Monday, January 7, 2019

Sunday Baseball and the Cleveland Spiders - How the St. Louis Browns Became the Cardinals

Early representation of the Cardinals as birds. Cincinnati Enquirer, April 25, 1910, page 8 (image from Steve Butts of the Institute of Baseball Studies).

The bird-logo may seem an obvious choice for a team called the Cardinals, but the birds were not added until 1922, more than twenty years after becoming the “Cardinals” at the start of the 1900 season. 
Henry Vick wearing a St. Louis Cardinals uniform in 1922, the first season birds appeared on the Cardinals’ uniforms. The Boston Globe, June 7, 1922, page 10.


“What are those little hickeys, Pa,”
Said Master Willie Wirts,
“The Cardinals are wearing on
The Bosom of their shirts?”
“They represent a certain bird,”
The father made reply;
“Which indicates the Cardinals Will soon be flying high.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 30, 1922, page 27.
Not everyone liked the new unis:

The Cardinals are wearing a flossy home uniform this season.  Across the breasts of their monkey suits are embroidered baseball bats, on each end of which are perched two cardinal birds.  The supposition is that two birds on a bat are worth one in a bush.

New York Daily News, May 12, 1922, page 24.

But the Cardinals were named for the color, not the bird.  The uniform they wore in 1900, the first season they were called “Cardinals” and second season they wore red caps and stockings, didn’t have any birds.

St. Louis Cardinals uniform, 1900, sans bird-logo.  St. Louis Republic, April 3, 1900, page 6.

When, how and why they adopted the color and (one year later) the name is as long and complex as a Dickensian drama.

A Tale of Two Cities

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – and one year later it was vice versa.  It was a tale of two cities – a good baseball town with a bad team and a bad baseball town with a good team, headed in opposite directions.

In 1898, the St. Louis Browns finished dead-last in the National league in 12th place for the third straight season, with only 39 wins – twelve games behind 11th-place Washington.  Their first four years in the National League weren’t much better (they joined the league in 1892 following the collapse of the American Association), with two 11th place finishes, one 10th and a merciful 9th place, in a twelve team league.  But despite their poor performance on the field, their attendance was generally good.

In 1898, the Cleveland Spiders finished the season in 5th place, with 81 wins.  During the seven-year span from 1892 through 1898, they had finished in the top half of the standings every year, with three second place finishes and three appearances in post-season championship play.  In 1895, they won the Temple Cup Series over the first-place Baltimore Orioles, four games to one.  But despite their success, they were constantly plagued by poor attendance, made worse by a local puritanical opposition to Sunday baseball.  Beginning in 1898, they even moved a number of their games to neutral sites or to their opponents’ cities, earning an alternate nickname, the “Wanderers” or “Exiles.”

In St. Louis, everything changed for the better in 1899.  St. Louis more than doubled their win-total of 1898, winning 84 games, moving up to 5th place and finishing with a winning record for the first time since joining the league.  Their perfect 7-0 start even earned them a new nickname – the “Perfectos.”  The “Browns” was no longer appropriate, having switched from brown uniform trimmings to red, or “cardinal.”  The name stuck with the team throughout the season for a variety of reasons, even after they started losing – more on that later.  They would not be known as the “Cardinals” until the following season.  Precisely when and how the new name was applied is a matter of dispute – more on that later, as well.

Meanwhile, in Cleveland, everything changed for the worse.  They set a record for futility that still stands today, 20 wins and 134 losses, and accelerated the practice of moving games out of town – playing only seven home games after July 1st, including 34 straight away (or neutral site) games to finish the season – their last season in existence.

It was almost as though the two teams had somehow miraculously switched places; which is precisely what happened; but it wasn’t a miracle; it was the culmination of a years-long quest by Cleveland’s owners and the league to move a better team into St. Louis and force the St. Louis Browns’ controversial, long-time owner, Chris Von der Ahe, out of the league.

The Spiders of 1899 were, for the most part, the same players who suited up as St. Louis Browns in 1898, and the St. Louis “Perfectos” of 1899 were mostly the same players who had played for Cleveland in 1898.  The brighter future promised by the wholesale change of players also brought new, brighter uniforms to St. Louis; red instead of brown, colors the Cleveland players wore even before the player-swap.   

The final swap took place less than a month before opening day.  When the Cleveland Spiders passed through St. Louis en route to spring training in Arkansas in mid-March, they showed off their new, red uniforms to reporters. 

The traveling suit of the [Cleveland Spiders] of very dark red is a particularly good looking one.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 14, 1899, page 5.

Little did the St. Louis fans suspect at the time that those same players and their new colors would be their new team and their new colors by opening day, a few weeks later.

The Clevelands had on their traveling suits of white stockings and gray trousers and shirts, a dingy effect contrasted with the new white suits and cardinal stockings and caps of the new St. Louis club.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 16, 1899, page 16.

Or that the new color scheme would inspire a permanent name change a season later. 
The official story of how and when they changed names is cute, concise and compelling.  It is also demonstrably false, although there may be an element of truth to it.

The “Official” Story

The St. Louis Cardinals’ official franchise timeline ( places the first use of the name in the 1899 season, the same season in which they switched from brown to red uniform trimmings after a player-swap with Cleveland.  The official timeline attributes the first use of the name to sportswriter Willie McHale, of the St. Louis Republic who, purportedly, “heard a lady fan remark, ‘What a lovely shade of cardinal.’”  He used the new nickname in his column – and the rest is history. 

It’s a cute story, but doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.  No one (as far as I can tell, and I’ve looked as hard as anyone, in all likelihood) has been able to dig up any examples of the name in print from 1899.  And, in any case, the apparent source of the story places the events in the following year, during the 1900 season, not in 1899. 

The Source of the Story

In an interview in 1903, St. Louis’ manager, Patsy Donovan, explained his understanding of where the name originated – it happened, he said, in 1900. 

“A Windy City lass discovered the cognomen, unconsciously, and ‘Billy’ McHale, then a well-known baseball writer, and at the time official scorer of the team, was the first to publish it. . . . McHale accompanied the team to Chicago about the middle of the season in 1900 and sat in the press box during the first game of the series. . . .

Attired in clean gray traveling suits, adorned with bright red trimmings, [the team] presented a pretty picture as they crossed the field. . . . [T]he Chicago miss . . . clapped her hands enthusiastically and exclaimed to her companion: “Oh! Isn’t that just the loveliest shade of Cardinal!”

McHale caught the exclamation and a moment later had flashed over the wires to St. Louis in his introduction of the game the intelligence that the ‘Cardinals’ were confident of victory.

Pittsburgh Press, April 10, 1903, page 22.

Donovan joined the team in 1900, so if he actually had been a witness, it couldn’t have happened until 1900.  And in any case, the earliest known examples of the name in print are from a pre-seaon game in 1900, nearly one month before the team’s first road-trip to Chicago.

The earliest known example of the nickname “Cardinals” (identified by language and etymology researcher Barry Popik) appeared in a report of an exhibition game in April, 1899, against a minor league team from Rochester, New York.

St. Louis Republic, April 3, 1900, page 6.

The Real Story

Although at least one reporter referred to St. Louis’s uniform trimmings as “cardinal” as early as opening day of the 1899 season, most descriptions of their unifor from that season referred to them as merely “red,” so it is an open question as to how “cardinal” they were.  But one year later, almost to the day, on opening day of the 1900 season, another writer believed that the new uniforms had different hue, one which was “even more cardinal.” 

Opening Day – St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 April 1900, page 1.[i] 

The baseball season of 1900 was opened here this afternoon in a blaze of sunshine and enthusiasm.
. . .
Their new suits were the same as their garb of ‘99, white with red trimmings, except that the stockings, belt and cap seemed more of a cardinal hue.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 19 April 1900, page 1.

Perhaps it was the new, more-cardinal hue that inspired the headline writer to refer to them as “Cardinals” during their pre-season appearance against Rochester.  And perhaps the new name was influenced, in part, by the strong Roman Catholic tradition of St. Louis, home of an Archdiocese, the cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, King of France, and referred to on occasion as “Rome of the West.”


St. Louis Republic, May 15, 1905, page 1.

The second example of the name “Cardinal” in print, as applied to the St. Louis baseball team, hints at a possible Catholic influence.  When St. Louis hit the ball well against three different pitchers in the third game of their season-opening home-stand against the Pirates, they were not just “Cardinals,” but a “college of cardinals.”

Thus it will be seen that Tebeau’s college of cardinals found three pitchers, two left and one right hander, to their taste.  Which is a good sign.

St. Louis Republic, April 23, 1900, page 4.

Given the reputation of the team and its manager, this remark might also have been intended as, and understood as (at the time), an ironic allusion to their notorious and longstanding reputation for bad behavior, a reputation that inspired one of the informal nicknames applied to the team before and after they were the “Cardinals” – Tebeau’s Terrors.

Buffalo Review (Buffalo, New York), April 16, 1900, page 2.

There may also be an element of truth in Patsy Donovan’s story about the name’s origin in Chicago.  Apart from one pre-season “Cardinals” and a single, early-season “college of cardinals,” I did not find any other references to the team as “Cardinals” in any report of their first seven games of the regular season in either the St. Louis Republic or Post-Dispatch newspapers.  That all changed, however, after the eighth game of the season; the second game of their first road-trip to Chicago.  The name appeared without fanfare in the text of an article below a headline referring to them as “Tebeauites,” another common, informal name for the team.

CHICAGO, Ill., April 28. – St. Louis and Chicago played the best game of the season at the West Side grounds to-day. . . .  It was good baseball that enabled the Cardinals to win.

St. Louis Post Dispatch, April 29, 1900, page 22.

The St. Louis Republic’s report of the same game, on the other hand, referred to the team alternately as, the “Tebeauites” or simply, “St. Louis.”

But perhaps something did happen in Chicago to make the writers take special note of the new name.  The “Cardinal” flood-gates seem to have opened after that game.  “Cardinals” appeared in a headlines (and text) of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 30, and in the St. Louis Republic on May 1st and May 2nd of 1900,[ii] and quickly became ubiquitous shortly thereafter.   

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 30, 1900, page 5.
St. Louis Republic, May 1, 1900, page 6.
St. Louis Republic, May 2, 1900, page 6.

Perhaps there is something to the official story, and some “Windy City lass’” comment about, “just the loveliest shade of cardinal,” inspired one or more of the writers to apply the name to the team on a more regular basis.  And perhaps St. Louis readily latched onto the name, in part, because it resonated with the heavily Catholic population.

But if the teams hadn't swapped cities, they may not have changed colors, and they would never have had a reason to change names.  So the reason they changed their name is ultimately the same reason they switched cities.

The Worst of Times

Years before the Spiders swapped with St. Louis, people believed the earning potential of the St. Louis baseball market was being wasted by a bad team and stingy owner.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 13, 1896, page 3.

But Cleveland had baseball troubles of its own.  Despite a good team, the puritans in Cleveland made it difficult for them to play baseball on Sundays, the one day with the highest potential attendance.  The reduced ticket sales cut into the profits of both Cleveland and visiting teams, in the League’s revenue sharing agreement, angering Cleveland’s ownership team as well as owners league-wide. 

Observers speculated that moving a good team, like Cleveland, to St. Louis, where they could play Sunday ball, might improve league revenues.

Conundrum – If the St. Louis Browns of 1895 were able to make $21,500 for Chris Von der Ahe, how much would the Cleveland team make for President Robison in St. Louis? – Cincinnati Exchange.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 31, 1896, page 5.

“A team that could land in sixth place or better would make $40,000 in a season at St. Louis.”

Pittsburgh Press, January 15, 1898, page 5.

Rumors of a move swirled as early as 1896.

The Evening Times (Washington DC), January 23, 1896, page 3.

But Cleveland’s principal owner, Frank de Haas Robison, denied the rumors – sort of.

President Robison returned from the East last week, but his manner in speaking of the story of the transfer of the “Spiders” to St. Louis was not reassuring.  He declined to reiterate his denial and simply said: “I have denied the story once and do not care to talk about it.”

Buffalo Enquirer (Buffalo, New York), February 18, 1896, page 8.

Cleveland wasn’t the only city facing Sunday baseball challenges.  Chicago faced similar arrests in a home-game against Washington 1895.  A jury acquitted the test-defendant, Walker Wilmot, in January 1896, effectively ending any challenges to Sunday baseball in Chicago.

The Indianapolis Journal, January 15, 1896, page 5.

Due to public pressure at home, Cleveland was even taken off the Sunday baseball schedule (for the most part), even for road games, limiting his ability to make money on the road, as well as at home.  In 1896, for example, Cleveland played only four away-games on Sunday, two of those were a double-header on the same Sunday.  He planned to challenge the rule at home in 1896.

President Frank De Haas Robison, disgusted with the poor patronage extended his club at home, has put on the gloves, so to speak, with the puritanical element of the Forest City and on Sunday next will attempt to play at home.  It is probably that the Chicago team will play the spiders their first Sabbath game in Cleveland.

The Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska), June 21, 1896, page 19.

In July, Robison announced plans to build a second stadium, outside the city limits, to skirt the law, but he never followed through on the threat.  If he had had Sunday baseball revenues he might have been able to afford a Sunday baseball stadium, in which case, of course, he wouldn’t have needed a second stadium.  But I digress.

The Spiders’ Sunday baseball troubles continued into 1897 when the anti-Sunday baseball movement, led by the Minister’s Union and Liquor League of the city, secured police cooperation in shutting down a Sunday baseball game.

President Robison turned to the stand and said:

“The authorities have stopped the game and it cannot continue. . . .  [W]e will fight the case in the courts and hope soon to give you Sunday ball in Cleveland.”

The players left the field without police escort and the crowd surged around President Robison and cheered him.  Aside from this there was no demonstration and not the slightest disorder.  The players were taken to central station and were immediately bailed out.

President Hart [(of Chicago’s National League team)], in speaking yesterday of the Cleveland troubles with Sunday ball, said: “Yes, I believe Robison is in earnest when he says that he will move the club to Detroit if he is not allowed to play Sunday ball.  If I were in his place I would not hesitate about abandoning the town.  He would be foolish to stay there and lose money, and Sunday ball is the only thing that would save him.  The people want Sunday ball.  Look at this crowd.  Why, half of them would never see a game unless we played on Sunday.  Robison is right, and there is not a club in the league but would be glad to see Cleveland out of the circuit.  No club gets rich playing in that town.”

Chicago Tribune, May 17, 1897, page 4.

Although all of the players on both teams were arrested, they held a test-case trial of one member of the Spiders, John Powell.  A jury found Powell guilty, but the courts threw out the conviction, holding the prohibition against Sunday baseball unconstitutional.  But the Supreme Court of Ohio ultimately reinstated the conviction and upheld the validity of local ordinances against Sunday baseball.

Massillon Item (Massillon, Ohio), April 20, 1898, page 2.

St. Louis’ owner, Chris Von der Ahe, opened the door for Robison in 1898, putting his team up for auction.  There were, however, some irregularities with the deal that put off potential buyers, including an apparent scam involving a fire, insurance, and new bleachers.  Ahe also arranged the deal to guarantee that he would personally receive about $90,000 from any sale.

Von der Ahe made himself a preferred creditor of the corporation when it went into his hands as trustee to the amount of some $60,000. . . .  Then he has a claim for salary and expenses as trustee which would amount to some $12,000, which must also be paid before the other creditors get a whack. . . .

It leaked out yesterday that the value of the property had been slightly depreciated in the eyes of this syndicate by the burning of the grand stand and consequent payment thereon.  The stand cost some $12,000 to erect and was insured for $35,000.  The present structure is much cheaper, and is not insured for any such sum.

Opinions differ as to whether the club will have to be sold at public or private sale, or at all.  Expert opinion seems to be that it need not be sold at all.

Buffalo Courier (Buffalo, New York), July 15, 1898, page 3.

The sale never went through.

During the off-season between the 1898 and 1899 seasons, however, Ahe’s notoriously tight purse-strings gave the League a excuse to kick Ahe out of the League and turn control over Robison. 

The direct cause was the failure of the club to pay to Wilkesbarre the sum of $750 for the release of Sullivan, but the indirect and real cause was the desire of the parties to the National agreement to put the Cleveland team into St. Louis.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 1, 1899, page 5.

In addition to his failure to pay the $750 for Sullivan, Ahe also owed Chicago $1,000 for a deal involving a player named Decker, and $1,153 in outstanding dues and assessments to the league.[iii]

Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska) February 12 1899 page 14.

Robison also maintained control of Cleveland, with his brother Stanley acting as President of the team during their disastrous 1899 season.  With apologies to Dickens, Stanley Robison played Sydney Carton opposite his brother's Charles Darnay; Stanley willingly leading a faltering Cleveland club to the guillotine while Robison escaped to St. Louis with his best team by his side.
"F. De Haas Robison entertained the boys with a story, which set them all to 'guffawing' . . . .  Robison has an extended vocabulary, and is a clever story-teller." St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 2, 1898, page 10.


Chris Von Der Ahe also played a pivotal role in the drama that resulted in Pittsburgh becoming the Pirates in 1891, and his financial and other improprieties played a roll there as well.  You can read about it at my earlier post, “The Pittsburgh Pirates of Penzance.”


In 1899, with new red uniforms and without their old brown stockings, the St. Louis baseball team needed a new name – or did they?  Their owner and manager thought not. 

President Robison said that the St. Louis club this season will be known simply as the St. Louis club and will not have the sobriquet of “Browns” or any other name attached.

Kansas City Journal, April 1, 1899, page 5.

“No Browns or Reds or Spiders or Indians for me,” said the manager to-day.  “The St. Louis Club is plenty good enough.”

Cincinnati Enquirer, March 30, 1899, page 4.

But sportswriters abhor a vacuum, eventually filling the void with “Perfectos,” presumably because they started the season with a perfect 7-0 record.  The earliest example I could find mentions the fast start, but also notes their gradual decline; their record had fallen to 12-5 by then, and they would finish the season in 5th place in a twelve-team League.  This earliest example also uses the common, alliterative “Pat’s Perfectos” version of the name.

The splendid start made by the St. Louis club is gradually being cut down, but they still have a good lead over Boston, Brooklyn and Cincinnati, their most dangerous rivals, while Chicago and the Phillies are tied for second place only twenty-two points behind Pat’s Perfectos.

Harrisburg Daily Independent (Pennsylvania), May 8, 1899, page 5.

But the fast start does not explain why the name persisted when they started losing.  Simple alliteration may account its popularity with the sports writers; an alternate name frequently used at the time, “Tebeau’s Terrors,” had a similar thing going for it.

But why use the Spanish, “Perfectos,” instead of the “Perfects”?  There is good evidence to suggest that it may have had something to do with another new nickname for another team with new ownership, new players and a new manager.  It was a tale of two other cities, and a tale of two cigars.

A Tale of Two Cigars

Brooklyn was in much the same position as St. Louis at the start of the 1899 season.  The team had a new owner who also controlled another team in another city, some new players and a new manager.  Before the start of the season, the League had transferred ownership of the Brooklyn franchise to the owners of the Baltimore Orioles, who retained control of both teams, as was the case with the Robison brothers in Cleveland and St. Louis. 

The National League at the time was wrestling with the question of how many cities or teams the League could support.  The League had expanded to twelve teams after the collapse of the American Association at the end of the 1890 season, and there had been talk of contracting the size of the league for several years.  As a general rule, those talks generally contemplated the league buying out teams in less valuable market.

Baltimore and Cleveland were still rumored to be leaving the League a few weeks before the start of the 1899 season.

The Cincinnati Enquirer, March 31, 1899, page 4.

The Baltimore Orioles, like Cleveland, had been a successful team in a smaller market.  And its owners, like Cleveland’s, had long sought a move to the big city.  Rumors of a move circulated as early as 1896.

Boston Globe, September 22, 1896, page 9.

Baltimore's principle shareholder, Harry Vonderhorst (sometimes, Von der Horst), denied the rumors.

Treasurer Von der Horst said yesterday that the dispatch sent out from Washington on Monday relative to the New York club getting the Baltimores was a fairy story.

Sunday News (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania), September 20, 1896, page 5.

Three years later, Vonderhorst and Baltimore’s manager, Ned Hanlon, settled on Brooklyn, purchasing  shares that had belonged to a recently deceased shareholder, Charles H. Byrne, from his estate for $10,000 cash, and entering into a partnership with the other major shareholders, Charles Ebbets and Ferdinand Abell.[iv]

When Vonderhorst and Hanlon took control of Brooklyn, Brooklyn’s old manager, John McGraw, who was transferring to Baltimore to manage the Orioles, entered into negotiations to buy out their remaining interests in the Orioles.  Although initially open to the idea, Vonderhorst and Hanlon backed out of the deal, retaining control over both teams. 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 28, 1899, page 12.

But unlike Robison in Cleveland, Vonderhorst and Hanlon did not hold a grudge against Baltimore.  Both Brooklyn and Baltimore fared better after their deal than did either St. Louis or Cleveland after their swap.  Brooklyn would win their first of two consecutive pennants in 1899 with only three starters (Dan McGann, Willie Keeler and Joe Kelley) and a new manager, Hanlon, taken from the 2nd place Baltimore Orioles of 1898.  The Baltimore Orioles would finish the 1899 season a respectable 4th place, despite the loss.

With a new manager, Brooklyn received a new name based on the name of their new manager, as was a common practice during the period.  Chicago, for example, was frequently referred to as Anson’s Colts, after their manager Cap Anson.  The American League team in Cleveland after 1901 were known as the "Naps" for more than a decade, after their manager, Nap Lajoie.  And both Cleveland and St. Louis were regularly referred to as the Tebeauites, Tebeau’s Terrors, and Tebeau’s Indians, for their manager, who set the tone, personality and identity of his teams.Brooklyn had even been known, on occasion, as “Ward’s Wonders” under the management of John Montgomery Ward, who had retired in 1894.   

Brooklyn’s other nicknames at the time were related to the changed marital status of its players before the 1888 season and the increasingly dangerous traffic conditions in Brooklyn due to the introduction of electric trolleys in the mid-1890s.  Several players were married at about the same time before the start of the 1888 season, prompting people to call them the “Bridegrooms,” a name that persisted for more than a decade.  But by the late-1890s, “Bridegrooms” was slowly giving way to “Trolley Dodgers” or “Dodgers,” first used in 1895, as the name of choice in the late-1890s.   There’s more to the “Trolley Dodger” story, and you can read all about it in my earlier post, “The Grim Reality of the Trolley Dodgers.

With new ownership, new players and a new manager, Brooklyn embraced another nickname – the “Superbas.”  Like “Perfectos,” the name suggested excellence – a “superb” team.  But unlike “Perfectos,” the reason for using an “exotic” form of the word was more obvious.

“Superbas” was a punning reference to the name of a long-running, popular acrobatic stage-show, “Hanlon’s Superba,” which had been staged by the Hanlon Brothers (no relation) since 1890.  Hanlon’s “New Superba” had even been recently staged in Brooklyn, in January 1899.[v] 

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

Wilkes-Barre Sunday News, January 22, 1899, page 8. [vi]

The players themselves latched onto the name in honor of their new manager before the regular season began.

The Brooklyn Hanlon’s Superbas, as they call themselves, won through somewhat better batting, through what ball players call “outlucking” the opposing side and through the fact that the close decisions fell to Umpire Dunn, of the Brooklyns, with only one such decision to even up on by Umpire Ryan, of the Orioles.

The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), April 4, 1899, page 6.

St. Louis’ use of the Spanish, “Perfecto,” appears to have been influenced, at least in part, by Brooklyn’s use of “Superba.” The two names were connected by their use as names for cigars.

“Superba” was widely used as a name for a style or brand of cigars.

Richmond Item (Richmond, Indiana), July 28, 1899, page 1.

A “Perfecto” was also a style of cigar, favored by President McKinley and cartoon cats.

After his morning meal, [President McKinley] lights a cigar and puffs away while his morning mail is sorted.  In the afternoon he usually enjoys a mild smoke, and in the evening, after dinner, he repairs to the cabinet room and blows into smoke a long black Havana perfecto.

Evening Standard (Leavenworth, Kansas), May 11, 1899, page 1.

San Francisco Examiner, April 16, 1899, page 32.

So when St. Louis started the season with a perfect record through the first week or so, “Perfectos,” instead of “Perfects,” fit perfectly with the other new name in the league, “Superbas.”  It may be impossible to know, with certainty, whether or not the cigar connection was the primary impulse for using Spanish instead of English, but the connection was not lost on St. Louis newspaper reporters of the day, suggesting that it wasn’t far from mind.

This patterning the ball teams after cigar signs is funny.  Now that the Brooklyns have attached to themselves the name of “Superbas,” the St. Louis have been styled the “Perfectos.”

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 25, 1899, page 13.

Another writer imagined a similar new name for Pittsburgh.

“It is Pat’s Perfectos for the St. Louis crew and Pat’s stogies for the Pittsburg Pirates,” says a St. Louis exchange.

Pittsburgh Press, May 21, 1899, page 14.

St. Louis’ big Perfectos played like mere cigarettes in a bad loss to Boston.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 3, 1899, page 5.

Coincidentally, when the American military Governor of Cuba appointed Senor Perfecto Lacoste as mayor of Havana Cuba in 1899, it was grist for the humor mill and brought to light a completely unrelated connection between Major League baseball and a Perfecto.
It does not seem inappropriate that Havana should get a mayor whose name is Senor Perfecto.  The question is was he machine or hand made.

Evening Standard (Leavenworth, Kansas), January 13, 1899, page 2.

Chicago Tribune, January 19, 1899, page 4.

Mayor Perfecto Lacoste, who had lived in Cincinnati, Ohio during his youth and early adult years, was a childhood friend of Buck Ewing, a hall of fame player and manager who was still active in 1899.  In 1878, Lacoste organized a baseball team that won the Cincinnati city championship with a young Buck Ewing as its star player.

Other Names

For one newspaper, on one occasion, the new St. Louis players kept the same name they had played under in Cleveland a season earlier – the St. Louis Spiders.

The St. Louis Spiders won a surprising game from the Giants, they only getting five hits off of Meckin, to eleven hits off of Young by the New Yorks, and besides the Spiders had two errors to their credit to New York’s One.

Logansport Pharos-Tribune (Logansport, Indiana), July 15, 1899, page 14.

The simplest thing would have been to use St. Louis’ old nickname, but the new uniform’s color scheme made it problematic; but that didn’t stop some people from continuing to use it out of habit. 

The red caps and red stockings of the St. Louis team make them very conspicuous on the field.  They are no longer the Browns, although the name still adheres to any team representing St. Louis.
Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 12, 1899, page 3.

Even a few sportswriters used the old name on occasion, even when throwing it in with a few new ones.

McKean’s out put Burkett on third, whence he scored on Heidrick’s slow one to Decker, which was mishandled.  That ended the Perfectos’ run getting.

Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), May 16, 1899, page 6.

The first meeting of the season between the new Orioles and the new St. Louis Browns, sometimes known as “Tebeau’s Terrors” and “Pat’s Perfectos,” took place yesterday at Union Park.  Tebeau’s team, which is practically the same team as the Clevelands of 1895 and 1896, who played Hanlon’s champions for the Temple Cup, is generally believed to have the best chance of all the Western clubs for the championship

Baltimore Sun, May 31, 1899, page 6.

And if they could not be the Browns, some people simply switched colors to, the “Reds.”

The St. Louis newspapers are devoting acres of space to the new Tebeau Reds, and the Mound City fans are baseball mad, recalling the flower of Chris Von der Ahe’s days in St. Louis.

Nebraska State Journal (Lincoln, Nebraska), April 23, 1899, page 16.

The St. Louis team is referred to as the Tebeau Reds.  Not an inappropriate name, seeing that they were Indians last year. 

Nine of Tebeau’s Indians batted .300 or better during the first week of the championship season.  No wonder the team won all of its games.

Detroit Free Press, May 1, 1899, page 8.

Pittsburgh newspapers preferred “Red Caps,” a name they continued using for three seasons.

Pittsburgh Daily Post, August 8, 1899, page 6.

The Pittsburgh papers referred to St. Louis as the “Red Caps” all season, although I haven’t found any examples of the name used elsewhere.

McKean and Tebeau made six of the 13 hits made by the red caps off Pink Hawley yesterday.

Pittsburgh Press, May 4, 1899, page 6.

The record for attendance at a baseball game was broken at New York yesterday afternoon when a crowd estimated at 28,5000 turned out to see the Giants and the St. Louis Red Caps play.

Pittsburgh Press, May 31, 1901, page 8.

Pittsburgh Daily Post, August 29, 1901, page 6.

Several of St. Louis’ informal nicknames were carryovers which had been used in Cleveland, based on the manager’s last name.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 23, 1899, page 5.

 “Tebeau’s Terrors”

Pittsburgh Daily Post, June 22, 1900, page 6.

Patsey’s Boys Play Hard Against Their Old Colors.

Buffalo Courier, April 16, 1899, page 23.

Monday Afternoon Tebeau’s Braves
Play in Pittsburg and Young
Will Pitch the Game.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 1, 1899, page 7. Tebeau’s Braves.

Today, the name, “Indians,” is most closely associated with the American League team in Cleveland.  But before the Cleveland Spiders even moved to St. Louis, their team had been called “Tebeau’s Indians,” or simply “Indians,” for several years, and would continue to be referred to or portrayed as "Indians," "Braves" or a "Tribe" after they moved to St. Louis. 

Pittsburgh Daily Post, April 30, 1899, page 6.

While most people assume that the name was applied after the National League Cleveland Spiders signed Louis Socklexis to a contract in 1897 (Sockalexis is believed to be the first American Indian to sign a major league baseball contract), the name had been applied to the team since as early as 1895.  While it seems clear that the name took on new significance and appeared more frequently after Sockalexis joined the team, he does not appear to have been the original inspiration for the name.  There’s more to that story, and you can read about it in my earlier post, “The Cleveland Spiders and ‘Tebeau’s Indians’ – why Cleveland’s Baseball Team are the ‘Indians.’

But “Tebeauites,” “Tebeau’s Terrors,” and all other Tebeau-related names were out the door, along with Tebeau, before the end of the of the 1900 season.

A dispatch from St. Louis says that Patsy Tebeau has voluntarily resigned from the management of the St. Louis club . . . .  This news will not surprise followers of the game, although the step was taken sooner than expected.  Tebeau was successful as manager of the Cleveland club, but the transfer of the team to St. Louis seems to have brought about his downfall.  He tried to copy Hanlon’s methods in his treatment of his players, but they abused the confidence reposed in them and many of the players were continually in hot water.

Luckily they had a new name to fall back on –

            the “Cardinals.”

[i] If the opening day baseball player cartoon looks something like Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman, it’s possible that they were both inspired by the same original image, an advertising poster for the Broadway play, The New Boy 1(894), which had been widely copied and used in a variety of advertising campaigns.  See my earlier post, “The Real Alfred E.”
[ii] The St. Louis Republic’s April 30 issue is missing from both archives I’ve accessed, so they have started a day earlier as well.
[iii] Buffalo Evening News (Buffalo, New York), March 1, 1899, page 14.
[iv] Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 12, 1899, page 8.
[v] The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 17, 1899, page 5.
[vi] The Hanlon Brothers were early adapters of the bicycle, and received several bike-related patents in the 1860s.  See my earlier post, “One Wheeled Velocipedes and Penny Farthings.”
Note: Modified January 21, 2021, adding the image of F. De Haas Robison.