“Not Quite Such an Idiot”

5 Apr

The 1889 American Association season began and ended as a two-team race between the Brooklyn Bridegrooms and St. Louis Browns, who had won four straight championships—the third place Philadelphia Athletics finished 16 games back.  The battle between Brooklyn and St. Louis was bitter and culminated in September with a charge of umpire bribery.

St. Louis owner Chris von der Ahe made a charge of attempted bribery of an umpire.  He said Brooklyn Captain William “Darby” O’Brien had attempted to bribe umpire John Kerins “$100 and the chance for him to umpire in the World’s Series if Brooklyn got there.” (Some accounts claim the amount was $1000, but the overwhelming number of contemporaneous stories put the figure at $100).

Chris von der Ahe

Chris von der Ahe

The Browns owner claimed “I can prove,” the charges and said “Kerins himself told the story in my presence.  Captain (and manager Charles) Comiskey and another party were in the carriage at the time.”

The other “party” never materialized, and Comiskey, no stranger to dubious charges, never fully backed his boss with a statement confirming the accusation.

Kerins, who since 1884 had bounced back and forth between playing in the American Association with the Indianapolis Hoosiers, Louisville Colonels and Baltimore Orioles, and working as a minor league and Association umpire, called the claim “Simply absurd.”

John Kerins

John Kerins

 

He said he never spoke to von der Ahe, and “I never told Comiskey that any attempt had been made to bribe me,” and that all the charges came from a misinterpreted conversation he had with Comiskey.

Kerins said he simply mentioned to the Browns manager that O’Brien had made “A casual remark,” that “I would give $100 out of my own pocket if Brooklyn could win the championship.”

Kerins said he told O’Brien he’d like to serve as an umpire in the World Series (against eventual National League champions the New York Giants), but it appears Kerins, like every other Association umpire, told many people he’d like to earn the additional money paid to post-season umpires.

Kerins told The Baltimore American that he was:

“Not quite such an idiot as to sell (myself) for the paltry sum of $100.”

O’Brien issued an indignant statement about the charges that appeared in The Chicago Times and other newspapers:

“I was completely nonplussed when I read that story, and, as it was the first intimation I had had of it, you can well imagine my surprise.  To think that that story should reach the eyes of my folks in Peoria and that they might believe me capable of stooping to a dishonest act is what galls me.”

Darby O'Brien

Darby O’Brien

Brooklyn went on to beat the Browns by two games for the American Association Pennant and lost the World Series to the Giants six games to three.

Nothing came of the charges, and it seems doubtful von der Ahe and Comiskey actually believed they were true.

A postscript:  After Comiskey jumped the Browns the following season to join the Chicago Pirates in Players League, von der Ahe signed Kerins (who had all but called him a liar six months earlier), and named him manager in May (one of five Browns managers that season) for 17 games; under Kerins the browns were 9-8.  In June Kerins, hitting .127, was replaced as manager and released by the Browns.

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2 Responses to ““Not Quite Such an Idiot””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #9 | Baseball History Daily - June 18, 2014

    […] the effect that one morning, the day of the extreme heat, while the men were in the shade, umpire (John) Kerins pulled out the ivories and the men in the spirit of fun went at the game.  It did not last ten […]

  2. Sam Barkley and the Mobster | Baseball History Daily - May 24, 2015

    […] a .268 season in St. Louis, owner Chris Von der Ahe sold him to the Pittsburgh Alleghenys, but Barkley had already signed a contract with the Baltimore […]

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