Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Browns Of The Interregnum

(The) original Brown Stocking Club which first represented St. Louis in the National League...died in 1878 when the news came that Hall, Devlin, Nicholls, and Craver had been expelled from the Louisville Club for crookedness. This announcement was a death blow to the St. Louis Brown Stockings Club of that year by reason of the fact that Devlin and Hall, two of the expelled players, had signed with St. Louis for the following season. In 1879 St. Louis had no baseball to speak of. In 1880 a nine called the St. Louis Browns, under the management of the veteran Cuthbert, played games on the co-operative plan and furnished patrons with the only base ball that was going that year. That nine included Cuthbert, Shenck, Decker, McDonald, Croft, McGinnis, Pearce, Bowles, Cunningham and Morgan. This team played twenty-one games, losing but one, and that to the Louisville Reds, a semi-professional organization, by a score of 14 to 8. Its success in fact led to the organization of what is now known as the Sportsman's Park and Club Association, a company which was really organized for the purpose of refitting the present Sportsman's Park for baseball purposes. After the park had been fully equipped the Brown Stockings of the previous year were asked to reorganize and take possession of it. This they did with a nine which included the Gleason brothers, Baker, Seward, McCaffory, McSorley, McGinnis, Magner, McDonald, Gault and Cuthbert. This nine, like that of the previous year, played great ball, and the famous Akron team was the only nine it met that year that proved too much for it. It was so successful, in fact, that in the fall of 1881 steps were taken to put a professional team in the then talked of American Association.

-From The Sporting News, October 11, 1886

Al Spink had much to do with the Interregnum Browns and wrote the following in The National Game:

At this time my brother William Spink was the sporting editor of the Globe-Democrat and I held that sort of position on the then Missouri Republican, now the St. Louis Republic. After the failure to land a professional team in St. Louis in 1878 we did our best and worked together to replace the game here on a substantial footing.

But the baseball-loving public, disgusted at the way they had lost the splendid team they had hoped for, would have none of it.

Out of the remnant of the old St. Louis professional team we organized a nine that included holdover veterans like Dickey Pearce, Edgar Cuthbert, Lipman Pike, Mike McGeary, Joe Blong, Arthur Croft, Charles Houtz, Tom Sullivan, Packie Dillon, Danny Morgan and others.

This team played games on Sundays sometimes at Grand Avenue Park, now Sportsman's, and sometimes at the Reds' Park on Compton avenue, to which Shakespeare would have termed a beggardly array of empty benches. One day in the summer of 1878 we went to the pains of bringing the Indianapolis Browns here, a team that had won the championship of the International Association and that included in its ranks such famous players as the "only" Flint and the "only" Nolan.

But this team and our picked nine of professionals did not take in enough money at the gate at its initial game to pay the street car fares of the twelve players on the Mound City bob-tailed cars from the park back to their hotel quarters downtown.

The season of 1879 was as unfruitful of results as that of the season which preceded it. A picked up team of left-over professionals was again organized, called the St. Louis Browns and it stood ready to play any team of players that happened on Sundays to drop into Grand Avenue Park. During the close of the season of 1879 the game showed signs of returning to life, and with my brother William, I again set out to reconstruct the old edifice and bring it back to its own.

Together we brought about the meeting which at the close of the season of 1880 led to the organization of the Sportsman's Park and Club Association, an organization effected for the purpose of fitting up Grand Avenue Park for baseball purposes. This organization included Chris Von der Ahe, president; John W. Peckington, vice president; W. W. Judy, treasurer; and A. H. Spink, secretary.

The Grand Avenue Park, which at this time contained a weather beaten grandstand and a lot of rotten benches, was torn away and in its place was erected a new covered stand and an open "bleachers."

Sitting out in the field early in the spring of 1881 before the new grandstand was completed, I organized the St. Louis Browns of that year, Edgar Cuthbert, the only one of the old professionals still remaining in the city assisting me in the selection of a nine which included George Baker and George Seward, catchers; George McGinnis, pitcher; Edward Gault, first base; Hugh McDonald and Dan Morgan, second base; Jack Gleason, third base; William Gleason, short field; Harry McCaffrey, center field; Edgar Cuthbert, left field; and John T. Magner, right field.

It was agreed as we all sat there on the green sward that we would work together to build up the sport and each player promised to be prompt at each game, to do his level best at all times and to take for his pay just as small a percentage of the gate receipts as the general welfare of the park and its owners would allow.

On Sunday, May 22, 1882, these grounds were really opened with an exhibition game between the newly organized St. Louis Browns and the St. Louis Reds. The Reds won by 2 to 1...

Despite the good attendance at this opening game between the Reds and Browns the outlook seemed cold and bleak, for St. Louis stood badly then in the eyes of the outside world.

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