Altoona Mountain City

History


In the early 1880s, Altoona had a thriving amateur baseball reputation, which it still enjoys. In 1883, a group of sixteen local businessmen, headed by Arthur Dively and William Ritz, formed a semipro team that traveled the Commonwealth taking on other teams. The team included numerous players destined for major league time, most notably George "Germany" Smith. The team drew 1600 fans per game from a fan base of 25,000 people.

At the conclusion of the 1883 season, Dively and Ritz had joined the Inter-State Association, but in February 1884, half the teams jumped to the Eastern League. Altoona, sensing the ISA was a sinking ship, tried to follow, but were denied.
Then the amazing happened. They were invited to join the new Union Association, in the major leagues. Henry Lucas gave out that the Pennsylvania Railroad was going to back the team, but this was not the case.
Altoona's railroad connection was a consideration. The city made an excellent stopove between the eatern and western cities in the association. The same local owners remained in control

Money was problem from the beginning, and the owners sold shares for $1.00 a share. Still, half the start up money was provided bt Henry Lucas, $2500. Of their initial bankroll of $5000, the team spent $1000 on clothes. Each player received two uniforms, traveling suits, and brown derbies. The teams was one of the best dressed in the association, and the Altoona Tribuna declared the looked like "dudes".

Fitting Altoona into the Schedule was difficult. They played their first seven games were on the road and they lost them all. By the time the team returned to Columbia Park, they were in distress. In 8 games against St. Louis they made 52 errors. Attendance dropped so dramatically that although the average was over 1000, some games were watched by as few as 200, even after women were admitted free. There were no lights at Columbia Park, and law forbid playing on sundays. The working man could not take time from his six day a week schedule to go to games. The team was unable to meet its payroll and the players began to leave for other teams. The owners paid the players what was owed and disbanded the team on May 29, 1884 with a 6-19 record.

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