When Mr. Von der Ahe's cross-examination in the St. Louis case before Judge Spencer on Jan. 18 was concluded, J.P. Reichers, the architect, was the first witness sworn in rebuttal. His testimony was to the effect that Von der Ahe had told him the bonds covered the base ball franchise, which was worth $100,000, and that their value was far in excess of the amount they called for. Charles P. Reichers, the junior member of the firm, said that after his firm had built the stands and fences at Sportsman's Park, they presented their bill to Von der Ahe for payment, but were unable to get a settlement. The plans and specifications, he said, were in the name of Sportsman's Park and Club.
Paid In Promises.
He and his father wanted cash payment for their work, but Chris urged them to take the bonds, as he had no money in hand, and would guarantee their payment within nine months.
"Chris opened up a bond before us," declared young Mr. Reichers, "and showed us the word 'franchise,' and said, 'Why that's worth $75,000, and maybe $100,000. It pays 8 per cent. and is better than cash.' Von der Ahe persuaded us to take them, and we did."
"You've made a great deal of money out of Mr. Von der Ahe, haven't you?" asked Mr. Kinnerk.
"Oh, I don't know," replied the witness. "Not at this rate. He owes us."
Becker On The Stand.
E.C. Becker, who was the power behind the throne in St. Louis base ball circles, was next called. He said that on Aug. 6, 1898, Von der Ahe had sent to him asking him to come to the park at once. He did, and upon his arrival there Chris told him the players were about to strike, as their salaries had not been paid. Lave Cross was the spokesman of the party, so Mr. Becker said Von der Ahe had told him, and he declared that the men would not play the following day, Saturday, unless their money was paid them in full. Von der Ahe asked Mr. Becker for a loan sufficiently large to pay the players off, and added that in case the club did not meet its contractual obligations to its players, and failed to play its scheduled games, its franchise would be forfeited. Mr. Becker loaned Von der Ahe the needed money with the understanding that it would be paid back to him out of the gate receipts and that a trustee's sale should be held. This was afterwards reconsidered, and Muckenfuss was appointed receiver.
After the noon recess documentary evidence was introduced, including papers in the Newell case, denying that the local club was owned by the St. Louis Base Ball Association, the affidavits of Chris and Ed Von der Ahe to that effect, a letter signed by George Munson for Chris Von der Ahe and the pleadings in the Athletic case and others of a like purport.
Chris Hit Again.
When Mr. Becker was recalled he testified that on June 6, 1898, he had loaned Von der Ahe $4800 to pay the players, and of this amount $3495 was still due him. Mr. Becker also added that in December, 1897, Von der Ahe had told him that he was disgusted with base ball. His club was in debt, he said, and that he had received offers of $85,000 and $100,000 for it. At that time Mr. Becker offered "Der Boss" $65,000 for it. He did not know of the St. Louis Base Ball Association until the following June, when Muckenfuss told him in the office of the club that the League constitution had been signed by the "St. Louis Base Ball Association, Chris Von der Ahe, president." Chris broke in with the remark:
"That's a good way to get out of the whole business."
In all his negotiation with Von der Ahe, Mr. Becker said that he had never made an offer for anything but Chris's holdings in Sportsman's Park and Club, which Chris assured him owned the franchise.
Von der Ahe denied in toto that he made the statements credited by Mr. Becker and Mr. Reichers. Immediately afterward the case was ordered closed. Judge Spencer then ordered the attorneys to have their briefs handed in not later than the 20th, so as to allow him to render his decision on Monday, Jan. 23.
-Sporting Life, January 28, 1899
Becker's testimony here is really interesting and contains excellent information about the club's inability to pay the players in the summer of 1898. But, nerd that I am, I was most excited by the fact that the article names J.P. Riecher & Son as architects of New Sportsman's Park. I actually have that information in an earlier post about the hearing but missed the significance of it.
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