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  • Chris Von der Ahe

    Chris Von der Ahe was one of the first in line of flamboyant owners that include Bill Veeck and Charlie Finley. He often ferried his players to the ballpark in carriages pulled by white horses and took the games receipts to bank in a wheelbarrow.

    Von der Ahe even taught his players to swear in Dutch. He gave them lessons after each loss because he believed it “braced them up and made them play better ball.”

    But Von der Ahe’s flamboyance was probably responsible for the first championship series in baseball and the creation of one of the biggest rivalries in the game’s history.

    Before the end of the 1886 season, the burly showman with the exaggerated German accent (He was once exclaimed, “Vy, vat better grounds do you vant? Ve vant dier players an’ dot settles it,” when asked why he wanted a team expelled from his league) wrote Chicago White Stockings president Albert Spalding and proposed “a series of contests to be know as the World’s Championship Series,” between his St. Louis Browns and the White Stocking. After getting Von der Ahe to agree to the winning team keeping the entire series’ gate receipts, Spalding came on board and the first World Series was born.

    The two teams slit the first four games, but the Browns took the fifth game in dramatic fashion coming from behind in the bottom of the tenth with what became known as “Welch’s $15,000 slide,” after Browns outfielder Curt Welch stole home to win the series.

    Of course, Von der Ahe initially made the offer to generate beer and hotdog revenues at sportsman’s Park, but the series was much more organized with better and more serious play than previous championships and grew from there.
    Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-26-2011, 01:24 PM.
    "I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day and I dream about it at night. The only time I don't think about it is when I'm playing it."
    Carl Yastrzemski

  • #2
    Von der Ahe was the premier character of 19th century baseball, a combination of Gussie Busch, George Steinbrenner and Bill Veeck. A local tavern owner, Von der Ahe bought into baseball to sell more beer. He knew nothing of the game but was smart enough to turn much of the decision making over to his manager Charles Comiskey who did. Von der Ahe was kind of a joke around the league with his flashy clothes, ever-present dogs, thick German accent and complete ignorance of even the rudimentary aspects of baseball. The newspapers were full of stories of his mistresses, family battles and legal difficulties. He was also a grand showman who provided pregame carousel and carnivals rides, boxing matches and horse races.

    Comment


    • #3
      I read one story that told of Von der Ahe's horse getting away from it's carriage and him running down the street after it while one of his girls waited in the carriage.
      "I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day and I dream about it at night. The only time I don't think about it is when I'm playing it."
      Carl Yastrzemski

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      • #4
        Von Der Ahe was truly a character during his time. For more in-depth analysis about him I recommend reading Peter Golenbock's book called, Spirit of St. Louis. A good read. Von Der Ahe is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery on Florissant ave in North St. Louis..

        Comment


        • #5
          In a thread in the History Forum, called "The Horse's Ass Club", long-time member AG2004 posted this post on Chris Von Der Ahe.

          http://baseball-fever.com/showpost.p...2&postcount=19

          You can tell from his tone that he really, really likes him.
          Last edited by Bill Burgess; 01-14-2008, 08:43 PM.

          Comment


          • #6
            Von der Ahe is an extremely easy figure to mock. He was a German immigrant who spoke in heavily accented English and had a Yogi-like gift for making "interesting" statements. It's true that he didn't know much about the game but he was an extraordinarily gifted businessman. His prominence in the history of the game in general and in the history of St. Louis baseball specifically is well deserved.

            A couple of notes:

            -Professional baseball in St. Louis at the Big League level had collapsed following the gambling scandals in 1877. Von der Ahe was instrumental in its revival.

            -Von der Ahe played a central role in the creation of the AA. The idea that Von der Ahe was the reason for its collapse is without merit.

            -The ballpark that Von der Ahe built in 1892 was far ahead of its time. The saloon, horse track, bicycle track, water ride, etc. made it more of a sports complex than just simply a ballpark. How was Von der Ahe's New Sportsman's Park any different than a modern ballpark?

            -The reasons for the collapse of the Browns in the 1890's are complicated and it's unfair to say that it was a result simply of Von der Ahe's incompetence. The Brotherhood War and the loss of Comiskey played a major role. The national economic downturn of the 90's and the ballpark fire of 1898 were also pivitol. And, yes, his complicated personal life played a part.

            -I'm not sure where the idea that Von der Ahe played a major role in the advent of rowdyism comes from but I think it's unfounded. The ballfields of St. Louis' Irish neighborhoods played a substantially more significant role in that than Von der Ahe ever did.

            -Von der Ahe, Al Spink wrote, "did as much for baseball in St. Louis and the country at large as any man ever associated with the game and (his) departure from it was greatly regretted by those who knew him best..."

            The photo attached below is of Von der Ahe's grave in St. Louis and comes from The Deadball Era. The statue is the same one that was outside of Sportsman's Park.
            Attached Files
            Last edited by hubkittel; 12-27-2007, 07:25 PM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by runningshoes View Post

              Before the end of the 1886 season, the burly showman with the exaggerated German accent (He was once exclaimed, “Vy, vat better grounds do you vant? Ve vant dier players an’ dot settles it,” when asked why he wanted a team expelled from his league) wrote Chicago White Stockings president Albert Spalding and proposed “a series of contests to be know as the World’s Championship Series,” between his St. Louis Browns and the White Stocking. After getting Von der Ahe to agree to the winning team keeping the entire series’ gate receipts, Spalding came on board and the first World Series was born.
              .
              Um...that's not true...they had also played each other at the end of 1885 to a draw in that year's World Series (that technically was a Browns win if you check it out), and Providence and the Mets had played in 1884, although that one really was more of an exhibition than a championship. 1886 was the third WS.
              "Here's a crazy thought I've always had: if they cut three fingers off each hand, I'd really be a great hitter because then I could level off better." Paul Waner (lifetime .333 hitter, 3,152 lifetime hits.

              Comment


              • #8
                One story the papers followed was von der Ahe's women troubles:

                At the ballpark in St. Louis on September 7, 1885 were both Chris von der Ahe's wife and his mistress, Kitty Dewey - a pretty blonde. Dewey was watching the game, apparently oblivious to the fact that Mrs. von der Ahe was also present. Bystanders noticed Mrs. von der Ahe continually giving the stink eye in the direction of a pretty young blonde. When the game ended Mrs. von der Ahe walked up behind Miss Dewey and declared, "Miss Kitty, Miss Kitty, didn't I tell you not to put your foot in these grounds again!" Dewey turned, paled and was struck over the head with a soda bottle. Von der Ahe grabbed his wife and forced he into the box office as Dewey fled the scene.

                On March 26, 1895 von der Ahe's first wife obtained a divorce, receiving $3,150 in alimony.

                Soon after the divorce (or perhaps before) von der Ahe, 43, took up with a young brunette named Della E. Wells. Miss Wells held a lot of influence with von der Ahe, suggesting that he hire her friends and relatives at his ballpark.

                On August 9, 1895 von der Ahe had a blowout with his player-manager Joe Quinn. The next day he announced that his new manager was Lou Phelan (a boxing manager), a man with no baseball experience. Phelan just happened to be married to Wells' sister. The club finished in eleventh place. To be fair to Phelan, it was in eleventh place when he took over. Phelan "pledged to learn the finer points of the game during the off season" but he was replaced by Henry Diddlebock.

                Von der Ahe and Wells were married on September 8, 1896 in Erie, PA. She was described as "The second Mrs. V is twenty-two years old, trim of figure, a brunette, and a swell dresser."

                Two days later, a Miss Annie Kaiser filed a $10,000-lawsuit for breach of promise. She was under the impression that she was to wed von der Ahe.

                On December 29, 1897 von der Ahe filed for divorce. His wife counterfiled claiming abuse and ill-treatment. "She said that he would not allow her any pocket money, discharged the servant, and made her do the work. He almost constantly scolded and struck her.

                Von der Ahe dropped his case but the judge ruled on Mrs. von der Ahe's complaint. She was granted a divirce and $1,000 in alimony. Von der Ahe made counter charges but they were dismissed as baseless. In the end the judge compliment Mrs. von der Ahe on her demeanor and deportment in court.

                Von der Ahe had a slew of financial setbacks. In 1908 he declared bankruptcy and was for a time supported by Charles Comiskey and others in the game.
                Last edited by Brian McKenna; 01-19-2008, 08:38 AM.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I recently was doing some researching/documenting on George W. Munson. When he died the St. Louis Republican did some editorializing on him, and so did the Sporting News.

                  Since both included a fair amount of material on Von der Ahe, I thought I'd include the 2 post-mortem pieces here. The gist is that the the Cornell graduate, Munson, was able to clean up a lot of the mistakes of Von der Ahe. Of course, that was his job that he was being paid for.

                  St. Louis Republican' death tribute.
                  Munson was the first of the baseball exploiters. Indeed, he taught most of the early reporters how to score and write baseball games. Baseball was a new game in the early eighties and its chroniclers were few and new, too.

                  For some ten years Munson exploited Von Der Ahe and the Browns over the country. When he quit them it was to become advance agent and publicity man of "The Derby Winner" a play written by his friend A. H. Spink. After a year or two of tumult on the road, "The Derby Winner" died. Then Munson went into the general advertising business in which he remained until he died.

                  People often said that Munson was the "Luck of Von Der Ahe". Which may have been true. In any event Von Der Ahe and his Browns declined steadily after George left them. Five years later Von Der Ahe, to whom Munson gave the eternal sobriquet "Der Boss President", lost the grand and glorious institution of St. Louis the Browns as poor Munson was words to always write it.

                  A man of indefatigable energy and immense personal acquaintance and popularity, Mr. Munson was always in a position to transact an immense volume of business and to make a great deal of money. But no one ever knew George Munson to keep a book of ? to make money for himself. In his advertising business he would telephone a patron and make a verbal contract. Then he would send one of his boys over to the patron to get the contract in writing and permit the messenger to collect the large percentage due a solicitor. As a matter of fact he gave half of every thing he received.

                  Nobody ever saw George Munson in ill humor. Nobody ever heard him say an ill word of any body else. Nobody ever saw him with the blues.

                  Once a high liver, Mr. Munson for years has been most abstemious man and eschewed the ways of the good fellows, gave in heart and liberality. Take the good fellow as you may, George Munson was the beau ideal. In the words of his own favorite toast:

                  "We come into this world naked and bare.
                  While we are here ? sorrow and care.
                  We leave this world for we know not where.
                  But if you're a good fellow here.
                  You'll be a good fellow there.

                  As far as George Munson is concerned there cannot be a doubt of it. He was a true husband, a true father and a true friend. (St. Louis Republican, March 15, 1908, pp. 1.)
                  -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                  Sporting News' death tribute, March 19, 1908, pp. 4, column 2.
                  George Munson, who as secretary of the old Browns, was as valuable to Chris Von der Ahe as Comiskey was in the conduct of the team that won four successive American Association pennants and one world's championship for St. Louis in the 1890's died on Saturday, the victim of double pneumonia and kidney complications. A graduate of Cornell, he entered journalism in New York and while a newspaper novice located in St. Louis. His base ball department in the Republic was one of its features and on the death of David Reid in 1885, Mr. Von der Ahe appointed Munson secretary of his club. He retained the position until 1899, when he accompanied Comiskey to Chicago as secretary of the Brotherhood club of that city, returning with the Old Roman to Von der Ahe's service the following season and remaining until 1896, when he became press agent of the St. Louis Fair Association and engaged in the promotion of sporting events.

                  When Celia Adler and Tilles secured control of the Fair Grounds, Munson began the publication of the Horse Show monthly. He was secretary of the Horse Show Association and of the local Kennel Club and the leading spirit in each. during his connection with the Browns he was the official scorer of the club and taught the rudiments of the statistics of the game to practically all of St. Louis' sporting writers of the inter '80's and early '90's. He ranked with the best scorers of that time and many of the improvements in the playing and statistical departments of the pastime were suggested by him. Foremost in the organization of the Scorers' Association, he was elected its secretary and by many was recognized as its most assiduous and able member. Munson, the man of many friends' as the Post "dispatch accurately described him, possessed to a rare degree the trait of creating a favorable impression on introduction and his sterling and magnetic qualities made chums of those with whom he had long social or business association. He measured men accurately, appreciated their good points, and allowed for their failings. An application for a favor was never denied by him, and some who exceeded the limit of his purse in their appeals to him, never knew the sacrifice that he sometimes made to accommodate those already under obligation to him. Impulsive and high strung, he had himself in full control at all times and however indignant at a disagreeable turn in an affair in which he was engaged, he proceeded in its accomplishment as far as laid in his power and deploring defeat, never harbored malice or planned revenge.

                  His services to Von der Ahe were beyond price. While Comiskey and his Browns were making Von der Ahe rich and famous, Munson kept his business from entanglements and molded him into a base ball magnate. The tact, education and refinement of the Cornell graduate made him a foil for the newly-rich German, who as a Grand Avenue grocer, had thrifty and humble associates, but as 'der president of the Browns', met men of polished manners and champagne tastes.

                  The transformation was slow and far from complete. Munson's mentorship worked wonders and in time the Browns' owner acquitted himself credibly at sessions of his league and at public functions. When his employer enraged press or patrons or became involved with his associate club-owners, Munson established peace so adroitly that ill effects were averted. Von der Ahe was safeguarded from many of his mistakes by the diplomacy and personal popularity of Munson and Comiskey and each had the courage to disobey positive orders when compliance would have caused harmful consequences.

                  Munson was a ideal press agent and his best service to base ball was in the sporting columns of the leading papers of the country. The Browns were ? at home and abroad and through his efforts human interest became one of the game's greatest attractions. People who never saw Comiskey and his Browns read Munson's individual sketches and formed an attachment for them. His acquaintances was unlimited and his friendships fast and firm.
                  For over a year preceding his death, Munson was engaged in the collection of data for a biography of Comiskey, for whom he entertained a fraternal feeling, which was shared by the Old Roman, who wired his regrets at the passing of his former associate and directed that a floral tribute be placed on his bier. (Sporting News' death tribute, March 19, 1908, pp. 4, column 2.)
                  Last edited by Bill Burgess; 05-05-2008, 01:48 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The StL Post-Dispatch called Munson "the business head of the (Browns') organization" and stated that he and Von der Ahe had a rather tumultuous relationship. After he had enough of Von der Ahe, he was involved in a failed attempt to place a StL team in the Players League. Munson is an interesting guy who was involved in all kinds of entrepreneurial activities (such as Spink's failed attempt at theatre).

                    While I have no doubt that he played a large role in the success of the Browns, I think we should be careful before giving him too much credit. TSN was without a doubt biased against Von der Ahe. It's almost embarrassing the extent to which they mock him in the paper. I'm not sure what the relationship was like between Al Spink and Von der Ahe but it's apparent that Spink didn't much care for him. The animosity may have stemmed from the time Spink was working with Von der Ahe and the Browns but I wouldn't swear to it. It's also possible that the piece in the StL Republican was written or edited by William Spink so we may be getting a double dose of anti-Von der Ahe bias from the Spink brothers.

                    You see this quite a bit with regards to Von der Ahe. Credit for the Browns' success is always attributed to someone other than him-Ned Cuthburt or Comiskey or Ted Sullivan or Munson or whoever. Von der Ahe is always portrayed as someone with fool's luck who managed to get into the right situation at the right time. A different interpretation is that he was an outstanding business manager who surrounded himself with good people and allowed them to do their job. Certainly he was a flawed man who made mistakes (and many enemies) but the way Von der Ahe is currently portrayed is just bad history.

                    An example of this is the story about how Von der Ahe became involved with the Browns. The conventional story is that Von der Ahe was in his saloon across the street from the Grand Avenue Grounds one day and noticed that the bar got busy at the same time every day. Asking around about the reason of the uptick in business (some versions of the story have him asking Ned Cuthburt), he discovers that all his customers were coming from the baseball game. Hearing the ringing of cash registers, Von der Ahe then decides to get involved in the baseball business.

                    A cute story but it's simply not true. Von der Ahe had been involved in StL baseball since at least 1875 when he served as an officer with August Solari's Grand Avenue Base Ball Club. He had also been involved with the Brown Stockings for several years prior to their entry into the American Association. The idea that he didn't know anything about the game or had no experience in the game prior to 1881 or 1882 is just false.

                    Also, Von der Ahe was an outstanding businessman. He came to this country with nothing and built a very successful grocery/liquor/saloon business in StL. Before his involvement with the Brown Stockings, the team was struggling to survive. Von der Ahe took the team and the park and built the most successful baseball enterprise the city had ever seen. He was also involved in the founding of the AA and helped to build it into a major league.

                    Again, the idea that Von der Ahe was some kind of idiot or fool is just false and that perception is a result of numerous things, including the bias of TSN, the people that Von der Ahe offended during his rise, the colorful stories told about him by people like Arlie Latham, and the way in which his baseball empire collapsed. The only comparable baseball situation that I can think of is that of Yogi Berra. No one remembers what a great player Berra was-all everybody knows is the stories that Joe Garagiola told about him and the Yogisms.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by hubkittel View Post
                      The conventional story is that Von der Ahe was in his saloon across the street from the Grand Avenue Grounds one day and noticed that the bar got busy at the same time every day. Asking around about the reason of the uptick in business (some versions of the story have him asking Ned Cuthburt), he discovers that all his customers were coming from the baseball game. Hearing the ringing of cash registers, Von der Ahe then decides to get involved in the baseball business.

                      A cute story but it's simply not true.
                      You learn something every day. I always took that story at face value. That will teach me. I should have guessed that it was too good. Do you know its earliest appearance?

                      Originally posted by hubkittel View Post
                      The only comparable baseball situation that I can think of is that of Yogi Berra. No one remembers what a great player Berra was-all everybody knows is the stories that Joe Garagiola told about him and the Yogisms.
                      That's still better than how history has treated Fred Merkle.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by hubkittel View Post
                        An example of this is the story about how Von der Ahe became involved with the Browns. The conventional story is that Von der Ahe was in his saloon across the street from the Grand Avenue Grounds one day and noticed that the bar got busy at the same time every day. Asking around about the reason of the uptick in business (some versions of the story have him asking Ned Cuthburt), he discovers that all his customers were coming from the baseball game. Hearing the ringing of cash registers, Von der Ahe then decides to get involved in the baseball business.
                        I find this very interesting. The book "Before They Were Cardinals" by Jon David Cash spends a fair amount of time on Cuthbert and this story, and claims that Cuthbert worked at Von der Ahe's Golden Lion Saloon. This section is littered with references, and I would check them out and type them here now but my girlfriend is sleeping in the next room and it's her only morning off this week, so...

                        ...anyhow, I will go through it in a few hours and post back where exactly the references are from, but here's a couple of questions for you in the meantime: in what capacity (specifically) was Von der Ahe involved with Solari in 1875, and did Cuthbert work for Von der Ahe at the saloon or not?
                        "Here's a crazy thought I've always had: if they cut three fingers off each hand, I'd really be a great hitter because then I could level off better." Paul Waner (lifetime .333 hitter, 3,152 lifetime hits.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Been looking through the book. Cuthbert was undoubtedly the main Brown Stocking mover and shaker in 1879. Not much said about 1880, except that Spink bemoaned the lack of fans in the stands, including one game when the gate receipts didn't even cover the streetcar expenses of the Indianapolis team back to their hotel.

                          Solari decided not to renew his five year lease on the park that year and in October announced he was going to take down the stands, benches, and everything else.

                          This is where, according to Cash, Cuthbert persuaded Von der Ahe to step in, although he had been trying to get him involved for a period of months. The traditional story about Chris asking Ned why people rushed off at a certain time only to come back hours later for leisurely drinks, with Ned replying "They're at the ballgame", I cannot trace any further back than Robert Burnes' article "Baseball Flourished here before Von der Ahe" from the October 5, 1952 Globe-Democrat.

                          That's a heck of a long time after the fact, but the Von der Ahe quote "It was Eddie who talked me into baseball...he picked me out, and, for months, he talked League baseball, until he convinced me that there was something in it." dates from the Globe-Democrat of February 7th, 1905.

                          Is this true or not? Von der Ahe could have simply been giving Cuthbert a little extra credit, but if he had been involved in baseball five years earlier, people would remember this wouldn't they, and realize that he wasn't telling the truth.

                          Whatever the truth, I can find no mention of his involvement in St. Louis baseball prior to late 1880. What sort of role did he play as an officer of the club in 1875? I understand that the 1875 club was formed by St. Louis civic boosters raising $20,000- 400 shares at $50 apiece. Was he merely a shareholder? Or Did he work with original Brown Stockings president J.B.C. Lucas (father of Union Association mogul Henry Lucas)?

                          I can't find out any info regarding these questions, and i would eagerly like to be enlightened. As a final note to Hubkittel (who assume will do most of the answering), did you read the Cash book and what do you think of it?
                          "Here's a crazy thought I've always had: if they cut three fingers off each hand, I'd really be a great hitter because then I could level off better." Paul Waner (lifetime .333 hitter, 3,152 lifetime hits.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Buzzaldrin View Post
                            That's a heck of a long time after the fact, but the Von der Ahe quote "It was Eddie who talked me into baseball...he picked me out, and, for months, he talked League baseball, until he convinced me that there was something in it." dates from the Globe-Democrat of February 7th, 1905.

                            Is this true or not? Von der Ahe could have simply been giving Cuthbert a little extra credit, but if he had been involved in baseball five years earlier, people would remember this wouldn't they, and realize that he wasn't telling the truth.
                            The problem is that we're dealing with events of 125 years ago and trying to separate truth from myth. The two seem to be intertwined here pretty well and I have a feeling that there is some truth in the myth. As you said, Cuthbert was heavily involved with the Brown Stockings in the interregnum period when StL didn't have a major league club. Did he play a role in getting Von der Ahe involved with the Brown Stockings? Probably but I haven't seen any primary source material to prove it.

                            Cash, as you mentioned, used Robert Burns as his source for the stuff about Cuthbert and Von der Ahe-and that's unforgivable. Robert Burns was a longtime sportswriter in StL, working for the old Globe-Democrat. He had a column called "The Benchwarmer" and I used to read it when I was a kid. Burns spent a lot of time, as he got older, writing about the history of the game in StL. Bob Broeg did the same thing in the Post-Dispatch and I think these two men are one of the reasons that StL has such an appreciation for the history of the game. But...neither Burns nor Broeg (who tells the same story about Von der Ahe's introduction to baseball in his history of the Cardinals) were contemporaries of the event and were doing nothing more than telling yarns. They told them well but they were still just tales.

                            The Von der Ahe quote from 1905 is interesting but I don't think it precludes Von der Ahe having been involved in the game to whatever extent previous to 1880. I would interpret it as him talking about his involvement with the Browns and major league baseball. Certainly, he gives Cuthbert credit.

                            But what did Cuthbert really do? He didn't introduce Von der Ahe to baseball. I think the evidence is clear on that. With the Brown Stockings floundering at the gate and about to lose their ballpark, he turned to Von der Ahe to save the team. Von der Ahe, once involved, was the one who put together the Sportsmans Park and Club Association. He was the one who put in the money, raised more capital, fixed the ballpark up, and created the environment in which the team could succeed. After the team found on the field success in 1880 and 1881, Von der Ahe was the person involved with O.P. Caylor, Horace Phillips, et al in establishing the American Association. Certainly there were others involved in the success of the Brown Stockings in this period but Von der Ahe is the driving force behind taking a struggling regional club and turning it into a national powerhouse.

                            Did Cuthbert even work for Von der Ahe? I have no evidence one way or the other and don't necessarily doubt it. And I'm not trying to diminish what Cuthbert or the Spink brothers did during the interregnum period in keeping the Brown Stockings alive or the role that Comiskey and Ted Sullivan played in putting together the Four Time Champions. I just honestly believe that it's time to reevaluate Von der Ahe and his contributions to the game. We need to move beyond the image of Von der Ahe as "Der Boss President," as the immigrant clown who fell backwards into a good situation, as an idiot buffoon who knew nothing about the game. The conventional image of Von der Ahe today is one that was formed by his enemies (for lack of a better word) during the 1890's when he was experiencing a great deal of personal and financial difficulty. I don't believe that TSN's portrayal of him as Chris Von der Ha Ha Ha, the man who ruined baseball in StL, is helpful in understanding the history of the game in StL. For that matter, I don't believe that it's particularly accurate. I don't think the fact that Von der Ahe's enemies got the last word should influence us.

                            Whatever the truth, I can find no mention of his involvement in St. Louis baseball prior to late 1880. What sort of role did he play as an officer of the club in 1875? I understand that the 1875 club was formed by St. Louis civic boosters raising $20,000- 400 shares at $50 apiece. Was he merely a shareholder? Or Did he work with original Brown Stockings president J.B.C. Lucas (father of Union Association mogul Henry Lucas)?
                            The source I'm using as evidence that Von der Ahe was involved in the game in 1875 is E.H. Tobias. In 1895 and 1896, Tobias, the former secretary of the Empire Base Ball Club of StL, wrote a 17 part history of baseball in StL for TSN, covering the 1859-1875 period. In the February 15, 1896 issue, he wrote the following: "One of the finest amateur clubs ever in St. Louis was organized (in 1875) by Mr. August Solari, proprietor of Grand Avenue Park and one of the original founders of the Brown Stocking Club. His aim was to have a team that could compete with any and all clubs, professional or amateur, and in this endeavor he was so successful that his new bantlings, the Grand Avenues, went through the seasons of 1875 and 1876 with only two defeats, one at the hands of the Brown Stockings...and the other was a forfeit to the Peerless Club...The original players of the Grand Avenues were as follows: D. Simpson, p; Jon. Solari, c; P. McKenna, 1b; Dan'l Whalen, 2b and captain; John Whalen, 3b; George Newell, ss; Jon. Schenk, rf; Joe Britt, cf; L. Simpson, lf; H. Little, H. McCaffery and R. Walsh, substitutes." He goes on to list the officers of the club, one of whom was "Chris Von der Ahe, grocer...Thus it was that the present Pooh Bah of the St. Louis Club became introduced to the base ball world and it is ducats to dimes at the present time that if that good old man and true friend to the base ball fraternity, August Solari, had the job to do over it wouldn't be done at all, for it is the burden of his daily prayers that he may be forgiven for having perpetrated this outrage on the base ball fraternity in general and St. Louis in particular."

                            What specific role Von der Ahe played with the Grand Avenues is unknown but I think it's clear that he was involved in the game to some extent by 1875. If you think about it, the idea that a successful bar owner wouldn't have a clue about what was going on right across the street from his own establishment is absurd. Von der Ahe was operating a saloon in the Grand Avenue neighborhood for some time prior to 1880 and we're supposed to believe that the man was so stupid that he didn't notice the ballpark across the street or the crowds going to and fro? It certainly makes for a good story but when you think about it, it just doesn't make any sense. And the Tobias source debunks it anyway.

                            Obviously, the team that he was involved in was Solari's Grand Avenue Base Ball Club and not the NA Brown Stockings. There is no source that links him to that club. Also, the J.B.C Lucas who was the president of the NA Brown Stockings was actually the older brother of Henry Lucas, president of the Maroons and founder of the UA.

                            I can't find out any info regarding these questions, and i would eagerly like to be enlightened. As a final note to Hubkittel (who assume will do most of the answering), did you read the Cash book and what do you think of it?
                            I don't know how enlightening I've been and I've probably raised more questions than I've answered but such is life. As far as Cash's book is concerned, I think it's a flawed work. It's certainly very well written. I appreciate the effort he but into the notes and bibliography. But I was a little disappointed in it when I first read it. For what is supposed to be a history of 19th century major league baseball in StL, it actually neglects most of that history. The section on the 1875 season is unacceptably sparse. The Red Stockings are treated as an afterthought and Cash fails to provide a historical context for what was happening in 1875. While you could look at the book as a history of the AA Browns, Cash even fails to cover most of that history. The story of the on the field collapse of the team, the financial struggles of Von der Ahe, the ballpark fire in 1898, the machinations that led to the Robison's getting control of the team, etc-these are fascinating stories that Cash neglects. In the end, I think the book is a good read but it's in no way a comprehensive history of 19th century baseball in St. Louis, even at the major league level.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by rrhersh View Post
                              You learn something every day. I always took that story at face value. That will teach me. I should have guessed that it was too good. Do you know its earliest appearance?
                              I've never bothered to trace the story back but I can tell you the original source isn't Al Spink (who would be the most likely suspect). The story doesn't appear in The National Game and I've never read it in any of the early issues of TSN. It can't be Bob Burns or Bob Broeg-they were just repeating a story that they had heard as young men. If I had to bet money, I would guess (based on nothing but intuition) that Fred Lieb helped popularize the story. There's a history of the Cardinals published in the 1940's that was written by Lieb and I would bet that the story appears there.

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