As for the St. Louis management, it is only necessary to state that $4,000 indebtedness, and the loss of public confidence in the integrity of the team as a whole, were the results of their campaign.
-New York Clipper, January 26, 1878
I think this is the first time I've ever seen a dollar figure on the amount of money the Brown Stockings lost during the course of their existence. I knew they lost money in 1876 and 1877 but I never knew how much. Four grand was a lot of money in 1877 and, given that and the gambling scandal that broke out after the season, it's not surprising that the club folded.
It is undoubtedly true that the phases of base ball in the different cities are as varied as to make for an interesting study if one had time to pursue them. (In St. Louis), for instance, the patron and lover of the game is entirely different than anything else in the world and, like the whole development, deserves so much study as you can give space for.
This is a great article and it gives you a true sense of how the Brown Stockings, their fans, and baseball in St. Louis was viewed in 1877.
According to Jon David Cash, Brown Stockings' officials were tipped off about the events of the 24th by the actions of umpire L.W. Burtis, who acted as the middleman between the Chicago gamblers and the St. Louis players. Cash writes that "The directors of the St. Louis club had cautioned Brown Stockings' captain Mike McGeary about the conspiracy. In the next day's game, McGeary 'made a judicious change' when it appeared that one of the players 'attempted to duplicate his errors (of the previous day).' By transferring the suspected player 'to a position where, as luck happened, he had little to do,' McGeary also alerted the other conspirator about the suspicions of the team's management. " St. Louis won the August 25th game by a score of 12-8.
It's obvious that the player who was judiciously moved was Joe Blong. St. Louis had jumped to a 3-0 lead after the first inning and Blong was removed in the second as he tried to give the lead back. While Chicago scored four runs in their half of the second, the Tribune piece makes it sound as if the runs scored after Blong had been switched to center field. While I don't have any more specific information about what transpired during the inning, we can say that, with a 3-0 lead, Blong gave up three hits before being removed from the mound and this contributed to Chicago scoring four runs.
McGeary's role in all of this was brought up by the Chicago papers, largely because of the accusations made earlier by Devinney. However, it seems rather clear that, once informed by management that something was up, McGeary kept a close eye on Blong and Battin and took steps in the August 25th game to make sure that the events of August 24 were not repeated. It seems reasonable to suggest, based upon his actions of August 25, that McGeary was not part involved in the conspiracy to throw the games against Chicago.
The Chicago-St. Louis game to-day was characterized by the heaviest kind of batting both sides, Dorgan, Hines, Clapp, Spalding, and Peters leading. It was a very exciting contest up to the seventh inning, when a very wild throw by Hines let in two runs, and gave St. Louis a lead which was retained to the end. Blong started in to pitch, but Nichols relieved him in the second inning after Peters, Hines, and Spalding had made safe hits. Nichols proved quite effective, Anson striking out twice. The play of the visitors in the field was loose, passed balls resulting from wild pitching causing McVey and Anson to change places in the sixth inning. Peters played a perfect game at short, but Spalding, Glenn, and Eden committed the costly errors which lost the game. The St. Louisians gave a sorry exhibition of outfielding, all but Dorgan, but the infielders did better, Croft's display at first being the best seen here this season.
Chicago snatched a victory out of the jaws of defeat in fine style here to-day. A two-base hit by Clapp and a single by Croft gave St. Louis an earned run in the fourth inning. In the fifth, after two hands were out, Clapp and Dorgan scored on errors by Anson and McVey and two hits, which were all the runs St. Louis could squeeze in. In the sixth inning an overthrow by Force gave McVey second, and he tallied on Anson's two-base hit. In the seventh Eggler earned first, and was sent home by Bradley with an earned run, with two men out. Battin made a miserable muff of Eden's bounder, and Brad got in with the tieing run. In the eighth inning, with two men out, Anson stole second on Battin's muff of Clapp's fine throw, which reached him in plenty of time to catch the striker, and Hines then brought in the winning run by a solid hit to left. Clapp's catching, Peter's fielding, Dorgan's throwing, and Croft's first-base play were the features of the game.
In the game, Blong had three errors and Battin two. Battin's drop on Anson's steal appears to be the glaring error that had everyone scratching their heads and, later, pointing fingers. Force also was named in the scandal by the Chicago papers and his throwing error is probably the reason for that.
This is the game, played on August 24, 1877 in St. Louis, that Joe Blong and Joe Battin were alleged to have thrown. The Brown Stockings lost to Chicago that day by a score of 4-3 after having a three run lead through five innings.
(William) Spink alleged that two Brown Stockings had conspired with Chicago gambler Mike McDonald to fix the St. Louis-Chicago game of August 24...it seems clear that (Spink) intended to target pitcher Joe Blong and third baseman Joe Battin as the dishonest Brown Stockings...Evaluating the player performances of August 24, Spink complained, "The game was lost, after it had been won, by Battin, who has been the weakest spot in the St. Louis nine all season. In the early part of the contest, Blong pitched well, but towards the end went to pieces, his wild pitching and lack of headwork...proving very costly."
About thirty gentlemen, interested in base ball matters-most of them shareholders in the St. Louis Base Ball Club-met yesterday evening in parlor No. 22 of the Lindell Hotel. The chair was taken by Mr. J.B.C. Lucas, President of the club, who, after calling the meeting to order, stated that, though the fact was generally well known, he would remind those present that for the past years base ball ventures in St. Louis had not proved financially successful. This season the club found itself considerably in arrears, and the meeting had been called in order to start an effort to raise the necessary amount with which the salaries of players might be paid. Individual Directors had, at their own expense, carried the club through the season, and they wanted now to see if they could not get assistance from shareholders and others. Out of $20,000 of stock only $17,000 had been subscribed, and on this some stockholders had not fully paid up.
I can't image what those "general base ball topics" may have been.
This attempt to raise funds took place the day before William Spink's long piece about gambling in baseball and the St. Louis connection appeared in the Globe and the evening after his piece on the Louisville scandal was published. The breaking of the scandal must have had a devestating effect on the Brown Stockings' attempt to salvage their financial situation and on the moral of St. Louis baseball supporters. Lucas was stepping aside as club president, the Globe was withdrawing its support for professional baseball, numerous Brown Stocking players were being accused of throwing games, other clubs and players were being accused of crookedness, and the fate of the League itself was in doubt. There could not have been a worse time to go to the public and ask them to financially support the Brown Stockings.
The gambling scandal that rocked the St. Louis Brown Stockings organization in 1877 and, combined with the clubs financial troubles, helped bring about their resignation from the League in December of 1877 was not one scandal or one event but rather several. There are at least four components of the scandal that I can see:
-On August 1, 1877, umpire P.H. Devinney accuses George McManus of offering him money in exchange for favorable ball and strike calls. Devinney also stated that Joe Blong encouraged him to accept the offer. Both McManus and Blong denied the accusations.
-On August 24, 1877, Joe Blong and Joe Battin conspire with Chicago gamblers to throw the Brown Stockings' game against Chicago. The next day they attempt to do the same but are put on notice that Brown Stocking management are aware of their activities when McGeary moves Blong off the mound after suspicious activities in the second inning. The conspiracy to throw the games of August 24 and 25 does not come to light until William Spink reveals them in the Globe-Democrat on November 1, 1877, although the club was aware of what was happening before the start of the game on August 25.
-On October 31, 1877, William Spink publishes information about the Louisville scandal in the Globe-Democrat. The Brown Stockings were caught in an awkward position, having previously signed Devlin and Hall for the 1878 season, just as they were revealing the depths of their financial trouble to stockholders and attempting to raise funds to pay off their debts from the 1877 season. The next day Spink publishes his expose on the events of August.
-L.W. Burtis umpires numerous questionable games in St. Louis. Burtis, who Spink claimed operated as the middleman between St. Louis players and Chicago gamblers in August of 1877, was accused by the Chicago papers of dishonesty in his umpiring. Devinney accused him of betting on the Brown Stockings and using his position as an umpire to influence the games that he had bet on. While not specifically a member of the Brown Stockings, the best that can be said is that the club had unknowingly allowed a crooked umpire into the League and access to their club.
With all of these events exposing a culture of corruption surrounding the club, it's no wonder that the club's management (which was made up generally of honorable men of some standing in St. Louis) decided to resign from the League. Combined with the financial difficulties of 1876 and 1877, the revelation of this corruption was a death blow. All one has to do is read William Spinks' expose in the Globe on November 1, 1877 and it's obvious that there was no way the Brown Stockings were going to survive into 1878.
A couple of more thoughts:
-While the Devinney accusation adds to the portrait of a corrupt ball club, there has to be some serious reservations about Devinney's veracity. McGeary strenuously denied the accusations and his actions on August 25, when he moved Blong off the mound, support the idea that he was uninvolved in the corruption. Also, after the 1877 season, the Chicago papers made some accusations against Devinney that were similar to those they made against Burtis. So while the Devinney accusation is relevant and adds to the weight of evidence against the Brown Stockings, Devinney is not exactly a perfect witness.
-For some time, I've been trying to figure out, from a historiographical point of view, why the Louisville scandal is better remembered than the St. Louis scandal. I may be wrong but it's my understanding that the Louisville scandal is the substantially more famous or remembered event. I assume it's because the events of the Louisville scandal had a major impact on the pennant race. Also, I would think that Devlin's statements to the press had a drama to them that the denials of those involved in the St. Louis scandal lacked. But the fact that the stories broke at almost the exact same time and were reasonably similar should have linked the two together in historical accounts. I'm honestly surprised that we don't have "the Louisville/St. Louis scandal" rather than "the Louisville scandal...and, oh yeah, something happened in St. Louis too and baseball in general had a problem with gambling and throwing games." Not a really big deal but it's kind of interesting. I think, in the end, I'm just a bit upset because the 1877 Brown Stockings were as corrupt as any team in the nation and have never received their due.
The base ball season is virtually at an end, although it does not officially close until November 15, and a few remarks pertaining to the year and its work may not be out of place, especially as numerous rumors have been afloat for some time past to the effect that "crooked" dealing has been indulged in to a great extent. To those who keep thoroughly posted concerning the national game, it has been evident that several screws have been loose in at least three of the leading clubs of the country-the St. Louis, Louisville and Chicago. To this same class of persons it has also been evident that pool sellers and players, instead of club organizers and managers, are alone responsible for the dirty tricks which have been practiced. Ever since pool selling became an established institution of the land a small number of strictly first-class ball players have been suspected of co-operating with the gamblers and throwing games to suit the "box." They were merely suspected, however. So cunningly did they carry out their part in the various swindling schemes, that it was an utter impossibility to obtain sufficient proof on which to base a charge which would terminate in their expulsion from the fraternity. These men have been "marked" for years and will be readily recognized by the patrons of base ball, although no names are given. In the face of innumerable hints thrown out as to their character, the various club managers of the country seem to have thought that by giving them a chance to reform they might be induced to cut loose from the gambling fraternity and remove the odium which, by their conduct, had become attached to the base ball profession. As a result of this mistaken idea, when the season opened the names of one or more of these scoundrels appeared in each of the lists of players furnished by the Louisville, St. Louis, and Chicago clubs. For this reason Chicago dropped from the head to the tail of the League, Louisville did not win the championship, and St. Louis, after opening the season in magnificent style, closed it by pressing Chicago closely for last place. The root of the evil in the St. Louis club was not reached until the season was so far advanced that it was impossible to remedy it, and even then proof necessary to make out a case in a court of justice was not obtainable, although sufficient evidence of a conclusive nature had reached the officers of the St. Louis club to demonstrate that at least two of their men were playing into the hands of Mike McDonald, the notorious Chicago gambler, who carries out a system of pool-selling on an extensive scale.
I have always contended that this is one of the finest pieces of baseball journalism ever written. William Spink, who was the sporting editor of the Globe, blew the lid off of the corruption that had surrounded the Brown Stocking since their inception in 1875. This article changed the history of St. Louis baseball, as it led to the folding of the Brown Stocking club, ushered in the Interregnum, and paved the way for the rise of Chris Von der Ahe.
Tomorrow, I'll give you the specifics about the 1877 gambling scandal.
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