The only thing of real value that Von der Ahe controls is the National League franchise under which the St. Louis Browns are operated. Muckenfuss' statement that Chris could not, if he would, turn over the the franchise is probably true, but not in the sense he used it. If the franchise was controlled by the Sportsman's Park and Club it could be seized under the trustee proceedings and sold at public auction. Though there is a by-law of the League that a franchise cannot be disposed of or transferred except with the consent of all the League clubs, the League's regulations would not hold water in a Court of law.
But the St. Louis franchise, it appears, is not held by the Sportsman's Park and Club at all. This is
The Last Bombshell
which Chris has primed to throw into the camp of his enemies. In the official minutes of the National League meetings at St. Louis in February and at Philadelphia earlier in the winter Von der Ahe and Muckenfuss are entered as representatives of the St. Louis Base Ball Association. It was as representatives of this organization and not of the Sportsman's Park and Club that they voted and took part in the proceedings of the National body.
It stands to reason, therefore, that the League franchise is vested in that organization and not in the corporation known as the Sportsman's Park and Club. It will be remembered that the St. Louis Base Ball Association was formally incorporated by Charley Higgins, Julius Finnegan, Ed Joy and other friends of Von der Ahe about six weeks ago.
With the franchise out of the reach of creditors and the leasehold and improvements of Sportsman's Park tied up under a bond of foreclosure, there is absolutely nothing left for Von der Ahe's creditors. And what is more, there is still no way of forcing him out of the business except by universal refusal of the community to patronize his team.
An amusing contribution to the tangle has been furnished by the St. Louis "Star." In order to find out just who represented the St. Louis Club this paper telegraphed its Washington bureau to find out from Young, in whose name the franchise of the St. Louis Base Ball Club was held. He unblushingly acknowledged that he never did know. In commenting on this the "Star" said editorially: "This exhibition of official density will not surprise those who have enjoyed the experience of interviewing the League president on base ball affairs. The president of the League is on to his job. He doesn't need to know anything about base ball. John T. Brush and his lieutenant, Jim Hart, of Chicago, enjoy the monopoly of official knowledge in the National League."
Only Chris Owns It.
But speaking about the ownership of the St. Louis Club franchise Charley Higgins, one of Von der Ahe's most intimate financial advisers, denied that it was owned by the St. Louis Base Ball Association. "If Chris doesn't own that franchise nobody but he knows who does own it. In the days when the old stock company was running the club we took it for granted that Chris owned the franchise and let it go at that. The St. Louis Base Ball Association cuts no figure in the present situation. I thought we could get in and take the club out of the rut, but its affairs were too complicated. It looks as if a hornet's nest of litigation would follow the attempt to dispose of the club."
-Sporting Life, July 30, 1898
The whole idea of the Sportsman's Park and Club Association being a separate entity than the St. Louis Base Ball Club goes back to 1881, when Von der Ahe was first beginning to assert his control over both park and club. In 1881, they were absolutely two separate entities. The park was under control of the newly formed SPCA, led by Chris Von der Ahe, who had assumed the lease to the old Grand Avenue grounds from August Solari and the club, run by the Spink brothers and Ned Cuthbert, leased the grounds from the SPCA. After the success of the 1881 season, Von der Ahe bought out his partners in the SPCA and essentially seized control of the Brown Stockings by making the players a better offer with regards to gate-share. Going into the 1882 season, VdA had control of both park and club and, at that point, the two entities merged under his ownership.
This is a gross oversimplification of what happened but by 1882 Chris Von der Ahe owned both park and club and labeling entities such as the SPCA and the StLBBA were irrelevant. Everything was owned by VdA, regardless of the shell games he played with regards to titles, budgets, etc. And, in the end, the courts would recognize that.
Without getting to far ahead of ourselves here, I think the real reason VdA lost his ball club was because, in 1881 and 1882, he didn't set up separate legal entities for both the park and the club. The courts would recognize that all ownership was vested in the person of Chris Von der Ahe and that both ball park and franchise were personal assets that could be seized to pay his liabilities.
But I'm way ahead of myself here and unnecessarily reaching a conclusion. The important point here is that VdA's defense rested upon the idea that park and club were two separate entities and that was true in 1881. I don't believe that it was true in 1882.