The St. Louis team promises to have as lovely a time at home this season as it had last year, and the year before. This early in the spring have the knockers begun their work, and at their head is the man who lost his job with the club which brought him $600 a season. Everything pertaining to the club - everything with which Chris Von der Ahe's name is connected - is the subject of the hammers of these clever gentlemen who are so anxious to see base ball flourish in St. Louis. Even Tommy Dowd, who is working as best he can, and with no show of favoritism, is being belittled by these men, who realize that they can injure base ball in St. Louis and are doing it. This same clique will find unlimited joy if Loois Bierbauer, the ex-Pirate, who was to play second base for the Browns this season should really decide to retire from the game. Much was expected of Bierbauer, and Chris paid out 1500 cold, hard plunks for him. Should Bierbauer carry out his threat the Browns will be seriously crippled in the infield, and what a jollification the Browns' defamers will have over it. Too bad.
-Sporting Life, April 24, 1897
The franchise was in the midst of its worst four year stretch that it ever or would ever have. Over those four seasons, starting in 1895, the club would finish second to last, second to last, last, and last - never winning more than forty games in a season or having a winning percentage better than .308. Going back to 1892, the club never had a winning percentage higher than .432. It was a bad stretch of baseball and I don't think it's unreasonable that the local press was hammering away at the club or its leadership.
There is no greater admirer of Von der Ahe than I and I do believe that a great deal of the criticism that he received was unfair. However, the fact is that he ran this club into the ground in the 1890s. They may have done okay financially but the results on the field were what they were. I make no excuses for his management of the club in the 1890s. They were a terrible club and he was the guy running the show. The buck stopped with him. So, as far as club management was concerned, Von der Ahe deserved to be the subject of the hammers.
And as far as Bierbauer is concerned, he should have retired.