“The Great Baseball Question has been what will Capt. Comiskey do next Season”

3 Dec

In January of 1890 The St. Louis Globe-Democrat said what was on the minds of every baseball executive, writer, and fan:  “The great baseball question has been what will Capt. Comiskey do next Season”

For weeks there was speculation about whether Charles Comiskey, captain and manager of the St. Louis Browns, would remain in the American Association or join the Players’ National League of Professional Baseball Clubs (Players League), the league borne out of baseball’s first union the Brotherhood of Professional Base-Ball Players.

Charles Comiskey, against slang in baseball stories.

Charles Comiskey

On January 15, in a letter to The Sporting News, Comiskey announced his decision:

“During the past few weeks many interviews have appeared with me in different newspapers of the country relative to my having signed a contract with the St. Louis and Chicago Brotherhood clubs.  Up to this writing I am mind and fancy free.  But before Saturday night, January 18, I will have signed a contract to play at first base for the Chicago Brotherhood team.  I take this step for the reason that I am in sympathy with the Brotherhood.

“I believe its aims are for the best welfare and interest of the professional players.  I believe that if the players do not this time stand true to their colors and maintain their organization they will from this day forward be at the mercy of the corporations who have been running the game, who drafted the reserve rule and give birth to the obnoxious classification system.

“I have taken all the chances of success and failure into consideration, and I believe that if the players stand true to themselves they will score the grandest success ever achieved in the baseball world.

“But besides having the welfare of the players at heart I have other reasons for wanting to play in Chicago.  My parents and all my relatives reside there, and the all the property I own is located in the city.  I was raised there and have a natural liking for the place.  But, outside of all these reasons, my relations with the management of the St. Louis club have, during the past year been so unpleasant I do not care to renew them.  I have many friends in St. Louis, and for their sake I hate to leave here, but the other reasons out-balance this friendship, so I will cast my lines with the Chicago club.

“This is the first letter I have written on the subject which seems to have interested the baseball world throughout the whole of the present winter.

“Yours respectfully, Chas. Comiskey”

A week before the season began The Chicago Tribune said Comiskey’s new club “on paper, is the greatest team ever organized.”   Despite the hype, Comiskey’s Chicago Pirates finished in fourth place.  The Players League lasted only one season and dissolved in November of 1890.

Comiskey’s backing of the Brotherhood against “the corporations who have been running the game” would probably have come as a surprise to many of those who played for him when he owned the Chicago White Sox.  Arnold “Chick” Gandil, banned from baseball for his role in the 1919 Black Sox scandal said of Comiskey in a 1956 article in “Sports Illustrated:”

“ He was a sarcastic, belittling man who was the tightest owner in baseball. If a player objected to his miserly terms, Comiskey told him: “You can take it or leave it.” Under baseball’s slave laws, what could a fellow do but take it? I recall only one act of generosity on Comiskey’s part. After we won the World Series in 1917, he splurged with a case of champagne.”

Chick Gandil

Chick Gandil

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14 Responses to ““The Great Baseball Question has been what will Capt. Comiskey do next Season””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “The Game was not Exactly ‘on the square’” | Baseball History Daily - March 21, 2014

    […] the reported break down of Foutz in California… (Manager Charles) Comiskey received a letter from Foutz in which he denied that he had broken down, and said he was as good as […]

  2. Origin Stories | Baseball History Daily - April 9, 2014

    […] Timothy Paul “Ted” Sullivan was a player, manager, executive, and the lifelong friend and confident of Charles Comiskey. […]

  3. “Why don’t you make Latham keep still?” | Baseball History Daily - May 2, 2014

    […] of his detractors would have people believe it.  I once heard one of the soreheads say to Captain (Charlie) Comiskey: ‘Why don’t you make Latham keep […]

  4. “There will be Cliches” | Baseball History Daily - June 30, 2014

    […] He conceded that “The outfield and infield are well-nigh perfect.”  But, there was a bigger problem than the weak pitching and catching; Harris predicted tension between second baseman Fred Pfeffer, who had raised $20,000 for the creation of the Players League, recruited most of his Chicago White Stockings teammates to jump to the Brotherhood, and was one of the club’s directors, and team captain and first baseman Charles Comiskey: […]

  5. Frank Bancroft | Baseball History Daily - July 14, 2014

    […] with the players. All of that part of the club’s affairs being under the supervision of Captain (Charlie) Comiskey.  All Bannie has to do is look after the gate, railroad rates and dates.  The other evening the […]

  6. Hugh Nicol | Baseball History Daily - August 25, 2014

    […] on the diamond today that are any better than the Browns’ old infield when it was composed of (Charles) Comiskey, (William “Yank”) Robinson, (Arlie) Latham and (Bill) Gleason…Where are there any […]

  7. Comiskey’s “Sandusky Terror” | Baseball History Daily - September 15, 2014

    […] February of 1899 The Chicago Inter Ocean said of Charles Comiskey, then owner of the Western League’s St. Paul […]

  8. The Wealthiest Ballplayers, 1894 | Baseball History Daily - September 19, 2014

    […] “(Charles) Comiskey has been fortunate in getting big money since 1883.  (Chris) Von der Ahe appreciated the great Captain’s worth and paid him more and more every year.  The Brotherhood business enabled him to make a most advantageous contract, and as manager and Captain of the Chicagos he received $7,000 salary besides a big bonus.  His contract with Mr. (John T.) Brush to play and manage in Cincinnati called for $23,000 for three years and $3,000 in cash.  This was made in 1891 and runs this year (1894).  Comiskey has his money invested in Chicago real estate, which is paying him a good income at the present time. […]

  9. Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up other Things #11 | Baseball History Daily - September 22, 2014

    […] Charles Comiskey—Shrewd as can be. […]

  10. Lost Pictures–Sidney Smith’s Baseball Cartoons | Baseball History Daily - December 26, 2014

    […] the cartoon notes, in addition to bad weather and weak hitting causing a poor start for President Charles Comiskey and Manager Billy Sullivan, Sox ace “Big Ed” Walsh was not yet with the team.  Walsh, […]

  11. Lost Advertisements–Fit for a King | Baseball History Daily - May 1, 2015

    […] his entire starting infield, purchasing the contracts of three minor leaguers: first baseman Chick Gandil, second baseman Rollie Zeider, and shortstop Lena Blackburne, and installing utility infielder […]

  12. “A Knocking Umpire had Attempted to keep Speaker back” | Baseball History Daily - September 11, 2015

    […] Speaker was going at his best in his last year in this league (1906), I had made arrangements with Charlie Comiskey to purchase Tris for $1500…the deal was almost […]

  13. Things I Learned on the Way to Looking Up Other Things #18 | Baseball History Daily - March 7, 2016

    […] of articles for The Washington Times called “The Best of my Sport Reminiscences.”  He said of Charles Comiskey, who he was crediting with “discovering” at St. Mary’s College in […]

  14. “The Fourth of July in Baseball has Always been a Day of Reckoning” | Baseball History Daily - July 4, 2016

    […] forced by the two years of conflict between the fighting factions.  (John Montgomery) Ward and (Charles) Comiskey each receive $7,000 salary for seven months’ service—a sum proportionately larger than that […]

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