America's National Game/Chapter 22

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WHEN SYNDICATISM WAS KILLED

CHAPTER XXII.

FREEDMAN IMBROGLIO CONTINUED—AN ELECTION THAT DID NOT ELECT BUT WAS MADE TO SERVE AN IMPORTANT PURPOSE—A LEGAL OPINION BY THE HON. THOS. B. REED.

1901-02

THE premature publication of the article on "The Trust Scheme" created a profound sensation. My speech in the Convention did not pour oil upon the troubled waters. The entire Base Ball world was stirred to its depths. The would-be Syndicate had to do something to turn back the tide of public indignation sweeping in from all quarters. The press of the whole country had gone into a discussion of the subject. Everywhere the scheme was denounced as outrageous; and so the Trust was forced to emerge from the cover into which its members had crept when the storm broke. The first sound from that quarter was the bland announcement that the Convention was prevented from transacting its customary business by the deadlock occasioned by Mr. Spalding's efforts to have himself elected President of the League! I met this charge by inviting members of the press to meet me at my hotel, where I told them such facts as were pertinent to the situation. I said to them that I was not in any sense a candidate for the office of President of the National League; that I didn't want it, and that if elected I would resign unless Andrew Freedman got out at once!

After the publication of the interviews growing out of this meeting, the Convention got down to business and occupied its sessions in voting a tie of four votes each for Mr. N. E. Young, as President-Secretary-Treasurer of the League, and four for myself. The monotonous details of the prolonged sessions of the Convention at this date have lost their interest. Suffice to say that twenty-five ballots were taken without result, when representatives of the four Trust clubs left the hall without adjournment or permission. Mr. N. E. Young, President of the League, retired soon after, first instructing the stenographer to take no further notes of anything that might subsequently transpire.

It was at this time, about 1 o'clock a. m., December 12th, 1901, that friends of the League administered a restorative which caused the sick patient to "sit up and take notice," while that part of the American public interested in the subject of Base Ball looked on with renewed excitement. It seems that during the preceding session, and prior to the withdrawal of the Trust delegates, Mr. Rogers, representing the Philadelphia Club, had been asked to preside. Now, on motion, that gentleman was recalled to the chair.

From this time on the proceedings were characterized by the most perfect harmony, and business was dispatched without delays of any kind. A teller being needed to take the place of Mr. Knowles, who had left the hall, Mr. Hurst, the stenographer, was appointed to that office.

Upon the calling of the roll for the twenty-sixth ballot, Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburg and Brooklyn voted for A. G. Spalding for President-Secretary-Treasurer. There being no response to the call of the clubs of New York, Boston, Cincinnati and St. Louis, the Chair declared that Albert G. Spalding, having received four votes as President-Secretary-Treasurer—and there being no votes against him—was duly elected to succeed Mr. N. E. Young.

The Convention then took a recess, at 1.30 a. m., to reconvene next day at 2 p. m.

After my rhetorical effort of the preceding day, I had withdrawn from the Convention hall and devoted the afternoon to newspaper interviewers, who were in evidence by the score, until dinner hour, following which, wearied with the trying incidents of the day, I went to bed. About 2 o'clock a. m., Messrs. Reach, Rogers and Hart called me up, asking:

"Have you heard the news?"

"Why, no. What news?"

"You've been unanimously elected President-Secretary-Treasurer of the League."

"Have I?" "What wrought the miracle?"

The case was then fully explained to me, and the humor of the situation was at once borne in upon my mind. Here was I, "unanimously elected" by four votes in an organization that had eight votes, four of which were absent without leave.

Catching the spirit of what now seemed to me a huge joke, I determined, in the interest of Base Ball, to seize the advantage, and play the political game for all there was in it. If I was President-Secretary-Treasurer—the Pooh Bah of the League—certainly I was entitled to the records, the treasures, the archives of that body. Moreover, I had been disturbed in the midst of pleasant dreams. Why should the gentleman—my opponent—who imagined himself in possession of all the offices in the Base Ball kingdom, be permitted longer to rest in the solace of that delusive dream? Therefore, at about 4 a. m., I repaired to the hotel where Mr. Young and his son, Robert, were domiciled, and first broke in upon the slumbers of the younger Young. I told him that affairs were becoming very serious in the National League.

"Oh, yes," he said, "I know it. Father is nearly dead, Mr. Spalding. He can't stand another day like this. He's all broken up."

"But," said I, "to-day's nothing to what to-morrow will be. I've been unanimously elected President of the League, and I'm going to raise Cain to-morrow. Where's your father?"

"He's in the next room. I'll call him."

The elder Young soon appeared, rubbing his eyes. He had been in a turmoil of confusion for several days, and had just fallen asleep. He certainly looked ten years older than when he had arrived from Washington. I felt heartily sorry for the old gentleman, and a bit ashamed of myself for disturbing him. I then explained the situation to father and son, and demanded possession of the trunk containing the "archives." I showed Mr. Young that it would at once relieve him of further annoyance and anxiety; that I was in fact the only genuine dyed-in-the-wool executive of the League, and that the papers followed the office.

But Mr. Young seemed to be no more thoroughly convinced than was I of the legitimacy of my claim. That he was willing to be relieved of the office, with all its multiplied titles and cares and responsibilities, I felt absolutely certain; but how would he explain to the League if he gave up the papers to a false claimant? What could he do if the courts should find him guilty of having turned over the "archives" to an impostor? He was willing, however, to give the trunk over to the keeping of his son, Robert, to be held in trust by him until my title should be made clearer. I saw that further argument would be wasted upon the old gentleman, and went away. But I didn't go far away. I only went as far as my hotel. Securing the services of a burly porter, whom I knew I could trust, I told him to follow me to the Fifth Avenue Hotel, and, at a signal, to take a trunk that I would point out to him and convey it to my quarters. I then returned to Robert's room, and while in the midst of a most vigorous plea in behalf of the father's peace of mind, showing how the strenuosity of the situation was wearing him to a frazzle, my friend, the porter, bore away the trunk with its more or less valuable contents.

I was now quite prepared to carry out the program of grim humor thus successfully inaugurated. Therefore, when the time came to reconvene, after recess, I was present at the Convention room. I saw that representatives from all the loyal clubs were on hand, and I also observed Mr. Knowles (representing the New York Club with Mr. Freedman) present in the corridor outside the door, evidently watching things. I asked Mr. Rogers to bring the meeting to order and call me to the chair. He did so. I didn't lose much time. I was afraid Knowles might get away, and I needed him in my business for a few moments. I then made one of the briefest addresses of my life. I said:

"Gentlemen, I accept this office. Thanks. Call the roll."

The calling of the roll elicited responses from Chicago, Philadelphia, Pittsburg and Brooklyn. I said New York had a representative present, but not responding to the call. I should recognize Mr. Knowles, who was standing outside, as present, constituting a quorum. We then proceeded with the regular business, which was soon transacted. During the progress of this session I stepped to the door and accosted Mr. Knowles, urging him to come closer to the Chair, as I found it difficult to make my voice heard at so great a distance. Mr. Knowles stuttered and stammered a few words of denial that he was present as a delegate, and then shot down stairs at a gait that would have enabled me to play checkers on his coat-tails had I been interested to pursue him.

The newspapers were by this time full of the all-engrossing subject. All I had to do was to speak four words to a reporter, and it was good for a column in his paper. A sentence was sufficient for a page of Base Ball literature. On the morning following my induction into office I was besieged by an army of reporters.

"What are you going to do next? "

"What about Freedman?"

"How are you going to get rid of Freedman?"

These were a few among hundreds of similar interrogatories forced upon me. I told the reporters that I would call another meeting for next day, to be open to the public, to which I would issue a challenge to Andrew Freedman to appear and engage with me in an open discussion of the Base Ball situation. I would then show them how Mr. Freedman was to be disposed of. "In the meantime," I added, "Mr. Freedman is out of it. I have read him out."

Next day all newspaperdom was on hand—and then some. I called the meeting to order, explained that it was not a regular League affair, but a meeting at which Mr. Freedman and I were to engage in a joint debate concerning League matters. I then asked Mr. Freedman to come forward. There was no response.

"Has anyone seen Mr. Freedman?" I asked. "Have you seen him?" I said to a prominent newspaper man.

"Not on your life," was the reply.

"Will somebody kindly step to the doorway and ascertain if Mr. Freedman is awaiting an invitation to come in?"

Those present smiled, then grinned, then laughed, then shouted.

Very seriously I explained my great surprise and disappointment that the President of the New York Club was not present to represent the cause of the proposed new Base Ball Trust. Doubtless something serious must have occurred to prevent him from taking advantage of such a splendid opportunity to exploit his enterprise. However, I felt that, being there, I ought to say something in behalf of a game its enemies were seeking to kill. I did say something.

But Andrew had not been napping. As I was about to leave the room, a dapper little fellow took hold of my coat sleeve and handed me a paper of portentous appearance.

"What's this?" I demanded.

"It's a summons, Mr. Spalding. You've been enjoined."

I tossed the paper over to my lawyer, with the remark, "Now, it's up to you," and left the room. How I dodged the minions of the law during the next two months, to prevent being dragged before the courts, would not be of public interest, and is therefore omitted from these reminiscences.

I may be pardoned, however, for referring to an incident in connection with this case which occurred at that time. Hon. Thomas B. Reed, the great statesman and parliamentarian, had established an office in New York. I called upon him for counsel. Like most great men, he was a lover of our national game, and I found him deeply interested in the controversy then waging in New York. He had kept close watch of proceedings and needed not much in the way of explanation when I came to state the case. I said to him:

"Mr. Reed, I have come to consult you professionally. I want to present a case for your consideration, and then ask your opinion as to two points." After briefly going over the facts as they were, referring to my election and to my ruling as to Knowles, I asked:

"First—Am I President of the National League?

"Second—Was I within the practice of parliamentary usage in counting a quorum under the circumstances?"

The great lawyer had a merry twinkle in his eye as he replied:

"Mr. Spalding, I will answer your second question first. You were unquestionably within strict parliamentary practice in counting Mr. Knowles as present. I recall an even more deeply strained case in my own experience. The opposition were filibustering over a measure in the House and seeking to obstruct business by breaking the quorum. They thought they had practically succeeded; but from where I stood I was facing a mirror so placed that clearly reflected in it was the image of a member from Arkansas. We needed just that one vote for a quorum. Upon roll-call, when the gentleman's name was reached, and the Clerk was about to mark him absent because of no response, I demanded that he be counted as present. I could see him all the time, marching back and forth in the corridor. Objection was made to the effect that the member was absent and could not be counted. Some controversy arose, which attracted the curiosity of the man outside. I watched him closely. He approached nearer and yet nearer. Finally, he stuck his head inside the opening and, quick as flash, I turned and shouted, 'There he is, now.' Before he could catch the point and dodge away he had been seen by half the members present. Mr. Spalding, your ruling was perfectly correct. But," he added, with a laugh, "You are no more President of the National League than am I. My knowledge of arithmetic does not enable me to make four votes a majority in an organization the total voting force of which is eight."

I was now regularly, legally and most emphatically enjoined from acting as President-Secretary-Treasurer of the League, and this condition lasted throughout the winter. Nothing could possibly be done in the way of perfecting arrangements for next season's play. In New York State I couldn't even express an opinion on the subject of Base Ball without being in contempt of court. I therefore spent most of my time in other States, where, without contempt of court, I could express my contempt of all men and all measures calculated to injure the game.

Finally, it became absolutely necessary to do something. The time when ball games ripen was nearly at hand, and the sport was restrained with me. I sent for Mr. Hart, then President of the Chicago Club, to visit me at my home at Point Loma, California. Upon his arrival he gave me satisfactory assurances that Mr. Freedman was ready to step down and out so soon as it could be made to appear that he was not forced out "under fire," as he expressed it. I told Mr. Hart that, if he was positive such an arrangement could be brought about, I would place in his hands my resignation, to be used at such time as would be most desirable for the ends aimed at. Armed with my resignation from an office to which I had never been legally elected, Mr. Hart returned. Mr. Freedman soon sold his interests in the New York Club to Mr. John T. Brush, and the incident was closed.

I have been informed that Mr. Freedman subsequently declared that he had won the battle; that "Spalding had been defeated in his aspirations to become President of the National League."

In view of the fact that I never wanted the Presidency of the League; in view of the further fact that I would not have accepted it save as a sure expedient for ridding the game of Freedmanism; in view of the still further fact that I repeatedly declared that if elected I would resign as soon as Freedmanism was eliminated by the ousting of Freedman; in view of the most important fact of all, that Andrew Freedman did get out, thereby making "Freedmanism" impossible, I am quite willing to let those interested in the great American game decide as to who won the battle.

If anyone needs any aid in arriving at a decision, the following among many similar paragraphs from a few of the leading papers of the country published at the time may serve the purpose:

Editorial from the New York Evening World, December 17, 1901:

"The Evening World violates no confidences in making the statement that the public is saying to A. G. Spalding, 'More strength to your arm!' in his efforts to put Andrew Freedman out of the Base Ball business for keeps."

Editorial in the Boston Evening Record, December 14, 1901:

"A. G. Spalding has been chosen President of the National League. That will mean a good deal for Base Ball according to straight-out business principles and regard for decent methods, because Spalding has made up his mind first of all to get rid of Freedman. The only way to make a fair start is to cut the thing right out at the roots by cutting Freedman out."

Editorial from the Boston Herald, December 18, 1901:

"The situation in the National League of Base Ball men is very badly complicated. Those who compose its directions are equally divided, four clubs being on one side and the same number on the other. As regards the right and wrong of their respective positions, the division also is about the same. Mr. Spalding, of Chicago, is entirely right in his effort to turn Mr. Freedman, of New York, out of Base Ball direction. Mr. Freedman has been the most serious injury to the sport of any man who ever engaged in it. His influence there has always been malign—in fact, if it continues, it is the opinion of the most intelligent men on the subject that he will bring about the ruin of the National League. Mr. Spalding is, therefore, to be applauded and encouraged in his efforts to get rid of Freedman."

Editorial from Harper's Weekly, December 28, 1901:

"A. G. Spalding's election as President of the National League is a distinct forward movement in Base Ball affairs, which have been and are yet in anything but a satisfactory condition. Mr. Spalding stands for clean sport, and his connection with the national game is so well known that it is superfluous to speak of it in this column. Freedman's influence, on the other hand, has been bad. New York, the greatest sporting city in the world, and loyal to the game to the very core, has been subjected to the most wretched management in its Base Ball affairs. It is unfortunate that Mr. Spalding, upon assuming the Presidency of the National League, must enter upon a law suit, but perhaps matters will straighten out ere the season opens. There is one thing to be remembered, however, and that is: Mr. Spalding will have the American public back of him, which Mr. Freedman, even if triumphant in the legal battle, never can hope for. Without the support of the public success is impossible."