The trial of Mr. Von der Ahe's petition for the ousting of Muckenfuss from the receiverhip of Sportsman's Park and Club began in Judge Spencer's division of the Circuit Court January 6. The title of the case is Mississippi Valley Trust Company vs. Sportsman's Park and Club, the suit being one in foreclosure of a mortgage given by the defendant corporation to secure an issue of bonds amounting to $20,000, dated some five years ago.
The Company's Claims.
The Mississippi Valley Trust Company was made trustee under the mortgage, which pledges all the "property, rights, privileges and franchises" of Sportsman's Park and Club. The principal matter of base ball interest in the trial, however, is the recently announced contention of Mr. Von der Ahe that the base ball franchise under which the St. Louis National League base ball team has been operated for the past eight years is not and never was the property of Sportsman's Park and Club, but of the "St. Louis Base Ball Association, Chris Von der Ahe, president."
The Franchise Question.
This claim was made after Mr. Von der Ahe had disposed of practically all his stock in the corporation and was, to all intents and purposes, out of the game, and represents his last desperate attempt to save something out of the wreck of his once extensive and valuable base ball interests. His contention that the franchise is so owned is based upon the fact that when the present National League and American Association of Professional Base Ball Clubs was organized he, as the representative of St. Louis, signed the constitution as the "St. Louis Base Ball Association, Chris Von der Ahe, president." It is not claimed that the St. Louis Base Ball Association was ever an incorporated body or that it has ever held any set meetings. Sifted down, Mr. Von der Ahe's claim is that he is the St. Louis Base Ball Association, and that therefore, he is the individual owner of the franchise. He claims that the Sportsman's Park and Club has operated the franchise for the past eight years merely on sufferance.
The Counter Contention.
That the constitution is signed as he represents, and that there never was a formal transfer of the franchise to Sportsman's Park and Club are indisputed facts, but the lawyers on the other side claim that the St. Louis Base Ball Association was never an entity, its greatest dignity being that it was a trade name under which Sportsman's Park and Club conducted its base ball business, and that Mr. Von der Ahe, president of Sportsman's Park and Club, never held any other opinion until his troubles resulted in bankruptcy. They expect to prove that Sportsman's Park and Club proved ownership of the franchise by operating it, paying all obligations pertaining to it, and that all contracts with players were made with the corporation, and the Mr. Von der Ahe's participation in all these acts deprives him of any right at this late date to set up a contrary claim.
-Sporting Life, January 14, 1899
The real bottom line, of course, was that VdA was broke and didn't have the money to run the club. There was a reason he couldn't pay the Mississippi Valley Trust Company - he was broke. We know the club wasn't bringing in much cash because they couldn't pay the players or the rent and VdA's personal fortune had been depleted so he couldn't fund the club on his own. There was no money. There was no cash. Both VdA and the club were bankrupt.
Things were quickly coming to a head and the St. Louis Muddle was going to be settled, one way or another.