It essentially started out with VdA getting kidnapped and jailed.
Now I really don't want to get into the whole Baldwin affair because that's another story for another day but I will quickly pass this along from Mark Baldwin's bio in Major League Baseball Prifiles, 1871-1900, Volume 1, as written by David Nemec, David Ball and Brian McKenna:
In 1890 Baldwin led the strongest of the three big leagues that season in most major pitching departments...When the PL folded he was required to return to Columbus AA and telegraphed a club official in February, "Depend on me; will not go back on my contract." Little more than two weeks later, however, Baldwin was in St. Louis after signing with Pittsburgh, attempting to bribe local players to break their AA contracts for 1891 and play in the NL. When Browns owner Chris Von der Ahe learned of Baldwin's perfidy, he had him jailed on a phony vagrancy charge, which was then changed to conspiracy, a criminal offense with possible prison time. (Baldwin countered by suing Von der Ahe for false arrest and winning, but he was unable to collect until 1898 when he finally had the St. Louis owner kidnapped and jailed. Von der Ahe ultimately had to buy his freedom for $2,625, the amount he still owed in damages.) Baldwin got out of the slammer in time to go to spring training with Pittsburgh...
There is a feeling of intense disgust at base ball headquarters in [Cleveland] over the fact that Chris Von der Ahe, after being yanked to Pittsburg much as a murderer or bank robber might be taken, should have been allowed to go to ail for the want of a few hundred dollars. Such a thing would not have occurred in Cleveland if the base ball writers here themselves had been obliged to raise the money to keep the brave old Teuton from going behind the bars.
Even this would have been unnecessary, for, as Captain Tebeau put it to-day, "the players now in Cleveland know enough of what Von der Ahe has done for the game and for the men who play it in the past not stand idly by and see him chucked into the prison cell if he had been in trouble here instead of in Pittsburg."
-Sporting Life, February 19, 1898
But Patsy Tebeau knew what Von der Ahe meant to Tebeau's home town of St. Louis. Tebeau had played baseball in St. Louis during the years when the city lacked a major league club and he knew the struggles that the professional game faced as it tried to survive in St. Louis after the demise of the Brown Stockings. Tebeau knew that it was Von der Ahe who had saved professional baseball in St. Louis and who had successfully established major league baseball in the city. He knew what Von der Ahe had done for the game in St. Louis and it's a shame that Hall of Fame voters have not recognized the simple truths that Tebeau knew.