Blau: The 1890 St. Louis Browns, growth through chaos

From SABR member Cliff Blau at on October 30, 2012:

After their streak of four straight American Association (AA) pennants was terminated by Brooklyn in 1889, the Browns found themselves having to completely regroup for the 1890 season. While the Brotherhood of Professional Base Ball Players (Brotherhood) was composed of National League (NL) players, when it organized the Players’ National League, most of the Browns’ players decided to jump to the new league. They were eager to escape from the Browns’ overbearing owner, Chris Von Der Ahe. The Browns were able to resign only three regulars, shortstop Shorty Fuller, right fielder Tommy McCarthy, and center fielder Charlie (Home Run) Duffee, as well as pitchers Jack Stivetts, Elton (Ed) Chamberlin, and Tom (Toad) Ramsey. Lost were captain/first baseman Charles Comiskey, second baseman Yank Robinson, third baseman Arlie Latham, left fielder Tip O’Neill, catchers Jack Boyle and Jocko Milligan, and ace pitcher Silver King. To make matters worse, Duffee, who led the club with 16 homers as a rookie in 1889, fell ill in the winter and didn’t play until June 10. Adding to Von Der Ahe’s woes was the resignation of his right hand man, George Munson, in January, after Von Der Ahe accused him of being an agent for the Brotherhood.

All was not lost, however. In the chaotic 1890 season, the Browns could still be contenders. Besides Brooklyn and Cincinnati jumping to the NL, Baltimore split for the Atlantic Association and Kansas City for the Western Association. New teams were added in Syracuse, Rochester, Toledo, and Brooklyn, but the league was clearly weaker in playing strength than in 1889. All the Browns had to do was find adequate replacement players.

Von Der Ahe went shopping all around the country, and here’s what he found. Pat Hartnett at first and Billy Klusman at second were veteran minor leaguers. James (Chief) Roseman, in center when the season started, had played in the AA for five years but had been out of organized baseball in 1889 with the independent Metropolitan club. Roseman was not in the best shape of his career, his mythical Indian name being “Big-Man-Around-The-Belt” according to the Sporting News. He would be one of the Browns’ best hitters, though. Pete Sweeney, Latham’s replacement, had been released after a brief trial with the Browns in 1889 but was resigned after an impressive stint in the California League. Bill Whitrock was the only new pitcher when the season opened; he was in just his second season as a professional.

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Originally published: October 30, 2012. Last Updated: October 30, 2012.