At the 1897 National League Owners meeting, Edward C. Becker is pictured with St. Louis Browns’ owner Chris Von der Ahe. Becker had loaned Von der Ahe money for the baseball team and was often referred to as his angel.
Becker was named a director of the St Louis Browns Club in 1894 and then became a partner in 1898.
In March 1899, Becker purchased shares of the team’s corporation at auction and later that month bought the team outright amid a court battle over Von Der Ahe’s bankruptcy. Becker assured the courts he would be accepted by National League owners.
Shortly after his purchase, Becker struck a partnership deal with the Robison brothers of Ohio. The Becker-Robison deal included equal share of the St Louis team. “The statement already made that Mr. Robison holds a slight excess of stock, just enough to give him control, is not correct. Mr. Becker and Mr. Robison hold share and share alike in the new corporation,” as reported by Sporting Life on April 8, 1899.
The deal included a team exchange between St Louis Browns and Cleveland Spiders. St. Louis had great fans and a dismal team (the Browns) while the Cleveland team had a smaller fan-base but a solid team. For the next two years, St. Louis fielded Hall of Famers Jessie Burkett, Bobby Wallace and baseball’s number one all-time pitcher, Cy Young.
Becker’s ownership of the team made the front page of Sporting Life magazine as well as the front page of the sports section of the St Louis Post Dispatch where Becker is drawn holding a platter of players he is serving up to the St Louis fans.
The newly transplanted Cleveland players refused to play under the name “Browns” because they did not want to be associated with the former players’ reputations as mean-spirited and obnoxious. Management started the season as “the Saint Louis” but the team was dubbed the Perfectos within the first few weeks. Those weeks entertained the St Louis fans starting the season with 7 straight wins and going 19-6 in their first 25 games. Until 2015, that Cardinal record had not been matched.
During the 1899 season, with the Perfectos dressed in bright red stockings and letters of “ST. LOUIS” across their chest, a female fan was heard stating, “What a lovely shade of Cardinal [red] they are wearing” and the moniker “Cardinals” was born. The following year, 1900, the team stepped out of the dugout on opening day as the St Louis Cardinals.
St Louis Daily Globe Democrat
March 28, 1899
April 15, 1899
April 15, 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.||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’s Blessings.
Becker maintained his ownership until 1917 when the corporation was dissolved.
Photo of 1899 Perfectos Discovered
This is the only known photo of Cy Young and the entire 1899 Perfectos team in their St Louis uniform. The photo was discovered in a Becker family home in the 1990s. A copy was submitted to the St Louis Cardinals Museum and is on display in the Perfectos section.
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 was the first, accurate view of the uniforms worn by the team so the historical record of uniforms can now be corrected. Prior to this photo, assumptions of the jersey lettering and hat-style had been incorrect.
A good resource online regarding early days of St Louis Baseball is the This Game of Games blog.
Gary and Oliver Kodner’s New Book
In 2017 a book written by Oliver and Gary Kodner accentuates E.C. Becker’s involvement in the early years of St Louis professional baseball. The book is entitled St Louis Cardinals Uniforms and Logos 1882-2016.
The book is available exclusively from the Cardinals Museum.