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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Dec 18, 2023

Back in the 1880s, one super-fan of baseball named Henry Lucas decided there should be more sporting options in St. Louis, and so he started his own team. In fact, he started his own baseball league to compete with the National League and the American Association. Thus was born the Union Association League and The St. Louis Maroons, prompting the St. Louis Browns owner to declare "war." Just press play to hear the whole story. ------

Click on search links to see if there are episodes with related content:  Darby Ratliff, Baseball, Sports, Competition, Business, Pastimes and Leisure, -------


Podcast Transcript: I’m Darby Ratliff, a researcher with the Missouri Historical Society, and Here’s History on eighty eight one, KDHX. ------

St. Louis is a city of baseball super-fans, and the 1880s were no different. At that time, fans ran to Sportsman’s Park to watch the St. Louis Browns. ------

But for a few years in the 1880s, St. Louis had more than one baseball team, all because one St. Louis super fan started his own team. ------

Henry Lucas came from the wealthy Lucas family. In 1884, he started the Union Association, an alternative to the two existing major leagues, the American Association and the National League. He then funded the St. Louis Maroons to play in it. ------

The Maroons finished first with a twenty-one game lead in the 1884 Union Association season and technically giving St. Louis its first championship in baseball. Chris Von der Ahe, owner of the St. Louis Browns furiously launched what is known as the “Union Baseball War” to compete with the new team’s popularity. ------

But the Union Association folded after just one season, and the Maroons were given special permission to enter the National League. An agreement existed between the National League and the American Association—in which the Browns played— stating that no city could have two teams. Because of this, it’s more than likely that Henry Lucas had to pay a pretty penny to Chris Von der Ahe to get around this regulation and have his team admitted to the National League.  ------

The Maroons did not live up to their Union Association hype, finishing last in both the 1885 and 1886 National League seasons and going from an 83% win rate in 1884 to under 40% in both of their seasons. As a result, Henry Lucas was devastated financially, lost much of his property, and ended up working for the city’s Street Department. ------

The Browns would continue to gain fans, winning the American Association championship in 1885. While the World Series didn’t exist until 1903, an earlier version of it saw the American Association champions go head to head with the National League champions. In the 1886 matchup, the St. Louis Browns brought home the win against the Chicago White Stockings. ------

By the start of the 1900s, those championship Browns would officially be known as the St. Louis Cardinals.  ------

Here’s History is a joint production of KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. I’m Darby Ratliff, and this is eighty-eight one, KDHX St. Louis.