The following is the statement of the basis upon which E.C. Becker, B.S. Muckenfuss and the Robisons, of Cleveland, expect to arrange the distribution of the stock of the St. Louis Base Ball Club after the receiver's sale. It is expected Becker will be the only bidder, acting as agent for the Cleveland magnates. The owners of the club's franchise and plant next year wi be Frank De Haas and M. Stanley Robison, owners of the Cleveland Club, and Oliver Tebeau, manager of that team, whose holdings will be $5000, representing 55 per cent. of the stock. Becker and Muckenfuss will control the rest. The Robisons are to provide the players, the local parties are to pay off all indebtedness. Becker owns 1700 shares of the Sportsman's Park club stock and Von der Ahe but twelve shares.
On Jan. 5 the court will hear depositions and such other testimony as Von der Ahe may present to establish his claim to the ownership of the St. Louis franchise by himself or the St. Louis Base Ball Association, which he alleges was and is the trademark under which he conducted the base ball business. The receiver will present evidence that the franchise belongs to Sportsman's Park and Club, and it is predicted the court will decide against Von der Ahe and order a sale of the bankrupt corporation for the creditors. This is given upon seemingly reliable authority and accords with the development of the scheme as shown during the last three months...
If the unexpected should happen and the court should hold that Von der Ahe or his trademark association is the owner of the St. Louis franchise, the National League magnates will declare the franchise forfeited, and award it to the Robisons, who, with the National League to assist them, will fight it out with Von der Ahe in the courts, and, as he is without funds, it is thought he will be glad to get rid of it at any price. Then Becker and the bondholders and the creditors would, it is claimed, be told to look to the Sportsman's Park and Club for satisfaction of their claims.
-Sporting Life, January 7, 1899
Von der Ahe was still fighting but the plan was in place to transfer the club to the Robisons and there was going to be nothing he could do about it.
Washington, D.C., Jan. 4. - Chris Von der Ahe and his attorney, William Kinnerk, arrived in town last Friday, and immediately summoned President Nick Young, of the National League, to appear before Notary Reilly in Edward A. Neuman's office to give testimony with regard to the franchise granted to the St. Louis Club. Mr. Kinnerk wants to prove by Mr. Young that the franchise was issued to the St. Louis Base Ball Association and not to the Sportsman's Park and Club. Sportsman's Park and Club, Mr. Kinnerk claims, has only had the use of the franchise by the sufferance of Mr. Von der Ahe, and no transfer, he says, was ever made.
I'm not a lawyer but I can't imagine that trying to get the President of the National League held in contempt was a good strategy. I don't see how making Nick Young mad was going to help the cause.
Edward C. Becker will bid in the property. He is a creditor of the club, with claims that take precedence over everything but rent and taxes. He advanced Von der Ahe money and took certificates bearing 8 per cent. interest, and these obligations must be settled before the bondholders have any say in the matter. The arrangement by which Becker is to buy in the property was concluded in New York. Von der Ahe returned immediately after the League meeting, but Becker remained and had a conference with Brush, Soden, Robison and A.G. Spalding. Becker has completed satisfactory arrangements with them to buy in the club and transfer control of it to Robison, thus allowing the Cleveland Club to locate in St. Louis. Among the advertised assets of the association will be the National League franchise, under which the St. Louis Club is operated. In fact, that is about all there is to the Browns, and is the real bone of contention between Muckenfuss and Von der Ahe.
If it wasn't clear what the Muddle was all about, this should clear it up. The fight was about who owned the St. Louis National League club and who would own it going forward. Von der Ahe was bankrupt and had bankrupted the club. The club was placed in receivership, managed by Muckenfuss. Von der Ahe, however, still claimed ownership of the franchise and was desperately trying to salvage something out of his almost-two-decade investment. The League, at the winter meeting in December of 1898, had essentially refused to recognize Von der Ahe's ownership of the franchise and, in January 1899, the ownership question would be settled by the courts, paving the way for the sale of the club, by auction, to Becker.
The plan for Becker to purchase the club and transfer it to Robison was decided upon immediately after the winter meeting and, based upon his statements, it's obvious that Muckenfuss was involved in the planning. The League had decided how it was going to resolve the St. Louis Muddle and it was just waiting for the courts to settle the ownership question so that it could move ahead with the transfer of the St. Louis League franchise to Becker and Robison.
The case of the Mississippi Valley Trust Company vs. the Sportsman Park and Club, to set aside the receivership of Muckenfuss, came up last Thursday before Judge Spencer in the Circuit Court. William Kinnerk, Chris Von der Ahe's attorney, contended that the one great question involved is as to the ownership of the base ball franchise. He asked for a continuance to procure depositions from Washington and other Eastern cities on the matter of ownership. Attorney Muench stated that Receiver Muckenfuss was willing to give the Von der Ahe side some time to take depositions in Washington and elsewhere to prove the real ownership of the St. Louis base ball franchise in the National League, but, as $40,000 worth of property was up in the meantime, he wanted these depositions taken without delay. Judge Spencer granted a continuance until Jan. 5. This action is looked upon as a move to stave off the inevitable, for if Chris fails, and it is generally believed he will, Muckenfuss will advertise the property for sale and dispose of it at auction in 20 days.
The League had its say and now the one great question was about to be answered by the courts.
On Thursday afternoon while the receivership question was being argued in Court an attorney appeared for the owner of the property on which Sportsman's Park is located, and wanted to know what chance there was for his client to collect his rent from Receiver Muckenfuss. He said that a year's rent was due. The Court told the attorney to wait until after the question of foreclosure had been disposed of on January 5.
Not only did the Browns struggle to pay the players in 1898, they didn't pay their rent the entire season. This is a reminder of the bottom line regarding all of Von der Ahe's troubles: both he and the club were bankrupt.
Mr. Muckenfuss seemed quite elated over his recognition by the League as the representative of the St. Louis club. "There was more politics than actual work at the meeting," he said. "The magnates shaped a plan that will be put in shape by the time of the early spring meeting. All I can say now is that it looks as if there would be an eight-club League next season with St. Louis a member and the present Cleveland team playing at Sportsman's Park.
Mr. Von der Ahe returned from the League meeting in good spirits and sure of winning out in the end. Said he: "The League did more for me than I expected. I intended to make them recognize me as the rightful representative of the St. Louis Club. This they declined to do, claiming I had agreed at the meeting here in St. Louis last February to let Mr. Muckenfuss represent me, but they recognize the fact that it was the St. Louis Base Ball Association and not the Sportsman's Park and Club that controlled the franchise under which the St. Louis Club is operated. What more did I want? Everything is plain sailing for me after that decision. They had to make it to avert injunction proceedings, which I threatened.
On Tuesday morning, immediately after the Board of Directors referred the St. Louis contest to the National League, the latter went into session to dispose of the matter. All of Tuesday and half of Wednesday were consumed in reaching a decision. The upshot of the matter was that Von der Ahe was defeated, thanks wholly to the blunders of himself and his attorney, Mr. Kinnerk, of St. Louis. Thanks to Colonel Rogers' clever handling also the League was enabled to settle the matter justly and without being involved in the legal tangle in which the St. Louis club is enmeshed. Mr. Brush started out to make a fight for Muckenfuss, basing everything on the latter's capacity as receiver of Sportsman's Park and Club. Thus Brush would have involved the League in no end of trouble had he not been cleverly side-tracked by Colonel Rogers, who set the League absolutely right and again demonstrated that he after all really is "lawyer of the League." He also proved once more, that the old saying that "it takes a Philadelphia lawyer to get to the bottom of a case" is as true as ever.
So regardless of all of Von der Ahe's machinations, the League refused to recognize him as the official representative of the Browns nor did it even recognize him as the owner of the franchise. It found that the franchise had been awarded to the St. Louis Base Ball Association which, according to the League, was an entity that did not exist.
This was a major defeat for Von der Ahe, in his quest to hold on to the club. He had lost the official backing of the League, which, I have to believe, would have been of some use in the legal battles surrounding ownership of the club. Also, the League had found, as the courts would in the near future, that Von der Ahe's argument regarding the separation between the StLBBA and the SPCA was a fiction. Essentially, the League stated that the Browns were operated by the SPCA, which they did not recognize. This laid the groundwork for the League to strip VdA and the SPCA of ownership of the club and award it to whomever they chose.
The Muddle was not unmuddled at the winter meetings in 1898 but I think the League had charted a way forward.
The Board of Directors was, in procedure, due to meet Tuesday before the League to make up its report, but immediately upon assembling it had to adjourn, as there was a contested seat. The Board was composed of the Washington, Pittsburg, Louisville, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Baltimore Clubs. Both Von der Ahe and Muckenfuss, of St. Louis, claimed the seat and, as the Board had no power to settle the dispute, it at once adjourned, referring the contest to the National League.
It was only a matter of time before the League was forced to sort out the St. Louis Muddle and it all came to a head at the winter meeting in December of 1898. I'll have much more on all of this tomorrow.
Base Ball. - Two games were played last Sunday, one between the East St. Louis Base Ball Club and the "Dirty Stockings," in which the score stood: East St. Louis Club, 41; Dirty Stockings, 11. The other match was between two colored clubs, the St. Louis Mutual, and the Polar Star of East St. Louis, in which the score stood: St. Louis Mutual, 26; Polar Star, 18.
I think this is a rather significant find for two reasons. First, this is the earliest reference that I have to East St. Louis baseball clubs. There were clubs in the Metro East area since at least 1866 but the East St. Louis Club, the Dirty Stockings and the Polar Stars are the earliest clubs I'm aware of from the city.
Secondly, this is the earliest reference I've found to a black club on the east side and it's certainly possible that the Polar Stars predated the East St. Louis Club and the Dirty Stockings. Also, this is, I believe, the second earliest reference to a St. Louis black club that I'm aware of. We have the 1870 reference to the St. Louis Base Ball Club but almost everything else I have comes from after 1874.
And I found all of that in one article. How about that?