Lutzke: Inside Frank Scheibeck’s showdown with the owner who built Detroit’s Bennett Park

From SABR member Mitch Lutzke at Tigers History on October 30, 2019:

An infielder, an owner, a contract, a lawsuit, a Michigan Supreme Court case—they all play into the history of Detroit baseball.

When George Van Derbeck wanted to leave the west coast but remain in baseball, he selected Detroit as the place to be. Previously a pennant-winning owner in Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles , California, the businessman set his sights on Detroit for a new entry in the Western League. The 1894 season would be the city’s first year in the league, but rumors were that Van Derbeck was also eyeing a Detroit entry in the more prestigious National League.

As the 1894 season played out, Van Derbeck’s penchant for being a tightwad and a shaky owner surfaced. The Detroit Free Press noted near the end of the inaugural run of the Detroit Creams that it “worried along with a very poorly run team.” The newspaper did offer some praise for the new owner saying he “struck it right but he has made a mistake in exercising too much economy in the running of his team.” The paper harkened back to the glory years of the 1880s and claimed Detroit could drum up enough support to pay good salaries for good players. However, the paper continued that Van Derbeck blew an opportunity to spend some money early in the season to secure a better roster. The paper presumed the new owner would return for year two, but if not, “there will be as many managers for the franchise as blackbirds in a wheat field.”  With that, Van Derbeck headed into the 1895 season and searched for an improved roster.

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Originally published: October 31, 2019. Last Updated: October 31, 2019.