by Frank Hyde
December 28, 1946
Jack Harper Held Out Against Herrmann And Became First Player Cut In On Sale
“That,” he said putting his hand up on the frame, “is the first St. Louis team in the American League when it was formed in 1901.”
It might be well to pause here and give a thumbnail sketch of the National and American Leagues for the edification of the younger generation and also to show the part the Jamestown man played in the “pioneering” of baseball.
The National League was formed in 1876 and consisted of eight teams, Chicago, Boston, Hartford, Brooklyn Mutuals and Philadelphia Athletics, in the East and St. Louis, Cincinnati, Louisville and Chicago in the West. In 1892 the circuit changed from to eight to 12 teams following the disbanding of the American Association at the end of the 1891 season. The lineup now consisted of Boston, New York, Philadelphia Baltimore, Brooklyn and Washington in the East and Chicago, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Louisville and Cincinnati in the West.
Thus the National League went along without opposition until 1900 when Ban Johnson, leader of the Western circuit, changed the name to the American League and demanded recognition. The Nationals refused flatly and did not yield until 1901, bringing about the formation of the two loops as we know them by name today although the roster has changed many times in both circuits.
Jump to Brownies
The picture Harper stood before was the St. Louis entry in the new circuit. The players sporting the conventional “choker” collars, button shoes and middle hair part of the day lounged and stood in street clothes. Harper stands perkly in the last row.
When the American League was formed Harper and six others jumped to the new circuit, catching on with the Browns. The Cards immediately got out an injunction and the players went to court prepared to fight their case with one of the top attorneys of their day, Governor Johnson of Minneapolis, handling the defense. The Card claims were tossed out of the court.
In 1902, St. Louis was beaten by Philadelphia by one game, the closest a St. Louis American League team ever came to winning the bunting until the modern Brownies coped the A.L. flag.
After serving for two years with the Browns, Harper received “feelers” from Cincinnati. The Red Stockings finally coming out with a good bonus and two-year contract offer. Harper took the jump to Cincy and remained with the Red Stockings through the 1902 to 1906 seasons.
In 1904 he again won 23 and lost eight. His record that season also included two ties and nine shutouts.
Ned Hanlon took over as manager of the Reds in 1906 and started a purge that eventually broke up the club.
Gets First Player Cut-In
One day Garrry Herrmann, owner of the Reds and a member of the First National Commission (1903-1920) called Harper into his office.
“Jack,” he said, “we have traded you to Chicago for two players, Hans Lobert and Bob Wicker.”
Manager Frank Chance of the Cubs had approached Harper earlier to ask him if he would play ball for Chicago in the event a deal were made, so the announcement came as no surprise to the lanky pitcher.
“What did you get in cash or on the side, Mr. Hermann?’ Harper queried.
“Not a dime, I told you it is a straight player deal,” Hermann answered bluntly.
“I don’t doubt your veracity Mr. Herrmann,” Harper persisted “but I don’t believe it is a straight deal and I am not reporting to Chicago.”
Turning his back he walked out, fully intending to quit baseball and return to Oil City where his brother operated a shoe store he controlled.
Hermann, with visions of one of the biggest deals of the day, falling through, finally called Harper into conference again and asked, “What will you take to go to Chicago?”
“Just $1000,” the hurler answered.
Turning to his secretary, Herrmann ordered “write out a check to Mr. Harper for $1000.”
That is how what is believed to be the first player cut-in on a sale price in history of organized ball came about.