Tag Archives: Helene Britton

“Killing Minor League Baseball as a Business”

20 Mar

Charles A. Lovett was just 15 years old when he became the sports editor of the Peoria (IL) Herald-Transcript in 1909; by the time he was 20 he had become a sportswriter at The St. Louis Globe-Democrat.

In September of 1918, with minor leagues having shut down all season and the major league season ended on Labor Day, Lovett spoke to “Sinister” Dick Kinsella, the former the former minor league magnate and major league scout, who predicted the dire future of baseball in general and the minor leagues in particular:

“Few followers of major league baseball realize how many are affected by the present condition of the sport—with the game literally shot to pieces.”

dickkinsella

“Sinister Dick” Kinsella

Major league clubs, Kinsella said:

“(R)olled in wealth until the war came in 1914. I was in on the ground floor, and don’t let ‘em tell you different. I was only one of the help but the Cardinals paid me $5000 and expenses to scout in 1912.”

Kinsella said even after the war started in Europe, he had earned $6500 with the Giants in 1915.

“I might name other of the huge profits that were piled up in the majors, but it may suffice to say that even the Cardinals, in 1911, made $130,000 net. (Roger) Bresnahan told Bill Armour and myself—we were both scouting for (owner Helene Hathaway) Britton in 1912—to go out and buy some good players. I bought one, Frank Snyder for $1200 [sic, published reports at the time said the price was $2000] and the club turned down an offer of $15,000 for Frank that winter, or to be exact, before the team went into training in the spring of 1913. Armour recommended one, George (Possum) Whitted…(we) earned our salaries.”

Now, said Kinsella, who had returned to his hometown of Springfield (IL) after the season ended to tend to his paint manufacturing business:

“I’m peddling varnish and I can’t complain, either. Armour’s running a saloon in Kansas City and pretty soon he’ll be doing something other than marketing internal varnish.”

The season after Kinsella signed Snyder, there was still so much money in baseball, he said that:

“Bresnahan quit the Cardinals $27,000 to the good. Mrs. Britton settled with him for $12,500 and Charles Murphy gave him $15,000 to sign with the Cubs. Roger showed me the checks in the Planter’s hotel, St. Louis, then bought a bottle of wine and handed the waiter a $5 tip.”

bresnahan

Contemporaneous reports indicate Kinsella ‘s recollection was off, and low—Bresnahan was said to have received a $25,000 signing bonus from the Cubs and settled a lawsuit against Britton and the Cardinals for $20,000

Kinsella said, as poor a financial state as the major leagues were in as a result of the war and the ravages of the flu epidemic, the minor leagues were in their death throes:

“Ten years ago, there were a dozen minor league franchises worth from $50,000 to $150,000. Charles Ebbets (Jr., son of the Dodgers owner) made $80,000 net one season with the Newark International League team. This s only a sample of the big money that was in baseball among the smaller teams.”

Kinsella said his experience as a club owner was indicative of the decline and impending doom that faced the minor leagues:

“I used to own the Springfield three I League club and sold out ten years ago when I saw the handwriting and realized that golf, automobiles, and country clubs were killing minor league baseball as a business. The Springfield businessmen who bought the franchise lost $30,000 before they gave up the ghost.”

In addition to the businessmen that lost money after buying his club, Kinsella predicted doom for Bresnahan who used the money he received in 1913 to buy the Toledo Mud Hens in 1914, rather than accept Kinsella’s offer to help him invest it.

“If he had it to do over again, I’ll bet he would stick that money in Liberty Bonds.”

Bresnahan owned the club until 1924 and did lose money on the investment.v