“Nearly Every fan one Meets has a Grievance”

12 Apr

“Baseball, on the whole, isn’t a profitable game to magnates,” wrote Frederic Patrick O’Connell in The Boston Post in 1906.

“More men have been ruined by baseball than one can imagine.  Only a few clubs make money. Every season several minor league clubs go to the wall.

Frederic O’Connell

While many more minor league clubs were organized with the understanding that the team would lose money:

“In the smaller towns, men can always be found who will take a chance, and who, for the sake of the sport are willing to lose money. Most of the minor league teams have the backing of the street railroads. The railroads make big money out of baseball and are willing to help out some.”

O’Connell asked his readers to, “think of the money made” by the Boston Elevated Railroad “in this city,” the previous season:

“At the very lowest the L Road received around $25,000 from the fans who witnessed the big league games…The L Road owns the Huntington Avenue park. (Americans owner) John I. Taylor pays around $7500 rental.”

Further complicating the finances of teams, O’Connell said, was that, “There isn’t one club in the two big leagues” that didn’t exaggerate attendance numbers:

“They do it at the South End (home of the National League Beaneaters) and they do it at Huntington Avenue, but at Huntington Avenue they pad the figures less perhaps than any other city. In Chicago and St. Louis, the figures given are farcical.”

Why they insisted on padding attendance was, “hard to explain” because it caused harm to the magnates who padded figures:

O’Connell said how can players be blamed “for kicking” about salaries when “Daily he reads the attendance figures.”

But despite “how ruinous baseball has been” to many owners, “You will always find men willing to take a chance.”

O’Connell warned that anyone wanting “to hold public office had better leave baseball alone,” because the rabid fan “seldom forgives and never forgets.”

He said, he was stopped on the street the previous week by a fan angry for an error O’Connell, as official scorer, charged Freddy Parent in a game three years earlier.

“It took me off my feet, and while the game had long ago been forgotten by me, my new friend went into every detail, telling me just how it was played and who scored the runs.

“It is now some time since (Boston) Mayor (John F. ) Fitzgerald desired to buy the local American club. Does anyone for a moment suppose he would now be mayor if he happened to own the Collins team last summer?”

The Americans, under manager Jimmy Collins, were never in the race and finished in fourth place, 16 games behind the Philadelphia Athletics.

Jimmy Collins

Had the mayor owned the club:

“Not a single fan would have forgiven him because he didn’t make Collins take out (Norwood) Gibson one day last August, because he didn’t order Collins to send someone to bat for (George) Winter another day…Mayor Fitzgerald has no doubt congratulated himself for this. He is now mayor of the city, and as owner of a losing team he would have surely been beaten, for nearly every voter in Boston is a fan, and nearly every fan one meets has a grievance.”

The ire that Fitzgerald avoided by not buying the team was visited upon the manager, said McConnell:

“When Jimmy Collins won the world’s series from Pittsburg he was hailed as the greatest ever by fandom…How different now.”

Collins lasted until August 25 in the 1906 season, he was let go with a 35-79 record. 

McConnell came from a prominent Massachusetts family; his brother Joseph helped organize the first football team at Boston College and served two terms in Congress.

He became baseball editor at The Post at the age of 23 but died just three years later.

He was with the Americans in the spring of 1907 in West Baden, Indiana when he contracted pneumonia and died after a three-week illness.

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