President Von der Ahe and Secretary Muckenfuss, of the St. Louis Base Ball Club, attended the ladies' bicycle race at the Natatorium one night last week. Mr. Von der Ahe told a Globe-Democrat representative that the base ball situation, as far as St. Louis was concerned, had not changed whatever. "I fear that all my efforts to strengthen the Browns," said he, "will come to naught. While in Cleveland recently I asked President Robison to put a price on three of his players, and if it was anywhere near fair I would buy. Two of the players I wanted were shortstop McKean and second baseman Childs. The other was a pitcher. He refused absolutely to part with either of the trio. I have made strong efforts to secure strong, seasoned players for my team, but good ball players are not for sale. Tommy Dowd writes me that he is well satisfied with the players I have under contract, and is confident that he will be able to make them play ball."
-Sporting Life, February 27, 1898
So I was right about the second baseman but wrong about the shortstop.
What's fascinating is that the 1897 Browns were so bad that the addition of Cupid Childs wouldn't really have helped the team much. He, by himself, wouldn't have been enough to get the club out of last place. Ed McKean would have been replacing Monte Cross, who, in 1897, was the Browns' best player. If Von der Ahe made this move and played Childs at second and a combination of Cross and McKean at short and third, the team would have been better but probably still a last place club.
This club really needed pitching. A couple of above average pitchers, an upgrade at second, and an upgrade at one of the outfield spots is what this team really needed.