Mr. Chris Von der Ahe, president of the St. Louis base ball team, elected his board of directors yesterday. Of course, the stockholders went through the form of an election, but as Mr. Chris Von der Ahe owns about seven-eighths of the stock the election was merely a matter of courtesy.
The Browns made $12,000 in profits for Chris last season but he is said to have dropped about three times that amount on the chutes and race track ventures.
-Topeka State Journal, January 13, 1897
Von der Ahe said once that, except for the 1890 season, the Browns always made money and, without evidence to the contrary, I take him at his word. The problem, as I've covered in some detail, was that the Browns' finances were extremely muddled due to the fact that the finances of the club, the ballpark, and Von der Ahe himself were combined in a rather unhealthy way. If one area was unprofitable, it put stress upon the profitable ventures. Basically, the club was financing everything else and, as the club struggled on the field and became less profitable, it became more and more difficult for this model to work.
Somewhere in my notes, I have a reference to the fact that Von der Ahe sold off the racetrack right around this time. I was going to post that but decided not to because I really want to focus on the Browns on the field rather than the financial problems that were building up around the club and that would lead to Von der Ahe losing control of the team in 1898. As I said, I've covered that and, as interesting as that subject is, I don't really want to go over it again. I posted this piece because it's always nice to see specific numbers regarding the club's finances, regardless of how accurate they may or may not be.
Also, I find it interesting and completely understandable that there is only a slight hint of the financial difficulties that would engulf the club in the near future. I think Bill Hallman talked about some of the problems that Von der Ahe had in paying the players in the second half of the 1897 season and that, of course, would become a serious problem in 1898. Everything was not fine. Von der Ahe was not particularly liquid going into the 1897 season and was on the verge of bankruptcy. There were serious storm clouds on the horizon and I don't think that Von der Ahe controlled seven-eighths of the Sportsman's Park and Club Association by the end of the season.
But this is not what I really want to talk about. If I find interesting stuff about the financial difficulties of Von der Ahe and the club, I'll probably post it but I really want to focus on the misadventures of a really bad ball team. I want to cover the Bad News Browns rather than go over the Fall of Von der Ahe once again. So that's what I'm going to try and do. Still, the best laid plans of mice and men and all of that...