Monday, December 31, 2007

The Reds Play The Nationals

Saturday afternoon, April 24 (1875), the St. Louis Red Stocking Baseball Club (the McNeary Reds) played against the St. Louis Nationals at the Compton Avenue Park...and defeated them by 35 to 14...The club was represented that afternoon by its strongest team-Dillon, Blong, Morgan, Houts, Sweasy (formerly of the famous Cincinnati champion Red Stockings), Croft, Oran, Redmond, and McSorley, all men of national reputation then or later. The Nationals, all amatuers, were from well known St. Louis families. Bopp and Boles were the battery that day. Lee Funkhouser, a Princeton cum laude graduate and brother of the late Dr. Robert M. Funkhouser, covered first base and made three of the runs credited to the amateurs. My report of the game in the Times says that "the fielding of the Nationals was done mainly by Jackson, Lee, McCreery and Funkhouser," the three first named covering respectively third, short and second. In the outfield was Wickham (a brother of Judge Wickham, if I remember rightly, or it may have been the judge himself). The best batting for the amateurs was done by Boles with three hits, and he also made a couple of their fourteen runs.

-From A Newspaper Man's Motion-Picture of the City

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.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Game Of Base Ball At St. Louis

I've written before about the games that the Empire and the Union played against the Nationals in 1867 and thought I'd pass along the reports of the games from The New York Times.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Von der Ahe's Obituary

From The New York Times, June 6, 1913

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Cap Anson On The Browns

Cap Anson, in A Ball Player's Career, has this to say about the Browns:

The St. Louis Browns was a strong organization, a very strong one, and when we met them in a series of games for what was styled at the time the world's championship, in the fall of 1885, they would have been able, in my estimation, to have given any and all of the League clubs a race for the money.

He goes on to say this about the 1886 World Series:

We were beaten, and fairly beaten, but had some of the players taken as good care of themselves prior to these games as they were in the habit of doing when the League season was in full swim, I am inclined to believe that there might have been a different tale to tell.

It seems that the problem was that the two series with the Browns "in both cases were played after the regular season was over and after the players had in reality passed out of my control, and for that reason were not as amenable to the regular discipline as when the games for the League championship were going on."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

This Pretty Much Says It All

I have been asked many times to compare the Browns and Anson's White Stockings of '85 and '86. Comparisons being odious I hesitate to go into details. Anson had a great team, one of the best I have ever seen. He had men of brains and originality in that outfit, men who could field and hit the ball with the best in the land. In Clarkson and Kelly he had one of the greatest batteries of all times, and Anson himself had demonstrated his right to lead the team.

I also commanded a good team, I would even call it great, but perhaps, with not quite as many outstanding stars as in the Chicago aggregation. We met in '85 and it was a draw a good many of the St. Louis fans regarded it as a victory for us. Again we clashed in 1886 and the Browns won decisively. Anson in his own book has passed judgment on his own team. I shall let the series of 4 to 2 speak for mine.
-Charlie Comiskey, quoted in G.W. Axelson's Commy

Comiskey's quote made me go look for Anson's book and I found it here at Project Gutenberg. I'm looking forward to reading Anson's view of all of this.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

More Presents!

The Waitresses!

The Snow Miser/Heat Miser Musical Duel

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Gift From Me To You

Here's Darlene Love doing Christmas, Baby Please Come Home, Silent Night, and Winter Wonderland. It doesn't get any better then this. Merry Christmas.

A Little Christmas Baseball

I found this article in the December 25, 1875 issue of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and have been sitting on it for about a year. The problem is that I don't know for sure if the Christmas game between the Brown Stockings and the Empires ever came off. I'd like to believe that there was a baseball game in St. Louis on Christmas Day 1875 but I haven't been able to confirm it.

Charlton's Baseball Chronology does have this entry for December 25, 1862:

At Hilton Head‚ SC‚ a baseball game is played between teams selected from the 165th New York Volunteer Infantry‚ Duryea Zouaves. The match draws a crowd of 40‚000 soldiers and is the talk of the military world for weeks after.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Bit More On Griswold

Kennedy's St. Louis City Directory for 1860 lists Merritt Griswold as a boarder at two different addresses. The first is 231 Chestnut Street and the second is 132 St. Charles Street. The directory also list his occupation as a clerk with the Missouri Glass Co., whose offices were located at 49th N. Fifth Street. The history of the St. Louis street system is a bit complicated but if my understanding is correct then both of Griswold's residences were located on what is now the grounds of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (or, as we like to call it, the Arch). His place of work would have been located three or four blocks west of that.

Marshall Wright has a record of Griswold playing in a match game for the Putnams of Brooklyn in 1857. Griswold, who mentioned playing for the Putnams in his letter to Al Spink, played in either the game against the Atlantics of Brooklyn on September 24 or the game against the Continentals of Brooklyn the next day. In the one game that Griswold played, he had two "hands lost" and didn't score any runs.

In his letter to Spink, Griswold also mentioned that he played with the Hiawatha Club of Brooklyn in 1858 and 1859 before coming to St. Louis. The Brooklyn Eagle has an account of a game the Hiawathas played on July 31, 1858 that includes a box score and mentions Griswold by name.

The Eagle also has a box score for a game the Hiawathas played in October of 1858 that also mentions Griswold.

Griswold's Notice

I posted before about the notice that Merritt Griswold placed in the Missouri Democrat regarding the game between the Cyclones and the Morning Star. The notice is a rather substantial piece of evidence supporting the claims that Griswold made in his letter to Al Spink regarding the origins of baseball in St. Louis.

The above image is a copy of the notice as it appeared in the Missouri Democrat in July of 1860. Interestingly, while several sources have the game being played on July 8, the notice states that the game was to be played on the 9th.

The image was taken from the January 2007 newsletter of the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association, which can be downloaded here. The SLABA newsletter is one of the few sources on the internet that doesn't regurgitate the Fruin myth when talking about the origins of baseball in St. Louis.

The Glasscock Letter

At David Rudd Cycleback's Online Museum of Early Baseball Memorabila, there is a transcription of a letter that Jack Glasscock wrote in 1941. According to Cycleback, the letter, which was written when Glasscock was 82 years old, consisted of four pages with writing "on both sides of two sheets." The letter is autobiographical in nature and presents a fascinating first hand account of Glasscock's days as a baseball player.

The letter is presented below as it appears at Cycleback's site.

Wheeling , July 20, 1941

Mr. Don Bassingfelder
My Dear Sir,

Your letter at hand. And contents noted. I will endever to try and give you some information that never came out. I am writing out. I am starting from my boyhood. Our peoples was very poor and not having theirs at fingernail. My father was a carpenter, a house carpenter also. A cabin builder. He built a cabin on steamboat from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati. And of course when I got big enough I had to help provide. My dad was a good one. And I got to handle tools pretty well myself. We were Scott and Irish descent. We had no high school at that time, and I went through the four room we had. And also went to night school. I would work through the day, and play ball of the evening. That how I learnt. But I am telling you, this is how I got good. Well, I never worked work on Saturday afteroon, and we always had a game on that day. Well we were working on a boat. And Saturday some at noon. And I laid off and father come home that evening and told me the Captain told him. He said Son, the Captain said you would either give up baseball on Saturday afternoon or quit. So I quit. And some businessmens got together and formed a club. And I was lucky enough to get a chance. I was played (40.00) a month to play. I started as a third baseman and our clubs played all clubs coming through here to Pittsburgh. And the managers of those club liked my playing. And I came to get out the following season. I went to Pittsburgh, and played two month. And theys disband. And I didn’t get any salary. Went to Cleveland, an independent club and finished the season. That was the year (1878). And the business of Cleveland got together and went with the National League (1879). I played third base that season. Well, the next year (1880) they decided to put me at shortstop. And there I stayed my career of playing in the National League. I was in Cleveland from 1878 to 1884. And went to St. Louis under Henry Lucas (1885). And got $1,600 for this work. Where I got only a thousand. I want to tell you what happened about this first month of (1880). I was pretty young at that time. I got word my mother was very sick and (not) expect to live, so I come home. After a few days he pass away. I went to club at Cincinnati, I think. And played one game. Don’t think I made a hit in that game. We went to Chicago. I came to bat with three mens on the bases with two out. Goldsmith pitching. He was a good one. And I struck out. Well, we went to Boston and after I was told to go on the gate (Editor’s note: this means being his salary was a cut of the attendance, instead of a fixed salary). I never asked about it. Our Manager was named Evans. A high hat man. He would put our club up at a hotel and he would go to a better one. I didn’t think he new much about the game. We played 2 games at Boston minus myself. And went to Worcester and still on the gate or those there. Well, we went to Albany to play an exhibition game. I was put I again. Tim Keefe was the pitcher. And I made three hits off him. And one a three baser. That was the one time I was laid off for not hitting in all my career. Then Albany want to buy me, because I guess I maken then those three hits. Evans wouldn’t sell me. I often wonder what would have been my fate if that players put in my place would have done any hitting. He didn’t make a hit in the whole six games. I guess I was lucky. Well, I was in St. Louis in 1880 to 1886, and Mr. Lucas lost money and throwed up the franchise. And then the Indianapolis step in. The fans at St. Louis presented me with a diamond pin. And that fall when Lucas quit, I could have gone to Boston. Theys offered to give me, the St. Louis club, $7,500 for me. And the league stepped and paid us players. And no clubs buy us. That was done so no club to get us and sell us. That was the way we went to Indianapolis, under those conditions. I was three years at Indianapolis. And Mr Brush, President, he got the confidence of the National League. So he owned us. And when the year of 1889 came along, the brotherhood (Editor: brotherhood was The Players Leaguer, a rebellious league formed by players. It was eventually aborbed into the National League), we were sold to New York Club. I think 1889 was my best year as I played great ball. I made 209 hits. And ought to led the league but Brothers. Went to New York in 1889. Led the National League in hitting that year. And that year the Brotherhood and National came together, and I was kept with them. I had a bad year. I went to St. Louis under Von Der Ahe, and sold to Pittsburgh the following year. Was released from Pittsburgh the following year and went to Louisville. And throwed my arm out. Was release and went to Washington D.C., and played a couple month. And hurt my arm again. And that wound up my career in the National League. So you got all my life as a player in the National League. You can look over it, and search out what you want. I was up at St. Paul for three years with Comiskey. But played First Base. Never went back to short stop again. My name have always been Jack Glasscock. But my right name home was always John WEsely. But always been been called Jack.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

More On George Tebeau

After George Tebeau died on February 4, 1923, several articles appeared in The Sporting News chronicling his life. His obituary, which was published in the February 8, 1923 issue of TSN, was interestingly headlined "Former Enemies To Honor Dead Tebeau" and is quoted below:

Tebeau had a notable career in baseball as player, manager, and magnate and as the latter, he became famous for his quarrels with fellow magnates. He was born in St. Louis in 1861 and began his career in Denver twenty years later. He soon advanced to the majors as a player, then returned to the minors as an organizer and club owner. He had owned the Denver, Louisville, and Kansas City Clubs, and had been interested in several others. His last venture was the organization of an independent league known as the Mid-Western in Colorado and Wyoming in 1921...

His last appearance in baseball was at the meeting of the minors in Louisville at which time he had two deals on hand. One was the sale of his ball park in Kansas City and the other a claim against the Denver Club for an alleged repudiation of a lease of his park in that city.
John B. Foster, in the February 15, 1923 issue of TSN, had a long piece about George and Patsy Tebeau:

(The Tebeau brothers) were fighters. Pat did most of his fighting on the ball field. George did a great deal of his on the ball field but much more as an owner of a baseball club when he began to meet with other owners and learned something of the politics of a league...

When George played with the Cincinnatis years ago he was called "White Wings." Odd name for a ball player who was one day to be recognized as one of the shrewdest of schemers in the minor leagues. They called him "White Wings" about the time that well known ballad floated from the open windows of every Western boarding house...Tebeau may have been called "White Wings" because he never grew weary but more likely it was because of the splendid figure that he made when running for a fly ball...

As a ball player George gave great promise but he never quite arrived...The first year he appeared in fast company as a player it was predicted that he would make one of the league's best batters. He never did. The first year that he appeared as an owner it was predicted that he would make a failure, but he nearly owned the league before he finished and dominated it thoroughly...

The Federal League broke him as a power in baseball. He bore the brunt of the fight in Kansas City and suffered greater reverse than any other man in the game and yet such was the enmity that he had aroused by the forcefulness of his nature and the fight that he had made for control that he found few sympathize with him.
According to The New York Times, Tebeau was involved in the organization of the American Association in 1901 and owned the Kansas City club in that league. Tebeau expanded his American Association empire the next year when he was involved in the reorganization of the Louisville club. In 1904, he purchased the Denver club in the Western League. Tebeau's entry into the Western League was a complicated venture that involved the elimination of the Western League's Kansas City team, which was a direct competitor of Tebeau's American Association Kansas City team. It appears that Tebeau owned and operated all three clubs from 1902 until he sold the Louisville club in 1909.

George Tebeau

George Tebeau, who played in the field for the old Cleveland, Cincinnati and other major league clubs, is today one of the wealthiest and most influential men connected with the National game.

At one time, Mr. Tebeau was charged with running syndicate baseball, it being alleged that he owned the Denver, Kansas City, and Louisville Clubs.

Today, however, it is generally admitted that Mr. Tebeau controls only one club in the American Association-the Kansas City.

George Tebeau is sure enough a self-made man.

He began his baseball career on the lots in North St. Louis where the Water Tower stands now.

He first gained prominence locally when he played with the Shamrocks of North St. Louis in 1885. While with them he proved himself a great all around player, filling all the positions on the team, pitching when a pitcher was needed and catching when the regular receiver was down and out, but his home position was left field. He was so alert and plucky in his work that in 1886 he received a call from Denver and he did so well out West that Denver clung to him for (several) years.

...(His) fame as a player spread and he came into major league company playing in turn with the Cincinnati, Columbus, Grand Rapids, and Cleveland Clubs.

In the three last named organizations he was associated with (Tom) Loftus and from the latter Tebeau perhaps learned those rudiments of the game that in later years made him the most successful and wealthy of minor league managers.

Tebeau, although a most aggressive and pushing player and manager, had many fine traits, his reputation for honesty and square dealing being always above par.

Tebeau comes of a family of ball players in St. Louis, his brother, Oliver (Pat) Tebeau, being famous as the third baseman of the great Cleveland Club.

Tebeau, who played right field under his brother Pat at Cleveland some fifteen years ago and who was much pleased with his $1,200 salary, is rated a millionaire.

Tebeau earned a little money out of the old Western League and is getting good money out of the American Association. Two years ago he ran three clubs. First of all he sold Denver. Last August he disposed of Louisville for $100,00. He can get $175,000 for his Kansas City Club, it is said. Incidentally he will probably make $60,000 out of the latter club this year, as he evidently has an improved team, and Kansas City, just like every other town in the land, is baseball enthusiastic, and anything like a winning article will get the fans out in force.

Some seven or eight years ago Tebeau leased a hole in the ground, a poor bit of real estate, for an annual rental of $900. He likewise got an option to purchase it for $65,000 at any time during a period of ten years. Now Kansas City is going to have its new railroad station. Tebeau's ball park is so located that it must be grabbed up. The railway people have kept on increasing their bid until now there is a chance of Tebeau getting a million or so out of the ground and he deserves every penny he can get.

From The National Game

Note: The above picture shows the old brick water tower at Bissell Point that Al Spink mentioned in his piece on George Tebeau.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Nice Picture Of Silver Flint

This image of Silver Flint came from the October 30, 1886 issue of The Sporting News.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Other Series

During late September and early October of 1886, the Browns and the White Stockings were, according to The Sporting News, "at work arranging for their series of games for the championship of the world." The result of the negotiation was a seven game series with the first three games played in Chicago on October 18, 19, and 20 and then three games in St. Louis on October 21, 22, and 23. If the series was tied after six games, a deciding seventh game would be played "on some neutral ground."

While all the details had been worked out with the Chicagos, there was one small problem. "This arrangement of the world's series interfered somewhat with the local series between the Browns and Maroons." It appears that the Browns had an agreement to play a nine game series with the Maroons in mid-October and that series now was in conflict with the Browns' commitment to the World Series. As a result, Von der Ahe was forced to go back to the Maroons and negotiate a new arrangement. A deal was struck, after a bit of "friendly controversy," to play five games at Union Park on October 14, 15, 17, 26, and 31 and four games at Sportsman's Park on October 16, 24, 28, and 30.

With all the business arrangements taken care of, the first game of the local series was played at Union Park on the 14th and resulted in a 3-0 win for the Browns, led by the pitching of Dave Foutz. The Browns suffered a big scare in the seventh when Bob Caruthers, playing right field and batting third, "injured himself while running from first to second. He wrenched his knee and now says he will not be able to play against the Chicagos in the world's series. He was carried from the ground to a bus and taken to his home." The injury proved not to be as serious as originally thought and Caruthers ended up playing a large role in the Browns' series victory over the White Stockings.

An interesting view of the goings on at Sportsman's Park was offered by a Maroons' fan in the October 25th issue of The Sporting News:

I am a Maroons crank and so far gone that while last Sunday's game was in progress I shouted "Rats" at a Browns crank who was howling at the umpire for doing what appeared to me to be his duty.

I acknowledge that I was ashamed of myself afterwards. Perhaps the other fellow was too.

I never in all my experience saw a crowd in which the various passions were better depicted than at last Sunday's game.

In one corner there was an old Irishman, a Maroon crank like myself. The shouting of Latham made him red in the face with rage and when Arlie called: "Go down now, Robbie. Hit her out Bush," the old fellow would try to drown his voice by shouting: "Yow, yow, yow, now, now, now," to the intense delight of every Maroon crank within hearing.

Once a Brown crank got so excited over this fusillade that he called on Latham to put the old fellow out, a proceeding that Arlie very wisely refrained from indulging in.

In another corner was a lot of youngsters from Frenchtown every one of whom was a rampant sympathizer of the Browns...The gang...howled, stamped and pounded their hands until they were tired.

In another corner around first base there was a gang of Maroon sympathizers: "Patsy, ye divil," said one of them after Cahill had reached first on a pretty hit, "stale second and I'll give ye my hat."

"He doesn't want yer hat, ye monkey," shouted a comrade.

"Thin I'll give him me coat," responded the first speaker.

...(At) that moment Patsy tried to steal second and was caught in the act. As he came back shaking his head at the umpire his Irish friend shouted "Give him the divil, Patsy" and Patsy in response "gave him the divil."

In another corner was a party of dudes. They were awfully excited. One of them bit his finger nails with suppressed excitement. Another smoked a cigarette a minute. Another covered his vinaigrette with his handkerchief and took great whiffs from it to keep from fainting. They were all Maroon cranks.

"Aw," said one, "it's true the Browns are winning but they cannot be classed with the Maroons. The League, you know, is much stronger than the Association. Haven't you heard that yet? Why, I thought everyone knew it. Will the Chicagos beat the Browns? Oh dear, what a silly question. Why I don't imagine that they will allow the Browns to make a single run. Do you? How foolish of you to think so. Why don't I bet then? Why, I never bet. I really cawn't afford it."

...The Browns and Maroons were as excited as the rest of the ten thousand persons in the enclosure.

...The Browns play like a company of military. There is a system to their every movement. Their leaders have learned the tricks that made the Chicago White Stockings invincible and famous. They know how to pour a broadside into the enemy and rattle the life out of him. The Maroons are lacking these elements.

The Browns have three great coachers in Latham, Comiskey, and Gleason. The Maroons have none.

But in the ranks of the latter there are some grand individual players and under equal conditions they will always make the pace warm for the Browns.
On October 24, the Browns won a 6-5 come from behind victory over the Maroons at Sportsman's Park. It was the Browns fifth straight victory over the Maroons and clinched the best of nine city series. The win gave the Browns their second series win over a League team in as many days.

The 1886 baseball season came to a close on October 31 with the final game in the city series being played at Union Park. With the series already long decided and the Browns basking in their world's championship, the Maroons won the final game 2-1 on a "warm and pleasant" Halloween Sunday before a crowd of "several thousand." Not surprisingly, "(errors) were a little more frequent than usual..." and the Browns had Nat Hudson, their third pitcher, on the mound.

The most interesting thing about this game is that it marks the last time that the Black Diamonds took the field in St. Louis. By February of 1887, the Maroons would be no more and their players would be scattered across the League, with most joining Indianapolis.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Victory For Edwardsville

From The Sporting News, October 25, 1886

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Von der Ahe And The Sportsman's Park Fire Of 1898, Part 2

From The Sporting News, April 23, 1898:

Panic Ensued

Fire Destroys Stands At Sportsman’s Park

Ball Players Heroically Snatch Spectators From The Seething Flames

During the last half of the second inning of the Chicago-St. Louis game on Saturday April 16, fire broke out in the grandstand at Sportsman’s Park.

The 1898 season opened with the Browns hosting their Chicago League rivals on Friday, April 15. Coming off the worst season in franchise history, the Browns dropped their opener by a score of 2-1. The next day saw over four thousand people come out for a Saturday afternoon game between the two teams.

Sometime in the second inning, a spectator sitting in the grandstands dropped a lighted cigar. The cigar fell beneath the grandstands onto a pile of canvas bags and a small fire broke out. Those in the immediate vicinity began to move away and the game was halted as the umpire investigated the source of the disturbance. The majority of the spectators at the game were unaware of what was happening and cries of “Sit down” and “Play ball” could be heard. Many believed that the commotion in the grandstands was the result of a fight having broken out.

Once the umpire became aware of what was happening in the grandstands, the game was called. As the players left the field, many began to shout at the fans, trying to inform them that a fire had broken out and that they needed to leave the ballpark. Most of the spectators were still sitting in their seats in “bewildered amusement” and hoping that the game would continue. As they became aware of the fact that the game had been called due to a fire, some of the fans “slowly started for the exits, exchanging opinions as to how soon the fire department would appear to put the ‘damn thing out.’”

“The progress of the fire was slow at first,” The Sporting News wrote, “but as it spread, it gained in fury…(and) terrified men and women…sought safety in flight.” Most tried to escape by way of the exits. “As the heat from the burning structure increased in intenseness, the people hastened their efforts to escape. Hundreds rushed up the exit from the grounds between the club and saloon only to find the gate closed.” A frenzy ensued amidst the “furnace like heat and smoke” and the crowd battered the gate down. Many fans were pulled onto the field by the players of both teams, who showed “commendable courage” in helping people to escape the grandstands. The cool demeanor of the players helped to calm a crowd that was beginning to panic “and prevented them from trampling each other to death.”

Within thirty minutes after the discovery of the fire, the grandstands, the left-field bleachers, the other buildings and saloon were all in ruins…Von Der Ahe was desperate in his despair at the culmination of his ill-luck, and had to be restrained by his friends, who feared for his sanity. He lived above the saloon, and all of his personal effects were destroyed.

Over 100 people were injured in the fire. At least three of the injuries were described as “serious,” including a woman “who’s life was feared for”. Another person seriously injured both knees when they jumped from the grandstands. Other people suffered burns and blistering to their hands, back, and neck. Luckily, their were no fatalities.

In the immediate aftermath of the fire, thought was given to transferring the remainder of the series to Chicago but the idea was rejected by Browns manager Tim Hurst. Instead, that night, “a gang of men were set to work…and the fences repaired and temporary stands erected ...” Hurst and his players assisted the workers Saturday night “under electric lights” and enough was accomplished so that a game was played on Sunday as scheduled. Before a crowd of 7,000 people, the weary Browns lost to Chicago by a score of 14-1.

The Sporting News concluded their report of the fire by stating that “(the) grandstands and clubhouse at Sportsman’s Park will be rebuilt at once, and it is expected that work will be completed by July 4.” Von der Ahe used what cash reserves he had to rebuild a scaled down version of Sportsman’s Park. Gone were the saloon and the cycling track and the water ride. The latest version of Sportsman’s Park was a modest creation that sported only a baseball field and a grandstand.

As a result of the Sportsman’s Park Fire of 1898, Von der Ahe’s prominence in the baseball world would come to a quick end. Cash wrote that “the fire hounded (Von der Ahe). Some spectators, trampled in the rush to flee the burning ballpark, filed personal injury lawsuits against him. Confronted by too many creditors, Von der Ahe declared bankruptcy.” On August 10, 1898, the club was forced into receivership and would have new owners by March of 1899. Although Von der Ahe would not go quietly, the era of Der Boss President was over.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Champions Of The World

I've been reading the coverage of the 1886 World Series between the Browns and the White Stockings in The Sporting News and wanted to pass along the front page from the October 30, 1886 issue of TSN. When the page loaded, I literally said "Wow!" Click on the image above for a better view.

Von der Ahe And The Sportsman's Park Fire Of 1898, Part 1

In the early 1890’s Chris Von der Ahe’s empire was under a great deal of stress. “Real estate values collapsed in the late 1880’s,” Jon David Cash wrote in Before They Were Cardinals, “leaving (Von der Ahe) overextended and heavily indebted to the Northwestern Savings Bank of St. Louis. To pay his debts, Von der Ahe resulted to selling the services of many talented players.” While the Browns had an enviable depth of talent, over time the team was unable to absorb these losses and remain competitive. During the last seven years of Von der Ahe’s ownership, the Browns never finished higher than ninth.

At the same time that Von der Ahe’s financial and sporting fortunes took a turn for the worse, the United States suffered one of the greatest economic downturns in its history. The Panic of 1893 began, according to Ohio History , when “the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, one of the United States' largest railroad companies and employers, ceased operation. Soon thereafter, the National Cordage Company also closed its doors. As a result of the failure of these two companies, a crisis broke out on the stock market. Hundreds of businesses had overextended themselves, borrowing money to expand their operations. As the financial crisis struck, banks and other investment firms began calling in loans, causing hundreds of business bankruptcies across the United States. Banks, railroads, and steel mills especially fell into bankruptcy. Over fifteen thousand businesses closed during this crisis…Unemployment rates soared to twenty to twenty-five percent in the United States during the Panic of 1893. Homelessness skyrocketed, as workers were laid off and could not pay their rent or mortgages. The unemployed also had difficulty buying food due to the lack of income.” Just as this economic crisis began, Von der Ahe decided to build a new ballpark.

The new Sportsman’s Park, a major real estate investment, was built in 1892 at the corner of Vandeventer Avenue and Natural Bridge Road and was a testament to both Von der Ahe’s imagination and extravagance. According to the Illuminations And Epiphanies website, “Von der Ahe constructed ‘the Coney Island of the West,’ which not only contained the ballpark but included a beer garden, a chute-the-chute water ride, an outfield track for night time horse racing, and an artificial lake.” In order to finance his new sports complex, Von der Ahe took on a great deal of debt in the form of bonds.

By 1898, the national economy had still not fully recovered and Von der Ahe’s financial situation had become desperate. In 1895, his wife sued him for divorce and the resulting settlement was costly. His team was floundering on the field and at the gate after a last place finish in 1897. He was awash in debt and forced to turn to shady money lenders to stay afloat. Handling money as if it were “peanuts to feed to monkeys,” buying champagne for “his numerous army of flatterers and hanger-ons” and keeping multiple mistresses, according to Cash Von der Ahe continued to live the lifestyle of a successful sportsman even as his empire collapsed.

And then his ballpark burnt to the ground.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Curt Welch

Curt Welch, the center fielder of the St. Louis Browns, when they were winning American Association and World's Championships in the eighties, was by long odds the greatest fielder of his day.

Welch was a rough diamond, uncouth, uneducated but a born athlete and player.

He did more than his share in the winning of championships for the St. Louis Browns during their wonderful success in the eighties.

Welch at this time was one of the most enthusiastic and aggressive players in the business. In fierce and offensive play he had no superiors. He would take any chance when running the bases and would buck a stone wall if that sort of thing was necessary.

He was a fine, plucky player, being always a good man in the breach and it was his ability to hit the ball when a hit was needed, or to steal a base when the steal meant a victory, that won many a game for his side.

But it was at fielding the ball that Welch excelled all other fielders of his day.

It was claimed that his skill in fielding the ball was due to his keen sense of hearing. It was said that he could tell by the sound of the crack of the bat just how far the ball was going to go. One thing is certain, no man that has ever played at center has excelled Welch when it came to rapid work in the field. In judging all kinds of high hits Welch was superb. He covered a great stretch of ground and seldom went after the ball without landing it.

In base running, too, he had no equal when it came to terrific head slides.

From The National Game

Bill James, in The Historical Baseball Abstract, wrote that "Curt Welch's '$15,000 slide' is the most famous play of 19th century baseball. Recent writers have for some reason taken to questioning whether Welch actually slid across the plate. G.W. Axelson in his 1919 biography of Comiskey (Commy) quotes Comiskey about the play, and Comiskey clearly states that Welch slid."

From Welch's obituary in The East Liverpool (Ohio) Review, August 31, 1894:

Curtis Benton Welch...was born on his father's farm near Williamsport, Feb. 10, 1862. He went to the village school, and when the family took up residence in this city he worked in the pottery.

In April of 1884 he married Miss Anna Boyle of Salineville and the union was blessed with two children.

In the spring of 1877 the famous Crockery City ball club was at the Cleveland and Pittsburgh station about to take a train to Steubenville. The catcher...was ailing with an injured hand and much doubt was expressed to the outcome of the game. Someone noticed a shy youth in the crowd of admirers present, and suggested they give Curt Welch a chance to prove his ability.

He accepted the position and did so well that his local reputation was made. Not a ball passed him that day and his brilliant playing was applauded. During the remainder of the season he played on several occasions with the club and the following spring was the prime mover in the organization of the Stars. He was a pitcher at this time and played well, but the Crockery City boys defeated the Stars in a series of seven games.

Welch became a member of the team and remained with them until June of 1883 and was regarded as the best player in the city. He could fill any position well and his fame soon spread through the surrounding country.

Then his professional career began. Toledo was the champion of the North-western league and Welch was signed by the management in June. His salary was fixed at $110 a month and he remained with the organization for two years. Welch played winning ball in those days, and few men have been accorded the reception given him in Toledo. His principal friends were Barclay and Mulane...and the trio were signed by Von Der Ahe, for his Association team in St. Louis in the winter of 1885. Welch was placed in middle field and played his position such as it had never before been filled. He was the admiration of the base ball world and his praises were sung in all parts of the country. The St. Louis Browns were champions of the Association at that time, and Welch was the favorite of the team. Von Der Ahe was offered $10,000 for his release but would not part with him. In 1888 when his base ball venture was not what he desired, the manager released Welch for $6,000 to the Athletics of Philadelphia and he played at the highest salary, $3,300, ever paid an outfielder. He also got $450 a season for filling the position of captain, and was never found wanting at a critical point.

In 1891 he signed with Baltimore through one season and part of the next. Released in 1893 he went to Cincinnati and played for a short time under his old manager, Comiskey, but he was not the player of his youth and soon went to Louisville. Here it was developed that he could not stay in the big league and he did not finish the season. In 1894 he signed with Syracuse and did excellent work until the beginning of the next season, when he was released and taken by Hazelton, Pa. He was released last fall, and signed with Carbondale, Pa. but was too ill when the summer opened to play ball...

Mr. Welch had been a sufferer of consumption but battled bravely against the illness. Several years ago when it first showed itself he felt confident that it would eventually cause his death, as his father and four brother died that way. He had been seriously ill for several months but borne up by the hope that the warm weather would make him much better and he refused to remain in his room. When the conviction was reached that he could not long survive he was forced to remain bedfast. He then lost consciousness and began to sink. On Aug. 28 he was a little better and recognized his family and could carry a little conversation. He then began to sink rapidly and died Aug. 29, too weak to make an effort toward resistance.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


While writing about the rowdyism of the late 19th century, Harold Seymour had this to say about Patsy Tebeau in Baseball: The Early Years:

One of the most notorious teams for rough stuff was Patsy Tebeau's Cleveland Spiders. President Byrne made the Spiders pay four dollars for repairs when they tore up the clubhouse after losing three straight to Brooklyn, and he charged them $1.25 for a ball Jesse Burkett threw over the fence. In a midseason game at Louisville in 1896 "Tebeauism" was at its worst. The Spiders were in rare form, ragging the umpire all day and mobbing him for calling the game on account of darkness. The fans then attacked the Spiders, who ended the day in jail. The League Board fined Tebeau $200, but President Robison, angrily denouncing the League, got an injunction to prevent both the collection of the fine and the boycotting of Cleveland by other League clubs if Tebeau played-which they had planned to do.
The Sporting News, upon Tebeau's death in 1918, wrote that Tebeau "belonged to the blood and iron brigade of baseball and was in his glory in the days when the game was not for weaklings...players of these modern days are milksops compared to the men who fought the diamond battles of the late eighties and the nineties, when Patsy was at his best. He came from the Goose Hill and Kerry Patch schools, the very names of whose graduates made umpires shudder and whose arguments were not finished with mere words and back talk." The same article went on to tell several Tebeau stories, all of which involved violence, threats of violence, and obscenities (that were represented in the article by blank spaces) directed towards umpires, fans, the opposition, and his own players.

When told that he was a rough and a rowdy and that he had "out-Baltimored" Baltimore, Tebeau replied that "I play ball as I find it played against me...Do you expect me to stand still and see them bring the hearse for me on the ground? If they do there'll be two us that will go out in it."

The New York Times had a nice Tebeau story in its August 9, 1894 issue:

Capt. Tebeau of the Cleveland Club came near being mobbed after to-day's game (in Pittsburgh). He had to wait under the grand stand until the crowd left the park. In the ninth inning, with two of the Cleveland men out, Tebeau commenced to abuse Hoagland for certain decisions, and threatened to put on the gloves with the umpire and settle it according to prize-fighting rules. The crowd was so mad at Tebeau that he had to be hustled out of reach...Tebeau was hit in the face by a young boy on his way from the grounds to the hotel in the omnibus.

He Was The Greatest Cardinals Centerfielder Of All Time'll be missed.

Note: The first photo was taken from the Jim Edmonds retrospective at Cardinal Nation.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What I Actually Meant To Say

I've had a long week that involved too much work, too little sleep, and probably one too many trips to the local pub. When I sat down to post yesterday, I had no clue what I was going to write about and ended up posting what seems in retrospect a relatively incoherent piece on Chippy McGarr. Oh well, not every post can be a Light In August. So let's see if I can pull it together long enough to make some sense out of all of this.

The Browns juggernaut had another successful season on the field in 1887, cruising to their third straight pennant. They were led by the outstanding pitching of Bob Caruthers, Dave Foutz, and Silver King. At the plate, Tip O'Neil had his best season, winning the triple crown and leading the AA in just about every major offensive category. Caruthers and Foutz, who played 61 and 65 games in the field respectively, were the second and third best hitters on the team.

While the Browns cruised to the pennant, their on-field success did not translate into financial success for Chris Von der Ahe. With the loss of the Pittsburgh club to the National League after the 1886 season, attendance (and revenue) was down across the AA in 1887. The lack of a competitive pennant race also had a depressing effect on attendance in St. Louis. The profitable Sunday games were threatened due to the activities of Sabbatarians who controlled the State Legislature in Missouri. The World Series versus Detroit did not generate the revenues anticipated. And as revenue was declining, Von der Ahe's expenses, in the form of player salaries, were increasing. While the Browns were certainly still a profitable operation, Von der Ahe, who relied on his baseball profits to fund his other business interests, was feeling the squeeze.

As a result of this downturn in his economic situation, Von der Ahe explored numerous options. Speculation was ripe that the Browns would follow the Alleganhys into the League (in exchange for a $25,000 bonus). Other rumours making the rounds in 1887 were that Von der Ahe would sell the Browns to Joseph Pulitzer for $100,000, move the club to New York, or buy a controlling interest in the Philadelphia Association club and transfer some of the abundant talent on the Browns to his new team in order to make the AA a more competitive venture.

While Von der Ahe certainly explored all of these options, in the end rather than take any radical steps he simply chose to cut expenses and raise revenue the "old fashioned" way-by selling his players. According to Jon David Cash, Von der Ahe "traveled to the East and traded away the rights to five valuable players from his championship team. For a total of $18,750, he sold to the Brooklyn Trolley-Dodgers the services of Albert 'Doc' Bushong and the two men who had served as a pitcher-right fielder tandem for the Browns, Dave Foutz and Bob Caruthers. In Philadelphia, Von der Ahe arranged another transaction, sending shortstop Bill Gleason and center fielder Curt Welch to the Athletics for catcher John 'Jocko' Milligan, shortstop James 'Chippy' McGarr, center fielder Fred Mann, and an additional eight thousand dollars." These transactions not only helped to address Von der Ahe's financial situation but it also strengthened Philadelphia and Brooklyn, making for a (theoretically) more competitive league.

As to Chippy McGarr and Lou Sockalexis, McGarr was born, raised, and lived in Worchester, Massachusetts, home of the College of Holy Cross. It seems that in the offseasons while McGarr was playing with Cleveland, he helped coach the Holy Cross baseball team. Sockalexis was the star athlete at Holy Cross and McGarr, recognizing his talent, pressed Cleveland manager Patsy Tebeau to sign Sockalexis. Tebeau had Jesse Burkett, another Cleveland player and Worchester native, confirm McGarr's scouting report. After Burkett also told Tebeau to sign Sockalexis, Tebeau spent almost a year trying to sign the player to a contract. After a complicated courtship that involved Sockalexis disappearing for a time and then enrolling at Notre Dame, Cleveland finally signed Sockalexis for the 1897 season.

Cody McKay?

I couldn't let the release of the Mitchell Report go by without a comment.

My reaction to the whole thing can be summed up like this: Cody McKay? Are you fracking kidding me? Cody Fracking McKay?

All I can say is thank God none of my tax money was spent on this thing. We have more important things to spend my tax money on.

Or maybe not.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Chippy McGarr

In 1887, the Browns held what David Nemec described as "the biggest fire sale in major league history." While fans of the Florida Marlins might want to argue that point, Chris Von der Ahe did move Bob Caruthers, Curt Welch, Doc Bushong, and Bill Gleason in November of 1887 to various teams for a combination of cash and players. The reasons for the fire sale included the need to reduce payroll, a desire to recoup declining profits, Comisky's unhappiness with the attitudes of some of his stars, and possibly an attempt to strengthen other teams in the AA. One of the players that the Browns received in the fire sale was James McGarr.

There is an argument to be made that Chippy McGarr was one of the worst everyday players in the history of baseball and should be on the list of the all-time worst third basemen. From 1894 to 1896, McGarr, playing everyday for Cleveland, never had an OPS+ higher than 62. At the same time that he wasn't hitting, McGarr committed 125 errors over those three seasons.

McGarr, who lived in Worchester, Massachusetts and helped coach the Holy Cross baseball team, was instrumental in Cleveland signing Lou Sockalexis in 1897. McGarr had been telling Cleveland manager Patsy Tebeau about the Holy Cross star for several years and recommended that the team sign him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Patsy Tebeau's Obituary

While doing research on George Tebeau, I found Patsy Tebeau's obituary at The Deadball Era. A sad ending.

Tebeau, who died in 1918, is buried in Cleveland.

Oliver Wendell Tebeau

Patsy Tebeau, described by Al Spink as "the champion first baseman," was a St. Louis native who played in the National League from 1887 to 1900 for Chicago, Cleveland, and St. Louis.

In The National Game, Spink wrote the following:

Tebeau learned to play ball in North St. Louis.

There was a large family of Tebeau's and they all loved the game, loved it so well that two of the boys, Oliver and George became famous in its annals.

They learned to play on the prairie near the old Water Tower on Grand Avenue.

"Pat" Tebeau, the name Oliver was best known by, and his brother George, were the star players of the Peach Pie team of North St. Louis and later were the brightest on the Shamrock nine, which held forth in the same neighborhood.

Pat's first professional work was with the St. Joe team of the Western League in the early eighties and then he came into the limelight as the captain, manager and first baseman of the Cleveland League team.

It was Tom Loftus, then manager of the Clevelands, that saw in "Pat" Tebeau the sort of spirit needed to make a good commander, and when Loftus gave up the reins he put them in the hands of "Pat." That they were well handled goes without saying.

Tebeau was not only a fine first baseman, but a hitter of the first flight.

Tim Hurst, who was an umpire in the League in the 1890's and managed the Browns in 1898, told the following story about Tebeau:

I have been asked to tell of the hardest decision that I ever made...The most important, I think, occurred several years ago during a game between Cleveland and Baltimore at Cleveland.

It was the ninth inning, and the score was tied. Childs was on second base for Cleveland, with but one out, and Pat Tebeau was at the bat. Hoffer was pitching for Baltimore and Robinson was catching. Hoffer was using a dinky outcurve that broke some distance from the plate and Tebeau was having great trouble in meeting squarely. On several occasions he walked out of the box to hit the ball and I had repeatedly warned him about it.

Finally when Childs reached second, Tebeau saw an outcurve coming and ran ten feet out of the box to hit it. He met the ball squarely before it "broke" and drove it to the center-field fence for two bases. Childs easily scored, making the game 3 to 2 in favor of Cleveland. The crowd was whooping and yelling over the victory.

Robinson ran up to me and called my attention to the fact that Tebeau had run out of the batter's box. I knew he was right, and during the tumult I called Tebeau out and sent Childs back to second. The crowd was absolutely stunned.

Tebeau came running in from second with tears in his eyes. "You didn't call me out for that?" inquired Patsy.

"Sure, I did. You know that you stepped out of the box, and you are only getting what is coming to you."

"Well, I might have stepped out a few feet," he wailed. "But you ought not to give a decision like that in the presence of this home crowd."

That tied up the game and it went along until the twelfth inning, when Baltimore won. You can imagine that I was a very popular guy in Cleveland that night.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A New And Radical Departure Indeed

President Robinson of the St. Louis Club has inaugurated a new and radical departure at Sportsman's Park during the coming season. He will absolutely bar the peddling of anything through the grandstands or bleachers during the progress of any game. All the beer waiters, peanut vendors and score card boys will be prominent absentees. Score cards can be sold by the boys through the stands prior to the game but after time is called even these boys will have to retire. This one decision alone is sufficient to show the wide gulf between the retiring and incoming regimes.

From Sporting Life, April 15, 1899

No beer vendors at a baseball game in St. Louis? I doubt that went over well. The "retiring" regime, of course, was that of Chris Von der Ahe, who measured attendance by the amount of beer he sold.

The Sporting Life article goes on to say that Robinson viewed the vendors as a "nuisance" that kept people away from the game. With that problem solved, "(the) better class of patron's can now come to Sportsman's Park and bring their ladies without fear of having even the most fastidious tastes and ideas offended and shocked."

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Union Base Ball Club March

The Union Base Ball Club March, dedicated "To the Members of the Union Base Ball Club - Champions of Missouri," was composed by T.M. Brown and published by Richard Compton in 1867. Brown is listed on the cover of the sheet music as an honorary member of the Union Club and Nineteenth Century Baseball Photographs On The World Wide Web mentions that he was "captain of the Third Nine."

According to the Robert Edwards Auction website, the cover for the sheet music "features nine beautifully engraved portrait images of the Union team members on the front. This is one of the earliest of all baseball sheet musics, and is also one of the first to picture actual likenesses of prominent ballplayers. The engraver's name (F. Welcker) appears in the lower left." A matted and framed copy of the sheet music in excellent condition sold for $1,276 in 2006.

While information on the composer of the music is scarce, there was a prominent Missouri financier named T.M. Brown who was a partner in the Brownlow & Brown banking firm in the 1880's. While more research is needed, it's possible that the two men where one and the same.

The sheet music for the Union Base Ball Club March is posted below for anyone with a musical inclination. I would certainly love to here what this music sounds like.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Fifteenth Annual Ball Of The Empire Baseball Club

Two balls on the night of December 16th (1874) were reported with considerable detail by the papers next day. One was the fifteenth annual ball of the Empire Baseball Club, "champions of Missouri," which was attended by quite a number of prominent citizens with their ladies, and the other was the "grand ball of the Sixth Ward Democrat Club." One of the papers described the dresses worn by some of the ladies. There was no "Veiled Prophet's"ball in those days and the Imperial Club was too select for newspaper publicity.

From A Newspaper Man's Motion-Picture View Of The City

One of the reasons that I find the 1875 season so fascinating is that, in St. Louis, you find the game transitioning from its older forms into "modern" baseball. As the Empire and Imperial Base Ball Clubs clung to the old custom and rituals, men were in the process of ushering in the "professional" era of baseball in St. Louis. As the men of the Empire Club (and their ladies) enjoyed their year-end ball, W.C. Steigers, J.B.C. Spinks, and others were putting together the finances and organizational structure that would lead to the advent of the Brown Stockings and a new era of baseball in St. Louis.

August Solari Tears Down The Grand Avenue Ballpark

According to Charlton's Baseball Chronology, on this day in 1877 August Solari, "operator of the Grand Avenue ballpark in St. Louis", announced that he would tear down the grandstands at the ballpark.

Jon David Cash, in Before They Were Cardinals, wrote that the "Grand Avenue Park dated back to 1866, when its baseball diamond had been laid out by August Solari, an amateur ballplayer and member of the Empires who had secured a five-year lease on John Dunn's corn field. Solari and the Empires had selected the site because it was located near the Fair Grounds, where several streetcar lines converged." After the Brown Stockings resigned from the National League in 1877, "Solari had torn down the nine-thousand-seat grandstand." In 1879, "(with) his latest five-year lease on Grand Avenue Park set to expire, Solari decided not to spend sixty-five hundred dollars to renew the lease, planning instead to dismantle the ballpark. In October, without explanation, Solari announced, 'Next week I am going to get out of here. I am going to take down the stands, the benches, and everything else.' Bemoaning this development, the Missouri Republican asked, 'Who is there that loves the national game that will not be pained to hear that the old park is to be defaced?'"

Partially in response to Solari's actions, a local St. Louis tavern owner by the name of Chris Von der Ahe would take over the lease, form the Sportsman's Park and Club Association, and renovate the old ballpark, which he would rename after his new Association.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tommy Tucker

Tommy Tucker, who played in 72 games for the Browns in 1898, was, according to David Nemec, "instrumental in transforming the (Baltimore) Orioles in the space of one year from the worst-hitting team of all time into one of the best in the Association." While that may be a bit of an overstatement, Tucker did have three fine seasons with the bat after joining the Orioles as a 23 year old rookie in 1887. After posting a respectable OPS+ of 105 in his rookie campaign, Tucker put up two very good seasons back to back with an OPS+ of 135 and 168. His 1898 season was his best year in the big leagues. That season, Tucker led the league in batting, on base percentage, hits and OPS. He was also third in total bases and eighth in RBI.

Nemec went on to write in The Beer & Whiskey League that "Tucker was a real rarity in his day, a switch-hitter. One of the first of note, Tucker confounded Tony Mullane, who was even more of a rarity-a switch-pitcher. Although normally a righthander, Mullane could throw effectively with either arm. Since many players in the mid-1880's still did not use gloves in the field, Mullane would sometimes hide his hands behind his back as he began his delivery, keeping a batter guessing until the last instant as to which arm would launch the ball. But Tucker had the weapon to thwart Mullane. Inasmuch as the rules in 1887 permitted a hitter to jump from one batter's box to another at will, Tucker was free to leap to the opposite side of the plate as soon as he saw which arm Mullane would pitch."

I'm not sure if it has anything to do with the switch-hitting but Tucker finished in the top ten in hit by pitches every year he was in the majors except for 1899, his final season. He finished first in HBP five times and four straight years from 1889-1892. From 1887 to 1895, Tucker never finished worse than fourth in HBP. He is third on the all-time list behind Hughie Jennings and Craig Biggio.

In The National Game, Al Spink wrote:

Tom Tucker of the Baltimore team was one of the finest fielders of the first basemen who flourished in the early nineties.

Tom was also an excellent batsman and base runner.

He was a left-handed hitter and often came to the rescue of his side with a good stroke.

Tucker is now living in retirement at Holyoke, Mass., where also are "Smiling" Mickey Welch of the old New York champions, "Jack" Doyle and Jack Hanifin of the Boston Nationals.

The Unions Vs The Perfectos

If you've never seen a vintage baseball game or have any interest in the vintage baseball movement, you should definitely check out this clip of a match between a couple of St. Louis clubs. The whole thing looked like a lot of fun.

Here's links to the websites for the Unions and the Perfectos.

Egerton R. Williams Popular Indoor Base Ball Game

The Egerton R. Williams Popular Indoor Base Ball Game was a card game that was patented in 1886 and copyrighted in 1889. A "parlor game" put out by the Hatch Litho Co., it consisted of 55 cards, 19 of which had pictures of popular ballplayers. The game also had 18 playing pieces, tan and red circular markers, that most likely were used to represent the players in the field. The game also came with an instructional booklet and a card box.

The cards had rounded corners and a greentone back. Those with images of players contained head-only portraits of two players. Players represented on the cards included Dan Brouthers, Arlie Latham, Charlie Buffington, Bob Caruthers, Hick Carpenter, Cliff Carroll, Charlie Comiskey, Roger Conner, Dave Foutz, Pud Glavin, Jack Glasscock, Silver King, and Curt Welch.

A complete game set is very rare. In 2005, one sold for $31,200. A picture of a complete set can be found at Cycleback’s Online Museum of Early Baseball Memorabilia. Just click the link and scroll about half way down the page.

The individual cards are less rare and are valued at around $300, depending on the quality of the card. In 2006, the Cap Anson/Buck Ewing card was sold at an auction for $2,200.

There seems to have been several of these kind of baseball themed card/parlor games released in the 1880's. Base Ball-A Professional and Social Game of Cards, Game of Base Ball, and Lawson's Base Ball were all released around the same time as the E.R. Williams game. A great source for information on these games is Baseball Games, a Yahoo egroup.