Gus Abell

This article was written by Bill Lamb

Gus Abell (COURTESY OF BILL LAMB)During the first 25 years of the club’s existence, the public face of major league baseball in Brooklyn proceeded from team president Charles H. Byrne to pennant-winning field manager Ned Hanlon to front office functionary-turned-club boss Charles H. Ebbets. Throughout that period, the club’s chronically depleted treasury was regularly replenished by a far less visible member of its leadership: co-owner Gus Abell.

At the time of his recruitment by under-financed club founders in 1883, Abell was a professional gambler and Manhattan casino proprietor with no known interest or expertise in baseball. But he was an acquaintance of Brooklyn franchise backer Joe Doyle, also a Manhattan casino operator and Byrne’s brother-in-law. More important, Abell had grown quite wealthy and, once persuaded to invest in an enterprise, believed in spending money in order to make it profitable. Once Doyle coaxed Abell into joining the ball club’s ownership group, Brooklyn’s baseball future brightened.

For years thereafter, the partnership arrangement was a congenial one for Abell, who was content to let the capable Byrne run the franchise while he confined himself to financing club improvements. Championships in the minor Inter-State Association (1883), and major league American Association (1889) and National League (1890) ensued. Byrne’s death in early 1898 and the syndication (mutual ownership) of the National League teams in Brooklyn and Baltimore the following winter changed things, introducing new and forceful actors into the club’s management. For a time, Abell’s endorsement of strategies promoted by Baltimorean Ned Hanlon maintained franchise equilibrium. And the Brooklyn club returned to winning form, capturing National League pennants in 1899 and 1900.

But soon fallout from the divisive National League presidential election of 1901 – Abell was a vocal supporter of the ultimately defeated A.G. Spalding – and disagreements with emerging franchise chieftain Ebbets led Abell to disengage from club activities. He later joined the similarly disaffected Hanlon in litigation against the Ebbets regime. In November 1907, the elderly and wearied Abell sold his interest in the Brooklyn club and retired from the game. Six years later, Gus Abell died at his villa on Cape Cod at age 80. A profile of this underappreciated early benefactor of major league baseball in Brooklyn follows.

Ferdinand Augustus Abell was born on June 8, 1833 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, then a small mill town bordering the state capital of Providence. The extended Abell clan was prominent in both business and social settings,1 and traced its forebears to English colonists who settled in New England in the 1630s. Our subject’s immediate origins were more modest. Gus (short for middle name Augustus) was the seventh of eight children born to Pawtucket hotel proprietor Robert Abell (1804-1849) and his wife Aseneth (née Staples, 1806-1871), herself of old Yankee stock as well. Little is known of Gus’s upbringing. The only discovered newsprint mention of family matters arises from the simultaneous marriage of three Abell sisters (Elona, Rebecca, and Mary) at the same Philadelphia church ceremony in August 1848.2 Less than six months later, their father Robert was prematurely deceased at age 44.

Sometime in the early 1850s, Gus left home. But his immediate whereabouts and activities are lost, as is what attracted young Abell to pursue gambling as a profession. All that has been uncovered is that by the time that he registered for Civil War military service in 1863, Abell had relocated to midtown Manhattan and acquired a wife, Almira Helena Hawkins (born 1838 in Providence).

Abell saw no Civil War duty, and by the late 1860s he was listing his occupation as a “broker” in Manhattan city directories. In time, however, his true calling found its way into newsprint. In August 1864, one John Moran sued New York sportsman/politico John Morrissey and Abell “to recover a large sum of money said to have been lost in a gambling house owned by defendants.”3 Happily for the accused, the suit was dismissed for deficiencies in the plaintiff’s pleadings. Two years later, a disgruntled Charles Patterson sued “Ferdinand A. Abell, late of Pawtucket,” and Albert Stokes, proprietors of a gambling establishment located at 818 Broadway, to recover $30,000 lost playing faro against the house.4 When not before the court himself, Abell often posted bond for fellow gamblers who were.5

In April 1876, Abell expanded the scope of his gambling operations, partnering with William R. McKim to purchase acreage in Newport, Rhode Island, the summer playground of the country’s Gilded Age millionaires.6 In time, a notorious gaming palace called The Clubhouse occupied the location. Abell also maintained a summer “cottage” at the ritzy seaside enclave,7 while continuing his gaming operations in Manhattan. When charged with maintaining a gambling house by the New York Society for the Prevention of Crime in January 1880, Abell blandly denied any connection to the premises, informing the court that “I have no business now [but] I have been in the sporting line.”8

The genesis of the major league club that eventually became the Brooklyn Dodgers dates to fall 1882 and was spawned by the ill health of young New York Herald night editor George Taylor. His physicians advised Taylor that he needed to leave newspaper work and find a less stressful occupation. As an ardent baseball fan, he decided to form a professional baseball team. Lacking the necessary capital, he enlisted Brooklyn real estate agent and baseball enthusiast Charles H. Byrne in the venture. Byrne, in turn, recruited his brother-in-law Joseph J. Doyle, a lower Manhattan gambling house proprietor. Plans for the new club moved forward, but none of the three possessed the wherewithal needed to finance construction of a ballpark for their Brooklyn nine.9

Enter Gus Abell, a gambling house and Tammany Hall confrere of Doyle and a man with the necessary bankroll, but no experience nor interest in baseball. His passions were horseracing and games of chance.10 He had shrewd business instincts and a penchant for risk-taking. In early March 1883, Abell capitulated to Doyle’s blandishments and joined him, Taylor, Byrne, and gambler John M. Kelley in incorporating the Brooklyn Base Ball Association, capitalized at $20,000 (most of which was likely Abell’s money).11 The group then set about erecting the original Washington Park as the home grounds for the Brooklyn Grays of the newly-organized minor Inter-State Association.

The Camden (New Jersey) Merritts were the class of the Inter-State Association but drew poorly. When the club failed financially and disbanded in late July, access to Abell’s checkbook allowed the Grays to scoop up the five best free agent Merritt players.12 So fortified, manager Taylor guided Brooklyn (44-28, .611) to the association pennant. Off the field, club president Byrne oversaw franchise operations, assisted by new front office subordinate Charles Ebbets. Gus Abell, meanwhile, spent most of the summer attending to his non-baseball interests and vacationing.

For the helter-skelter 1884 season, the Brooklyn club, renamed the Atlantics, ascended to major league status, joining the American Association, which expanded to 12 clubs.13 Abell, by then 52 years old, retained his interest in the franchise, initiating a 23-season run with major league baseball in the City of Churches. The club made a lackluster debut, finishing a non-competitive ninth (40-64, .385). Over the winter, co-founder/manager Taylor departed the club, replaced the following year at the managerial helm by Charlie Hackett and thereafter by club president Byrne. Covering operating deficits, meanwhile, was the domain of Abell and, to a lesser extent, Joe Doyle. Although he was in for the long haul, Abell never developed much affection for baseball. He rarely visited the ballpark and left day-to-day governance of the club to Byrne. To Abell, the again-named Brooklyn Grays were a business investment (and a losing one, at that). But to safeguard his financial stake in the club, he attended the winter meetings of club owners religiously and in time developed keen insight into the financial and organizational nuances of professional baseball.

Abell cut a singular figure in ball club owner ranks. Heavyset, bearded, and comfortably wealthy, he was a well-mannered, unpretentious man whose intellect and business acumen were quickly recognized by fellow owners. And his accessibility, affability, and candor were prized by the baseball press, particularly when news was hard to come by.14 In his lively history of the turn-of-the-century Baltimore Orioles, author Burt Solomon described Abell as “urbane and bewhiskered, a perfect Chesterfield in his bearing, a courtly man who carried himself lightly … [but] could take on an air of seriousness when he needed to. … There was a rumpledness about Gus Abell that was easy to be near. Abell was as pleasant to a hotel porter as to a prince of Wall Street.”15 Unusual for the time, Abell was almost universally liked and respected by his NL peers, with the Philadelphia Inquirer later declaring that “there is no baseball magnate who enjoys the confidence of everybody as does Mr. Abell.”16 But Abell was no fool, and appreciated that his fellow magnates were not above seeking to take advantage of him, once observing wryly, “Whenever I go to a baseball meeting, I never forget to check my money and valuables at the hotel office before entering the session.”17

The fifth-place (53-59, .473) 1885 finish was an improvement. The Grays’ fortunes were bolstered by the infusion of playing talent signed after the NL Cleveland Blues went bust. The estimated $10,000 that went into signing the ex-Blues players was supplied by Abell. The same held true with Brooklyn’s acquisition of slugger Dave Orr, outfielder Darby O’Brien, and pitcher Al Mays after the New York Mets of the American Association disbanded at the close of the 1887 campaign. Abell left the targeting of desired players and their signing to the baseball-astute Byrne; his role was simply to underwrite such moves. Although he would sometimes accompany the club to spring training, once the regular season began Abell was little in evidence, rarely taking in more than a game or two per season. Like other wealthy New Yorkers seeking respite from the summer heat, Gus and his wife vacated their Manhattan mansion and spent most of the baseball season at New England seashore resorts.

In 1888, Byrne relinquished the managerial reins to concentrate on running the Brooklyn franchise. Prior to the season’s start, the Grays’ prospects were greatly enhanced by the purchase of star pitcher-outfielders Bob Caruthers and Dave Foutz, plus capable backstop Doc Bushong, from the American Association champion St. Louis Browns. As per usual, the hefty $18,500 combined player purchase price was shouldered by Abell.18 The investment paid immediate dividends. Under new manager Bill “Gunner” McGunnigle, the rechristened Brooklyn Bridegrooms surged to second (88-52, .629) in final AA standings. The following season, the 93-44 Brooklyns were the AA champs. More important to the bottom-line-minded Abell, the club’s home gate mushroomed to 353,690, far surpassing the then-record attendance for a major league team.19 The only damper on the campaign came during the postseason, when Brooklyn was bested in a nine-game World Series by the NL New York Giants.

Despite success on the diamond, all was not well. Club president Byrne had become thoroughly disenchanted with the American Association. Meanwhile, the approach of the newly formed Players League had Organized Baseball on tenterhooks. With the game’s landscape in turmoil, Brooklyn withdrew from the AA and affiliated with the National League for the 1890 season.20 In furtherance of the move, the franchise was reincorporated as the Brooklyn Base Ball Club, with Charles H. Byrne, Joseph J. Doyle, and Ferdinand A. Abell listed as incorporators of record.21 When the offseason dust settled, three different major league ball clubs called Brooklyn home: the Brooklyn Bridegrooms of the National League; the Players League Brooklyn Ward Wonders (captained by PL visionary John Montgomery Ward); and the Brooklyn Gladiators, a hapless American Association replacement club. The Gladiators failed in August, and the franchise was relocated to Baltimore. In the meantime, the Grooms and Wonders battled for hometown fan affection, and both lost. Attendance at Washington Park plummeted to approximately 120,000, barely one-third the home gate of the previous year.22 Fan disinterest was particularly galling to Abell, as the club had swallowed the steep salary increases needed to keep its player roster intact and capture the National League pennant. Nor was the campaign’s sea of red ink assuaged in the postseason, as the 1890 World Series against the AA champion Louisville Cyclones ended in a 3-3-1 stalemate that was a disappointment at the gate.23

Brooklyn was not alone when it came to losing money that year. The 1890 season was a financial disaster for all concerned. Indeed, the plight of NL New York Giants owner John B. Day grew so desperate that only a clandestine infusion of cash orchestrated by Chicago club boss A.G. Spalding saved the National League’s cornerstone franchise from bankruptcy that August. Among those coming to New York’s rescue was Gus Abell, who contributed $6,250 to the pot.24

With the upstart Players League headed for imminent dissolution at the end of the 1890 campaign, the owners of the NL and PL Brooklyn clubs emulated their counterparts in New York and entered negotiations to consolidate the two teams into a National League entry for the 1891 season. The deal eventually reached by the parties left Byrne as club president and gave the Byrne/Doyle/Abell triumvirate a majority 50.4% interest in the franchise.25 The remaining stock was allotted to former PL magnates Wendell Goodwin, George Chauncey, Edward Linton, and their allies.26 In no time, the arrangement proved an unsatisfactory one for Byrne and company. Their new partners shorted them on the franchise buy-in, tendering only $22,000 of the $30,000 cash owed. Nor were the PL partners attentive to their ensuing financial obligations to the club, preferring to “cede stock to Abell rather than come up with the unpaid balance.”27 Worse yet, the PL forces prevailed on having their newly constructed Eastern Park – situated inconveniently in the East New York section of Brooklyn – supersede Washington Park as the team’s home grounds.28 Attendance would never approach the throngs once drawn to the club’s former home. The club lost money again in 1891,29 and would continue to do so in coming years.

Rather than cut his losses, Gus Abell increased his investment in the franchise. In addition to absorbing portions of the club stock held by the PL partners, he bought out founding partner Doyle’s interest in the club and became the franchise’s largest shareholder.30 Following the demise of the American Association at the end of 1891, Abell and Byrne differed on expansion of the National League to a 12-club circuit for the 1892 season; Abell was opposed. Still, the two remained on friendly terms, and Byrne continued to steer franchise operations while Gus spent most of the summer in Newport.31

Abell spent early1893 in Hot Springs, the Arkansas gambling and horseracing mecca, before finally returning home in July. In September, the Abell mansion in midtown Manhattan was the scene of private NL negotiations regarding the transfer of Brooklyn manager John Montgomery War, who had succeeded Gunner McGunnigle at the Grooms helm in 1892, to the New York Giants.32 In lieu of cash, which the financially strapped New York club did not have, “Czar Abell, [who] held control of all the Brooklyns,” agreed to accept a percentage of the Giants’ home gate instead.33 The move proved a smart one as attendance at the Polo Grounds surged to 290,000 (up from 130,566 in 1892), yielding Abell and his Brooklyn cohorts a handsome sum.

In early 1894, Abell, fed up with the failure of the club’s former PL ownership contingent to meet its financial commitments, publicly expressed a desire to sell his stock in the franchise and retire from the game.34 Rather than air his grievances, however, he merely stated that “my reasons are wholly personal. Base ball takes up too much of my time.” And he insisted that his relations with the other stockholders had been “most friendly and satisfactory.”35 Subsequently, he was induced to remain on board for another year by promises made by his ownership partners (which were not kept as “the ‘dead wood’ among the stockholders remained dead.”36) He then spent the summer in a newly purchased villa on Cape Cod, leaving Byrne to deal with the situation. Fortuitously for Abell, Brooklyn posted a first-division finish under new manager Dave Foutz and managed to turn a profit in 1894 as well, its first in four seasons.37

Apart from attending the winter meetings of NL club owners, Abell remained largely incognito during the next three years. He was instrumental, however, in removal of Brooklyn home games from Eastern Park – in which he had not set foot for two years38 – and their return to Washington Park at the conclusion of the 1897 season.39 Still, for the most part Abell (by then past 60) devoted his time to overseeing his casino operations in Rhode Island and relaxing on Cape Cod.40 But in late summer 1897, the suddenly failing health of club president Byrne obliged him to become more involved in baseball.

In early January 1898, Byrne died of complications from Bright’s (kidney) disease. He was succeeded as club president by longtime official and minority stakeholder Charles Ebbets. Under the new administration, Abell retained his post as secretary-treasurer, but the front office working environment changed. Although the two had occasional differences, Abell and Byrne had enjoyed a cordial business and personal relationship – even as Abell was “said to have crossed the $100,000 line in his losses.”41 According to Brooklyn baseball historian Ronald G. Shafer, one reason Abell, Byrne, and erstwhile partner Joe Doyle “work[ed] so well together was that they all loved a good laugh, even if the laugh was on them.”42 In the coming years, Gus would share few laughs with Ebbets.

Despite the relocation to more accessible Washington Park, the Grooms drew poorly in 1898, with coverage of the club’s $15,000 operating deficit falling primarily “upon one man, Ferdinand A. Abell.”43 Disheartened, Abell declined to continue serving as club secretary-treasurer. While he would “remain a stockholder in the club,” reported Sporting Life Brooklyn correspondent John B. Foster, Abell would “no longer associate himself prominently with the game.”44 But as it turned out, he soon found himself more deeply involved in club affairs than ever. The occasion: the National League club owners meeting of December 1898.

With Ebbets confined to his bed by a severe case of grippe, Brooklyn’s interests at the meeting were represented by majority stockholder Abell.45 Seizing the initiative, he approached Baltimore Orioles co-owners Harry Von der Horst and Ned Hanlon about the syndication (joint ownership) of their respective franchises. In short order, agreement was reached whereby Von der Horst and Hanlon acquired a half-ownership in the Brooklyn club. In return, the Baltimore men agreed to the downgrading of the Orioles and the transfer of the crème of the club roster – including future Hall of Famers Hughie Jennings, Joe Kelley, Willie Keeler, and Joe McGinnity – into Brooklyn uniforms. Ebbets would retain his club president post, while the Baltimoreans filled subordinate club offices.46 Under the direction of player-manager John McGraw, the remnant Baltimore Orioles continued in operation, finishing a respectable fourth in 1899. The ensuing winter, however, Baltimore was one of four National League clubs liquidated when the circuit contracted to eight teams for the 1900 season.47

Under the direction of manager Hanlon, the renamed Brooklyn Superbas48 were an immediate success, cruising to National League pennants in 1899 and 1900. But relations among the ball club’s new ownership group were often fractious. Disgusted that the 1900 championship club had drawn almost 100,000 fewer patrons than the previous season’s pennant winners,49 Abell refused to bankroll the player salary increases needed to ward off looming predation by the newly arrived major American League. Instead, Abell was reportedly “again anxious to sell his holdings in baseball.”50 As Brooklyn players jumped to the AL and club fortunes regressed during the following seasons, Von der Horst and Hanlon had a falling out. That in time afforded Ebbets the opportunity to acquire virtually all of Von der Horst’s stock in the Brooklyn franchise.51

Events at the tumultuous winter NL meetings of 1901-1902 again drew Abell back into baseball. In the divisive battle to elect a new National League president, he was vocal and resolute in his support of A.G. Spalding in the battle against incumbent Nick Young. As the balloting stalemated at 4-4, Abell declared, “We are with Spalding to the finish.”52 But when Spalding later abandoned the fight, Abell felt betrayed, believing that he had been “used as a catspaw” by the Spalding side.53 In the aftermath of Young’s reelection, Abell vowed that he would have “nothing further to do with the Brooklyn club … and he stuck by his word.”54

Once the 1902 season began, Abell did his customary disappearing act, retiring to Cape Cod for the summer. And he was conspicuous by his absence from the ensuing winter’s club owners meeting.55 But it was Abell’s non-attendance again the following winter that was troubling to observers, prompting “rumors of dissension in the Brooklyn camp.”56 Soon, internal feuding between Ebbets, now the majority owner, and Hanlon was out in the open, Reportedly “in permanent retirement from baseball,” Abell’s interest in the club settled at approximately 40 percent in the new regime.57 More important, he withdrew his indispensable support of club expenditures to make the struggling Superbas competitive again.58 Instead, the aging magnate stayed “quietly in his New England retreat tending to his turnips and cabbages and game fishing,” groused hometown scribe Foster.59

Following a last-place (48-104, .316) finish in 1905, Hanlon doffed Brooklyn livery to take the reins of the Cincinnati Reds. But he retained his stock in the Brooklyn ball club. In November 1906, Hanlon filed suit to compel Ebbets and franchise factotum Henry W. Medicus to refund salaries drawn in excess of those allowed by the club’s certificate of organization.60 Joining in the Hanlon lawsuit was another unhappy Brooklyn stockholder: Gus Abell. In February 1907, Hanlon filed a second lawsuit against Ebbets, seeking to recoup funds lent to financially distressed Brooklyn club leaders by their Baltimore Orioles counterparts pursuant to the syndication of their two ball clubs in 1899.61 Damages of $40,000 were sought.62

After months of judicial skirmishing, the parties settled their differences out of court in late 1907. Terms were not publicly disclosed, but it was later reported that Abell virtually gave away his interest in the Brooklyn franchise, selling out to Ebbets for a mere $20,000, with just $500 to be supplied in cash, the balance taking the form of promissory notes to be satisfied on undemanding terms.63 Soon thereafter, Hanlon settled as well, also on terms advantageous to Ebbets.64 The concomitant dismissal of the Hanlon/Abell lawsuits finalized Ebbets’s control of the Brooklyn franchise.

In July 1908, Almira Abell died of stomach cancer, bringing the Abells’ five-decade marriage to a close. For the remainder of his life, Gus lived quietly at his Cape Cod villa in West Yarmouth, his needs tended to by a housekeeper. He died there from uremia on November 8, 1913. Ferdinand Augustus “Gus” Abell was 80. His remains were subsequently returned to his native Rhode Island and interred beside those of his wife in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence. Childless, he left the bulk of his considerable estate to a niece and nephew.65 In its obituary, the Brooklyn Eagle aptly summed up Gus Abell as the man who “furnished the financial sinews for the sensational deals that put the City of Brooklyn on the baseball map.”66



This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Norman Macht and checked for accuracy by SABR’s fact-checking team.



Sources for the information contained herein are cited in the endnotes.



1 Our subject’s uncle Arundale S. Abell was the founder of the Baltimore Sun and reportedly “one of the wealthiest newspapermen in the nation” at the time of his death in 1888 (Brooklyn Times Union, April 19, 1888: 1), leaving an estate estimated at $10 to $20 million, according to “Rich Baltimoreans,” Paterson (New Jersey) Morning Call, April 20, 1888. See also, “Death of A.S. Abell, New York Times, April 20, 1888: 5.

2 As reported in “Married,” (Warren, Rhode Island) Northern Star, August 24, 1848: 3.

3 Per “Law Reports,” New York Times, August 31, 1864: 3.

4 See “$30,000 Lost at Faro,” New York World, December 25, 1866:1. See also, “Local Intelligence,” New York Times, December 25, 1866: 2; “Gamblers in Court,” New York Tribune, December 25, 1866: 3. Abell and Stokes responded by suing Patterson for libel, but the outcome of the litigation went undiscovered by the writer.

5 See e.g., “Home News,” New York Tribune, February 12, 1868: 8; “The Examination in Court,” New York Tribune, April 7, 1877: 2.

6 As reported in “Real Estate Sales,” Newport (Rhode Island) News, April 11, 1876: 2. See also, “American Monte Carlo,” Boston Journal, January 17, 1895: 2, and “Live Sporting Notes,” Kansas City Journal, January 28, 1895: 3.

7 See “The Newport Cottages,” New York Times, March 26, 1882: 3. These summer “cottages” were among the most sumptuous residences in the country.

8 As reported in “Interdicted Pleasures,” New York Herald, January 22, 1880: 9. See also, “Gamblers Held for Trial,” New York Tribune, January 22, 1880: 8, and “The Gambling-House Case,” New York Times, February 3, 1880: 3. The 1880 US Census records Abell’s occupation as “retired merchant.”

9 The origins of the Brooklyn Dodgers are traced in various publications. An excellent ready reference is Andy McCue’s succinct Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers team ownership history, accessible on the SABR website.

10 Per Ronald G. Shafer, When the Dodgers Were Bridegrooms: Gunner McGunnigle and Brooklyn’s Back-to-Back Pennants of 1889 and 1890 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2011), 10.

11 See “Brooklyn Base Ball Association,” Brooklyn Eagle, March 9, 1883: 9. See also, “Brooklyn’s New Diamond Field,” New York Herald, March 10, 1883: 9, and “Enter Ferdinand A. Abell,” Brooklyn Eagle, January 18, 1913: 23.

12 The ex-Merritts signing with Brooklyn were shortstop Frank Fennelly, pitcher/outfielder Sam Kimber, first baseman Charlie Householder, infielder Bill Greenwood, and catcher Jack Corcoran.

13 Including replacement clubs, the arrival on scene of the upstart Union Association and the expansion of the American Association resulted in no fewer than 34 teams claiming major league status at some point during 1884.

14 As recounted by Abe Yager in his remembrance of Abell. See “Former Magnate Dead,” Sporting Life, November 15, 1913: 8. Some years earlier, Boston sportswriter Jake Morse observed that “No magnate was ever more popular with newspapermen than Mr. Abell and no one ever took greater pains to put himself out for their benefit.” See “Boston Briefs,” Sporting Life, May 18, 1907: 4. See also, Wm. F.H. Koelsch, “New York Nuggets,” Sporting Life, December 8, 1900: 3: “Gus Abell is popular with the [newspaper] boys because of his frank and open manner.”

15 Burt Solomon, Where They Ain’t: The Fabled Life and Untimely Death of the Original Baltimore Orioles, the Team That Gave Birth to Modern Baseball (New York: Doubleday, 1999), 145-146.

16 “In the Sporting Boiler,” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 6, 1899: 6.

17 Per Shafer, 11.

18 According to Retrosheet, Caruthers cost $8,250, Foutz, $5,500, and Bushong $4,500.

19 Per Robert L. Tiemann, “Major League Attendance,” Total Baseball (Kingston, New York: Total Sports Publishing, 7th ed., 2001), 74. The previous attendance high had been the 305,455 drawn to the Polo Grounds by the NL NY Giants in 1888.

20 See “Why Brooklyn Got Out,” Brooklyn Eagle, November 17, 1889.

21 As reported in “The Brooklyn Club Incorporated,” New York Tribune, November 8, 1889: 3; “The Association Meeting,” Sporting Life, November 20, 1889: 2; “The Sporting World,” Brooklyn Citizen, November 23, 1889: 3.

22 Per John G. Zinn, “The Brooklyn Players League Team Ownership, accessible via the SABR website. Tiemann places the Brooklyn NL attendance at an astonishingly paltry 37,000.

23 Game Seven in Louisville drew a pitiful 300 fans and prompted discontinuation of the Series without a winner being crowned.

24 In addition to Spalding, the principal saviors of Day’s Giants were fellow NL club owners Arthur Soden (Boston) and John T. Brush (late of Indianapolis), while Al Reach (Philadelphia) matched the Abell contribution. With the exception of Spalding, these club owners would retain their quiet interest in the New York franchise for years.

25 Per “The Brooklyn Situation,” Sporting Life, December 6, 1890: 3. For more detail, see Andy McCue, “A History of Dodger Ownership,” The National Pastime, Vol. 13 (1993), 35-36.

26 Zinn, “The Brooklyn Players League Team Ownership History.”

27 McCue, “A History of Dodger Ownership,” 36.

28 As reported in “Brooklyn Still Unsettled,” Sporting Life, January 3, 1891: 3. Eastern Park was located in an underpopulated part of Brooklyn being developed by PL partner Edward Linton.

29 See “Report of Brooklyn Baseball Club,” New York Tribune, January 16, 1892: 12. See also, Brooklyn Citizen, January 25, 1892: 3.

30 “New York News,” Sporting Life, January 16, 1892: 2.

31 See “In Shoots,” Sporting Life, August 22, 1892: 2.

32 Among those meeting at the Abell residence were club owners Soden (Boston), Brush (now Cincinnati), Frank DeHaas Robison (Cleveland), and Harry Von der Horst (Baltimore).

33 As reported in “The Money Paid for Johnny Ward,” New York Herald, September 17, 1893: 6. See also, “He Comes High,” Sporting Life, September 23, 1893: 1.

34 Per “The Ball Players,” Boston Herald, February 8, 1894: 2.

35 “Out of Baseball,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 8, 1894: 3, which also stated that “most of the money” spent on club improvements over the past three years had been by Abell, “so that the club is quite a little indebted to him.” See also, J.F. Donnelly, “Abell to Retire,” Sporting Life, February 10, 1894: 2.

36 “Brooklyn Budget,” Sporting Life, December 12, 1894: 11.

37 Sporting Life

38 According to O.P. Caylor, “The Big Four,” The Sporting News, January 23, 1897: 1.

39 See “Favors Washington Park,” New York Sun, February 2, 1897: 4. Washington Park III, the Brooklyn club’s new home, was located across the street from Washington Parks I and II in Red Hook.

40 Following the death of gaming partner McKim, Abell acquired complete title to The Clubhouse in Newport. He also operated The Nautilus Club, another Newport casino.

41 “Two Splendid Moves by the Brooklyn Club,” Sporting Life, January 2, 1897: 2.

42 Shafer, 11.

43 According to “Review of Season and Teams,” Sporting Life, October 22, 1898: 3. Brooklyn sportswriter John B. Foster pegged the club’s losses at $25,000. See “Brooklyn Budget,” Sporting Life, November 19, 1898: 7.

44 Foster, “Brooklyn Budget,” Sporting Life, November 19, 1898: 7.

45 Like Abell, Ebbets had expanded his stock holdings in the Brooklyn club, initially quite small, by snapping up available shares of Goodwin, Chauncey, Linton, and the other Players League-connected club stockholders. Going into the 1899 winter meetings, Abell held 72% of the Brooklyn club stock, Ebbets 15%. The remainder was held by the Byrne estate. See “Still in Abeyance,” Sporting Life, January 28, 1899: 5.

46 For a more detailed account of the Brooklyn-Baltimore club syndication, see Solomon, 144-147. Hall of Famers McGraw and Wilbert Robinson refused to be separated from their business interests in Baltimore. As a result, the pair remained with the remnant Orioles of 1899.

47 The National League also dropped its clubs in Cleveland, Washington, and Louisville.

48 The new-look Brooklyn club was re-dubbed in homage to skipper Ned Hanlon, the allusion being to a renowned theatrical troupe called Hanlon’s Superbas.

49 Tiemann places the club attendance for 1900 at 170,000, down from the 269,641 patrons who attended a Brooklyn home game in 1899. McCue posits the 1900 Brooklyn home attendance at 183,000.

50 Foster, “Brooklyn Budget,” Sporting Life, October 27, 1900: 8.

51 Ebbets biographer John Zinn relates that bowling buddy Henry Medicus purchased the Von der Horst stock at Ebbets’ behest. See John G. Zinn, Charles Ebbets: The Man Behind the Dodgers and Brooklyn’s Beloved Ballpark (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2019), 85-88.

52 “Brooklyn’s Stand,” Sporting Life, February 22, 1902: 2.

53 As revealed in “Brooklyn Shift,” Sporting Life, April 1, 1905: 16.

54 Foster, “Brooklyn Budget,” Sporting Life, January 12, 1907: 9.

55 As noted in “Peace Procedural, Disruption Averted,” Sporting Life, January 31, 1903: 4.

56 Sporting Life, December 19, 1903: 5.

57 Per “A Brooklyn Buyer,” Sporting Life, March 25, 1905: 7.

58 Foster, “Brooklyn Future,” Sporting Life, September 16, 1905: 11. See also, “Men Who Owned Baseball Clubs,” Paterson Morning Call, March 29, 1906: 3: “Abell has withdrawn all financial and moral support” from the Brooklyn club.

59 Foster, “Brooklyn Future,” above.

60 As reported in “Row in Baseball Club,” New York Tribune, November 13, 1906: 11; “Brooklyn Club Involved in Suit,” Providence Evening Bulletin, November 13, 1906: 16; “Row Over Brooklyn Nationals,” Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican, November 13, 1906: 3.

61 See “Hanlon Starts Another Suit,” Brooklyn Citizen, February 20, 1907: 5; “Howard C. Griffiths in Baseball Suit,” Jersey (Jersey City) Journal, February 20, 1907: 9; “More Trouble for Brooklyn Club,” Washington (DC) Evening Star, February 20, 1907: 22.

62 “Brooklyn’s Fight,” Sporting Life, March 2, 1907: 3.

63 According to “His Faith in Baseball Patrons Has Carried Him to the Top of the Heap,” New York Times, January 12, 1912: C5. See also, Zinn, Charles Ebbets, 96.

64 Ebbets biographer Zinn places the Hanlon settlement at $10,000.

65 Per State of Massachusetts probate records, accessible on-line.

66 “Death of ‘Gus’ Abell Removes Pioneer of Brooklyn Baseball,” Brooklyn Eagle, November 10, 1913: 20.

Full Name

Ferdinand Augustus Abell


June 8, 1833 at Pawtucket, RI (US)


November 8, 1913 at West Yarmouth, MA (US)

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