Clipping:Buffalo sells out to Detroit; Buffalo Club finances; the big four; franchise as property right

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Date Wednesday, September 23, 1885

The sale of the franchise of the Buffalo Club to Detroit was officially announced on Thursday, Sept. 17, to the great surprise of not only the general public, but also to all the base ball magnates who are supposed to know all that is going on behind the scenes. The first intimation the public had of the matter was the follow dispatch which appeared in the daily papers of Thursday:

Buffalo, N.Y., Sept. 17.--Great surprise was manifested here to-day by the official announcement that the franchise of the Buffalo Base Ball Club had been sold to the Detroit management for $7,000. At the recent Saratoga conference the Buffalo management announced its determination of staying in the National League, but the plucky Detroiters came on here, offered to buy a majority of the stock and got it. The club here has been sinking a lot of money. The average attendance was 500, while 800 people were required to pay expenses. The Detroiters did not want the franchise as they have on hand that of the Indianapolis Club, which cost them $5,000, but they did want Brouthers, Richardson, Rowe and White, and to get them paid a good price. They have guaranteed to complete the season here, but as they have ordered the four best men to report to them Saturday night, when the transfer takes effect, it is probable that the club they will furnish will be rather “light waisted.” It is probable that the Buffalo management will go into the State League and start on a 25-cents-a game basis. The Buffalo's lease of Olympic Park has yet three years to run.

… The money paid, which was $7,000, which was paid over by Detroit on the 16th inst., will be sued for the payment of all the obligations incurred by the present management. The surplus, if any, will be placed in the hands of a trustee for the benefit of every shareholder of the stock as now held. The lease of the grounds, and the buildings and miscellaneous other property, will also be placed in the hands of the same trustee to be disposed of as may be deemed best, all stock to receive its pro rata interest in it. The new owners have agreed to finish the League season in Buffalo, and it rests with them to say whether there will be a League club there in 1886.

Mr. Leadley, the secretary, Mr. Watkins, the manager, and Directors Stearns and Molony engineered the scheme, with the assistance of centre fielder Hanlon. The inside story of the deal is said to be as follows:

In the latter part of last July Director Stearns went to Buffalo with a view to securing Rowe, Richardson, Brouthers and White, of the Buffalo team. It was hoped that they could be secured for this year, as the Buffalo team were in a badly crippled condition at that time and were on the verge of dissolution. The Buffalos did not disband, but the result of Mr. Stearns' visit was that the four Buffalo players were practically pledged to join Detroit next season since that time there have been continual negotiations by the Detroit with a view to securing a definite contract from these four Buffalo players. It was difficult to make any open agreement, as the League rules forbid any offer or negotiation with a player while he is a member of a League club. Hanlon, however, was a particularly good friend of Brouthers. The latter had given Hanlon the tip that he would jump at the chance to come to Detroit. This induced several of the Detroit directors to try and secure a contract, notwithstanding the League rules. When the Detroit Club were in Buffalo last week a meeting was held in a room at one of the hotels. The four coveted players were present; likewise Messrs. Watkins and Leadley. There had been considerable informal talk between Hanlon and the players prior to the meeting. Mr. Leadley drew a contract in writing binding the four men to play with Detroit next season in case they would be released from Buffalo. This was signed by Brouthers, Rowe, White and Richardson, and the Detroit managers were satisfied with their streak of luck. It was considered particularly fortunate, as the chances of securing two other crack players from another League club were materially strengthened. These two had said they would come to Detroit if the four Buffalo men came. The contract was virtually good for six first-class players.

The next thing was to get the men away from Buffalo, and several days were consumed in negotiating with the officers of the Buffalo Club to secure the release of the desired men. The latter, however, took a leaf from the Indianapolis book, and seeing a chance to get out whole from an enterprise which gave no indications of every yielding any adequate return for the money invested and the labor bestowed, stood out for the transfer of the whole club or nothing, and Detroit was finally compelled to buy out the entire team and franchise. … The sale avoid the necessity of making up any deficit, and it is expected that the surplus, after all liabilities, will permit a dividend of about 20 per cent. on the stock.

It is just possible that Detroit's speculation may turn out very profitable to Detroit outside the acquisition of the strong players, as a League franchise is a valuable possession, and Cincinnati parties want it badly. Indeed it is said that McLean, Thorner, Gerke and the other Cincinnati people who are anxious to locate a League club in Porkopolis, were in with the deal to secure the franchise, and that it has perhaps already been transferred to them, or if it has not been it certainly will be whenever Detroit gets the matter into proper shape and finds itself secure in its position. The Pittsburg Club, too, is said to be anxious to secure the franchise, and is believed to have offered a large sum therefor. The franchise is of no value to Detroit, who simply wanted the “big four” players, and either of the above-named cities will no doubt secure it.

...Manager Watkins, of the buying club, left for home at midnight on the Michigan Central road, taking with him Rowe, Brouthers, White and Richardson, whom he proposed to play against New York o Saturday, transferring McQuery, Crane and Donnelly to Buffalo. In addition to the “big four” Conway, Myers, Lillie and Force will be taken to Detroit at the end of the season. The others will probably be released.

Source Sporting Life
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Submitted by Richard Hershberger
Origin Initial Hershberger Clippings


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