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Elsie Lombard

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Elsie Boyd Lombard Brush

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Elsie Lombard was the second wife of New York Giants owner John Brush, one of the most powerful men in baseball at the start of the 20th century. Brush and his first wife, Margaret Agnes Ewart separated in the early 1880s when Brush was living in Indianapolis, IN where he owned the largest department store between New York and Chicago, and would eventually own the Indianapolis Hoosiers of the National League. Margaret died in 1888, leaving Brush free to remarry.

Elsie was the only child of a well-to-do Baltimore, MD family; her father encouraged her to pursue her love of the theater, and while still a teenager, she was already playing lead parts in major productions. Brush caught one of her performances in 1894 and immediately became smitten with her, leading to their marriage that same year. Brush was a wealthy man, but was twice his second wife's age and had caught syphilis at some point after becoming estranged from his first wife. He was already suffering some of the painful ill effects of the disease, which would plague him for the remainder of his life. Brush's eldest daughter, Eleanor Brush, born in 1871, was barely two years younger then her stepmother! In fact, Eleanor got married the same year to Harry Hempstead, who would become Brush's right-hand man.

Lombard gave birth to daughter Natalie in 1896 and became one of the most celebrated hostesses in Indianapolis at the time. With Hempstead literally running the store, Brush could concentrate on his next goal, taking over the ownership of the New York team, of which he had been a minority owner since 1890. He had been a frequent opponent of Giants owner Andrew Freedman in the past, but the two began to collaborate, setting up Brush as a potential successor. When Freedman became distracted by other business obligations, Brush sold his interests in the Cincinnati Reds in order to raise the cash to buy him out, getting control of the franchise in 1902. Part of the ploy involved gutting the rival American League's Baltimore Orioles, who were scheduled to move to New York the following season, of their best players. Elsie played a key role in that move, serving as the intermediary between Brush and disgruntled Orioles manager John McGraw. McGraw soon bolted the Orioles to join the Giants, and was followed by star players Roger Bresnahan, Joe McGinnity and Joe Kelley, all four future Hall of Famers.

When the already quite ill Brush was felled by an automobile accident shortly after the Giants' win in the 1912 World Series, he appointed his son-in-law Hempstead as acting team President and headed to the West Coast in the hope of regaining his strength. He would never make it, dying while traveling by train through Missouri on November 25th. His property was divided in three equal parts, one to his daughter Eleanor, one to Elsie and one to younger daughter Natalie. With Natalie still a minor, it meant that Brush's ex-wife in effect controlled two-thirds of the team. She decided to let Hempstead run things, however, and he, in turn, left all baseball decisions to McGraw as the team continued to prosper over the next few years. Following the costly conflict with the Federal League and the 1918 season that was shortened by World War I, Hempstead decided it was time to sell the team, though. He convinced Elsie and her daughter to go along, but, surprisingly, it was Eleanor who resisted and kept her share while the two other women sold their stock to Charles Stoneham in 1919. Eventually, Eleanor sold out too, but only in 1924.

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