12 January 1904: The Golden Rule

In some non-Miller news, a small article in the Journal says that Messrs. Hedges and McAleer are planning on taking a large sharp knife to their baseball payroll.

Under the last agreement between the leagues the magnates have a time-bound, copper-riveted life lease on their players, and it is believed that the St. Louis managers will take advantage of it to cut about $15,000 off their pay roll.

I assume this makes reference to those spend-thrift pre-agreement days, the baseball “war” between the National and American Leagues, where the two leagues  would raid each other’s players – to the players’ financial benefit. But now, in 1904, with the shiny new National Agreement (among the owners, that is), it looks like the players’ options are limited to play for what we pay, or don’t play at all. Which harkens back to the Golden Rule: Them with the gold, they maketh the rules. It’s good to be rich.

The reference in yesterday’s paper to the shareholder’s meeting made me wonder – who are the shareholders? Who owns this team? I guess I had assumed that Watkins was the owner, but here it sounds as though there are other parties involved.

Digging around a bit into this, I came across this book, Baseball’s Heartland War, 1902 –baseball's Heartland War1903: The Western League and American Association Vie for Turf, Players and Profits, and this book provides some great information about the start of the American Association. At the initial organizing meeting in Chicago, a Mr. A. B. Beall, owner of the Minneapolis franchise in the Western League, represented the Minneapolis club in the new American Association. It appears, however, that Beall traded his Minneapolis Franchise to George Tebeau for Tebeau’s Denver franchise, while Tebeau, on the other hand, was planning to concentrate his efforts in Kansas City.
Which left a small hole in Minneapolis.
Which was filled when Walter Wilmot spent $4000 to buy the franchise. The Minneapolis Base Ball Association was then formed with $10,000 of capital from Walter Wilmot, a Mr. S. E. Hoops, and Edward A. Johnson.

Walt Wilmot - 1888 Old Judge b4Further research in other newspapers from the Library of Congress — and of course, adding a dash of Wikipedia, baseballreference.com, and other internet sources — tells us that Wilmot was a pretty good baseball player, an outfielder from Wisconsin who played from 1888 to 1898 with the Washington Nationals, Chicago Colts, and New York Giants. In 1890 he tied for the league Home Run championship, with 13, and in 1894 he had his best season, hitting .330, with 130 rbi and 197 hits in 133 games. He also had 381 stolen bases in his career, with a .276 lifetime batting average.

After Wilmot’s major league career ended he played and managed in the Western League in 1901, first in Louisville and then moving to Grand Rapids with the Louisville club. Late in 1901 it looks like Beall is angling for Wilmot to manage the new Minneapolis club in the American Association, and when Beall drops out, the franchise is dangled before Wilmot for the $4000 price, and he scoops it up.

S.E. Hoops was the proprietor of the National Hotel of Minneapolis, which explains how President Watkins chose his hotel when he came to town. I’ll bet he got a deal. Hoops was also something of an inventor, claiming to have invented the “cycle whirl” – a small indoor banked track that was used on the Vaudeville circuit for women’s bicycle races. They certainly knew how to have fun back then.

a Local Invention - SE Hoops Cycle Whirl - MJ - 25 Ap 1902

Edward A Johnston is the mystery man of the trio. Though he served as President and Treasurer of the club, I haven’t yet seen anything that tells anything about him. Who is this guy? How did he get involved? What’s his stake in the game? Is he from Minneapolis or Saint Paul?

Further Developments…

An article in the St. Paul Globe of November 4, 1903, reveals that Watkins purchased the interests of Mystery Man Johnston in late October or early November of ’03. I haven’t seen any details about how much interest that was, but it seems to be a controlling interest.

Another article from the Minneapolis Journal, also on November 4, 1903, solves the mystery of E. A. Johnston.

Mr. Johnston will hereafter devote his time to his duties as manager of the National Hotel cafe.

Case closed.

Well, not entirely. What became of Mr. Wilmot, I wonder?

Well, an article in the St. Paul Globe on May 9th of 1903 informs us that Mr. Wilmot has been cast off after a 1 -13 start to the season. President Johnston lets him go. Things happen quickly back then, apparently. Late in ’01, Wilmot comes in and buys the club, but apparently only has a minority interest. In ’02 the club goes 54-86. In ’03, after a bit of bad luck, Wilmot is gone. Thanks for the memories. The article in the Globe is of the position that there are too many bosses of the Minneapolis club, and they pulled the trigger on this too fast. (It doesn’t say who they all are. Could Johnston be the majority owner? A hotel cafe owner?)

Wilmot has assembled a good team, the writer says, and they’ll do well this season. Well, they went 50-89 in ’03, so perhaps the writer is not a great resource.

Here’s a nice picture from the Journal of that 1903 club, just before the home opener. They were 0-8 on the season at that point, so they look a bit glum, despite the morning parade from the National Hotel.

Minneapolis Journal - 1903 Mpls Baseball team - home opener b fr

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