The St. Louis muddle has at last been settled and settled just as Sporting Life, with its usual perspicuity and inside knowledge, said it would be settled. Mr. E.C. Becker purchased from the creditors syndicate the franchise and other property of the club. The consideration is not named but from the fact that Frank R. Tate, representing a local syndicate, offered $35,000 cash and agreed to pay the league dues…the price is thought to be about $40,000.
On Friday evening the creditors met and decided to get rid of their white elephant. Telegrams were sent to the League magnates asking how they would vote to receive the purchaser of the Browns in the League. Becker received a dispatch from John Rogers of Philadelphia, in answer to one sent assuring, assuring him that either he or Mr. Robison would be satisfactory. With this assurance that they could deliver the goods to a person satisfactory to the League, the creditors at once closed the deal.
The sale carries with it all the stands and property now in Sportsman’s Park, 15 year lease on the grounds and the following ball players: Pitchers Hill, Hughey, Carsey, Sudhoff, Stivetts, catchers Clements and Sugden, first baseman Tucker, second baseman Quinn, third baseman L. Cross, left fielder Harley, centre fielder Stenzel, right fielder Dowd.
On Friday evening also the American Base Ball and Athletic Exhibition Company of St. Louis was incorporated with a capital of $100,000. Becker holds 996 of the 1000 shares.The four other shares are held by brokers’ clerks in order to form a directory…The corporation is formed for the purposes of conducting the base ball club and general athletic enterprises. It is understood Mr. Becker will put in bowling alleys and the essentials for other forms of amusement.
Like a full-fledged magnate, Mr. Becker believes in being mysterious and declines to see newspaper men. To his friends, however, he denies emphatically that he has formed any alliance with Frank De H. Robison, or any other League magnate, and his investigations into the expense of conducting the team…all point to an apparent intention to conduct the team himself. Opposed to this, however, were a full crop of rumors that the purchase was not made until an understanding had been reached by which Mr. Robison and Mr. Becker were to pool issues.
- From Sporting Life, March 25, 1899
One thing that I don't think I've really mentioned in all of this is the question of franchise rights. The reason for that is that the idea of a baseball franchise as a piece of property still didn't really exist in 1899. You could see that in the League constitution, which stated that franchise rights couldn't be sold. Franchise rights were something more along the lines of membership in the League, rather than something real that was owned.
VdA, I think, was trying to argue that the St. Louis League franchise was something that he owned, separate from the property of the SPCA. Nobody bought that argument. One of the reasons for this was that franchise rights was not something you owned but, rather, it was something granted to you. It was something given. It was something temporal and ephemeral.
I think a good area of study would be the development of the modern idea of franchise rights. I'm not the guy to do that but somebody should get on it. The Von der Ahe situation would certainly be something that would merit a look when trying to trace the development of all of that.