In his book, The New York Giants Baseball Club, James Hardy wrote that the major problem with late 19th century baseball club owners was their failure to understand that while they may have owned the club, the team really belonged to the fans. The concept was most likely far too subtle for what were effectively a group of small businessmen who operated, if not nationwide, at least across a large area of the country. It was, after all, their money that built the ballparks which fans paid as little as a quarter to enter, to watch players who the owners also paid. Yet the wise magnate recognized that the cranks willingness to put down that quarter was, in fact, the final determination of the owner's success or failure, at least financially. Unlike today's game with multiple revenue streams, 19th century owners were at the mercy of one solitary spring that could dry up quickly in the space of one drought of wins. It was not a business for the financially faint of heart.
Cover of the Players' League Guide for the League's One and Only Season
John T. Brush
Unlike Chauncey who was born in Brooklyn and never left, both Linton and Goodwin were native New Englanders. Linton's father had been the associate editor of "The Liberator," the abolitionist newspaper founded by William Lloyd Garrison. Supposedly the younger Linton escaped from Charleston on the last boat in April of 1861, enlisted in the 11th Massachusetts and after the war founded the Unexcelled Fireworks Company in Brooklyn. Linton's description of his company as "unexcelled," suggests he wasn't troubled by excessive modesty. Severely injured in a fire at his factory, Linton sold the company and began developing real estate in the less than picturesquely named village of New Lots. Absorbed into Brooklyn in 1886, the area became Brooklyn's 26th Ward with the more seemly, but geographically unhelpful name of East New York. Supposedly in 1890, the time of the Brotherhood War, Linton "literally owned half of East New York." Perhaps not surprisingly for a real estate developer, Linton reportedly had "no trouble promoting himself or his causes" with a reputation of being "rather contentious and difficult at times," offending someone on almost a daily basis.
One of the challenges facing Linton's development efforts was East New York's relatively remote location. Helping overcome that obstacle beginning in 1888 was Wendell Goodwin, an executive of the Kings County Elevated Railroad which ran only one line, but "one of the most lucrative in Brooklyn," In 1891, the line carried almost 1.6 million passengers at a profit of $278,000 or about $5.5 million today. So with lead owners who were a real estate broker, a developer of East New York and a transportation executive, could there be any doubt where their new ball park would be located? Certainly not some place convenient to the fans, but in East New York, of course, generating more traffic for the subway line and hopefully increasing local real estate values. Taking no chances the three new magnates not only located the park in East New York, but built it on land owned by one of their real estate companies insuring rental income from their baseball investment regardless of the profitability of the team itself.
Brooklyn Player's League Club Team Picture
Brooklyn Daily Eagle - April 4, 1893 depicting the upcoming pennant race, but perhaps also capturing the difficulty for Charles Byrne of making Eastern Park work financially
Ferdinand Abell - Majority Owner and Unofficial Banker of the 1890's Brooklyn Teams
The Brooklyn team finally got rid of their unhelpful partners in late 1897 when Chauncey, acting as trustee for the minority shareholders, sold the entire interest to Charles Ebbets, who only a few weeks later would become club president upon the death of Charles Byrne. Although Chauncey doesn't seemed to have contributed much to major league baseball in Brooklyn, he and Ebbets became good friends with the former named as one of the trustees of a bequest from Ebbets' will to organize a memorial dinner on the Brooklyn magnate's birth anniversary, something Chauncey did until his own death a few years later. Having sold his interest, the Brooklyn real estate broker could do no further damage to major league baseball in Brooklyn. The problem with the Brooklyn Players' League owners was perhaps just as much in "their stars" as in "themselves." A few years after the Players' League war, the Eagle wrote that Linton promoted the team, "not that he was particularly interested in the sport,but it accomplished his end." Too many owners of that ilk would have killed major league baseball before it could be fully developed as a national business.