Every man should "stick up" for his own town, and let outsiders detect whatever shortcomings there may be.
St. Louis Methods.
They are quite different in St. Louis, however. The newspapers here deride every commendable effort on the part of President Von der Ahe, and seem to take delight in adversely criticising every move of his. It seems to be their chief aim to injure the game as much as they possibly can, and are jubilant at the misfortunes of the Browns. If Mr. Von der Ahe, in a fit of disgust, should some day sell out and retire, it will be because of the continual hounding by the cheap penny-a-liners of the local press. It is a mean "bird that will defile its own nest."
-Sporting Life, December 18, 1897
I've argued for years that the historical perception of Chris Von der Ahe was created in the later part of the 1890s when the press, aided by former members of the Browns organization, waged a constant attack against Von der Ahe. Coverage of Von der Ahe in the 1880s, when the Browns were winning championships, was rather positive but once the club started losing, the tone of the coverage changed and became consistently negative.
But it wasn't just negative coverage of a losing club; the press coverage of Von der Ahe was personal and cheap. They made fun of the way he talked. They made fun of the way he looked. They called him stupid and ignorant. They dismissed his previous accomplishments and portrayed him as a buffoon. They published details of his personal failings with women.
I think there were three reasons for this. First, Von der Ahe had alienated a lot of the baseball establishment in the early part of the 1880s, when he seized control of the Browns. When the club was winning, their unhappiness with Von der Ahe was muted. When the club began to loss, the knives came out. Second, I know that there was an editorial decision made at The Sporting News to attack Von der Ahe. Al Spink made a statement along the lines that an anti-Von der Ahe editorial stance sold more papers than a pro-Von der Ahe stance did. So a lot of this was a cynical ploy to create controversy and sell newspapers. Finally, I believe that there was an element of racism in this. The pattern of attacks and the methods deployed reflect an anti-German, anti-immigrant sentiment that was rather prevalent in 19th century America. It was a remanent of Know Nothingism.
Von der Ahe had many flaws. He was a serial philanderer. He had an explosive temper. He was a braggart. But at heart, I believe that Von der Ahe was a decent, kind human being and he was one of the most important figures in the history of St. Louis baseball. So some influential St. Louisians didn't like him. So some newspapers drug him through the mud to gin up business. So there were racists who would never accept him because he wasn't born in this country and was a bit different. None of these things detract from his accomplishments and should not have been allowed to form the historical image of Chris Von der Ahe.