St. Louis Browns Manager is Abducted, Jailed: February 7, 1898

St. Louis Browns 1947

Baseball ain’t what it used to be, but in a lot of ways that might be for the best. The manager of the former St. Louis Browns, Chris von der Ahe, was essentially kidnapped and taken by train to Pittsburgh on this date in 1898, according to an archival report in the New York Times. To make a long story short, the trouble began when a St. Louis player tried to get out of his contract through questionable means. Von der Ahe believed that a Pittsburgh pitcher named Mark Baldwin played a role in poaching this player (since both now played for Pittsburgh), and he had Baldwin arrested in St. Louis on charges of conspiracy. The trial cleared Baldwin of the charges, but Von der Ahe was somehow able to have him re-arrested a few days later, at which point he was re-acquitted. 

Baldwin was understandably peeved at being imprisoned twice and, having been cleared, he then sued Von der Ahe for malicious prosecution. The charges coincided with a series the St. Louis Browns played in Pittsburgh, and Von der Ahe was forced to hide in the Pittsburgh team president’s office to avoid arrest. A bond was paid at this point, but after a series of judgements, skipped bonds, and failed appeals, Von der Ahe was left on the hook for a judgment in favor of Baldwin which he had failed to pay. Baldwin also sued the bondsman in the case, who arranged a private detective to trick Von der Ahe into meeting him at a St. Louis hotel on February 7, 1898. At this point he was handcuffed, put into a carriage which drove around aimlessly until the train to Pittsburgh departed, upon which Mr. Von der Ahe was brought in custody to face justice. Von der Ahe argued, once in court, that he had essentially been jailed for debt, a practice which was no longer legal, but the judge ruled against him due to his failure to repay his bond, and he was forced to settle with Baldwin.