Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Top Twenty Games In 19th Century St. Louis Baseball History: # 4

4. August 24, 1877: Brown Stockings vs. White Stockings

Chicago snatched a victory out of the jaws of defeat in fine style here to-day.  A two-base hit by Clapp and a single by Croft gave St. Louis an earned run in the fourth inning.  In the fifth, after two hands were out, Clapp and Dorgan scored on errors by Anson and McVey and two hits, which were all the runs St. Louis could squeeze in.  In the sixth inning an overthrow by Force gave McVey second, and he tallied on Anson's two-base hit.  In the seventh Eggler earned first, and was sent home by Bradley with an earned run, with two men out.  Battin made a miserable muff of Eden's bounder, and Brad got in with the tieing run.  In the eighth inning, with two men out, Anson stole second on Battin's muff of Clapp's fine throw, which reached him in plenty of time to catch the striker, and Hines then brought in the winning run by a solid hit to left.  Clapp's catching, Peter's fielding, Dorgan's throwing, and Croft's first-base play were the features of the game.
-Chicago Tribune, August 25, 1877

This is the game that almost destroyed professional baseball in St. Louis.

In Before They Were Cardinals, Jon David Cash explains what happened: "(William) Spink alleged that two Brown Stockings had conspired with Chicago gambler Mike McDonald to fix the St. Louis-Chicago game of August seems clear that (Spink) intended to target pitcher Joe Blong and third baseman Joe Battin as the dishonest Brown Stockings...Evaluating the player performances of August 24, Spink complained, "The game was lost, after it had been won, by Battin, who has been the weakest spot in the St. Louis nine all season.  In the early part of the contest, Blong pitched well, but towards the end went to pieces, his wild pitching and lack of headwork...proving very costly."  Spink went on to write a devastating piece on the scandal for the Globe.  Combined with the clubs financial difficulties in 1877, Spink's indictment of some of the Brown Stockings' players brought down the club.

The game fixing in this game was not an isolated incident.  From 1875 through 1877, a culture of corruption surrounded the Brown Stockings and there are numerous incidents, rumors and accusations from the 1875, 1876 and 1877 season regarding various players, managers and umpires associated with the club.  Every season there was an accusation of game-fixing.  There's a long list of people affiliated with the Brown Stockings who were accused of crookedness.  But this game was the final straw.  Blong and Battin were caught red-handed and William Spink, a supporter of the club, called them out in the newspaper.

With the collapse of the Brown Stockings, the popularity of baseball in St. Louis suffered a serious decline and the city would not see another major league team until 1882.  The Interregnum - the period from 1878 through 1881 when St. Louis did not have major league baseball - was a difficult time for baseball in St. Louis as men such as William and Al Spink, Augustus Solari and Chris Von der Ahe fought to keep the game alive in the city.     

No comments: