“Low ebb of Baseball”

24 Jun

Shortly before the American League’s inaugural season in 1901, The Brooklyn Eagle—likely long-time sports editor Abe Yager–asked:

“What has been the cause for the current low ebb of baseball?”

yager

Abe Yager

The paper said some suggested the “squabbling and bickering” among team owners and “the efforts of the National League to keep the game to itself,” as possible reasons.

No, said The Eagle, it was clear who was responsible for the latest concern that baseball would no longer maintain its popularity:

“The players themselves, however, are the principal offenders.”

The paper reasoned that during “the halcyon days of the 80s, when baseball was in its prime” players were spoiled.

“In those days the hired man was a popular idol, the public looking up at him as a little god to be worshipped. He was wined and dined, all his peccadillos were looked upon as the eccentricities of the great, and when he got into trouble with the minions of the law everybody hastened to help him, and the matter was hushed up as much as possible.”

The paper cited examples of how players had been treated in the past:

“Gus Weyhing, ten years ago, threw a sandwich against a valuable ceiling in an East New York brewery, causing damage to the extent of several hundred dollars. The proprietor of the place brought suit against Weyhing, but the case was hushed up and the player was set free.”

weyhing.JPG

Gus Weyhing

Then there was Mike “King” Kelly:

“When Boston paid $10,000 to the Chicago club for his release (in 1887), the world stood aghast that such a price be paid for a ball player, and the Bostonians fell on their knees and worshipped him…the adulation showered upon him stopped only at the presentation of a house and lot and a carriage and pair.”

kingkelly

 “King” Kelly

And in Brooklyn the was the case of Bob Caruthers. When his contract was purchased from the St. Louis Browns before the 1888 season:

“(Caruthers) was the observed of all observers when he arrived here. Brooklynites jostled each other in their efforts to form his acquaintance. He was introduced into many clubs and everything was done to make his stay here pleasant. Bobby had an ungovernable temper when things failed to go his way. This was especially the case when he was playing cards, and he was known frequently to tear up entire decks and throw them about the room. But this was taken as a peculiarity of a great man and nothing was said.”

caruthers

Bob Caruthers

The deal whereby players were put on a pedestal; their bad acts were covered up, and in turn didn’t agitate about how they were treated were this version of “the good old days” when baseball was not in decline. But now:

“Since the ‘brotherhood’ war…The players have gradually but fully fallen from the pedestals and are no longer idols in the in the eyes of the public. Their objections to being bought and sold on the plea that they are slaves, their rowdyism on and off the ballfield, frequent barroom fights and cases of intoxication which are now made much of.”

And the fault was only with the players:

“(T)he squabbling over salaries, their rush to the public print whenever they have real or fancied grievances.”

Complaining about salaries, fighting over the reserve clause, it was reasoned, had “pulled the scales from the eyes of the baseball loving people.”

Not the magnates, the players, were responsible for the inevitable demise of the game, and for baseball being eclipsed by sports that:

“(H)ave not he appearance of being business enterprises. And the players wonder why they play before empty benches.”

Despite the latest prediction that baseball’s best days were in the past, the benches filled up at a higher rate in 1901 than 1900; even with attendance declines in National League cities with new American League competition, league-wide the attendance increased by nearly 100,000. Brooklyn attendance jumped from 183,000 to 198,200.

One Response to ““Low ebb of Baseball””

  1. graham64 June 28, 2019 at 3:00 am #

    Nothing much has changed over 100 years later!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s