Our Cardinal History

Becker Family and St Louis Baseball

(Ben & Jack’s Great-Great-Grandfather is E. C. Becker)

At the 1897 National League Owners meeting, Edward C. Becker is pictured with St. Louis Browns’ owner Chris Von der Ahe. The back row is Edward Becker (far left), Chris Von der Ahe (second from left), and Frank De Hass Robison (fourth from left). Becker had loaned Von der Ahe money for the baseball team over a decade earlier and was often referred to as his angel. The debt was not paid and Becker bought the team in 1899. Shortly after that, Becker struck a partnership deal with the Robison brothers of Ohio.

The deal included a team exchange because St. Louis had great fans and a dismal team (the Browns) while the Cleveland team had a dismal fan-base but a great team. That year’s St. Louis team included Hall of Famers’ Cy Young, Jessie Burkett, and Bobby Wallace.

The newly transplanted Cleveland players refused to play under the name “Browns” because of the former players’ reputation as mean-spirited and obnoxious. Management changed the name to “the Saint Louis.” Later that year due to pressure from the media, the team was dubbed “the Perfecto’s.” The story goes that a fan stated, “What a lovely shade of [Catholic] Cardinal red they are wearing” and the infamous name “Cardinals” was born.

St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat – March 28, 1899

Edward C. Becker, St. Louis’ new baseball magnate, who is vice-president of the American Baseball and Athletic Exhibition Company of St. Louis, the organization which has gained league recognition as the successor of Sportsman’s Park and Club, returned to St. Louis last night from New York, where he was in attendance at the special meeting of the National League magnates, called for last Friday to settle the St. Louis muddle.

St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat – April 15, 1899

Never in the history of the sport, not even in the days of the old champion Brown Stockings, has the St. Louis public shown as much interest in baseball as it has evinced since Frank De Haas Robison and Edward C. Becker became joint owners of the local franchise and placed Patsy Tebeau and his crack team on the home diamond.

The parade, always a feature of the opening day, was started shortly before 10 o’clock. Following the Master of Ceremonies and the team was a long line of carriages. In the first vehicle were Frank DeHaas Robinson, Edward C. Becker and M. Stanley Robison. All along the line of march the party was cheered. Huge bouquets were presented Mr. Robison and Mr. Becker when passing Gaylord & Blessing’s.

According to family records, Becker maintained his minority ownership until 1917.

Photo of 1899 Cardinals before Opening Day

Back: Ed McKean, Cy Young (HOF), Chief Zimmer, Cowboy Jones, Jack Powell

 Ossie Schreckengost, Nig Cuppy, Cupid Childs, Manager Patsy Teabeau, Emmit Heidrick, Bobby Wallace (HOF), Zeke Wilson, Jake Stenzel

 Jack (Peach Pie) O’Connor, Herry Blake, Jessie Burkett (HOF), Frank Bates, Lou Criger

According to Jerry Vickery, co-author with Bob Broeg of St. Louis Cardinals Encyclopedia, this photo of the 1899 team is the only known photo of the players in a St Louis uniform…even more, the only photo of Cy Young with the team in uniform. The original photo was discovered in a Becker family home a few years ago and a negative was made. A copy was submitted to the Baseball Hall of Fame and the St Louis Cardinals Museum. A number of indicators in the photo allow for dating and historical information.

  • Photo was taken on or before opening day. Zimmer never played in a St Louis uniform because he was shipped back to Cleveland shortly after opening day.
  • Team uniforms are no longer speculation. This is the first, accurate view of the uniforms worn by the team so the historical record of uniforms can now be corrected (jersey lettering and hat-style had differences).

A good resource online regarding early days of St Louis Baseball and E.C. Becker is the This Game of Games blog

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