The first incident of major league players accused of throwing games occurred in St. Louis in 1877, and the city went without major league ball for a number of years. Then, in 1882, the American Association, a rival to the more established National League, decided to reseed St. Louis, which already had an established baseball audience from the 1870s.

The American Association distinguished itself from the National League with lower ticket prices, and the sale of alcohol, which was banned in the NL. The five other teams in the initial AA season were the Baltimore Orioles, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the Louisville Colonels, the Philadelphia Athletics, and the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. The Athletics were the only one of the six original AA franchises not absorbed by the National League by 1892.

Chris Von der Ahe, a colorful tavern owner in St. Louis, owned the team, and named it after the former National League club, the St. Louis Brown Stockings. Two other men involved with the management of the club were Al and Charles Spink, who founded the Sporting News in 1886.

The Browns played where the former National League Browns had played, at Sportsman’s Park at the corner of Grand and Dodier. The Browns, in all of their many incarnations, and the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League, played at Sportsman’s Park in several different locations, from 1876 to 1953.

Von der Ahe made his money as a tavern owner, and because alcohol sales were allowed, he made the most of it. There was actually a beer garden in right field, and right fielders could make plays on the ball by running into the people who were enjoying dinner and a brew.

The first manager was Charlie Comiskey, who also played first base. Comiskey, of course, eventually owned the Chicago White Sox, who were the perpetrators of the second great baseball game-throwing scandal in 1919. He remained the Browns' manager through the 1889 season.

Comiskey is considered the pioneer first baseman because he was the first to step away from the bag for defensive reasons when there was no runner on base. Prior to that, first basemen stayed put no matter the batting situation.

The 1882 Browns finished 37-43, their only losing record in the 10 years they were in the American Association.

By Kent McDill
Al Spink, Charles Spink, Charlie Comiskey, Chris von der Ahe, Sportsman's Park


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