The Scheme WEx-President Von der Ahe, of the St. Louis club, was abducted today [February 7 in St. Louis] and carried out of the State to Pittsburg by a Pittsburg detective named Bendel, and Al. Scandrett, at the instigation of W.A. Nimick, formerly president of the Pittsburg Club, who went security for Mr. Von der Ahe in the Mark Baldwin damage suit in the sum of $2500. The St. Louis man fell into a trap laid by his former friend, and the latter succeeded in his unprecedented action. The whole city of St. Louis resents the outrage and a heavy damage suit against Mr. Nimick will result. as for Chris, he is again the hero of the hour in his home.
The Cause Of The Trouble.
It appears that when Baldwin secured his final judgment against Von der Ahe, he had an execution issued against Mr. Von der Ahe. The Sheriff made returns that the defendent could not be found in Allegheny County and then Von der Ahe's bondsman, Nimick, decided to have him brought to Pittsburg to forestal proceedings for recovery on the bond. Hence a trap was laid for Mr. Von der Ahe, and he was forcibly seized in the streets of this city and taken out of the State by force without legal warrant or requisition papers.
The Scheme Worked Out.
Detective Bendel, accompanied by two attorneys, arrived in this city yesterday. While he was arranging the capture of Von der Ahe and the spiriting of him out of town before he could appeal to the courts, the attorneys of Mr. Nimick held a conversation with the law firm of Jones & Jones of this city. They were pitcher Baldwin's attorneys when he was imprisoned by Von der Ahe during the year in which the Brotherhood of ball players fought the National League. Neither member of the firm had ever heard of such a thing as taking Von der Ahe literally by force or kidnapping him as proposed by Nimick's attorneys. When the plan was laid before them they gave it as their opinion that it was entirely legal and offered any assistance in their power.
Von Der Ahe Trapped.
In the meantime Detective Bendel had arranged everything for the capture of the German. A note from the st. Nichols Hotel was sent to Von der Ahe at the Sportsman's Club. The note bore the signature of Robert Smith, of New York. It requested Von der Ahe to honor Mr. Smith with his presence at a dinner given by the latter at the St. Nicholas Monday evening. Von der Ahe answered the note and said it would give him the greatest pleasure to attend the function.
Meantime Detective Bendel had secured the services of a trusty "cabby." His instructions were to drive anywhere he wanted until the detective told him to go to the depot of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad. It was not the intention to give Von der Ahe any opportunity to appeal to the courts. Detective Bendel's idea was to take him out of town as soon after his capture as possible.
Off For Pittsburg.
As soon as the two men were in the carriage the driver whipped up his team and at a furious clip drove off of the prominent thoroughfares. When "Der Boss Manager" found out where he was going he objected vigorously and long. He even threatened the detective with his life. He wanted to go and see his attorney, but Bendel would not have it that way, and slipped one end of a pair of handcuffs onto his prisoner's wrist. The other end was attached to his won wrist. In this rather badly handicapped condition Chris was driven into the relay station in East St. Louis, where Von der Ahe was forcibly taken aboard the train. The journey to Pittsburg was started.
-Sporting Life, February 12, 1898
This is probably the most famous moment of or event from the Baldwin Affair and is always used to somehow mock or belittle Von der Ahe. It's always part of his biography. Von der Ahe is the guy who lucked into a great baseball situation, made a ton of money, squandered his fortune, went bankrupt, had his team taken away from him, and got kidnapped. But, like most of the conventional wisdom regarding Von der Ahe, the story, as told in baseball histories, isn't exactly true.
Von der Ahe was not kidnapped in the way that the Lindbergh baby or Patty Hearst was kidnapped. This was not a malicious, illegal kidnapping for ransom. It was, essentially, an extra-legal extradition. Von der Ahe was being hauled to Pittsburg to meet the requirements of his bond. He wasn't being kidnapped by a band of hoodlums. He was being forcibly taken before a court. If the police had taken Von der Ahe in and shipped him to Pittsburg, this wouldn't be called a kidnapping but because it was being carried out by private detectives, we get the kidnapping canard.
It is certainly one of the more dramatic moments in the life of Chris Von der Ahe and the situation, as well as the Baldwin Affair as a whole, does not place the man in a great light. But he wasn't some doofus who got himself kidnapped. Von der Ahe was still in the process of fighting the Baldwin decision and there is an argument to be made that his bond was still good and he was not required to appear in the Pittsburgh courts while that process was ongoing. Nimick and the Pittsburgh courts disagreed with that and seized Von der Ahe by force. But "the forcibly seizure of Chris Von der Ahe" does not have the same ring to it as "the kidnapping of Chris Von der Ahe" and so we're stuck with the later.
Sporting Life, by the way, has great coverage of this and their February 12 issue has three full columns devoted to the story. This is merely the first of five articles about the "forcibly seizure" that appeared in the issue and I'm going to put all of those up here for your reading pleasure.
Note: I edited the note in the first paragraph of the article to reflect the fact that Von der Ahe was abducted on February 7, not February 8 as I originally wrote.