Secretary Muir of the Cleveland club has given out the following statement:
"Mr. Robison would rather sell the club entire than sell or exchange any one of his star players, but he will not sell the club..."
In reference to the stoy that Von der Ahe's visit was for the purpose of purchasing six of Cleveland's men, Mr Robison says that it was the worst fake of many fakes this year. "Why do you suppose," said Mr. Robison, "that Von der Ahe, who sold his best player for a cash consideration, would expend money in bolstering up his team? Besides Mr. Von der Ahe has made no proposition of this nature to me, and until he does I can say nothing."
-Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), February 4, 1897
Chris Von der Ahe of the St. Louis Base Ball Club and President John T. Brush held a private conference at Indianapolis yesterday. Neither cared to talk of the details of the meeting. President Brush said that Mr. Von der Ahe wanted to strengthen his club and needed some assistance. Several deals were discussed. The most important one was the purchase of the Cleveland Club. Mr. Von der Ahe went to Cleveland several days ago prepared to make an offer for several crack players of that club, and his visit to Indianapolis was for the purpose of securing President Bush's co-operation in buying out the club, dividing the players and putting a National League Club in Indianapolis.
Mr. Von der Ahe would neither affirm nor deny this feature of the case, but did say that he was after ball players, and was going to get them in whatever way he could, even if he had to buy another club.
President Brush said that such a deal could not be made without the consent of the other clubs in the league. Von der Ahe left for St. Louis this afternoon.
-Evening Star (Washington D.C.), February 5, 1897
I have no clue if any of this is true or not but it sure is interesting.
So Von der Ahe was in Cleveland in an attempt to either buy several of the Cleveland players or, failing that, to buy the entire club, with the financial assistance of Brush. The Cleveland club would cease to exist, the Browns would take some of their players, and the rest would form the core of a new League club in Indianapolis. It all sounds a bit too complicated to be true but I guess it's possible.
The irony of all of this is that Robison would try and purchase the St. Louis club in the summer of 1898 and would, essentially, get control of that club prior to the 1899 season. He would bring his Cleveland players to St. Louis and send the St. Louis players to Cleveland. Given that that actually happened two years later, maybe there was something to this Von der Ahe/Brush/Cleveland rumor. Given all of the weirdness that would happen, why not this?