Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pecuniary Prospects In St. Louis

In Volume 4 of the Mears Collection, there is an article dated July 17, 1869, that has to do with the tour of the Olympics of Washington.  The Olympics were an important pioneer-era club, whose members included A.G. Mills, Davy Force, Robert Reach (the younger brother of Al Reach) and Nick Young and, like many of the big Eastern clubs of the era, they embarked on an extended tour.  However, it appears that the Olympics' tour was not a particularly smooth one and a member of the club, quoted in Base Ball Pioneers, 1850-1870, stated that "We had trouble everywhere, even in such small jumps as from Cincinnati to Mansfield, Ohio, nothing went properly..."  The article in the Mears Collection has to do with the failures of the Olympics to keep an engagement with the Forest City Club of Rockford, Illinois but, at its end, is a series of letters, documenting negotiations between Asa Smith and the Olympics, attempting to set up a game between the Olympics and the Unions.  While the negotiations appear to have been successful, the Olympics never made it to St. Louis.  The article appears to be a response to a previous article where the Olympics laid all of the blame for their failure to play in Rockford and St. Louis on Forest City and the Unions and offered the defense of those two clubs.

For our purposes, the important thing here is not the recriminations that were being thrown around but, rather, the negotiations between Smith and the Olympics, which document how these important games were arranged in the later part of the pioneer era.  Smith, in the defense of his club, was kind enough to publish the record of the negotiations and it offers a fascination look at the politics of baseball in 1869:

Washington, D.C., June 29, 1869.
Dear Sir, - It is somewhat uncertain whether we can go as far west as St. Louis or not.  We will try, however, to do so.  Please address us at Cincinnati (after July 1st),...what the pecuniary prospect will be in St. Louis.  This would determine us somewhat, as we do not wish to lose money by taking an extensive trip.  Hoping &c.,
F.A. Schmidt, Cor. Sec'y, O.B.B.B.

Union Base Ball Club, St. Louis, July 2, 1869.
F.A. Schmidt, Esq., Sec'y, Olympic B.B.C. - Dear Sir - Your favor of June 29th, inst. received.  I cannot assure you of very bright pecuniary prospects.  The Atlantics and Unions, of Morrisania, last year, drew less than $300.  If our clubs here were able to give you an even game, I could assure you of a large attendance, but from the way things look I cannot assure you of anything.  Our club would be happy, &c.  Very respectfully,
Asa W. Smith, Pres't.  U.B.B.C.

Cincinnati, July 4, 1869.
A.W. Smith, Pres't.  U.B.B.C. - Sir. - Yours of 2d instant received.  We will be happy to play your club next Thursday, July 8th, and trust that the game will be pleasant and profitable.  Very truly yours,
N.E. Young, Treasurer  Olympic Club.

Smith went on to state that "In his statement to you, Mr. Young says that he telegraphed to St. Louis on the 5th inst., and shortly after his telegram he received a letter from me, which induced his club to stay away.  I don't think that Mr. Young has laid the blame on the right shoulders."

Obviously, it was all a question of money and that's understandable.  Smith was honest with the Olympics and essentially told them that they'd make less than $300 and guaranteed them nothing.  I would have to assume that the Olympics lost money on the tour and didn't see any monetary reason to go to St. Louis or Rockford.  The problem was that they had already agreed to the games and, I guess, that was a bit of a scandal.

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