On Tuesday morning, immediately after the Board of Directors referred the St. Louis contest to the National League, the latter went into session to dispose of the matter. All of Tuesday and half of Wednesday were consumed in reaching a decision. The upshot of the matter was that Von der Ahe was defeated, thanks wholly to the blunders of himself and his attorney, Mr. Kinnerk, of St. Louis. Thanks to Colonel Rogers' clever handling also the League was enabled to settle the matter justly and without being involved in the legal tangle in which the St. Louis club is enmeshed. Mr. Brush started out to make a fight for Muckenfuss, basing everything on the latter's capacity as receiver of Sportsman's Park and Club. Thus Brush would have involved the League in no end of trouble had he not been cleverly side-tracked by Colonel Rogers, who set the League absolutely right and again demonstrated that he after all really is "lawyer of the League." He also proved once more, that the old saying that "it takes a Philadelphia lawyer to get to the bottom of a case" is as true as ever.
Von Der Ahe's Case Bungled.
When the contestants were admitted to present their respective cases, Mr. Muckenfuss based his claim to admittance upon his receivership of the Sportsman's Park and Club, while Von der Ahe bases his rights upon the claim that the St. Louis franchise was his personal property, and that he had succeeded Muckenfuss as president of the Sportsman's Park and Club. Colonel Rogers knocked out the first proposition quickly by proving that according to the constitution a franchise cannot be held by an individual but must be vested in a corporate body. The record also showed that after the twelve-club league was formed the St. Louis franchise was awarded to the "St. Louis Base Ball Association, per C. Von der Ahe." Cross-examination by Colonel Rogers brought out the fact that there was no such Association, the title being merely used as a trademark by Mr. Von der Ahe, while all the baseball business of the St. Louis magnate was transacted and all contracts with the players were made in the name of the Sportsman's Park and Club, an organization of which the League however had otherwise than through the players' contracts no official knowledge.
Getting To The Bottom.
Colonel Rogers also brought out the fact that when the St. Louis Base Ball Association at an alleged meeting deposed President Muckenfuss and substituted Mr. Von der Ahe, it had neglected to officially appoint a duly certified delegate to the League meeting. This made it impossible to admit Mr. Von der Ahe legally according to the League constitution, beyond which the League could not go. At the St. Louis meeting last February, the St. Louis Club was represented by both Von der Ahe and Muckenfuss. During the meeting Mr. Von der Ahe announced that, having been appointed trustee of the club, he would retire from all active connection with it, and that Muckenfuss would hereafter be the sole representative of the club in the League, which was entered upon the League minutes.
Settled Without Reference To The Receivership.
Colonel Rogers, having elicited all these facts by a long and skillful cross-examination, aided by the conspicuous lack of acumen displayed by Von der Ahe's lawyer, took the safe ground that without trying to reconcile the glaring inconsistencies in the status of the Sportsman's Park and Club, and the St. Louis Base Ball Association, the League could assume to recognize the latter, which Mr. Von der Ahe claimed to represent. But as Mr. Muckenfuss was, according to the League minutes, the only representative of that organization of whom the League had official knowledge, the League could not recognize any other delegate unless a resolution duly certified be produced showing that such association at a proper meeting had removed Mr. Muckenfuss as its representative and had substituted some one else. Such certificate is required by the constitution of the League, and none having been produced the League had no other alternative but to recognize Muckenfuss as the only representative of St. Louis. This was put in the form of a resolution by Colonel Rogers, and the League passed it by a vote of 9 to 2, Brooklyn and Baltimore alone voting against it, partly out of sympathy for Von der Ahe, and partly because they had promised to vote for him under any conditions.
-Sporting Life, December 24, 1898
This was a major defeat for Von der Ahe, in his quest to hold on to the club. He had lost the official backing of the League, which, I have to believe, would have been of some use in the legal battles surrounding ownership of the club. Also, the League had found, as the courts would in the near future, that Von der Ahe's argument regarding the separation between the StLBBA and the SPCA was a fiction. Essentially, the League stated that the Browns were operated by the SPCA, which they did not recognize. This laid the groundwork for the League to strip VdA and the SPCA of ownership of the club and award it to whomever they chose.
The Muddle was not unmuddled at the winter meetings in 1898 but I think the League had charted a way forward.