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.
The nature of the proof against these men will be found below. It will probably be remembered that on August 24 the St. Louis and Chicago clubs played a game in this city, the home club being beaten by a score of 4 to 3. Two or three days previous a certain St. Louis sharp visited Chicago and was seen to spend a good deal of his time in Mike McDonald's company. He returned to St. Louis in time to witness the game referred to, and on the day on which it was played received a considerable sum of money from McDonald by means of telegraphic orders. These orders were received under an assumed name, but as the Telegraph Company refused to pay them, the address was changed by the sender in Chicago, and the money was paid over to the party referred to. On the same day this individual backed the Chicago club heavily to win and telegraphed McDonald, in substance, as follows: "Buy wheat. Smith is all right. Jones will assist." This game, as previously mentioned was won by Chicago and it was lost to St. Louis by two members of the Brown Stocking nine, who committed the errors which gave Chicago the game at precisely the right moment. To ascertain whether they were "Smith" and "Jones" was now the problem which the officers of the club determined to solve, and a detective was employed to work up the case. That night McDonald's agent and the two men who lost the game for St. Louis met in the back room of a saloon in the northwestern part of the city, held a long and secret interview, and money was seen to change hands. When the conference broke up, the middleman was heard to remark: "For God's sake, don't lose your nerve to-morrow." To still further strengthen the case against these men, it should be stated that on the same day, and before the game, one of them telegraphed to a friend in Philadelphia, "We'll go to Chicago, but don't know when," and as the St. Louis Club had, as was then supposed, paid its last visit to Chicago for the season, and the sender had no business to transact in that city, the idea naturally suggested itself that the word "Chicago" in the dispatch meant a good deal more to the recipient than it would have done to an outsider. The next day the dame clubs again met, and McDonald's miserable tool again telegraphed his employer to dabble in grain, although he was never known to handle anything except the implements of the gambling fraternity. On this occasion, however, the pool-sellers were neatly "whip-sawed," for the suspected men were closely watched, and the instant that one of them attempted to duplicate his errors of the previous day, Capt. McGeary made a judicious change, sending him to a position where, as luck happened, he had little to do, and the result justified the act, for St. Louis won and the gamblers "went broke."
In view of the above, was it not natural that the friends of the club gave up all hope of winning the championship? It must be remembered that the officers did not have sufficient proof to convict these men, nor could they cancel their contracts, and the only punishment in their power to inflict was to make them play on through the season. Otherwise they could have drawn their salary and enjoyed a term of idleness. A similar state of affairs existed in the Chicago and Louisville clubs, and the question has arisen how can these swindlers be driven from the fraternity. The managers of the League are at present busily engaged in devising a plan of action to be adopted at the annual meeting in December, and it is probable that about a dozen men will be "black-listed," and the League clubs will invite the co-operation of all other organizations in weeding these "crooks" out of the profession. It is also highly probable that the League will refuse to play any organization including among its employees any one whose name appears on the list of black sheep.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, November 1, 1877
Tomorrow, I'll give you the specifics about the 1877 gambling scandal.