Saturday, April 25, 2015

April 25, 1925, Prohibition Meets Baseball In St. Louis

     On April 25, 1925, a group of Reds fans known as the "Royal Rooters", along with the President of the Reds organization Garry Herrmann were formally charged for illegally transporting alcohol to the Statler Hotel in St. Louis. The day before they had been raided, and while no arrests were made charges had been filed. The Prohibition Era tale was an interesting one that happened to take place in the midst of Cardinal Nation

     The Prohibition Era lasted from 1920 to 1933, but as we all know that did not stop America from drinking at all. In fact, it simply made it so that people had to find unorthodox ways of obtaining and shipping their liquor. The group of fans that traveled with the Reds was said to be at least 100 members strong. They went town to town, watched their club play ball, then lived it up in the hotels thereafter. They made no secret of having a Pullman car reserved on the team's train for all of their "supplies" that may have included "real beer." Although, nobody would admit they knew anything about any real beer, even though they had empty barrels next to them. It was rather hilarious.

     The Reds were in town for a four game set, and it seem that the group that tagged along had more than enough food, as they were seen unloading 25 barrels labeled "sauerkraut." 13 of those 25 were said to have "real beer" in them, which was a violation of the law. At the time anything over .5% was illegal, and this group of fans had beer with them that was 4.5%. That would be close to a standard Bud Light today.  Five days after the article in the first picture was published The Sporting News reported that seven had been charged, which included the Reds President. Six months to the date of the raid in St. Louis, Herrmann and company were cleared of all charges. This came after Federal agents admitted they did not have search warrants for the seizure. Herrmann and the Royal Rooters got the last laugh, and they probably toasted to the triumph with a glass of real beer.

     Prohibition ended in 1933. The St. Louis institution known as Budweiser survived a number of ways. They produced 25 different non-alcohol related products. From soft drinks to ice cream. Anything to survive. I recently have been working on a project that revolves around vintage ads, which led me to finding the Budweiser ad in a newspaper from 1922, which proclaims it was the process not the alcohol content that made people enjoy their beer. The company was doing what it had to do to survive during the time, and that they did. The Prohibition Era was a very interesting time in America. I would imagine corruption ran rampant  throughout America and those with money could easily get what they wanted, then pay whatever fines they incurred. It is only speculation on my part, but there is a good chance that Herrmann shook the right hand, and had a stack of money slip into it.

Some interesting facts about the Statler Hotel: It sits at 822 Washington Avenue, and today it is known as the Renaissance Grand Hotel. It opened its doors in 1917 and was the nation's first air conditioned hotel. At the time it was one of the finest hotels in the land. It is likely that a lot of visiting athletes enjoyed a night in those air conditioned rooms, as well as all kinds of other people who were passing through what was then referred to as the Mound City. The hotel changed hands and names through the years before being closed for renovation in 1987. It took more than a decade for that renovation to begin in 1999. The Renaissance Grand reopened their doors in 2002. If you ever pass the place just think of the day that a prohibition era raid interrupted a handful of Reds fans day.

You can read about the hotel and view pictures of it through the years here:

In full disclosure: I originally wrote this blog under the assumption that the raid happened on April 25th. As I researched it I realized that it happened on the 24th due to the date on the article that was published in The Evening Independent out of St. Petersburg, Florida on April 25, 1925. It did happen in the evening, so there is a chance that it happened after the clock struck 12. I found the story to be so interesting I decided to publish it. I do assume that the charges were formally filed on the 25th, but that is purely an assumption because I did not see an article Stating that with my own eyes, but since I do know that the group was formally cleared of the charges I do believe that is a safe assumption.

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