City without a team, Part 4

Fourth in a series of posts about baseball in Chicago in 1872 and 1873, after the White Stockings (today's Cubs) had halted operations following the Great Fire of 1871.



In mid-April of 1872, a group had formed that hoped to revive professional baseball in Chicago.

First called the Phoenix Base Ball Club, after the mythical creature that rose from ashes, it soon switched its name to the Chicago Base Ball Club.

The group incorporated, sold shares of its stock, leased grounds fronting State Street, between Twenty-second and Twenty-third, and got the site ready to host games.

While debating whether the time was ripe to put together a Chicago team, the group managed to get National Association clubs from Baltimore, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia and Troy to play 6 of their league games in Chicago.

But the last of the games had taken place on July 4.

Troy, featuring 5 regulars from the White Stockings of 1871, had disbanded at the end of the month, long before a promised return to host more games in September.

An effort to arrange a 3-team round robin among Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia fell through when New York pulled out 2 days before its expected arrival, after which Philadelphia declined to come.



There was virtually no mention of baseball (or "base-ball" or "base ball" in either the Chicago Tribune nor the rival Inter Ocean newspaper during the final quarter of 1872.

On Jan. 14, 1873, the Inter Ocean published a brief account of the Chicago Base Ball Association's annual meeting the previous evening.

"There was a large attendance and a good degree of enthusiasm manifested by stockholders of the organization," the story said.

Later on, it reported:

"No definite arrangement has been made in reference to the rental of grounds for the coming season. The lease expired last November, but the association had been allowed to remain in possession pending the making of final arrangements.

"The matter of engaging players had been intrusted to the members of the Board. The result was that a first-class nine could be obtained for $16,000."

Then the treasurer disclosed that the team had only $4,830.28 in the bank.

The meeting quickly was adjourned.

An attempt to meet again a week later was thwarted by lack of a quorum.

The next night, Jan. 22, there were 15 stockholders present and 44 represented by proxy -- enough to hold the meeting.

And what a meeting it was.



The headlines above the Tribune's story left no mistake:


Dissolution of the Chicago Base Ball Associ-

ation -- The Buildings and Fixtures to be Sold

at Auction.


From the story beneath them:


Fred. Erby said that it was necessary to decide at once whether or not the organization should be kept up this year.

The Chairman thought it was important to know if they could get the money to go on with and what kind of talent could be secured.

Mr. Erby said his idea was to take the best talent they could get in Chicago and train them, in six weeks, he thought, they would be as good a fielding nine as any in the country.

They could be secured for a small salary, and, when entered for the championship, the Eastern clubs would come here, and the game would "draw."

Mr. Pond was in favor of electing Directors first. An effort should then be made to secure a first-class nine, and, if that failed, to close up the affairs of the Association.

Mr. Lyon did not think an amateur nine would be patronized. He thought the Association should be "closed up" immediately.

Mr. Erby was opposed to the closing business; he believed such a nine as he proposed would pay. The Eastern clubs would come here to play the return games, and the people would go to see them.

Mr. Lyon moved that an auctioneer be authorized to sell the property of the Association, and divide the proceeds among the stockholders.

The motion was not agreed to -- yeas, 29; nays, 30.

There was some dispute about the number of shares represented, the Secretary having stated that there were but fifty-one.

Another ballot on the motion was insisted upon by Mr. Lyon, and it was agreed to -- yeas, 34; nays, 20.

The meeting then adjourned, the society having dissolved.



The Inter Ocean offered this observation on April 4:


The near approach of summer finds sporting clubs of all kinds on the qui vive, making preparations for the out-door sports for the season.

At present very few definite arrangements have been made, but from the activity displayed the coming season promises to be an unusually active one. Out-door sports are becoming quite a feature of late years, racing, boating, and shooting having caused base-ball to fall somewhere in the background.

That game is played out in Chicago, and hereafter will be confined to the street gamin and schoolboys.

The old Chicago Club breathed its last breath at a meeting of the directors in February [actually, January], and died without a struggle.

The other clubs merely exist in name, and it is doubtful if he will have an exhibition of first-class playing in Chicago this season.



Some of those who had been part of the Base Ball Club continued to try to persuade National Association teams to play some of their games in Chicago, as in 1872.

The Inter Ocean took a dim view of this on June 18:


Certain gentlemen of this city are now in correspondence with the managers of Eastern clubs, and have considerable hopes of inducing to to visit Chicago in a professional way before the season is over.

There is no doubt that the games would be very profitable if they were rightly managed, and there is no good reason why clubs should object to visit Chicago, which was once regarded as the best base ball center in the country, and would without doubt give as liberal encouragement in the way of patronage to first-class clubs to-day as it it did the days of the White Stockings.

The season of 1872 was a failure in Chicago because of the poor discernment of the managers of the games, as shown in their failure to secure other than second-class clubs to play here.

Chicago has not seen any first-class base ball exhibitions since the season of 1871, and if the best talent in the country can be secured to play here this fall, there is no reason to doubt that it will receive the same liberal patronage that was then extended to it. Meanwhile, a commendable effort is being made to keep the amateur clubs alive.



This appeared in the paper's July 4 edition:

"A match game of base ball will be played today between the Forest City Club of Rockford and the Chicagos, a new amateur club composed of the best players in the city. The game will be played at the corner of State and Twenty-third streets" -- the same site where Baltimore and Troy of the National Association had battled the previous Independence Day.

Rockford had been a charter member of the NA in 1871, but had dropped out after the season, in which it finished last, with a record of 4-21, including 1-17 on the road.

Alas, even that substitute for an NA matchup did not take place.

The Tribune of July 5 included:



game of base ball between the Rockford and Chicago clubs was destined not to be fulfilled.

If anything demoralizes a base-ball ground it is too much water. The length of the grass growing in the grounds on Twenty-third street aided in retaining more water than enough, and, though the management cleared away the superfluous grass from the diamond, the outfield was nearly ankle deep.

The catcher would have waded after the ball, and might have been drowned in the endeavor to do his duty.

Under these circumstances it was as well not to attempt a game.


When the teams met on July 12, Rockford prevailed, 11-7, "in the presence of about 1,000 spectators," according to the Tribune. "There was nothing extraordinary about the playing on either side, and but little interest was manifested in the contest."



The next day's Tribune carried a brief item that generated considerable interest:

"The Boston Red Stocking and the Philadelphia White Stocking Base Ball Clubs will play in Chicago three games, the first to be contested on the afternoon of the 25th inst., on the grounds corner of State and Twenty-third streets."

The paper printed this follow-up 2 days later:

"The announcement that these famous clubs are to play three match games in Chicago during the present month will be a gratifying one to thousands.

"The Philadelphia Club, as is well known, is composed almost wholly of players who made their reputations under the name of the Chicago White Stocking Club, and their reappearance on the scene of former exciting triumphs will be hailed with delight.

"The majority of the Boston nine are also favorably remembered here."

It said the games would be played July 24, 26 and 28, and that "Additional particulars will be given toward the close of the week."



On July 18, less than a week before the anticipated games, the Tribune noted a meeting that night of the "Chicago Base-Ball Association."

"There should be a large attendance, as the result will be likely to determine the fate of professional ball-playing in this part of the world.

"Business pertaining to the coming of the Philadelphia and Boston nines will also be brought up, and it requires immediate attention."


Between those in attendance and proxies, 61 of the association's 100 shares were represented at the meeting.

Secretary T.S. Fauntleroy explained that while he had been instructed "some time ago" to sell the group's property and divide the proceeds among the stockholders, "He had been delayed somewhat, and, from conversations with gentlemen, learned that the stockholders were anxious to to revive base ball in Chicago."

So he had called the meeting "to get a general expression of opinion upon that point."

He said there was $325 in the bank, barely sufficient to put the grounds in playing order.

Undeterred, a resolution was adopted to rescind the order to sell the property. The organization had not been dead, it turned out -- just hibernating.


William Hulbert, elected president, then said he had received a letter from the agent for Boston and Philadelphia, confirming that they would play 3 games in Chicago -- but not in late July. Aug. 5 was mentioned as a possible date for the first contest.



On July 24, the Tribune said the initial game actually would take place on Saturday Aug. 16.

"An agreement to that effect was entered into by the authorized agents of both clubs, while they were in Philadelphia a short time," the paper explained, "and, according to advices received here, the date of playing was fixed so positively that there is no reason to apprehend a disappointment."

And there would be 2 games, not 3, with each team acting as host for 1. The second would be on Tuesday, Aug. 19.


By the time the teams arrived in Chicago, Philadelphia held a 3-game lead in the standings, at 27-7 to runnerup Baltimore's 28-14.

But the White Stockings had lost 4 in a row, beginning with a 10-23 shellacking at Boston on July 30.

The Red Stockings, fifth at 18-11, had not played since that day.


"The pools sold quite evenly on the two clubs clubs, last night, at Foley's [billiard hall]," the Tribune reported on the day of the first game, "the White Stockings seeming, however, to enjoy the confidence of the sporting men to such a degree that they raised $100 to $70 on them. Pools will be sold at Foley's this forenoon."

The paper also said:

"That there may be no misunderstanding, the management of the Chicago Base Ball Association wish to announce their regret that the number of seats which can be [ital]reserved[end ital] on their present grounds are limited (only 360).

"No one person has had the option of buying more than eight seats, and if there be any speculation in the sale of such seats, it must be indulged in by persons who have bought reserved seats for their own occupancy, and yet are willing to stand up themselves for a consideration.

"The management desire to treat all equitably, and have honestly sold all reserved seats to the first comers at 75 cents each."


TOMORROW: Let the games begin!

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