A St. Louis paper says that the object of getting up a new league is to get the opportunity to sell beer and spirits on the ground and to play match games on Sunday in St. Louis and Cincinnati, in both of which cities Sunday playing is a regular rule. As the league prohibit both Sunday playing and beer selling, they could not enjoy themselves in the league and so Cincinnati left it.
-Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 6, 1881
They make drinking a beer at the ballpark on a Sunday afternoon sound like a bad thing when, in fact, it's one of the greatest pleasures in life.
A St. Louis paper says that the object of getting up a new league is to get the opportunity to sell beer and spirits on the ground and to play match game on Sunday in St. Louis and Cincinnati, in both of which cities Sunday playing is a regular rule. As the league prohibits both Sunday playing and beer selling, they could not enjoy themselves in the league...
Beer at the ballpark and Sunday baseball, along with twenty-five cent tickets, were the cornerstones of Von der Ahe's plan to successfully establish major league baseball in St. Louis. Last week, I mentioned that the per capita income in Missouri, in 1880, was around $150 and that lowering ticket prices from fifty cents to twenty-five cents opened up a new market for baseball in St. Louis by making games affordable for the working class in the city. Beer and Sunday baseball also were important in appealing to this potential customer base.
Von der Ahe, by lowering ticket prices, left a bit of money in the pockets of his working class fans and he then offered them something to buy with this money. More importantly, he offered them something they wanted. Between 1865 and 1880, per capita consumption of beer in the United States more than doubled, growing from 3.4 gallons of beer per person to 8.2 gallons, and it would continue to rise throughout the rest of the century, reaching 15 gallons by 1895. Von der Ahe was more than willing to sell the German and Irish St. Louis working class a bottle of lager beer at his ballpark and, with the lower ticket prices he was offering, they had a bit of money to purchase it.
Sunday baseball was just as important as low ticket prices and beer in getting the St. Louis working class out to the ballpark. The eight-hour day and the five-day workweek was something that the working class was still fighting for in the 1880s and it wouldn't be until well into the 20th century that most workers enjoyed those rights. Major league baseball, before the American Association, was being played during the day, Monday through Saturday, when most people were at work. The American working class, during this period, was unable to see baseball played at the highest level. If you were only making $150 dollars a year, when you're working six days a week and ten hours a day, you weren't going to take a day off to go see a ballgame. Von der Ahe wanted to schedule games when the majority of people would be able to see them and that was on Sunday.
I believe that what Von der Ahe did, in creating a new major league with lower ticket prices, selling beer at the ballpark, and scheduling games on Sunday, was to create a new baseball market. He expanded his potential customer base by marketing the game to the St. Louis working class. This experiment succeeded beyond Von der Ahe's wildest dreams and that's something we're going to talk about later this week.
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