After some ill-advised decisions during the 1890-91 merger with the Brooklyn team of the Player's League, the Dodgers (or Bridegrooms as they were then known) fell on some hard times themselves so that at Byrne's death in early 1898, the team was doing poorly both on the field and at the box office. Taking over was 39 year old Charles Ebbets who, among other issues, had to decide where his club would prepare for the upcoming season. Unconvinced, as were other club owners at the time, of the benefits of a southern trip, Ebbets decided to compromise by heading south, but only as far as Allaire on the Jersey shore, a venture that was previously described at http://amanlypastime.blogspot.com/search?q=Allaire. Brooklyn was joined at New Jersey shore points by the Giants (Lakewood) and Phillies (Cape May), but bad weather quickly convinced the clubs that March in the Garden State was not a conducive atmosphere for getting ready for the long National League season.
First page of the Articles of Incorporation of the Brooklyn Baseball Club - courtesy New Jersey State Archives
Almost a decade earlier, however, the Dodgers formed a far more lasting New Jersey connection as part of the aforementioned merger. In 1890 fed up with their treatment by the owners, major league players formed a new league popularly known as the Players League which included a team in Brooklyn. Hurt by financial losses and intimidated by the National League magnates, the non-playing owners of the Player League teams threw in the metaphorical towel after one season, basically leaving the competing clubs in each city to work out their own settlement arrangements. In Brooklyn this took the form of the merger of the two teams into a new club where the Dodger owners would have the controlling interest. The merger necessitated the formation of a new corporation and given the favorable (read minimal government oversight) corporate laws in New Jersey, the Brooklyn Dodgers became a New Jersey corporation supposedly operating out of a headquarters in Jersey City. Learning this while researching my biography of Charles Ebbets, it occurred to me that no matter how small the degree of state control, there were probably some reporting requirements. Checking with the New Jersey State Archives confirmed that the incorporation documents as well as close to 20 years of annual reports were still on file in Trenton.
Ned Hanlon about 1887
On the surface the documents appear to be little more than a dry record of club officers, directors and general corporate policies, but they also illustrate some important periods in the club's history especially the 1906-1907 fight for control between Ebbets and Ned Hanlon, the team's former manager. After Ebbets' disastrous inaugural 1898 season, the owners of the Brooklyn and Baltimore clubs came together to form a syndicate where the same people would own two major league clubs, allowing them to concentrate the best players on one team, in this case in Brooklyn which appeared to be the better market. Unthinkable today, syndicate ball in one form or another was popular at the end of the 19th century, but in this case while it proved initially successful on the field, it was only marginally so at the box office. To make matters worse, teams in the new American League began "stealing" Brooklyn players, shredding the Dodger roster and producing a losing club with a highly paid manager - Hanlon who was also, unfortunately for Ebbets, a stockholder. Ebbets drastically cut Hanlon's salary at the beginning of the 1905 season when the Dodger manager had few alternatives forcing him to grudgingly accept Ebbets demands. Although Ebbets supposedly told Hanlon that he too was taking a cut, it appears Ebbets actually increased his own salary understandably infuriating Hanlon.
1906 Annual Report of the Brooklyn Baseball Club - courtesy New Jersey State Archives
To no one's surprise, Hanlon left Brooklyn for Cincinnati for the 1906 season, but he was far from finished with Ebbets. When it came time for the club's annual meeting that fall, required by New Jersey law, Ebbets, his son and Henry Medicus were all re-elected to the team's board of directors. Hanlon and majority owner Ferdinand Abell immediately insisted the three men were not eligible to serve on the team's board because they had failed to submit the required report of the 1905 annual meeting to the Secretary of State's office in Trenton. A review of the reports on file in the state archives did not turn up the 1905 report suggesting that the claim, although a technicality, was accurate. Hanlon and Abell also argued that Ebbets $10,000 annual salary was far in excess of the $4,000 limit mandated in the governing documents and confirmed by the above image. Ebbet's never denied this, instead offering the absurd explanation that in addition to being club president, he was also the manager and, as also stated in the by-laws, was entitled to the higher amount. While that may have been technically correct, it's wasn't right since the club had a manager, one Patsy Donovan. Ebbets claim led the Chicago Sunday Times to wonder whether Donovan was manager or "bat boy or a water cooler."
Charles Ebbets in his prime
Again to no one's surprise, the two recalcitrant owners quickly followed up their claims with a series of lawsuits. While the salary dispute was a problem, the real threat came from the board eligibility issue since if that claim was upheld, Hanlon and Abell could take over the club and move it to Baltimore. It was not a good time for Ebbets especially considering that, as per usual, he didn't have access to a lot of money. But the Brooklyn owner was nothing if not resourceful. Recognizing that Abell would be the more receptive of the two to a settlement, he somehow got the majority owner to accept $20,000 for his interest, shockingly in the form of $500 down and the rest to be paid over a period of years. With Abell satisfied, Hanlon was in a far weaker position, leading the future Hall of Fame manager to accept $10,000, apparently in cash, a good portion of which Ebbets financed from back salary once he could again draw the higher $10,000 salary. The 1906-07 crisis was just one of several times that Ebbets with his back to the wall was able to negotiate his way out of a tight place until finally in 1919 with the advent of Sunday baseball, the Dodgers became a highly profitable franchise. A few years before that when Ebbets, again in financial trouble, took on the McKeever brothers as partners, the club was re-incorporated in New York. But the team's long connection to the Garden State is preserved for history in the New Jersey State Archives.