Bad To The Bone

Chris Von Der Ahe

   Chris Von der Ahe was the 19th century version of Charlie Finley and George Steinbrenner. A flamboyant German immigrant who ran a beer garden in St. Louis, he originally had gotten into baseball so he could sell his beer at the ball park. The club was run by manager and first baseman Charles Commiskey who had revolutionized the way first base was played, by playing off the bag.

   With Al Spink, Von der Ahe got together to form the St. Louis Browns club for the 1881 American Association  season. The first thing Von der Ahe did was sign Comiskey who was a player with a semi-pro team in Dubuque Iowa. Under Comiskey, the Browns proceeded to win four straight league titles from 1885 to 1888. Without him in the 1890's, the Browns fell into the second division and were in danger of being dropped from the league by 1898.

   Von der Ahe, was a shrewd promoter who arranged a series with the National League champion Chicago White Stockings following the 1885 season. This was the second official Worlds Series and was scheduled to be a best of seven game affair. (the Series eventually wound up tied at 3-3-1)

  Von der Ahe was noted for having a bad temper. After a poor showing by his players in the 1887 World Series Von der Ahe became so upset that he threatened to withhold the players' share of the earnings. He was also inovative. He  formed the St. Louis Whites to play in the Western Association as a farm team for his Browns.

   Von der Ahe could also be quite vengeful. He once sent a "private eye" to break into the apartment of one of his former players, and he led an attempt to oust Wheeler Wyckoff as AA president during the 1887 season. Von der Ahe's interference with the team on the field was common place.  After replacing Comiskey as manager he used a series of rotating player-managers while running the club himself behind the scenes. He continued on in this manner even after the collapse of the AA after the 1891 season.  Under his continued leadership,  St. Louis did not do well in the 1890's, due mostly because of the poor management by Von der Ahe. The club was sold after the 1898 season to G. Gruner, who then sold it to Frank and Stanley Robison.

   After his baseball days were over he eventually wound up running a small saloon in St. Louis. He passed away from cirrhosis of the liver on June 5th 1913 at the age of 61.