John C. McGeachy, whose portrait is above given, is a brilliant outfielder of the Brooklyn Club, of the Players' League. McGeachy is a native of Clinton, Mass., where he was born May 23, 1864. He is five feet eight inches in height and weighs 165 pounds. He is a steady and reliable player, a hard hitter, a sure catch and a fine base runner. His first professional engagement was in the latter part of the season of 1883 at Waterbury, Ct., where he remained during the season of 1884. In 1885 he was signed by the Long Island Club, of the Eastern League, and remained with that club until it disbanded and then he was signed by the Detroit Club, of the National League, finishing the season with it. In 1886 he signed with the St. Louis Club, also of the National League, then under Henry Lucas' management. During the following Winter the Indianapolis Club purchased the St. Louis Club's franchise, players, etc., and McGeachy was transferred to Indianapolis where he remained throughout the seasons of 1887-88-89. When the Brooklyn Club, of the Players' League, was formed during the past Winter, McGeachy was one of the men selected for its team, and he has proved a valuable man to Manager Ward. In a game between the Indianapolis and Chicago teams, during the season of 1889, McGeachy made a safe hit each of the five times he wint to bat, including three singles, a double bagger and a home run. He is without doubt one of the most promising players in the profession.
-New York Clipper, September 13, 1890
The reason that the game where McGeachey got five hits stands out is because McGeachey was a terrible hitter. The guy just, flat-out, could not hit. Over the course of his career, he "accumulated" -4.9 WAR and almost all of that negative value came from his offense, where he had -4.8 WAR. The guy couldn't hit at all.
We present to our base ball readers in this week's issue, the third of our series of illustrations, and the second of the portraits of leading players of the country, the subject of our present sketch being Mr. Adam North, of the Empire Base Ball Club of St. Louis, Mo.
So the great Adam Wirth, who was probably the best St. Louis baseball player of his generation, gets profiled in a national newspaper and they get his name wrong. That's a tough break. But at least we got the above image of Wirth from this piece from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper and, for that, I'm very thankful. Below is the picture with its caption as it appeared in the paper:
Poor Wirth. He was a great ballplayer, a heck of a hitter, and the best player on a great championship club.
"The Derby Winner," in charge of Al Spink and George Munson, will start out next season with an improved cast and new specialties and accessories. The season opens Aug. 18, at the Grand Opera House, in [St. Louis.] The company goes North from here. Three State fair weeks are booked at Minneapolis, Minn., Topeka, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo. Mr Spink has engaged Edward Giguere to play Arthur Dunn's old part of the Sport, and Blanche Bayer as soubrette...
Steve Gietschier wrote a really nice piece about The Sporting News for SABR's BioProject and most of what I know about Al Spink and The Derby Winner is a result of Steve's work. Regarding Spink's magnum opus, Steve wrote the following:
[In 1890,] Al's interest in the paper waned as he turned to his other passion, the theater. He wrote and produced a play, The Derby Winner, which required a cast of 42 persons and six horses. It was a success in St. Louis, but on the road, the play flopped, and Al was wiped out financially. He used his Sporting News stock as collateral for loans he could not repay. Charles bought the stock, and the two brothers feuded, reconciling just before Charles died in 1914.
To give you a sense of what the play was like, I give you this review:
"The Derby Winner" was played by the St. Louis company at the Lansing last night. The audience was large, enthusiastic and political. There have been several plays by illiterate playwrights brought out this year and of them all "The Derby Winner" is certainly the worst. "On the Bowery," the play written and now being acted in New York by Steve Brodie, the noted Bowery bartender and all around tough, is a classic compared to this. The author of this perpetration is one Mr. Al Spinks, editor of a St. Louis sporting paper. Of course the play comes from St. Louis; there is no other spot on the globe that could produce quite such a play. The dialogue was fearful and wonderful, consisting of all the old gags shaken up in a hat and poured out at random. The characters utterly lacked consistency. The racing scene made one long to lay aside the tabernacle of clay. Beside this play the "Police Patrol" and the "Heroes of the Hook and Ladder" loom up as Shakespearean masterpieces. The play is not worthy of criticism and produces no impression except "that tired feeling." As for the actors, for their own sake we will not mention who they were.
That's some rather harsh criticism but I give the writer props for throwing in a Steve Brodie reference. And I'll just wrap this up by saying what I always say about the Spink brothers: there is no doubt that William Spink was the best writer of the bunch.
During the session of the [national] convention Dec. 9 the baseball members of the press met together and organized the Baseball Reporters' Association, electing the following officers: President, George Munson of St. Louis; vice-president, Henry Chadwick of Brooklyn; secretary, George Stackhouse of New York; treasurer, John Mandige of New York; board of directors - Pritchard, Brunnel, Mulgood, Richter and Chadwick. The vote for president was made a tie by the ballots of The Tribune and Sun reporters, but Mr. Chadwick resigned in favor of Mr. Munson. A committee of three consisting of Chadwick, Kennedy and Brunnel, were assigned to draft a constitution and by-laws. The objects of the association are to bring about a regular system of scoring throughout the country, and to advance the interests of the national game through the medium of the daily and weekly press. Membership is open to all regular baseball reporters of the United States, the annual dues being only one dollar. The first annual meeting will be held in St. Louis during the week of the baseball conventions to be held there in December, 1888. A committee visited the convention, and the organization was daily approved and recognized.
The Baseball Reporters' Association is the forerunner of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, which was founded in 1908. According to the website of the BBWAA, the purpose of the organization "is to ensure proper working conditions in press boxes and clubhouses, and to ensure its members have access to players and others in the game so members’ reporting can be accurate, fair and complete." So we can see that the Baseball Reporters' Association was not founded for exactly the same reason but we do have the baseball writers organizing for the first time in 1888. And George Munson, a St. Louis baseball writer and secretary of the Browns, was the first president.
Secretary George Munson, of the St. Louis Browns, when asked about the expenses of that club, said: "At least $65,000 to $70,000 for a baseball season. This, of course, includes ground rent for the ball park, advertising, traveling expenses and incidentals. The Browns during a championship season draw as well as any club in America. Unquestionably, the largest number of people drawn on any one day was at Brooklyn, N.Y., on Decoration Day, 1889, when we were paid for between 32,000 and 33,000 people for the morning and afternoon games."
One of the things that we are missing, as far as 19th century baseball research is concerned, is business records. We just don't have much information about expenses, revenue, payroll, and things of that nature. Even the attendance information we have is suspect. We just don't know a lot about how much money it took to run a baseball club in the 19th century and how much revenue a club generated. What we have is anecdotal evidence - things like this quote from George Munson. And while I have no reason to question Munson's numbers, we don't have any evidence or source material to compare it with.
The St. Louis Club has made a great deal of its success through its indefatigable and hustling secretary, George Munson. Munson is a first class newspaper man and is very popular with baseball writers. There are few clubs that get more newspaper mention than the St. Louis Browns, and no magnate whose name is kept more constantly before the public than that of President Von der Ahe.
I love the above picture of George Munson and will use any excuse I can come up with to post it. It's just a great picture that captures the character of the man.
I also love this little squib from the Clipper because it is absolutely true that no team and no owner got mentioned in the papers during the 19th century more than the Browns and Von der Ahe. While I have a great deal of respect for Munson and can't argue with the Clipper's take on all of this, I would point out that winning four straight championships will get you a little of bit of ink.
To the Clipper's portrait gallery is added this week the picture of the well known and popular manager of the Cincinnati club, Gus H. Schmelz, who is a Western man, being born in Columbus, O., Sept. 26, 1850. Few men have done more to elevate or advance the best interests of the national game, or have made a better record or gained a wider reputation than the very popular and gentlemanly manager of the Cincinnati team. Mr. Schmelz is always in the front rank in legislative matters, as a financier and as a disciplinarian. In the latter capacity he is very firm, though kind. In his managerial career it is thought that he made only one mistake, and that was when he took charge of the ill fated St. Louis Maroons, better known professionally as the "Black Diamonds." His baseball career began at Columbus, O., in 1884, when he managed the famous team of that city, which was at that time a member of the American Association, and which finished second in the race for the championship, thirteen clubs in all taking part in the struggle. Under his direction Ed. Morris and Fred Carroll, now of the Pittsburgs, became the famous "battery" of the Columbus Club. In 1885 Mr. Schmelz went to Atlanta, Ga., and organized and managed the Atlanta Club of that city, and he guided that team safely through the season and won for the Gate City the Southern League pennant. by this time his reputation had reached its eminence in baseball circles, and quite a demand was made for his services. He finally signed with the St. Louis Maroons, and managed that team during the season of 1886. The "Black Diamonds" were not a brilliant success, however, and came in sixth in the National League race for the pennant, although no fault can be attached to Manager Schmelz for their failure. In 1887, he was engaged to manage the Cincinnati team, and he has met with success ever since he joined the club. Under his management the Cincinnatis came in second last year in the race for the pennant of the American Association. He was retained by the club to manage the team during the season of 1888, and, notwithstanding the fact that several of his strongest players were injured or sick during a greater part of the season, he landed the Cincinnati team in fourth place. Gus Schmelz, has been again engaged by the Cincinnati Club, and will manage its team for 1889. Undoubtedly this is a commendation well merited, and fully shows how well his services are appreciated by the officials of that club. He has already started in with his preparations for the season of 1889 in a way that gives assurance to the admirers of the club in the Queen City that nothing will be left undone to give it a most creditable representative professional team. His search for available material for next season's team has fully demonstrated his "hustling" abilities. A more shrewd and conservative manager cannot be found west of the Alleghenies, than the subject of our biographical sketch, and in the American Association councils he ranks as one of the leaders, and one who commands the respect of his fellow magnates as well as those of the whole profession.
Not a lot of information here about Gus Schmelz's time with the Maroons but I think this piece gives a good sense of the man's reputation.
While in Philadelphia Chris Von der Ahe, president of the St. Louis Browns, noticed the popularity of the game of shuffleboard, and had one put up at his place on Grand avenue. It is now the rage with the ball-tossers of St. Louis.
I can just picture the Gleason brothers, Ned Cuthbert, and the boys playing shuffleboard and drinking lager beer at Von der Ahe's saloon.
Fred Dunlap, whose picture is above given, was born in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1858, and began his career as a ball-player with the Gloucester Club of Gloucester, N.J., in 1874. The following year he played short-stop for the Cregar Club of Camden, N.J., and he filled the same position with the Kleinz Club of his native city in 1876. His first professional engagement was with the Auburn Club of Auburn, N.Y., with whom he played sixty-eight games during the season of 1877, and gained quite a reputation as a second-baseman. He commenced the season of 1878 with the Hornells of Hornellsville, N.Y., and on their disbandment in August of that year he was promptly secured by the newly-organized Albany Club, with whom he has since played. Although he is one of the youngest professionals in the fraternity, it would be hard to find his equal as a second-baseman, he being a sure catch, and, besides covering more ground than any player we know of, he plays with rare judgment and goes for every ball that comes anywhere near him, no matter how hot it may be, some of his catches and stops being extraordinary. He is also a very good batsman, and can go the circuit of the bases in lively style. He is a reliable, hard-working and sharp player, and his quiet gentlemanly bearing and modest way of doing his work have made him a general favorite.
What's amazing about this short bio of Dunlap is that it appeared in the Clipper the season before he made his major league debut (a season in which he led the NL in doubles and was probably the best second baseman in the League). It's kind of like, today, when we read a profile on the next hot prospect that's coming up. Except that this was 1879.
The other really interesting thing is what a nice, young man they make Dunlap out to be. And he may have been a nice kid in 1879, although I doubt it. I believe that Dunlap's personality was formed long before he started playing professional baseball and the Clipper is just giving us gloss. It wouldn't be long before Dunlap's true nature was revealed.
Now, I don't want you to think that Dunlap was some kind of evil monster because he wasn't. Dunlap was, simply, a rather selfish human being. He was self-centered and cared only about himself. He was both greedy and miserly. But, again, he wasn't evil. Dunlap's main concern was Fred Dunlap and the protection and preservation of Fred Dunlap. And given his background as an orphan who stated that he never had a home or a family, it's understandable.
Dunlap was a great ballplayer. As I said, he was probably the best second baseman in the League as a rookie. He was probably the best player in the League by the age of 23. His first seven years as a major league player are fantastic. Throw out 1884 and you're still looking at one of the best players of his generation. The leg injuries that he suffered, starting in 1887, really destroyed his career but that doesn't change the fact that from 1880 through 1886, Fred Dunlap was a star.
But he wasn't a quiet, reliable, modest gentleman.
Boy, this was a bad club. The 1898 St. Louis Browns lost 111 games and I guess their best player was probably Lave Cross or maybe Jack Stenzel. The battery of Jack Clements and Jack Taylor wasn't completely horrible but they didn't have much beyond that.
The significance of this club lies in the fact that it was Chris Von der Ahe's last club. 1898 was the last year he owned the team and it was, to say the least, a difficult year, with the team in receivership and Von der Ahe struggling to pay the players. This team represents the end of one of the most important eras in St. Louis baseball history.
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