A new chance?
January 3rd, 1889, Philadelphia, Germantown
Knock, knock, knock. What is this? Knock, knock, knock!
Walther “Walt” Boeselager rolled over and tried to ignore the disturbance.
“Walt! Waaaalt!” A familiar voice. A dream? “Verdammt, Walther, du Trottel! Mach auf!”
Now don’t be insulting, young man. But as soon as he finished his thought, he sat up in his bed. Only one person would talk to him in German. Immediately, he raised and ran to the window which he opened, just to shiver as the freezing air invaded his cozy bedroom.
Downstairs he saw Karl Boeselager, his twin brother. He wore his heavy dark blue coat and held his black bowler hat with his left hand, so he could furiously slam his fist against the wooden door.
“What is it?” Walt and Karl both speak German but converse in English, except when one of them has to curse or if both discretely talk about things.
“Mensch, lass mich rein! It is cold!” It is not the first time Karl appeared in the early morning. Therefore, Walt always kept a spare key near the window he was staying at this very moment.
The second last time Karl hammered this furiously against the door was when their brewery signed a contract in 1883 supplying the Philadelphia Athletics with their Boeselager Lager beer. And the last time was in 1888 ago when the American Association folded, and the Athletics ceased to exist.
Although the Boeselager brothers brewed the finest beer in Germantown and losing the Athletics contract meant a colossal blow. The National League didn’t allow alcohol, so the Philadelphia Quakers were no help. Using sports to advertise beer in Philadelphia came to a sudden end. They just bought a brewery in Baltimore, where selling beer was slightly easier than in Pensylvania. The facility still needed some adjustments, but in a few more months, operations would begin.
“What is it, Karl?” Walt slowly walked down the stairs from where he could look into the kitchen. Karl just took off his coat. “You won’t believe this. The National League folded! No more Quakers!” Walt shook his head in disbelief. “Why would that happen? The league was going strong and was also the strongest out there.”
“I don’t know what really happened, but I believe Spalding mismanaged his league and pissed off the players. I’ll see what my friends in Pittsburgh and Washington can tell me about it. Until then, we need to keep our ears and eyes open. I received a telegraph from Baltimore. Remember Willy Smith? The Bavarian fellow who preferred the English version of his name instead of the German. Just imagine we would do the same. Walt Evil Sto…”, Karl stopped, obviously not knowing how to translate their last name. “Anyways, he heard that some rich guys are teaming up to form a new league. In a week, they’ll meet at the Chesapeake Hotel to talk business. You should go and get us a team.”
“Don’t you think that someone from Philadelphia will go? A team is expensive. We need to negotiate the stadium lease.” Karl didn’t believe that someone is going to miss out on this opportunity. “So far, I haven’t heard anything,” Karl responded. “I have my connections in the city hall. Leave that to me. You should go. Now.”
“The meeting is in a week, Karl. I’ll have to check if we can even afford a team. I mean, we probably have enough reserves to pay players, but we’ll have to work on a plan.” Karl leaned over and lowered his voice as someone could sit in the next room and listen to their conversation. “To play it safe. Let me fiddle with the numbers. Meet Willy, find out who is attending, and make sure you get your seat at the table.”
Walt left three days later. It felt unreal. A baseball team? Since he came to Amerika, he loved this sport. In Prussia, gymnastics dominated the athletic landscape. A lot was better than in Prussia. Although America had its own problems with the Civil War, Prussia was involved in two wars in 1864 and 1866. The Boeselager twins were too young to fight, but Wilhelm Boeselager, the father of Karl and Walt, sensed that there would be another conflict brewing up. In 1868, just after the military reforms came into law and just before his sons hit conscription age, Wilhelm, his wife, Katharina, and their sons left Prussia to find peace in the United States.
Wilhelm quickly found work as a gifted engineer, but in 1875 he acquired a brewery. This was the birth of the Boeselager brewery which was one of the first to implement pasteurization.
In 1880, Wilhelm passed away. Four years later, Katharina followed their father. Both sons inherited equal parts of the brewery and their parents’ wealth. The amount surprised Karl and Walt, and in 1888 the brothers bought a brewery in Baltimore to widen their market.
Now he would come to Baltimore again. But for sports. The 39-year-old thought about his own experiments with the bat and the ball. He wasn’t as talented as Karl. Karl even tried out at the Athletics, but his career came to a quick end when he fell off a ladder while conducting maintenance in their factory. He never fully recovered from the injuries. Both still loved baseball and visited the games when they had spare time.
Willy Smith lived just two blocks away from the hotel. Actually, his name was Wilhelm Schmitt. Willy was only 30 years old and a very educated pacifist whose political activity forced him to the US. He was too young to fight in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1871, but he was old enough to witness the direction the German Empire was heading to. In 1884, Germany acquired its first colonies. Schmitt was critical of the acquisitions and a year later he and his fiancee shipped out of Hamburg, but only Willy survived the voyage over the Atlantic. Heartbroken, Willy arrived at the Garden Castle Emigration Center. But he stuck to his plan and became a journalist. His criticism of the German Empire grew stronger and ended in finally giving up his German name.
“Willy, what do you have for me?” Walt asked Willy as they departed the station in Baltimore in the evening hours.
“Bad news, Walt. The meeting happened already, and Tim McCabe will be the president of the Philadelphia Athletics.”
”What?!” Walt couldn’t believe this. “I thought this was supposed to happen in a week? And another Athletics team? What the hell?”
“I’m as surprised as you are. As soon as I received word that you are coming to Baltimore, I checked the schedule at the station, and there I saw him strolling to the Chesapeake Hotel. Apparently, this Monroe guy from Richmond who is rumored to provide funds for the upcoming league found his first president in New York two days ago. That’s why those rich guys met here to talk about joining the league, should it happen.”
Walt couldn’t believe Willy’s words. Tim McCabe was a businessman from Philadelphia. An aggressive businessman and an abstainer. Walt had to deal with McCabe on multiple occasions as he owned a property next to the brewery. When the Boeselager brewery needed more ground to set up new storage, McCabe sold it to them for an absurdly high price. McCabe also tried to prevent the brewery acquisition in Baltimore but failed.
“Well, shit” was Walts brief reaction. “I’ll have to sleep over this situation.” Both men talked a few more minutes about the latest happenings in Philadelphia and Baltimore before they wished each other good night and parted ways.
Walt climbed the stairs, entered the hotel, and just before he reached the reception, he peaked to the left and saw a room which was filled with the warm light of a fireplace. Sitting on a wing chair was his nemesis, Tim McCabe.
Walt didn’t notice that he abruptly stopped and stared at McCabe. The thoughts that came to his mind kept him occupied. “Well, well, well. Mr. Boeselager, you should join me. It’s quite cozy in here.” Walt shook off his thoughts and realized that McCabe was talking to him. As if an invisible hand led him to the second winged chair, Walt sat down. “I think we have to talk, Mr. McCabe. I want to talk about business.”
“What a shame. I was hoping we could converse about philosophy or something else.”
“No, I’m not here for this. I heard you want to participate in a possible new baseball league.”
“You’re well informed.” McCabe looked surprised. “Indeed, I will be the president of the new Philadelphia Athletics. The gentlemen from Baltimore and Washington D.C., who will participate, will support my bid. Now we only have to meet with Mr. Monroe.”
“Will my brother and I be able to sell our beer at the games?”
“You’re very direct, my friend. But, of course not. I detest alcohol, and I will make it clear to that Richmond fellow that I expect a strict no-alcohol policy for the league.”
“What will you do if he won’t agree?”
“Then, I will not run the club, and I will make sure that baseball won’t have a future in Philadelphia.”
The two looked at each other. Walt was annoyed by McCabe’s arrogance. He knew how vital beer sales at the ballparks are for breweries. And the game was important for Walt and Karl.
“What if I buy the club from you?” The moment he said it, he knew that it was a bad idea.
“You will not be able to afford it. Even if…”
“Our Baltimore operations.”
This caught McCabe off guard. The arrogance disappeared off his face, and he looked at the fireplace. His purple waist coast raised as he breathed in deeply. Half a minute passed, and McCabe took a sip of his tea.
“Are you willing to give me the brewery building, too?”
“That’s something I need to discuss with my brother.”
“You’re offering to give up Baltimore, but have to ask your brother to hand over the building?” There was that smile again. “I need a decision now. Baltimore will be off-limits for Boeselager beer, your brewery building in Baltimore will become my property, and in return, you can do whatever you like with your club and the council will support the Athletics.”
Walther Boeselager remembered the view at Fort Henry. The fort defended the Baltimore harbor in 1814 and being able to look at the fortification from the other side of the riverbank was just marvelous. Because it was located in the port, loading ships with the precious golden drink would come in handy to serve many towns on the coast.
If this Monroe millionaire from Richmond can make it happen…
“Deal. But only if the league is happening.”
A day later, Walther took the first train back to Philadelphia. He didn’t head to his house but walked over to his brother’s.
He knocked on the door, and after the second knock, he added, “Karl!”
“You’re back? What happened?” Karl opened the window in the top floor of his house and was clearly shocked that Walt was back already. Karl saw Walt lifting his head and the tired face.
“We lost the Baltimore brewery, but we have the Philadelphia Brewers.”
“Tell me all about it, brother.”