Tag Archives: Baltimoe Marylands

“Ballplayers were Some Sort of Cattle”

8 Feb

The Chicago Tribune printed Bill Lennon’s rebuttal to his expulsion by the Fort Wayne Kekiongas—he was one of four players expelled from the team, and by extension, the National Association, in July of 1871.

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Lennon, lower center and the Kekiongas

The Tribune followed Lennon’s letter with it’s take on the Fort Wayne club’s actions:

“It was well known in the club and city that (Lennon) intended to leave, and several citizens have, all along since his return from the Eastern trip, taken it upon themselves to remonstrate with him, and request him to stay the year out, at least.”

The paper claimed that if the first three charges “had any real weight in them,” Fort Wayne should have acted on them much sooner.  He also took the team to task for failing to allow Lennon to be present “at his ‘trial’” and said:

“(T)he fact that no prosecution was attempted until after he had left the city, shows clearly enough that the first three charges were merely put in to fill up the real gist of the matter…Mr. Lennon has too good a record as a ballplayer and a gentleman to allow him to lay himself liable to such persecution as he has had from Fort Wayne people without some good cause.”

Then the gloves came off—with the claim that “a little investigation into the way matters are carried on by the Kekionga management may serve to show why neither Mr. Lennon nor any other self-respecting man will stay long with the Fort Wayne pets.”

The paper said:

“The officers of the club are: C.M. Dawson, President, Max Nirdlinger, Vice President; George Myers [sic Mayer], Secretary.  The first of these is a gentleman; the other two are like each other, not like Dawson.”

It was claimed that Nirdlinger and Mayer “the active” members of the team’s management, felt “ballplayers were some sort of cattle, having some of the characteristics of men, but not enough to entitle them to human or humane treatment.”

The salaries paid to Fort Wayne players, were “not as much as a deck hand on a raft would get.”

In addition to the low salaries, the paper claimed that most players were not paid what was owed them which was “the main cause of the difficulty.”

They also accused Mayer of operating the team payroll in much the same way a company town operated:

“Money for services rendered was an impossibility, but the players could get some things if the seller would accept script on the Kekionga Ball Club.  A player could not buy clothes because no money was given him, but he might now and then get a garment if the tailor would take an ‘order on (Mayer).’ The matter had reached a pretty fine point when, instead of giving the men money to pay their board, they were compelled to give their respective landladies an ‘order on (Mayer).”

Players were said to have to go to Mayer for money for something as simple “as a shave,” and based on the level of pay “no one could get under the influence of liquor,” while playing for the team.

Of the treatment of the Fort Wayne players on the East Coast trip, The Tribune said it “was almost inhumane, in two cases at least the men were kept without food from early in the morning to 9 or 10 at night.”

Two players, it was claimed, were forced to sleep in chairs on the hotel porch because the team refused to pay for rooms.

Lennon and Sellman were said to be “put off the train” on the team’s return to Fort Wayne after they were unable to pay their own fare:

“This was accompanied by such language to the men themselves as only Mayer could use.”

The turnover on the club, made the case as strongly as all their other claims; the paper said Bill McDermott, who played two games with Fort Wayne became “sick and disillusioned with the whole affair,” and left the team.  A  player named Riley “formerly of the Railway Unions, of Cleveland,” appeared in “a few” of the non-Association games on the East Coast trip before being “discharged” and given just $1.15 to get home.

Charles Bierman, who appeared in one game on the East Coast trip (he committed two errors in the outfield) was let go, and according to The Tribune, “Of course, he got no pay.”

Ed Mincher and Pete Donnelly  received their expulsions because they were so fed up with their treatment that they skipped the team in Baltimore, and Philadelphia respectively.  Frank Sellman, expelled along with Lennon, had been so broke he had to borrow money to skip the team, with the “club owing him between $100 and $200.”

The Tribune also said Lennon was still owed at least $75 and that the paper would provide “proof of any assertion contained herein” to the Fort Wayne management.

Fort Wayne would have none of it. Despite the fact that none of the papers in the city had printed a negative word about Lennon before his expulsion, they were all in with the club’s management.

The Sentinel ran two letters, one purported to be from the ten remaining members of the Kekiongas which read in part:

“(W)e, the undersigned, have always received all moneys due us and further have been paid in advance our forfeits, besides receiving many valuable gifts from the citizens…When a fault was committed it was over-looked, and that is the reason Lennon was not expelled sooner, as he truly deserved.  We were never kept without food as claimed by the Tribune liar.”

And another from the team’s officers, which attempted to discredit Lennon’s version of evets.  Lennon, the letter said, was “very much under the influence of liquor” at the Hotel Earle in New York, he “did threaten to assault” a team official on the East Coast trip, and he was guilty of “deserting the club” on June 23.

As for the other players The Tribune claimed were treated poorly by Fort Wayne, the management had no problem airing their dirty laundry to defend themselves. Of McDermott, who spent two games with the Kekiongas:

“Mr. McDermott was properly and promptly paid, but instead of paying his board with the money betook himself to a gambling hall, lost his money, and when excused for this offense a short time after, appeared in the company of a lewd woman.”

Of Sellman, who was expelled along with Lennon:

“He had become, as his own companion and friend (Wally) Goldsmith, our 3rd baseman, had said, ‘Selly has become an inveterate toper, he has killed himself for baseball.’ What more be said?”

In regard to other players who had been dismissed quickly by the team, the letter said those players were “accepted on trial, and not proving satisfactory to us, we paid all expenses and money due.”

The Gazette claimed The Tribune engaged in “Slander” of “the character of Fort Wayne’s young men.” The paper said the response was indicative of the attitude of the Chicago press towards the Indiana town:

“(The Gazette) expected that The Chicago Tribune would plant itself in the middle of some cesspool and throw mud much to the discomfiture of all decent people.  This is its style, especially when the victim of its attack resides in Fort Wayne.  We have therefore not been disappointed in our expectations.”

Engaging in an argument with The Tribune writer, the paper claimed, was not worth their time:

“His ability to throw dirt and cast villainous slurs upon the character of our young men, has been too well developed to allow it.”

As for Lennon:

“A baseball player whose conduct in this city has been most infamous and would be regarded as such in every city.  If it is not in Chicago it is because he has the advantage of training there in a crowd more corrupt than himself.”

The Tribune responded with a breezy dismissal of everything thrown its way by the Fort Wayne management and papers, and specifically scoffed at the letter “signed” by the remaining members of the team:

“Don’t they know that the only possible way chance they ever will have of getting their pay depended on signing the card? Suppose for a moment one of them had refused to append his name.  ‘Expelled, club owing him $–’ would be his epitaph.”

Lennon finished the season catching for the Olympic Club of Baltimore—not to be confused the National Association Olympic Club of Washington.

The Gazette took one last swipe at Lennon and The Chicago Tribune at the end of August.  The paper claimed that “Mr. W. W. Rambo, of this city, lost last October a very valuable breast pin under circumstances that led him to believe that William Lennon, the catcher of the Kekiongas, had taken it.”

It was unthinkable at the time, said the paper that Lennon, “at the height of his popularity” in Fort Wayne would be responsible.  But The Gazette claimed after two letters sent by the Fort Wayne club to Lennon in Baltimore, he “saved (himself) some trouble” and returned the pin:

“Mr. Lennon is, however, and honorable gentleman, for proof of which we refer to The Chicago Tribune, which will please copy.  Mr. Rambo is now in Chicago, and will be pleased to furnish The Tribune reporter any information he may desire on the subject.”

Lennon returned to the National Association in 1872, playing 11 games with the Washington Nationals and in 1873 he appeared in five games for the Baltimore Marylands—Lennon never participated in a winning game in his final two seasons.  The National lost all 11 Association games they played in 1872; the Marylands lost all six of their Association games in 1873.

Fort Wayne did not fare much better.  The team finished 7-12 in 1871, and despite promises by the team directors in July and August of 1871 that they had formed a stock company and were raising $10,000 to field a team the following year, Fort Wayne’s time as a major league city was over after 1871.