George Munson, secretary of the St. Louis ball club, made a flying visit to Boston yesterday to look after some of the details of the great game on the Union grounds next Tuesday in the world's championship series. Mr. Munson, who is acting as advance agent for the club, is known the country over as Von der Ahe's right bower. George is a hustler from way back and is noted for the great amount of work he can accomplish in a short space of time.
Secretary Munson went over to the Union grounds with Superintendent Murnan and inspected the arrangements in progress for the game. The grounds have been greatly improved. All the bad places have been filled up and rolled. The catcher's territory has been evened up by filling in the bicycle track with loam and is in excellent condition. The approaches to each base have been covered with loam and clay and well rolled to permit of all the sliding that either the Browns or Detroits may want to attempt. The seats and grand stand have been repaired and strengthened. Mr. Munson was very much pleased with the condition of the grounds. He said he anticipated an enormous crowd if the advance sale of tickets indicated anything. "Whether there are 10 men or 10,000," said Mr. Munson, "they will see some wonderful ball playing. Your cranks here talk about Johnson being the greatest centre fielder. I'll admit he's a good one, but your Johnson shouters have never seen Curt Welch. Out in St. Louis they thing the equal of Welch doesn't exist and they are pretty near right. Welch covers the whole diamond. As an actual fact he has been known to put a man out at third base. The Browns play altogether different ball from the league clubs you have had in Boston, and whether they win or lose, their style will be a revelation to Boston cranks."
Mr. Munson returned to New York last night and will go to Philadelphia tomorrow to arrange the details of Monday's game in that city.
-Boston Daily Globe, October 15, 1887
As I often say, I get the best emails.
The other day I received an email from Matt Munson, a descendant of George Munson, and he was kind enough to pass along the above photo. The only other photo of George Munson that I'm aware of comes from The National Game and is a cropped version of Matt's photo:
So it's really neat to get the full image and what is, essentially, a new picture of George Munson. I'm very appreciative to Matt and the Munson family for sharing this image and allowing me to post it here for all to see.
George Munson was, of course, a St. Louis newspaper man and secretary for both the St. Louis Maroons and the St. Louis Browns. I have always found him to be one of the more interesting and genial figures in St. Louis baseball history and always enjoy writing about him. You can find plenty of information about the man here at the website and the old blog.
Thanks again to Matt and the Munson family.
The case against Pitcher Mark Baldwin, of the Pittsburg Club, of the National League, charged with conspiring with J.P. O'Neill and Ed. Hanlon, of that organization, to get Charles King, of the St. Louis Club, of the American Association, to break his contract with the latter team and join the Pittsburg Club, was set for a hearing before the Court of Criminal Correction, March 12, at St. Louis. the attorneys for the State asked for a continuance, however, as President Chris Von der Ahe and Secretary George Munson, of the St. Louis Club, and other witnesses for the State were unavoidably absent...The case was accordingly laid over until March 18.
I think this is an outstanding summary of the charges against Baldwin and sets forth, rather clearly, what set all of this into motion.
George Munson, the well-known secretary of the St. Louis Maroons, and to whose efforts alone that League club now owes its existence, signed last week a contract with President Von der Ahe to act as secretary of the St. Louis Browns. The genial Chris is to be congratulated on securing so capable a secretary. Al. H. Spink will take Munson's place as secretary of the Maroons.
I had no idea that George Munson worked for the Maroons and I really didn't know exactly when he joined the Browns. Now I do. And, after I first read this, I was thinking to myself that I don't remember reading anything about Al Spink working for the Maroons but then I realized that the club didn't exist in 1887 and, therefore, Spink never did work them.
"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.
David L. Reid, a well-known journalist of St. Louis, Mo., has been chosen secretary of the Brown Stockings, the representative professional organization of the Mound City, and will virtually manage the team and look after its business interests next season. The prospects of the Browns for 1882 are excellent, some of the most influential citizens of St. Louis being interested in the movement to put a strong nine in the field. Dave Reid - who was the head of the Philadelphia Club in its palmy days - possesses the requisite experience and executive ability to manage the Browns, and his selection gives general satisfaction to the St. Louis fraternity.
On December 2, 1882, the Clipper ran the following biographical sketch of Reid:
The subject of our illustration and biographical sketch is David L. Reid, who is widely and favorably known to the fraternity, having been during the past decade thoroughly identified with professional baseball in Philadelphia and St. Louis as a manager, secretary and journalist. He was born May 14, 1848, in Nashville, Tenn., and came to this city with his parents when but a child. He gained a practical knowledge of the national game while playing with amateur clubs at Hamilton square in the palmy days of the old Manhattan, Metropolitan, Champion, Young America and Active Clubs. He early adopted journalism as his profession, and about 1868-69 contributed numerous articles to The Clipper over the signatures of "Diogenes" and "Oscar Bruce." Removing to Philadelphia, he helped to organize the Philadelphia Club, and the able manner in which he discharged the then onerous duties of secretary and manager tended much to the success of that club in 1873 and 1874-its initial seasons. Very much of the remarkable success-financial and otherwise-secured by the Philadelphia Club in those two seasons was mainly due to his executive tact and ability. In 1875 he migrated to St. Louis, where he has since resided and has displayed his usual zeal and assiduity in promoting baseball. It is hardly possible to say how much he has done towards furthering the national game in the Mound City, where his well-earned reputation as a journalist and his genial deportment have made him exceedingly popular. His connection with the St. Louis press proved a great power in stamping out dishonest play on the ballfield, and has helped to revive baseball in its pristine purity during the past two seasons. He is the secretary of the Sportsman's Park Association, the directors of which recently paid him a deserved compliment and substantially testified their appreciation of his efficient services by presenting him with a handsome gold watch and $200 in cash.
Reid was an outstanding and well-respected baseball man and he was a positive asset to the Brown Stockings as the club got itself organized, going into the 1882 season. Sadly, Reid died suddenly of heart disease on May 2, 1885, at the home of George Munson, and never saw the club that he served win their first championship.
Chris Under Fire.
Should I be surprised that Von der Ahe pocketed the money he got from selling off players after the 1887 season? After everything we've heard about the way the finances of the club were handled, I don't think I should be. But it's still kind of amazing. He pocket the money from the sale of players. He pocketed the insurance money the club got after the ball park burned down. He took just about every penny he could out of the club.
The flip side to that, of course, is VdA's contention that the club owed him $100,000. It's ludicrous. He wasn't putting money into the club; he was taking it out. When the club was struggling financially, he wasn't putting money into the club because he didn't have that kind of money to put into it.
One of the reasons the Muddle is so difficult to sort out is because it's almost impossible to separate the club's finances from Von der Ahe's personal finances. We've seen testimony during the hearing that implies the two were one and the same. When VdA went bankrupt, the club went bankrupt. Or vice versa. When the club stopped being profitable, Von der Ahe lost his most important source of income. He was able to juggle his complicated personal finances with the constant influx of cash the Browns brought in but once that cash flow dried up, he was no longer liquid enough to operate the club and stave off the creditors.
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