When the case of the Mississippi Trust Company vs. the Sportsman's Park and Club was resumed in the Circuit Court, at St. Louis, January 13, a doctor's certificate was read saying that Chris Von der Ahe was confined to his bed with the grip and unable to attend. President N.E. Young's deposition, taken in Washington a few days ago, was read. It showed that the franchise belongs to the St. Louis Baseball Association, but that all contracts had been sent in by the Sportsman's Park and Club. Several witnesses were examined and then another postponement was ordered...
The Young Deposition.
It was not even as favorable to Mr. Von der Ahe as the telegraphic synopsis had made it appear. Mr. Young cited several instances in the relations between the League and the St. Louis interests, proving that the franchise had been operated by Sportsman's Park and Club. All correspondence on base ball matters was carried on stationary of Sportsman's Park and Club, and was signed "Chris Von der Ahe, president." The most telling point raised was an affidavit filed with President Young by Chris in relation to the controversy over the services of William Hutchinson two years ago. In this affidavit Mr. Von der Ahe describes himself as "president of Sportsman's Park and Club, a corporation operating the St. Louis Base Ball Club," which affidavit was attested by William Kinnerk who is now Mr. Von der Ahe's attorney.
Mr. Breckinridge Jones' Testimony.
Mr. Jones was called to the stand, Mr. Kinnerk undertaking to prove by him that the holders were not entitled to relief on account of their negligence in not looking after their interests. Mr. Kinnerk wanted to prove that when the bonds were placed on the property of the Sportsman's Park and Club it was agreed that the grand stand and buildings should be insured for the benefit of the bondholders, but that this had never been done, and Mr. Von der Ahe took the insurance out on his own name. Jones was not going to confess to any such negligence on the part of his trust company, and try as he would Mr. Kinnerk could not score his point against the wily witness.
Mr. Peckington's Testimony
furnished some amusement, owing to the frequency with which he got tangled p when he tried to explain the difference between Sportsman's Park and Club and the St. Louis Base Ball Association, entanglements from which he usually rescued himself by saying that Mr. Von der Ahe always had been the "whole thing" in the management of the local teams. His testimony as a whole indicated that Sportsman's Park and Club had always operated the franchise. Mr. Peckington, when asked to define what franchises were referred to in the mortgage upon which suit is brought, replied that it meant franchises to sell beer, the betting privilege in the [illegible] and the right rented to the associations to use the grounds...
After Mr. Peckington concluded the case was laid over until Wednesday, the 18th inst., Judge Spencer reminding the lawyers in the meantime that if they wished to go to Mr. Von der Ahe's home and take his deposition it would be entirely agreeable to him. This will hardly be done, as Von der Ahe's plan is to delay matters as much as possible.
-Sporting Life, January 21, 1899
The thing that really stands out to me from this article is that VdA was extremely irresponsible in his management of the club and park. The failure to properly insure New Sportsman's Park turned out to be a disastrous decision. The park was insured for about half of its value and, when that insurance money was paid out after the fire, VdA basically pocket two-thirds of it. I think that money should have went to the club and, given that they struggled to make payroll and pay the rent on the grounds, the Browns needed that cash. The testimony that we saw in the January 14th article from Sporting Life, stating that VdA was drawing a salary between $20,000 and $25,000 and that he pocked over $20,000 in insurance money, combined with the the testimony in this article stating that VdA had failed in his responsibility to properly insure the park, paints a portrait of irresponsible management.
What we need to take away from this overly-long series of posts is that Von der Ahe did not simply mismange the Browns but he was negligent in his responsibilities to the club, his players and his investors. There is no shame in failing in a business venture but it is shameful if you are derelict in your fiduciary responsibilities and it appears to me that VdA's management of the Browns in the late 1890s was shamefully negligent in that regard.