The fourth and last hearing in the suit of the Mississippi Valley Trust Company to foreclose on a mortgage of $20,000 held against Sportsman's Park and Club was heard in Judge Spencer's Court in St. Louis on Wednesday, Jan. 18.
Al Spink The Organizer.
Alfred H. Spink, formerly secretary of the Browns, was the first witness called. He testified to the organization of the St. Louis Base Ball Association by himself, his brother, the late William Spink, and William Pennoyer, now a theatrical manager. This organization, according to Mr. Spink, formed the St. Louis Browns during the season of 1881, and their games were played on the grounds of Sportsman's Park and Club on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The St. Louis Base Ball Association, said Mr. Spink later on, had a contract with Sportsman's Park and Club, whereby the former got 90 per cent. of the gross gate receipts, the corporation getting 10 per cent. of the gate, whatever reserved seats were sold and all other privileges, such as sale of score cards, etc. When the season of 1881 had been completed he and his associates turned over their base ball interests to Von der Ahe, who continued the arrangements with Sportsman's Park and Club.
The Boss On The Rack.
Chris Von der Ahe succeded Mr. Spink on the witness stand. He went over his first connection with the national game on much the same lines as Mr. Spink had done in his testimony. Von der Ahe recounted the trials which he underwent in forming the American Association in 1882, six clubs constituting the original circuit. The franchise for a club in St. Louis had been awarded to him as an individual, and he had conducted his base ball affairs as such. The money it cost to secure it came out of his pockets, and he also put up to keep some of the weak members alive during the early days of adversity which some of them experienced. When the Brotherhood was organized in 1890, the owners of Association clubs, as well as those in the National League, lost considerable money in protecting their interests, the competition for players being waged on extravagant lines.
Von der Ahe, recited how he had been visited by John T. Brush, Frank DeHaas Robison and the late Charles H. Byrne, representatives of the National League, and George and J. Earl Wagner, owners of the Athletics, the Brotherhood team of Philadelphia, and Editor Richter, of "Sporting Life," and an attorney from Philadelphia named Frank S. Elliott, in the fall of 1891, they making overtures to secure his co-operation in settling the base ball troubles by a consolidation of the League and Association. This meeting was held in the rear of a saloon conducted by him near his old base ball park at Grand and Sullivan avenues. Three days were consumed in the preliminaries, and then a final meeting in the nature of a ratification followed at the Southern Hotel. The parties present had arrived at an
but to carry it out it was necessary to secure the signatures of the other club owners and to purchase the franchises of the retiring Association members. The "peace" conference, as it has ever since been called, met again at the Bates House, in Indianapolis, in December, that year, and the consolidation of the American Association with the National League was finally consummated...The twelve-club agreement was subscribed to by all the parties interested. "Der Boss" acquired the St. Louis franchise as the "St. Louis Base Ball Association; Chris Von der Ahe, president."
Von Der Ahe's Personality.
Two years later he moved his club from the old Grand avenue grounds to its present home, at Vandeventer avenue and Natural Bridge road, costing him $59,550 to complete all the expenses. His share of the receipts had always been paid to him in checks made out to him personally. Some few seasons later the League discontinued an emergency fund, which originally had been formed, and when the balance on hand was divided the check of President N.E. Young for the amount due the St. Louis Club was to "Christ Von der Ahe." The witness then went on to say that trapshooting and foot races were features of sport that were conducted at the old park.
-Sporting Life, January 28, 1899
Today, we have Von der Ahe on the stand, testifying about the history of his involvement with the Browns and, tomorrow, we'll have the cross-examination.