing order, and a few more days of fine weather will find them not only in perfect condition, but equaling in beauty any ball park in the country. The field is now being sodded, the only thing that remains to be done to complete the work upon it, while the grand stand is having the cover put on. An order was given yesterday for 1,500 folding opera chairs and 2,500 others of very comfortable pattern, all of which will be in their places shortly. It is not unlikely that the resident members of the Union team will be practicing on the grounds during the present week.

President Lucas left last night for Cincinnati, to attend the Union Association schedule meeting which will be held at the Gibson House to-morrow. Before going...he spoke in flattering terms of the prospects of the Unions, and declared that the present condition of the association exceeded this most sanguine expectations.

"It is claimed," said he, "that some of our clubs are not strong in all their positions. Whether that is true or not we are unable to say at present, but even if it is true, we will come out of the season all right. All our clubs have capital behind them and it is absurd to imagine that capital can not command talent in base ball as well as in any other profession. Then the fact that ball players are growing and developing all the time assures us plenty of playing material in spite of the extraordinary efforts the League and American Association are making to control the entire supply. There is one thing we are certain of. All we have to do is to hold out this year, and next we can get all the players we want-the pick of the country, in fact. The players are praying for our success, because they know it will be the death of the reserve rule, and we propose to see that their prayers are answered."
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 16, 1884

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Sullivan Situation

Ted Sullivan, after hanging on the verge for four months, has joined the wreckers and signed to manage the St. Louis Union.
-Cleveland Herald, March 16, 1884

I take this as confirmation that Sullivan had settled his contract situation with Richmond. To the best of my knowledge, Sullivan officially agreed to manage the Maroons in December of 1883 and had been working with the club since at least the end of October. However, he had previously agreed to manage a club in Richmond, Virginia and he had been seeking his release from this agreement. There had been some talk in the papers at the beginning of March 1884 that Sullivan was going to Richmond to take care of the situation.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Chadwick On The UA

The veteran base ball writer, Henry Chadwick, says: "I do not see for the life of me what the Union Association hopes to exist upon. There are only one or two nines of any strength whatever, and which can make attractive base ball. It seems to me to be a big scheme for some one to sink a great deal of money in."
-Cleveland Herald, March 14, 1884

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tempting And Disreputable

Lucas, of St. Louis, says that while in Philadelphia he saw Shaffer and Dunlap, both of whom repeated their assurances that they will be here April 1st. Shaffer is reported to have been offered $5,000 for the season by Appleton of the Metropolitans, if he would break his contract with the Union Club of this city and go to New York. The offer, which was very tempting and equally disreputable, was rejected, the "orator" declaring that he would keep his contract if no one else did.-[Cincinnati Enquirer.]
-Cincinnati Herald, March 13, 1884

As honorable a man as Orator Shaffer may have been, I'm thinking that if someone offered him five grand to play baseball in 1884, he would have taken it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Dunlap's Contract

Fred Dunlap has determined to go to St. Louis. Last week he signed a two years' contract with Lucas, receiving for his first year $3,200 and $4,000 for the second year, the largest salary ever paid a ball player.-[Philadelphia Item.]
-Cleveland Herald, March 12, 1884

The best evidence I have is that Dunlap signed a contract with the Maroons in late November of 1883 and the reports at the time state that his salary for the first year was either $3,400 or $3,500, with $1,000 in advance.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Revelations By A Ball-Player

A Washington special to the Cincinnati Enquirer gives the substance of a number of statements made by a ball-player, who is believed to be Joe Ellick, captain of last year's Springfield team: It makes very interesting reading, and is as follows:

There is a young man employed at the Capitol who played with the Springfield (Ill.) Club last season. While in Scanlon's baseball headquarters a few days ago he told several interesting stories concerning base ball in the West. He appeared to be very well posted as to the means resorted to in signing Mullane to the Toledo Club. He states that the Toledo was unable to raise the $600 advance demanded by Mullane. The American Association pool came to the rescue and supplied the necessary amount. He says the Toledo can not last over a month after the season opens, because their mainstay and financial backer, Mr. Benjamin, a well-known merchant of that city, has deserted them. Benjamin was opposed to engaging Mullane at such an enormous salary, which he characterized as being enough to pay half of the team. He also argued that Mullane signed one contract and broke it. He was, therefore, unreliable, and not a satisfactory man to do business with.

Referring to the Northwestern League, the young man said it did not pay expenses last year, and in some instances players were obliged to jump a town without paying their traveling expenses. The Secretary of the Northwestern League is now supposed to be indebted to Al Spalding $375 for base ball supplies furnished that association. He does not believe one of the clubs in that association paid its players in full.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 3, 1884

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mullane The Prophet

To a reporter of the Cleveland Herald Tony Mullane said: "I do not believe that the Union Association can live out the season, and I was fearful of being black-listed." If Mullane can pitch no better than he can prophesy, Toledo has made a bad selection.-[American Sports.]
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 2, 1884

This is actually a rather interesting quote from Mullane. At first, I just dismissed it as rationalization and was really just posting it for the snarky bit at the end. The more I thought about it, however, the more I began to think that maybe Mullane was being honest and that his position made some sense. Why would Mullane, a good, young, established pitcher with a bright future ahead of him, take a chance on the UA if he could get similar money in the NL or AA. While the AA was still a fairly young enterprise, it had to look like a better bet than the UA. Putting aside the questions about jumping leagues and the fact that he had signed a contract, Mullane was acting rather shrewdly. He used the threat of jumping to the UA to get the money that he wanted while, in the end, not risking his career by actually playing in the UA. It was the smart play.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Hitting Wind

There was a lot of other stuff going on during the 1883/84 offseason besides the Maroons putting together a team and I've mostly glossed over it in a desperate attempt to get to the 1884 season itself. If I remember correctly, I wanted to cover the Maroons' 1884 season but having spent months now covering the (very interesting) offseason, I've forgotten what it is that I'm really doing.

Regardless, one of the more interesting events of that offseason was the Von der Ahe/Oberbeck trial, which I've probably mentioned at one time or another over the years. On March 1, 1884, the case went to the jury and, during this period, there was a great deal of coverage about it in the Globe. While I don't really want to get into the details of the case, there was some testimony from the trial that appeared in the Globe on March 2nd and I thought I'd pass it along:

Thomas Dolan testified that Oberbeck was a very weak batsman; that "he hit wind nearly all the time."

"Mr. Dolan,"

Did You Ever Hit Wind?"

asked Newton Crane, sarcastically. Dolan replied: "Well, yes; but not all the time." Dolan's testimony was corroborated by George McGinnis, the pitcher.

I love the fact that Jumbo McGinnis had to corroborate Dolan's testimony. But was he corroborating the fact that Henry Oberbeck was a lousy hitter or that he was a worse hitter than Dolan? And really, Tom Dolan (a career .204/.242/.256 hitter) didn't have any room to be calling anybody a lousy hitter. Glass houses, rocks and all that.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wild Lies

...[The] story of the "Mets" offering the Cleveland club $1,000 and John Troy for Dunlap is untrue. They did mention Troy as a possible bait to give up Dunlap.
-Cleveland Herald, March 2, 1884

Glad we could clear that up.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Tempation of Fred Dunlap

The St. Louis Republican, a Union organ, says: "Within a few days past Mr. Lucas has received a letter from Dunlap in which the latter says that, notwithstanding he has been offered more by the Cleveland than he will receive under his present contract with Mr. Lucas, he will play in St. Louis, and requests that quarters in a private boarding house be engaged for him and for Shaffer. In order that it may be known what temptations have been put before players who have contracted with Union association clubs by the pool of League and Association club managers who are trying to break up the Union association, it may be stated, on competent authority, that in Dunlap's case the New York League club offered the Clevelands Troy, the New York second baseman, and $1,000 in cash for Dunlap's release, and stated that if this was granted they would pay $3,500 to Dunlap for his signature to a contract. The Cleveland management wisely concluded that if they could not have Dunlap under their reserve rules they would not go into any dishonest bickerings to trade him off to another organization."

The facts are that Dunlap was said to be wanted for the Mets, but was really to have been used in the New York team. Both are virtually under one management.
-Cleveland Herald, February 26, 1884

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Man Who Would Sell His Soul For Money

One hundred dollars was what made Mullane break his contract. Lucas had promised to pay him $2,500 for the season. Toledo gives him $2,600. In the St. Louis Club last year Mullane was looked upon as the closest fisted man in the team. He was never known to spend a cent, and he never refused anything, from a cigar down to a bottle of soda. Money brought him into the Lucas Club, and money drew him away from that organization. By his comrades he was looked upon as a man who would sell his soul for money; and, while he has not done that yet, he has bartered away what little honor he possessed, and for a very small sum. This is a true picture of the man who grew George McGinnis' salary last year and his own, but who is not worthy to rank with that player, either in nerve, skill or character.-[St. Louis Critic.]
-Cleveland Herald, February 25, 1884

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another Diamond Dust Round Up

The below comes from the St. Louis Globe-Democrat of February 24, 1884:
The Lucas Club has three catchers and three pitchers.

Leaving out the Mullane situation, finding pitchers and catchers appears to have been a problem for the Maroons. At some point, I'll address this in more detail.

Henry Lucas is purchasing his club's uniforms at home. He says St. Louis can make up as good uniforms as Chicago.

That's a bit of nice PR.

Hodnett and Werden are well thought of by members of the Lucas nine, and it predicted that both will develop great strength this season.

Perry Werden and Charlie Hodnett went a combined 24-3 for the Maroons in 1884.

Work on the Lucas Club grounds is rapidly progressing and the place will be ready for business in a short time. The roof is now being put on the grand stand.

We're (finally) getting close to the start of the season.

Dunlap and Schaffer have written to Manager Sullivan to hunt them up a private boarding house. It seems their minds are made up as to where they are going to play...

Dunlap and Shaffer, "the Orator," say that they will stick to their contracts with "Lucas." This is what several other players ought to have done.-[New York Truth.]

Not sure why Lucas' name is in quotations.

The Union Association Club of this city is thinking about taking their trips in a special car. President Lucas claims that such an accommodation will not be much more expensive than the ordinary way of traveling, while its advantages in many respects can not be overestimated.

Nothing but the best for the Maroons.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Still The Solicitations Continue

The Metropolitans of this city are trying to obtain Dunlap's release from the Cleveland Club. At present Dunlap is under contract with the Union Club, of St. Louis, where he will remain throughout the season if the Metropolitans prove unsuccessful in their efforts with the Cleveland management.-[New York Herlald.] This is a frank admission, evidently coming from Mr. Appleton, of the Mets, who is the genius working at the scheme. It paves the way for some remarks we wish to make on the present condition of things in the base ball world. The American Association is taking on the spirit that was formerly with the National League-that of cooperative working for the common good. In the League, on the contrary, each club seems to be for itself, and with no thought for the welfare of the League. No less than five emissaries of Appleton and the Metropolitian Club have been heard from on the Dunlap matter, and all urging Cleveland to release him for the good of the Metropolitans, rather than let him go to St. Louis. All have met with a firm refusal, but still the solicitations continue. It is a good spirit to see influencing the American Association, but it would be better if the grab-for-self policy was not so evident in the League. Unless a change comes the League will cease to lead in base ball, and must retire because not possessing sufficient vitality and wisdom to sustain itself in the leading place. But the Mets and their agents will fail in this particular case. The reserve rule is one of the planks in the National agreement. Cleveland is a party to that agreement, and under it reserved Dunlap. He chose to defy the reserve rule, and for he and others the Day resolution has been agreed to. Cleveland holds to all the legislation and if Dunlap does not play here he must go to St. Louis and let the Day resolution do its work in his case. The Metropolitans will never have him by Cleveland consent.
-Cleveland Herald, February 22, 1884

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Playing With Pirates

"The Lucas team in St. Louis," said Chris Von der Ahe to the Sunday Herald reporter yesterday, "will not be a factor in our amusements next summer. Our reserve team will be able to thrash them, but under no circumstances will we play with pirates."-[Chicago Herald.]
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, February 20, 1884

The irony here, of course, is that the Von der Ahe's team would play numerous games against Pirates over the years. Well over two thousand of them, in fact.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Diamond Dust

Not sure if I ever mentioned this but the Globe had a column of baseball notes called Diamond Dust. Rather than spend the next week posting the great stuff that was in the February 17, 1884 column, I'll just give it too you all in one dose:

Ward is studying law at Columbia College. Next summer he will probably be pitching in St. Louis.

No. Pour the gasoline. Strike the match. Kill the rumors. Please.

Each player of the St. Louis Club will be provided with a bat case, and will carry two bats with him at all time.

Have to assume that this is the Browns. If it was the Maroons, they would have described the team as the St. Louis Union Club. But this just seems a bit out of character for Von der Ahe. Bat cases couldn't have been cheap and I don't see Von der Ahe springing for something that was not exactly necessary. I don't know. Was this common at the time? Did players of this era always carry their bats in a case?

The Lucas team will have a regular traveling suit, which will be dark blue. This will be the first of its kind introduced by any ball club.

All together now: Let's check Game of Inches. Morris, while writing about road uniforms, does indeed cite this article but goes on to mention that the Post-Dispatch claimed that the 1871 Troy club were the first to have a distinct road uniform. So the Maroons were one of the first clubs to have a specific uniform that they wore only on the road and may have been the first.

Dunlop is one of the wealthiest ball players in the profession. He has regularly saved the major part of his salary since he commenced to play ball.

I sometimes imagine Dunlap as Scrooge McDuck, swimming around in his vault full of coin.

Workmen are busily engaged on the grand stand of the Lucas grounds. Folding chairs will be placed in the slopes, and from present indications it will be one of the best arranged buildings of its kind in America.

It was the Palace Park of America.

The St. Louis Club will return to brown stockings next year, and has adopted a very handsome shade of that color. The caps will be of the League pattern, with white and brown stripes, with brown belts with large nickel buckles. A natty little coat will be worn with the uniform.

Given our recent problems with identifying team photos, I appreciate the specifics given here.

It is claimed by some authorities that the oath to which Tony Mullane subscribed, promising to sign with the Toledo Club, was equivalent to an engagement, and his contract with Toledo is not binding unless he should choose to let it be so, and he could contract with any other American Association or League club if he chose without penalty, as he was not eligible to contract until February 10. Before President Lucas gets through with him he will wish that he had never heard of the Toledo Club.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Did 19th Century Lawyers Wear Skirts?

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Lucas will enjoin Mullane and Mike Mansell from playing with Toledo and Allegheny.
-Cleveland Herald, February 14, 1884

If you read yesterday's post, you know how I feel about this. A real man would have challenged Mullane and Mansell to a duel. Only a nancy boy would hide behind his lawyer's skirt.

And, yes, it's a well-known fact that some 19th century lawyers wore skirts. Arabella Mansfield was admitted to the bar in Iowa in 1869 and she wore a skirt. In 1870, Ada Kepley become the first woman in the United States to graduate from a law school. She wore a skirt. Probably a long one. There were probably more skirt-wearing lawyers in the 19th century but I think I've made my point.

Getting back on track here, the Herald also reported (or re-reported) the following rumor that just refused to die even if doused in gasoline and set on fire:

It is understood that the St. Louis Club of the Union Association are about to offer Ward, of the New York Club, $25,000 to play with them for three years.

Maybe it wasn't this specific rumor that refused to die even if doused in gasoline and set on fire but, even in February 1884, the press was still linking every prominent player in the country to the Maroons. At this point they really couldn't be taken too seriously considering the efforts of the League and the AA to keep their players and the fact that the Union was in the process of losing signed players back to the established leagues.

And I'll leave it to you to figure out the significance of the photo at the top of the post. First person to identify the picture gets ten cool points.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bare-Faced Dishonor (or, A Brief Lamentation On The Decline Of Dueling)

Mike Mansell has jumped his contract with the Lucas club, and has signed with the Allegheny Club. This of course is the result of solicitation by President McKnight, of the American Association, and adds to the shameless record that individual is fast acquiring. Does any one believe that players or managers, who are capable of such bare-faced dishonor, would not barter games if opportunities were available?
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, February 13, 1884

Those are some rather harsh words from the Globe. Even in the coarse and vulgar society that we live in, to say that someone lacks honor is an insult of the highest order. A 19th century man, I'd assume, wouldn't take those words lightly. Or McKnight, thinking himself the gentleman, wouldn't bother to respond to the scribblings of a lowly baseball writer.

The real problem here, I believe, is that by this time Western society had pretty much done away with dueling. A general threat of physical violence is usually enough to curb one's tongue (or, in this case, pen). If the writer of the above words had believed that by calling McKnight (or, even better, Mansell) shameless and dishonorable he would have found himself one morning facing a pistol at ten paces, he probably would have been more judicial in his use of language. I'm also of the belief that this lesson applies to the modern age as well. I think a lot of people have forgotten that actions have consequences and everyone must be held accountable for the things that they do. Pistols are a fine way of reminding people of these lessons.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Powers Extraordinary

Manager Ted Sullivan has gone East, and is armed with powers extraordinary. He will secure a pitcher and catcher for the Lucas team at any cost, and will get them where they can be got.-[St. Louis Post-Dispatch.]
-Cleveland Herald, February 8, 1884

The Maroons were still looking for a pitcher and catcher, as they had been for several months. Loosing Mullane, of course, didn't help but, even before then, they were still looking for a catcher and another pitcher.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

All Of Them Want About $500 In Advance

"It takes a good deal of money to run a base ball club," said Christ Von der Ahe the other day. "One thing you must do, and that is take care of your players through the winter. All of them want advance money and must have it." I was seated in his office at the time, and as he spoke a young player entered. "Are you ready to sign?" Christ asked him. "For how much?" he replied. "Fifteen hundred dollars," was the answer. Here was more money than the young man had ever received in his life for seven months' work, and yet it did not suit him. "Make it $1,550," he said, "and give me $500 advance." "Done," said Chris, and the bargain was complete. "All of them want about $500 in advance and generally get it. It takes about that amount to carry them through the winter."-[St. Louis Critic.]
-Cleveland Herald, February 6, 1884

It's always nice to find an article that portrays Von der Ahe as a competent baseball man and this one does that. It shows him to have been an effective, efficient and thoughtful manager. Von der Ahe not only understood that his players would want advance money but specifically why they wanted it. In tone, it's miles away from how Von der Ahe would be portrayed in the press in the 1890s.

I also thought it was kind of funny that the player trying to squeeze an extra fifty bucks out of Von der Ahe. Not exactly a tough negotiator.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The New Ground

The new ground of the St. Louis Union Club is said to be the smallest in the country. The second base will be very near in the center of the inclosure. Is is just seventy-one steps from right field fence to the home plate, or not to exceed 200 feet. Left field and center field may be fifty feet deeper. In no field, unless it be center does it seem possible for a batter to bat a ball for two bases with lively fielding.
-Cleveland Herald, February 6, 1884

While I'm not certain how accurate the Herald's description of the Union Grounds is, it's my understanding that right field was very shallow. The rest of the outfield, especially left-center, appears to have been rather deep. I'm sure that I'll find more information about the dimensions of the park as I get closer to the start of the 1884 season and the opening of the new park.

Below is the best image that I can find of the plaque that was dedicated at the site of the Union Grounds. I found it at the SABR website and it was taken by Joan Thomas, an expert on St. Louis ballparks. Joan is the author of St. Louis' Big League Ballparks and, I believe, was one of the driving forces behind getting these historical markers placed at the sites of St. Louis' old ballparks. If you take a good look at the image, you can see the short right field wall:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Chance Of A Lifetime

We have for sale one of the largest and best-paying retail grocery stores in the City of St. Louis; sales last year over $75,000; cares stock of $10,000; has feed and flour store and butcher-shop, 3 horses, 3 delivery wagons, good stable, 9 rooms over store, good office on first floor; increase of sales last year 50 per cent. This is the chance of a lifetime to get an established business that is a certain fortune. Having decided to devote all my time and attention to furthering the interest of the Sportsman's Park and base ball interests, I have decided to sell the above business.
Christ. Von Der Ahe.

For the full particulars apply to
Chipley & Bartlett,
Real Estate Agents
203 N. Eighth st.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, February 5, 1884

And how cool is that? I think I learned more in that paragraph about Von der Ahe's early business than I did in everything I've read previously combined. It's just amazing sometimes what you find in the newspapers.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July! God bless America, baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

It's All Over Now

A Herald man saw Tony Mullane at Akron yesterday, and Mullane talked freely on his jump. He said: "Yes! I have signed with Toledo and will play ball there next season. I have written to Mr. Lucas telling him why I did so. I do not believe that the Union Association can live out the season, and I was fearful of being blacklisted. I did not go to Mr. Lucas and offer to sign. I was approached, and after persuasion signed with the Unions. But it is all over now, and I shall play good ball for Toledo."
-Cleveland Herald, February 4, 1884

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Old West Ends

One of the new major stockholders in the Browns is James W. Garneau, a name probably strange to most followers of baseball of the current time, but by no means foreign to the early history of baseball in St. Louis. To identify Mr. Garneau with baseball lore, we're forced to hard back to 1877, and that's considerable hark.

In those days there flourished in this city an amateur baseball organization, essentially a blue-stocking affair, that was only a shade below the standard of the best professional clubs of that time. Indeed, the old West Ends, of which Garneau was captain and second baseman, played the real, original Browns to a long drawn-out tie game in 1878, the last year of the West Ends' existence.

Senior fans of the present day well remember that there never since has been organized such a luxe club as the West Ends. This team had the backing of the late Johnny Blow, a two-handed spender who set a high-water mark for the price of uniforms that has endured to this day.

As was the custom in those days, the West Ends carried only nine players, which was quite fortunate for the "angel" of the club, who furnished each with a uniform that cost $86. That's a rather steep price for an entire amateur club's outfit in this day.

However the West Ends had "class" written all over them. Their uniforms were the most expensive silk, with hand embroidered initials on the shirts. A blue silk ribbon striped each pants' leg, while the stockings were the most expensive wool, of grayish hue. The shoes were of choicest leather and, on the whole, the uniform was almost too nice to "muss up." But that didn't tend to interfere with the club's playing.

The team had its headquarters at the old "Willow Grounds," Compton avenue and the railroad tracks, and practiced often with the Brown club, which embraced in those days such men as Mike McGeary, Joe Battin, John Clapp and Mike Dorgan.

"We didn't lose a game that year," said Mr. Garneau, telling of his old club the other day. "Bob Aull, who died not long ago, was our shortstop, and he could field as well as he could sing. Bob had a pretty fine baritone voice.

"Johnny Blow, also deceased, was the third baseman and organizer of the club. He was the son of Henry T. Blow, the distinguished statesman, who left an estate worth $300,000. The West Ends were lavishly promoted. Blow was the first man to ride a bicycle in St. Louis, and it was an injury caused by a fall from the wheel that hastened his death.

"Castleman Webb did most of the catching, while he also reversed the order, and occasionally pitched. Billy Buskett was the regular pitcher and he was a good one. However, I believe Webb was the first amateur to curve a ball in St. Louis, and for that reason he was more famous as a pitcher than catcher.

"Eugene Picott, Cliff Able and Hal Truesdale, who made up the outfield, have been dead for several years. Millard Funkhouser, who played first, is in Chicago, I believe, and like other members of the old team, is doing well.

Garneau later captained the St. Louis U. team, the best baseball club the Billiken school ever had. He still is identified with collegiate athletics, having served on the St. Louis U. board for several years.

The new officer of the Browns, therefore, isn't a stranger in the baseball ranks. But if ever suggests $86 suits for the Browns, Fielder Alanson Jones will do a high dive off the Syndicate Trust Building.
-St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 17, 1916

This is a rather interesting article and there's a ton of information here. Just for instance: John Blow was the grandson of the owner of Dread Scott, the son of a congressman and the brother of the woman who founded the first public Kindergarten in the United States. It might take me awhile but I'll take this article apart and dig out all the good details.

The coolest thing about the article, which I found in the archives of the Missouri History Museum, is that it came with a team photo of the 1878 West End Base Ball Club. You can't image how excited I was to see it. Images of St. Louis baseball clubs are very rare prior to the 1880s. In my files, I have an illustration of the 1865 Empire Club and a photo of the 1876 Brown Stockings. If you count the cover of the Union Base Ball Club March and this picture of the West Ends, I now have four team pictures of pre-1883 St. Louis baseball clubs. So this was a really great find. Even better, all the players in the photo were labeled, which is pretty rare. Sadly, at the moment I only have a photocopy of it and can't share it with you.

I've been saying for a long time that there are a bunch of photos of St. Louis clubs and players out there that we haven't found yet. I'm convinced that there are photos from the 1860s and early 1870s just sitting in boxes somewhere, waiting for me to find them. Finding this picture of the West Ends kind of validates and encourages that thinking. Somewhere out there is a picture of Asa Smith and a photo of the 1875 Reds. I'm convinced of this. Heck, I just found pictures of Ferdinand Garesche and the 1878 West Ends, so why not?

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Von der Ahe Building

While Ed Achorn was in town, we went to the Mercantile Library to do a bit of digging around and Ed found a reference in the Western Manuscript Collection to "the Von der Ahe building." I went and dug it up and found the above picture.

According to the description on the back of the image, this building stood at the corner of Grand and St. Louis, which would have put it right across the street from Sportsmans Park. Also, it stated that the building was used by Chris Von der Ahe as the Browns' office during the 1880s. Sadly, the building was torn down in the 1930s.

It was, without a doubt, one of our better finds over two days of digging through archives. I'll mention a few of the other things that I found but was unable to get digital images of and, therefore, am unable to show you. At the Missouri Historical Museum's Research Center, I found a photo of Ferdinand Garesche, the shortstop for the antebellum Cyclone Club. Also, while there, I held a stock certificate for the 1875 Brown Stockings in my hand. They also had a great picture of a reunion of St. Louis baseball pioneers that was held at a game in the 1920s. In the picture was Shepard Barclay, Bill Kelsoe, James Fitzgibbons, and others. The museum also had a rain check signed by Chris Von der Ahe from the early 1890s. They had a lot of cool stuff and I'm going to have to go back and get digital images of all of everything as soon as I can because I want you to see it.

Tomorrow, I'm going to post some information that I found there about the West Ends.