St. Louis, Aug. 15. - Editor "Sporting Life:" - President B.S. Muckenfuss, of the Browns, on Friday put up his bond of $20,000 as receiver of the club and took active and absolute charge of the team and of the property. He said to-day in an interview that Von der Ahe was out of the deal entirely; that he wanted to rent the bar privileges at Sportsman's Park, and in all probability this much would be granted the ex-magnate. Mr. Muckenfuss is now in complete control of Sportsman's Park. He is no longer a figure-head for Von der Ahe. The boss is completely deposed, and he cannot touch a nickel of the club's finances. In fact, he is now utterly cut off from all sources of income.
Mr. Muckenfuss says he will balance the old books of the corporation, and turn them over to Mr. Von der Ahe, in order that the latter may be in a position to defend his creditors as trustee. A new set of books will be opened to cover Mr. Muckenfuss' handling of the club's affairs. He says that he will pay off none of the club's debts at present, as there is no money available for that purpose. Whatever income accrues for the remainder of the season will be devoted to paying rent, taxes, mechanics' liens, salaries, interest and the running expenses of the club. Enough money must be saved to build the club up for next season.
A Large If.
If the club enjoys a prosperous season the proceeds will go to the bondholders, the holders of trustee certificates of indebtedness, and largely the common creditors. When all these have been satisfied Mr. Muckenfuss will turn the club back to the court, who will give it back to Von der Ahe. Meanwhile Tim Hurst is relieved of all anxiety about his position, as Muckenfuss is his staunchest friend and admirer. The players, too, are warmly inclined towards the little president, as they call him, and will play their heads off to make his task easier.
-Sporting Life, August 20, 1898
I don't think that it surprises anyone when I say that I like Von der Ahe. He's a fascinating character and I like to think that I understand the man. I'm well aware of his personal faults and have no problems forgiving him for them. Those faults make him who he was and 19th century baseball was certainly more interesting for having him involved in the game. I honestly believe that he belongs in the Hall of Fame. I believe that Chris Von der Ahe was a great man and a good man.
But the thing that stains his record the most is the way he left the game and, more importantly, the state in which he left the Browns as he was stripped of control of the club by the courts. Read that second paragraph from Sporting Life again. It wasn't just Von der Ahe who was bankrupt. The Browns were broke as well. They didn't have any money. The coffers were empty and they were failing to meet day-to-day operating expenses. That was direct result of the Von der Ahe's mismanagement of the club's finances. There is no other possible conclusion to reach here. Von der Ahe drove the club into bankruptcy and, as a result, had the club taken away from him.
I can honestly say that it saddens me to have to write that but it's the truth of the matter. Von der Ahe fell because of his own failings. He mismanaged the Browns. He muddled his personal finances and the club's finances to the point where you can't tell which is which and what is what. The whole thing, in the contemporary press, was called "the St. Louis Muddle" because that's what it was. Nobody could make heads or tails of the situation. I'm struggling, with the benefit of hindsight, to figure the situation out.
This mismanagement and subsequent loss of the club was Von der Ahe's greatest failure and it left a permanent black mark on his record. All of the silly VdA stories and the Von der Ha Ha Ha stuff is nothing compared to this. It's the one thing on his record that I can't argue away.