Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Record Of Which They May Well Be Proud

In November of 1875, as the St. Louis Red Stockings were wrapping up their season, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, a notorious pro-Reds paper, provided a look back on the season. While modern reference material have the Reds finishing at 4-15, the Globe reported that the Reds had played 18 championship games with a record of 4-14. Sadly, they did not give the Reds' record in non-NA games.

The article reported that the Reds planed to hold a meeting on November 8th at the Laclede Hotel in St. Louis, with the intention "to place a Centennial nine in the field, composed entirely of home talent..." The Globe was well aware of the machinations that were taking place leading to the end of the NA and the birth of the NL. They believed that, when reorganized, the Reds would be the class of "the second tier" of teams, those left out of the NL.

As to the season just past, the Globe stated that "the Red Stockings made a record of which they may well be proud. The nine, with the exception of Sweasy, the veteran who 'coached' them during the early part of the season, was made up of St. Louis players...had they been properly treated by the leading clubs, they would have stood better at the close of the season..." The Globe had complained all season about the way the Reds had been treated by the Eastern powers as well as by Chicago and the Brown Stockings.

Their main point of contention was that the powers would not schedule games with the Reds. They believed that the Reds should have gotten agreements about the schedule in the early part of the season and thought it a mistake to begin the season without scheduling commitments from Eastern teams. The Globe also had some unkind words about the Brown Stockings and their refusal to schedule more than two games with the Reds.

This is an interesting take on events being that most modern accounts of the 1875 season state that the Reds never had any intention of going on an Eastern road trip and they existed as a Western co-op team simply to give Eastern teams another opponent in the West. This contemporary account by the Globe contradicts that interpretation. The Globe states that the Reds would have gone East in 1875 if they could have scheduled the games. Essentially, the Globe's position was that the Eastern teams ignored the Reds and didn't want them in their parks.

The Globe also believed that it would have been better for all involved if the Reds had remained an amateur club. "Each amateur organization is allowed one professional for training purposes, and, had the boys not entered for the whip pennant, they would have been the champion amateur club of the country. St. Louis can, without a doubt, get together a finer team of non-professionals than any other city in the Union."

The Globe believed, given the competitive nature of the Reds' games against the "clubs of first class" and their winning record against the NA's second division, that if the Reds had consolidated the amateur talent in St. Louis for the purpose of competing for the amateur championship rather than the professional championship then the Reds would have been the best amateur team in the country. Regardless of whether this is true or not, I think this reflects the heavy bias in St. Louis in favour of amateur baseball.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

More On Packy Dillon

While researching Packy Dillon, I was convinced that I had identified Dillon in the 1880 census. You can find my reasoning in this post. One of the main reasons that I believed Patrick Dillon to be the son of James and Ellen Dillon, besides the fact that they had a son named John and they were of the appropriate age, was that both the Patrick Dillon family and the James Dillon family were listed next to each other in the 1880 census. I assumed that this implied a family relationship.

The interesting thing is that I probably have the right guy but I got the family wrong. Based on an e-mail conversation with Peter Morris and Jason Christopherson, it is almost certain that the Patrick Dillon in the 1880 census is Packy Dillon. However, it's just as certain that this Dillon is the son of John and Alicia Dillon, not James and Ellen Dillon.

In the 1860 census, there is an entry for a James Dillon, a 36 year old butcher who was born in Ireland and living in St. Louis. James was married to the 26 year old Alicia Dillon, who was also born in Ireland, and the two had six children: Stephen (already living on his own in 1860), Edward (age 17), James (12), John (10), Patrick H. (8), and Mary E. (2). I had seen this entry in the census and believed that this Patrick Dillon was the second best candidate after the 1880 census Dillon. It turns out that they're the same person. Patrick H. Dillon is the Patrick Dillon of the 1880 census. Patrick H. Dillon is almost certainly Packy Dillon of the Reds.

Patrick H. Dillon died in July of 1902 and is buried at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis. In the same cemetery lot is James Dillon, Edward Dillon, Mary Dillon Clark, and Alicia Mullen. This is the Dillon family from the 1860 census. Alicia Dillon remarried after the death of James and her second husband, Alexander Mullen, is buried in the lot. Also burried in the lot are two children who died in November of 1877 and are listed as "twins of Patrick Dillon".

Peter Morris found a death record for the twins in the Missouri Archives that list the twins as the children of Patrick and Martha Dillon. The twins prove that Patrick Dillon of the 1880 census is Patrick H. Dillon of the 1860 census. It also proves that Packy Dillon most likely died in St. Louis in 1902 and not in Guelph, Ontario in 1890. Jason's research leads one to conclude that the baseball playing Dillon who died in Guelph was Andrew Dillon not Packy Dillon. Both were catchers of an approximate age and their information was most likely confused when the Baseball Encyclopedia was put together.

One of the keys linking Patrick H. Dillon to Packy Dillon is Patrick H.'s wife Martha F. Dillon. In the 1880 census, Martha F. is listed as having been born in Ohio. It's known that Dillon was in the Cincinatti area in 1875, playing for the Covington Stars. In the death notice of one of her children, Martha's maiden name is listed as Baggot and in the 1860 census Martha Baggot, age 1, is living in Cincinnati with her family. On the Civil War pension card of Martha Baggot's father, Francis Baggot, a Martha F. Dillon is listed. So it seems that Patrick Dillon met Martha while playing with Covington, won her hand, and took her home to St. Louis.

Patrick and Martha Dillon were married in 1876 and had six children: the twins who died in 1877, Edward (born around 1880), Loyola (@ 1885), Marie (@1886), and Jerome (@1888). Patrick, along with his brothers, was working as a butcher until around 1879. After that he was a vegetable peddler at least through the late 1880. After that his occupation is unknown. Peter believes that Dillon gave up baseball after the birth of the twins in 1877.

Martha Dillon lived a long life, passing away sometime in 1931 or 1932. She and her children lived on a farm on Lemay Ferry Road in St. Louis. She's listed as a farmer as early as 1909 so it's possible that Patrick Dillon bought a farm sometime in the late 1880's or early 1890's.

After seeing the records from Calvary Cemetary, the census data on Martha Baggot Dillon, and the death record of the Dillon twins, I have no doubt that Patrick H. Dillon is Packy Dillon.

I'd like to thank both Peter Morris and Jason Christopherson for their time, effort, and help. They both unselfishly shared their research on Packy Dillon with me and I very much appreciate it.

George Munson

George Munson was a prominent baseball man in the late 19th century. A sports writer, the secretary and manager of the St. Louis Browns during their championship run, and an entrepreneur, Munson was described by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as “more nearly an institution than an individual…”

Munson was born in Iowa in 1861 and entered Cornell University in 1876. According to the Cornell Alumni News, Munson took “an optional course and did not graduate.” Leaving the university in 1879, he moved to St. Louis and took a job as a sports writer with the St. Louis Republican where he worked with David Reid.

In 1885, Reid was working for the Post-Dispatch and had taken a job as secretary of the St. Louis Browns. In the late afternoon on May 1st, Reid became ill and went to the house of his friend Munson to lie down. He never recovered and died the next evening at the age of 37. Munson replaced his friend as secretary and manager of Chris Von der Ahe’s Browns.

Described by the Post-Dispatch as “the business head of the organization,” Munson would see the Browns to four consecutive championships from 1885 to 1888. He was involved in every facet of the team from player procurement to selling advertising space on the outfield wall.

In October of 1887, according to the New York Times, Munson was in New York to arrange games at Washington Park in Brooklyn and at the Polo Grounds between the Browns and their NL champion opponents, Detroit, as part of the “world’s championship” series. When asked how he felt about his team’s chances after they had dropped two of the first three games, Munson said, “Will our boys win? Well, to prove what I think about the matter I have a well filled wallet that I am willing to risk on the result.” Regardless of Munson’s confidence, the Browns lost the fifteen game series ten games to five.

Munson had a rather tumultuous relationship with Von der Ahe, which given the character of Der Boss President is not exactly surprising. The Post-Dispatch wrote that Munson and Von der Ahe “were estimated to have quarreled four times a day-that is, (Von der Ahe) did the quarrelling and…Munson did the work.” Von der Ahe certainly did admire and appreciate the work that Munson did for the Browns, at least after Munson had moved on. Der Boss never found another employee who could compare to Munson and referred to him, simply, as “the best”.

Munson was elected as the first president of the Base Ball Reporters Association of America. The group was formed in 1897, according to Harold Seymour in Baseball: The Early Years, “for the purpose of bringing about a standard method of scoring games and to advance the interests of baseball through the press.”

In 1890, Munson had had enough of Von der Ahe’s drama and left the Browns to work with the new Players League. The New York Times reported in January of 1890 that “George Munson, late Secretary of the Browns, is busy getting things in shape for a Brotherhood ball club in St. Louis. He said today that he had $50,000 subscribed. He is negotiating with the Players League, and seems confident that St. Louis will be admitted to the circuit.” When his plans for a St. Louis team in the Players League fell through, Munson went to Chicago and took a job as secretary for the PL’s Pirates, who were managed by his old friend Charles Comiskey and had several other former Browns on the roster. In May of 1890, according to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, he was involved in a failed attempt to transfer either the Pittsburgh or Cleveland NL team to St. Louis.

In 1891, Munson was the editor of Reach’s Official American Association Base Ball Guide and was involved in raising stock for an American Association team in Cincinnati. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that year that Munson was working for the Cincinnati team as secretary and was a stockholder in the club. He also went back to work that year as a press agent and advisor for Von der Ahe, whom he would continue to work for until 1894.

It was in his capacity as advisor to Von der Ahe that Munson was involved in one of the more bizarre incidents in baseball history. According to the New York Times, in March of 1891, Munson, Von der Ahe, Von der Ahe’s attorney Walter McEntire, and Al Spink “called upon Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Estep to swear out a warrant, charging conspiracy” against Mark Baldwin. Baldwin, a big league pitcher with the Pittsburgh NL club, had been hired by the League to get AA players to jump their contracts and sign with NL clubs. Baldwin had targeted Browns ace Silver King and Columbus player Jack O’Connor, both of whom were living in St. Louis. While Estep saw “no ground for a criminal warrant”, Baldwin was eventually arrested and jailed on bribery charges. In The Beer & Whiskey League, David Nemec writes that “Von der Ahe then pulled strings to have the case delayed so that Baldwin would be detained indefinitely in St. Louis and would be unable to continue his poaching for the League.” “Baldwin,” according to Seymour, “did not like being thrown into a jail infested with cockroaches and bedbugs, and retaliated against Von der Ahe’s harassment with a suit for $20,000, charging false arrest and malicious prosecution. Four years later a jury awarded him $5,000.” The only good thing to come of this mess was that Pittsburgh, Baldwin’s employer, gained a permanent nickname. Because of their poaching of AA players, the Pittsburg National League Baseball Club would forever be known as the Pirates.

In the mid 1890’s, Munson was involved in attempts to sell the Browns. As Von der Ahe’s financial and personal life deteriorated into tragedy, Munson was unable to broker a deal that would save Der Boss’s empire. By 1894, the two parted ways for the final time.

After his time with the Browns, Munson was involved in numerous entrepreneurial ventures. The Post-Dispatch wrote that “…Munson dabbled in skating rinks, racetracks, theaters, newspapers, theater programs, dog shows, horse shows, and nearly every other variety of enterprise calculated to attract public attention. Most of his adventures were successful.”

Munson died of pneumonia on March 8, 1908, leaving behind a wife, Lizzie, and two children, Porter and Daisy. His obituary in the Post-Dispatch was rather glowing. “He knew more people than any other one man in St. Louis ,” it said, “and was known by more…When the question of how a broken-down baseball player or any other member of the fraternity was to be taken care of in life or in death came up, George Munson was the man relied on to get the necessary contributions. In every public charity he was always a busy figure.”

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Autobiography Of An Unimportant Person by Minnette Slayback Carper was published in 1937 and provides a picture of everyday life in late 19th century St. Louis. Minnette, pictured above, was born in St. Louis in 1868 and lived there until 1902. Her autobiography was based upon the diary that she had kept since 1870.

In April of 1888, the young Minnette Slayback met a "gentleman" of dubious morals who proposed a rather scandalous outing. "...(That) evening Paul Rossire, a friend of Talbot Simpson's came to call, with a letter of introduction," she wrote. "He was a very handsome chap, - startlingly good-looking, with very black hair and beard, and beautiful teeth that enhanced a humorous smile. Devoted to singing, and playing the piano; brought me a box of candy - quite astonished us by wanting us to go to the base-ball game. We did not know any women who went to a base-ball park! We would have to ask Mama."

There is no record in the autobiography of whether or not she took Mr. Rossire up on his offer. Given the shocked tone of the diary's entry, it's unlikely that Mr. Rossire ever got to first base with Minnette. One would have to assume that he struck out with the fetching Miss Slayback.

In all seriousness, Minnette Slayback Carper was a member of a rather wealthy and prominent St. Louis family. Her statement about not knowing any women who went to baseball games says more about her upper class, Victorian upbringing than it does about the popularity of baseball among 19th century women in general.

The Ball Game

I found this video over at American Memory, a Library of Congress website that "provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. " It's a 30 second film called "The Ball Game" that was produced by Thomas Edison in 1898. According to the American Memory website, "The Ball Game" was "(photographed) from one camera position behind home plate...(and) shows a baseball game in progress." Baseball Almanac states that the game was between two amateur teams from Newark, New Jersey.

You can download a better version of the film here.

The St. Louis Whites

The St. Louis Whites were, essentially, a minor league team for the St. Louis Browns. They played part of one season in the Western Association in 1888, compilling a record of 10-18 before dropping out of the league on June 20th. The Whites were owned by Chris Von der Ahe and managed by former St. Louis Red Tom Loftus. David Nemac writes in The Beer & Whiskey League that "(so) top-heavy were the Browns with raw and untested players in the spring of 1888 that Von der Ahe formed the St. Louis Whites as a kind of farm team..."

The cards posted above are from the Old Judge set and picture Whites' players Henry Hines, Harry Staley, Fred Nyce, and C. Alcott.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kid Baldwin

Clarence G. Baldwin, according to the June 1, 1889 edition of the Clipper, "first attracted attention as a player in 1881, when he was a member of the St. Louis Reds, a noted organization of the Mound City at that time." SABR's Biography Project essay on Baldwin seems to contradict this.

According to David Ball, "(the) young Baldwin began to play baseball after his family moved to St. Louis, where he attracted attention catching for a crack local club called the Stars. St. Louis journalist Al Spink would later remember picking up Baldwin, "a spare built lad of sixteen"...on a North St. Louis lot one Sunday to fill in when a visiting team of semiprofessionals called the Eckfords came in from Chicago without a battery."

The Reds Invade The Great White North

In the September 20, 1886 issue of The Sporting News, John Magner states that "the old Reds" played a game in London, Ontario against a team called the Tecumsehs. While he doesn't give a date for the game, Magner does say that Art Croft was still playing with the team at the time. Since Magner joined the Reds in 1876 and played for Cincinnati in 1879 and Croft was playing for the Brown Stockings in 1877, Indianapolis in 1878, and a co-op Browns team in 1880, the game was most likely played either in 1876 or in the early 1880's. Magner gives neither the date nor the score of the game

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Abraham Lincoln And Baseball

Technically, Abraham Lincoln, having nothing to do with the history of 19th century St. Louis baseball, is outside the purview of this blog. But I live across the river from St. Louis in Illinois, Abe Lincoln is our favorite son, and I feel like posting on our boy. Since it's my blog, I guess I can do what I want.

The picture posted above is a drawing called "Lincoln's Notification" and when I saw it, I vaguely remembered the story that went with it. I had heard the apocryphal story of how Lincoln was notified of his election while in the middle of a baseball game and knew I had read something about it. So I started digging and found a long piece on Lincoln and baseball in Baseball in Blue & Gray.

"While there is precious little evidence that Lincoln actually played, watched, or even paid attention to baseball," George Kirsch wrote, "nevertheless there are several tales that connect him to the sport. Certainly as president, Lincoln had ample opportunity to see a baseball game. Before, during, and after the (Civil War) baseball clubs competed on the President's Grounds near the White House in Washington D. C. In June 1865, just two months after his assassination, the New York Herald announced that a feature match would be played there in August between the Atlantics of Brooklyn and the Athletics of Philadelphia. That journal added that the slain president had "expressed a wish to see a game of the kind." Albert G. Spalding also contributed to the folklore of Lincoln and baseball. A few years after spinning his yarn about Doubleday and Cooperstown, Spalding claimed that he had received a letter describing the visit of a Republican committee that traveled to Springfield, Illinois to notify Lincoln of his selection as the party's nominee for the presidency. According to Spalding, the men found him "engaged in a game of Base Ball." When a messenger alerted him to the imminent arrival of the delegation, he replied: "Tell the gentlemen that I am glad to know of their coming; but they'll have to wait a few minutes until I make another base hit.""

Kirsch also quotes stories by Winfield Scott Larner and Frank Blair. Larner claimed that Lincoln and his son Tad had watched games played in Washington , "cheering with their fellow fans". Blair tells a great story about how Lincoln, during visits to his family, "loved to play town ball with the youngsters on the lawn."

In his book, Kirsch stresses how Organized Baseball attempted to tie together the Lincoln legend, baseball mythology, and American nationalism in an attempt to further the popularity of the game.

Bow Down To Your Machine Masters

I came home from work last night and my internet connection was down. Stupid Charter Communications. I have nothing good to say about those people. Anyway, since my machine masters wouldn't allow me to access my blog or the news or anything for that matter, I picked up the copy of David Nemac's The Beer & Whiskey League that's been sitting untouched on my desk for a few weeks and figured I'd read that while watching the Cards get smoked by the Brewers.

Within the first 35 pages, I found a few things that got me excited. First, was a reference to the Browns opening day game in 1882. According to Nemac, the umpire for that game was Charlie Hautz, former first baseman for the 1875 St. Louis Red Stockings. On page 27 of the book was a great team picture of the 1882 Pittsburgh Alleghenys and in the back row of the picture was Joe Battin, the former Brown Stocking who had been blacklisted in 1877. Best of all, on page 34, was a team picture of the 1879 Indianapolis Hoosiers that included Silver Flint, Trick McSorley, and Charlie Hautz. I have pictures of Flint and McSorley but I've never see one of Hautz.

For me, pictures are important. I have a tough time relating to these ballplayers based on nothing other than names, numbers, and words in a book but if I can put a face to the name then that person becomes real to me. I have an affinity for Trick McSorley simply based on his picture-he looks like somebody that I'd like (plus he's got the cool nickname).

Before last night, I could never get a handle on Charlie Hautz and when I'd talk about the players on the 1875 Reds, I'd always forget him. Now, because of the picture in Nemac's book, Hautz is a real person to me, I can visualize what he looks like, and that makes it easier for me to write about him.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Silver King

Since I already posted pictures of Caruthers and Foutz, I might as well do Silver King. When the subject of the greatest pitching staff of all time comes up, the St. Louis Browns of 1885-1888 have to be in the discussion. 1887 was the only year when Caruthers, Foutz, and King were all on the team together and each won 25 or more games. Tough to do better then that.

The card is from the 1887-1890 Old Judge series.

Dave Foutz

The above image of Dave Foutz comes from one of my favorite pieces of 19th century baseball memorabilia, the 1887/88 Scrapps set that was issued to celebrate the championship series between the St. Louis Browns and the Detroit Wolverines. According to Cycleback's Online Museum of Early Baseball Memorabilia, ""(little) is known about the orgins of these unusual cards. It was once incorrectly theorized that they were tobacco cards. Most likely they were 'punch-outs' from a kids album. The cards are die-cast and embossed, similar to the 1880's Team Player Die-Casts."

Parisian Bob Caruthers

The Allen & Ginter's World's Champions tobacco card set was released in 1887 and is considered the first significant card set issued. There were ten ballplayers in the 50 card set (which also included boxers, billiard players, wrestlers, and the like) and the cards were inserted in packs of Allen & Ginter cigarettes. A complete set of the ten ballplayers in the right condition is valued at over $78,000.

Above is the Bob Caruthers card.

A quick note: I want to welcome all the readers from Whiteyball to my little blog and thank Dustin for the link. Whiteyball is one of my favorite sites for info on all things Birds On The Bat.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Big Boys Come To Town

Through 1866, baseball in St. Louis was a local affair, with local amateur clubs vying for supremacy amongst themselves. That changed on July 22, 1867.

On that day the National Base Ball Club of Washington came calling and showed the local boys how it was done. The Nationals were in the middle of a historic three week tour of the Midwest, putting on a showcase for Eastern baseball, and visiting Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Rockford, and Chicago. On the tour, the only loss the Nationals suffered was to the Rockford club, who upset the Eastern power behind the pitching of the young Albert Spalding.

The St. Louis clubs didn't put up much of a struggle. On July 22nd, the Nationals defeated the Unions 113-26. The next day, they beat the Empires 53-26.

George Wright (pictured above) recalled both games. "It took us four and one-half hours to play the game (against the Unions), while the thermometer registered 104," he said. "The next day we beat the six innings..." Wright had the scores of the two games as 123-26 and 52-26.

The visit by the Nationals was precipitated by the Union club's membership in the NABBP in 1867. The Empire and Atlantic clubs joined in 1868 and the big boys kept coming to town. In 1868, the Nationals, the Union of Morrisania, the Excelsiors of Chicago, the Atlantics of Brooklyn, and the Buckeyes of Cincinnati all visited St. Louis for matches. Between 1869 and 1874, the visits continued, with the highlight being the two matches the Cincinnati Red Stockings played against the Unions and Empires on September 15th & 16th in 1869.

By the end of the 1874 season, St. Louis baseball supporters were tired of taking their lumps from the top teams in the nation. They were specifically sick of the beatings they were taking at the hands of the NA's Chicago White Stockings. These losses led directly to the formation of St. Louis' first two professional teams-the Reds and Brown Stockings-in 1875.

The St. Louis Blue Stockings

The Blue Stockings were, according to the Globe Democrat, "a crack colored organization" that played in St. Louis during the 19th century. The sources that I have mention that they were active in 1875 and were preparing for the 1876 season.

In November of 1876, the Blues formed a joint stock company and were in the process of obtaining operating funds for the centennial season. They had already raised $1000 and signed 11 players for 1876.

The players under contract for 1876 were Doug Grant (P), Phil Smith (C), Peter Hays (1B), George Taxlar (2B), Jim Bailey (3B), Henry Day (SS), Wm. Pitts (LF), George Jones (RF), Wm. Collins (CF), Wm. Richardson (Sub), and R. Sharp (Sub).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Joe Blong

One of the more interesting players in the history of 19th century St. Louis baseball, Joe Blong played a total of 136 games in the NA and the NL between 1875 and 1877. A pitcher and outfielder, Blong was college educated, a member of a politically influential family, and was expelled from three teams in three years for “dishonesty, desertion, and unfaithful conduct”. In November of 1877, he was officially blacklisted and never played another game in the major leagues.

Joseph Myles Blong, the son of Irish immigrants, was born in St. Louis on September 17, 1853. He and his brother Andrew attended the University of Notre Dame in the late 1860’s, where they were members of the baseball team. When Blong made his major league debut in 1875, he, along with Cap Anson, became the first Notre Dame alum to play in the big leagues. Blong was married to a woman named Mary in 1880 with whom he had four children (Joseph, Mae, John, and James). In the 1880 census, Blong listed his occupation as painter. He died in 1892 and is buried at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.

While details about his personal life are rare, much more is known about Blong’s baseball career. After his playing days at Notre Dame were over, Blong returned to St. Louis where he played on amateur teams with his brothers Andy and Tom. When the St. Louis Red Stockings entered the NA in 1875, Blong was added to a club that already included his two brothers as members. In the spring of 1875, as the Reds got ready for the season by playing various amateur teams and picked nines, Blong played first base, second base, the outfield, and pitched for the team. By the time the NA season began in May, Blong was selected as the Reds main pitcher.

The 1875 season was an eventful one for Blong. He certainly had a disappointing record on the mound, officially going 3-12 for the Reds with a 3.35 ERA and an ERA+ of 72. While his performance was certainly not what the Reds had been hoping for, Blong did throw a few gems that showed the potential he had as a pitcher. On May 11th, he held the Chicago White Stockings to six hits and one run in a 1-0 Reds loss. That game, according to Baseball, was the lowest scoring game in baseball history at the time. Also, on May 23rd, Blong threw a two hitter against the Keokuk Westerns. The Reds won 7-1 although the game, because it was played on a Sunday, did not count in the official standings.

On June 29, 1875, just five days before the Reds played their last NA game, Blong signed a contract with the Stars of Covington, Kentucky. The circumstances under which Blong left the Reds and joined the Stars are not exactly clear. While it’s possible that he simply left the team for greener pastures, most sources state that he was quietly expelled from the Reds on suspicion of crooked play. The St. Louis Globe Democrat, in an article on October 31, 1875, stated that Blong was kicked off the team for “hippodroming”.

However it happened, the Reds had lost their main pitcher to the Stars and ended their pursuit for the whip pennant. And while Blong was the first to leave the team, he was certainly not the last. Captain Charlie Sweasy soon left the sinking ship for Cincinnati. Blong was joined on the Covington club by Silver Flint, Packy Dillon, and Trick McSorley. It’s not known how these players all ended up in Covington. There is enough evidence to believe that McSorley had also been expelled from the team for crooked play and may have had no other options. It’s possible that a Covington official may have raided the Reds for players. Blong may have sowed dissension in the clubhouse and enticed several of his teammates to follow him to the Stars. It’s likely that all of these things played a role in splitting up the 1875 St. Louis Red Stockings.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Blong’s departure from the Reds is the role that his brother Andrew may have played. Andrew Blong was born in St. Louis in 1850 and had a long, successful political career in the city before his death in 1909. He served as a police commissioner, a member of the police board, and as chairman of the St. Louis Democratic Party Central Committee. An upstanding member of the community, Andy Blong was also a member of the Red Stockings Base Ball Club. He had played for the team in the past and, in 1875, represented the team at the 5th annual convention of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players in Philadelphia. While Mr. McNeary (possibly Tom McNeary), as club secretary, ran the day to day business of the club, Andy Blong was certainly involved in the management of the Reds. There are several sources that list him as Club President and another as Business Manager. Whatever his role, it’s likely that Andy Blong was involved in whatever decision the Reds made regarding the status of his brother.

While the rump Red Stockings soldiered on in St. Louis, Blong was in Kentucky with his new team and some of his old teammates. But the honeymoon in Covington didn’t last very long. In late September, Blong jumped from the Stars to W.B. Pettit’s Indianapolis club. Again the circumstances are less than clear. One source claims that Blong was expelled from the Stars on September 23rd for throwing a game against a Cincinnati team.

Was Blong expelled from both the Reds and the Stars in 1875 for throwing games? Blong certainly took a beating in the press in the off-season. An unnamed Reds official stated in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle that Blong would “not be eligible to play (with) any reputable club in the future” although he did play on a picked nine team against the Reds in November of 1875. That month, the Eagle chastised the St. Louis Brown Stockings for signing Blong for the centennial season and named Blong to their “all-rogue” team. The St. Louis Globe Democrat also chastised the Browns for signing Blong. While it’s possible that this sense of outrage was simply a result of Blong’s disregard for a contract, the Globe Democrat’s article from October 31st, that stated that Blong was expelled from both the Reds and the Stars for “hippodroming, must be taken seriously. The contemporary sources paint Blong as a scoundrel at best and, at worst, as a man lacking honesty and character. The red flags were certainly up.

Playing mostly in the outfield, Blong had an uneventful 1876 season for the Brown Stockings while enjoying his best year statistically. In 1877, he was named team captain. Captain Blong was not having a good year at the plate that year when the Brown Stockings went to Chicago in late August to take on the White Stockings. On August 24, 1877, Chicago beat St. Louis 4-3 in just another game in the dog days of the season. However, later that month, Blong and teammate Joe Battin were named by a group of Chicago and St. Louis gamblers as “willing partners” in the fix of the August 24th game. “Crooked play has been discovered in the St. Louis nine,” said an article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, “and a dispatch from St. Louis says that (Davey) Force, Battin, and Blong have been expelled with forfeited pay.” The scandal would lead to the blacklisting of Blong, Battin, Force, and teammate Mike McGeary in November of 1877.

Joe Blong’s big league career was over. Even though he was able to catch on with “the Springfield nine” in 1878 and was playing baseball with the Union Club of St. Louis as late as 1884, Blong would never again be allowed to play baseball in the major leagues. While the incidents with the Reds and Stars are open to interpretation, Blong was specifically named, by gamblers, in a fixing incident while with the Brown Stockings and would be persona non grata in Organized Baseball for the rest of his life.

The Union Vs. The Empire

"In late May of 1861 Wilkes' Spirit of the Times reported that the pitcher of the Union club of St. Louis planned to resign from his team to accept a commission in the Second Missouri Artillery after leading his team to victory in a championship match against a city rival, the Empire nine. According to the writer, 'the boys console themselves with the hope that the balls he will pitch at the foes of his country's flag, may be as successful in putting down their insolent presumption, as were those pitched against his civil opponents yesterday, in humbling the more honest pride of the former Champions of Base Ball in St. Louis.'" from George B. Kirsch's Baseball in Blue & Gray

A couple of thoughts:
  • The writer for the Spirit of the Times has a comma fetish (while I don't think I'm in any position to criticize anyone else's writing, I'm just saying that's a lot of commas).
  • This account re-enforces the Merritt Griswold letter in which Griswold writes about his Cyclone club disbanding in 1861, with "the boys" going off to fight on one side or the other.
  • The Spirit of the Times piece refers to the Empire club as the "former Champions". I read that as meaning that the Empires were recognized as being champions of St. Louis in 1860. If we take Griswold at his word and the first match game under the New York rules was played in St. Louis in July of 1860 then I find it interesting that things got organized enough to declare a champion for the 1860 season. I'm not sure if I believe that this is any type of "official" championship but rather just a recognition of the Empires being the best team in the city.
  • This certainly establishes the Empires and Unions playing in 1861 and possibly as early as 1860.

Harry Steinfeldt

This is a picture of a Harry Steinfeldt baseball card from 1911, the year after he got jobbed by Franklin Pierce Adams. Of course I'm having difficulty summoning up a lot of outrage for this St. Louis boy turned traitor.

Charlie Sweasy

Charles James Sweasy, a member of the 1869/70 Cincinnati Red Stockings, was born on November 2, 1847 in Newark, New Jersey to John H. and Rachel Sweasy. According to the 1850 census, he had two brothers, George (b. 1835) and John H. (b. 1842), and three sisters, Henrietta (b. 1833), Sarah (b. 1840), and Eliza (b. 1840).

Sweasy first drew attention as a ballplayer in the mid 1860's while playing as a second baseman for amateur teams in the Newark area. In 1866 and 67, he was playing second for Irvington (N.J.) in the NABBP. One of his teammates was Andy Leonard, another future member of the 1869 Red Stockings. In 1868, Sweasy moved to the Buckeyes of Cincinnati, where he played both second and third. There is a reference in his obituary in the New York Times to Sweasy playing for "the Lancaster Red Stockings" and being managed there by Harry Wright in 1868 but there is no other evidence to support this. The Buckeye team also included Andy Leonard and Dick Hurley, who would join Sweasy the next year on the Red Stockings.

In 1869 and 1870, Sweasy was playing for the Cincinnati Red Stockings. He appeared in all 57 of the Red Stockings’ victories in 1869, playing second base. In 1870, he appeared in 73 of 74 games, again all at second base. According to The Advocate, Sweasy was paid $800 in 1869. Although there were a few players making more, specifically the Wrights, this was the "standard rate" for Reds players. In 1870, it is suggested that Sweasy was involved in a salary dispute, asking for a $200 raise (a salary that would have made him the third highest paid player on the team). It's unclear whether he got his raise. However, if the account is true, this might make Sweasy the first baseball player ever to hold out for more money.

It's interesting to note that Sweasy listed his occupation in the 1870 census as "ballplayer". With baseball still transitioning from a purely amateur game to a full time profession and there still being some controversy surrounding the professionalization of the game, to list one's occupation as ballplayer was fairly unique. It is known that Sweasy was, as Harry Wright said in The Sporting News in 1866, a hatter by trade and practiced that profession after his playing days ended. There is also a reference to his being a hatter in 1869. So while he had an "honest" profession, Sweasy choose to identify himself as a professional baseball player in 1870.

After the Reds broke up following the 1870 season, Sweasy lived a journeyman's life, officially playing for eight teams in seven years. While he lived the vagabond's life of a fringe player, Sweasy actually captained at least three of the teams he played for: the 1871 Olympics of Washington D.C., the 1872 Forest City Club of Cleveland, and the 1875 Red Stockings of St. Louis. While the statistical evidence shows that Sweasy was not much of a player (at least in the batter's box), the panache that he earned playing with 1869/70 Red Stockings usually guaranteed him not only a spot on a roster but also the field manager's job. It seems that more than one team used Sweasy's "fame" to establish their own credentials.

In 1875, when the Reds of St. Louis transitioned from a top local amateur team to a professional team in the NA, they stocked their team with local amateur talent. Every member of the St. Louis Reds made their professional debut in 1875-except for Charlie Sweasy. Sweasy, the only player with any “big league” professional experience, was brought in by Reds’ management in mid April to the captain the club. This is in contrast to the Brown Stockings of St. Louis who joined the NA in the same year and stocked their team with the best eastern ballplayers they could buy.

The results of this were what you would expect. The Browns had a decent season, finishing fourth in the league with a record of 39-29. The Reds were not competitive in the NA in 1875, finishing with a record of 4-15, good for tenth place. The Reds, for numerous reasons, ceased league operations after a game on July 4, 1875. Regardless of whether or not the Reds had difficulties scheduling games against other NA teams or the players refused to make a scheduled road trip or the team ran out of funds or a combination of these, the Reds NA season was finished.

After the Reds ended their NA season, several members of the team, including Sweasy, bolted the team and ended up playing out the season on various professional teams in the Cincinnati area. One would have to conclude that Sweasy, who had had lived and played baseball in Cincinnati, played a role in getting his teammates jobs in the area, although Joe Blong may also have had something to do with this. Sweasy not only finished the 1875 season playing for the reorganized Cincinnati Red Stockings, he also signed a contract to play for them the following year.

While Sweasy's career in the major leagues ended with Providence in 1878 (were he was involved in Paul Hines' controversial unassisted triple play), he continued to play baseball with various minor northeastern teams through the 1881 season. It was reported in his obituary that he was forced to retire in 1882 "on account of rheumatism."

After his playing days, Sweasy lived a nomadic life, living in various towns in the northeast. In 1886, it's reported that he was living in New York City. In 1890, Newark. In 1897, Providence, Rhode Island. In 1900, Sweasy was living by himself in a house in Irvington, New Jersey.

Sweasy, who died on March 30, 1908 of tuberculosis, had a reputation for being "difficult". Between the salary dispute, Harry Wright's later descriptions of Sweasy, and the numerous teams he played for, it's easy to see how this reputation developed.

Another interesting note about Sweasy comes from The Mexia Evening News. In 1922, an article in the paper appeared that stated that Sweasy was alive and living in Fort Worth, Texas. “…(He) is seventy-five years of age and in feeble health…He has prospered in business and is passing his last days in comfort.” Of course, Sweasy had been dead for fourteen years.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Patsy Tebeau

Here's a picture of Patsy Tebeau from 1888.

Random Notes About Players On The List

  • John B. McSorley is Trick McSorley and played for the 1875 Reds.
  • Oliver W. Tebeau is Patsey Tebeau and the brother of George Tebeau. His full name was Oliver Wendall Tebeau.
  • Patrick H. Flaherty's full name was Patrick Henry Flaherty.
  • Harry Steinfeldt is the answer to my favorite baseball trivia question. "Q: In 1910, Franklin Pierce Adams wrote a poem called Baseball's Sad Lexicon in which he praised the double play combination of Tinker to Evers to Chance. Joe Tinker played short, Johnny Evers played second, and Frank Chance played first. Who played third base? A: Harry Steinfeldt." And just in case you're wondering, the catcher was Johnny Kling. Here's an interesting question: If Steinfeldt had been mentioned in the poem, would he have been elected to the Hall of Fame?
  • Leonidas P. Lee's full name was Leonidas Pyrrhus Lee. Good Lord. Do you think his parents liked Greek history much? I've never seen a ballplayer more in need of a nickname. Did they call him Leo Lee or Lee Lee?
  • Packard Andrew Dillon is, of course, our boy Packy.
  • Thomas J. Sullivan's full name was Thomas Jefferson Sullivan.
  • James F. Galvin is the great Pud Galvin.
  • Charles F. King is Silver King and was born Charles F. Koenig.
  • Is there any doubt that Stephen Ladew's last name was actually spelled Ladue? If you're from St. Louis, you know what I mean.
  • George W. McGinnis is Jumbo McGinnis and his full name was George Washington McGinnis.
  • John Ward is not John Montgomery Ward.
  • Henry C. Peitz and Joseph Peitz were brothers and were born one year and 20 days apart. Henry Peitz was also known as Heinie Peitz. Feel free to make up your own Heinie Peitz joke.
  • Joseph G. Otten is not on the list and was not born in St. Louis. He gets an honorable mention because he was born in Murphysboro, Illinois (where I lived for a few years) and played for the 1895 St. Louis Browns. Baseball Reference lists him as John Otten and his place of birth as the Netherlands but I don't care. Big shout out to Murphysboro-birthplace of John A. Logan and home of the Apple Festival .

19th Century Baseball Players Born in St. Louis

The following is a list of 19th century baseball players who were born in the greater St. Louis metropolitan area. The list is taken from the player roster of David Nemec’s The Great Encyclopedia of 19th Century Baseball. Unless otherwise noted, the player’s place of birth is listed as the city of St. Louis.

James J. Adams (East St. Louis, IL)
William C. Alvord
George F. Baker
Joseph M. Blong
Theodore P. Breitenstein
James A. Brennan
James T. Burke
William B. Casey
William Childers
William H. Colgan
Daniel T. Collins
August L. Creely (Florissant, MO)
Arthur Croft
Frank Decker
Packard A. Dillon
Henry E. Dooms
Henry P. Dowling
Michael F. Drissel
Henry H. East
Frank Y. Figgemeier
Patrick H. Flaherty
James F. Galvin
Joseph Gannon
C. Frank Genins
John D. Gleason
William B. Goodenough
John F. Gorman
James C. Gill
William G. Gleason
William L. Hassamaer
Charles A. Hautz
William H. Hemp
Edward J. Herr
Ernest P. Hickman
Robert E. Hogan
James W. Holliday
Frank E. Huelsman
William M. Joyce
Charles F. King
John F. Kirby
Charles L. Krehmeyer
Stephen Ladew
Leonidas P. Lee
Charles H. Levis
Harry A. Little
Thomas J. Loftus
John T. Magner
George R. Mappes
Harry C. McCaffrey
Michael J. McDermott
Alexander S. McFarlen
George W. McGinnis (Alton, IL)
Edward J. McKenna
John B. McSorley
Paul A. McSweeney
Frank J. Meek
Frank E. Millard (East St. Louis, IL)
Thomas Morrison
Joseph A. Murphey
T.E. Newell
John J. O’Conner
Henry A. Oberbeck
Edward D. A. Pabst
Henry C. Peitz
Joseph Peitz
John J. Ryan
John Schultz
George E. Seward
Edward Silch
Harry A. Stanton
Harry Steinfeldt
Albert Struve
John W. Sudhoff
Florence P. Sullivan (East St. Louis, IL)
Thomas J. Sullivan
George E. Tebeau
Oliver W. Tebeau
Frederick T. Underwood
George Van Haltren
John Ward
James T. Welch
Percival W. Werden
Lewis W. Whistler
William H. Whitaker
James T. Williams

Joe Battin

Above is a picture of Joe Battin, who was one of the original Brown Stockings in 1875 and played on both of their NL teams in 1876 and 1877. The picture was taken in 1874 when Battin was playing with the Athletics of Philadelphia. Battin was implicated by gamblers in a game-fixing scandal in 1877 and was blacklisted by Organized Baseball.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Packy Dillon Angle

One of the things I like about about researching the Reds is the whole Packy Dillon angle. Dillon is one of "missing"-a ballplayer about whom little is known. He's a mystery and a challenge all rolled into one. What's not to love? If you read this post, you'll see how little is really known about the guy.

In the last few days, I've learned a bit more about Dillon from others who are working the same angle. Peter Morris is convinced that Dillon died in 1902 in St. Louis although most contemporary references state that he died in Guelph, Ontario on January 8, 1890. That Patrick Dillon was buried at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis on July 29, 1902. I believe that the guy Morris is looking at is Patrick H. Dillon, who in my opinion is the second best candidate for being "our Packy". Patrick H. was born in Missouri in 1852 to John and Alicia Dillon. He was living in St. Louis in 1860 and had an older brother named John. So Patrick H. fits to a certain extent. He's about the right age, lived in St. Louis, and has the brother. But, if we're assuming that Packy died in Ontario, then Patrick H. doesn't fit the bill.

If the contemporary reference material states that Packy died in Guelph in 1890 and there's no evidence to contradict this, then we should accept it and work from that assumption. The problem is that there is no evidence that I know of that proves that Packy died in Ontario. One of the few facts we know about Packy's life outside of baseball may not be true and we're just searching dead ends. Morris, in fact, may be on the right track in throwing out the assumption of Dillon's date and place of death and working the angle from a fresh perspective.

It's not as if the reference material has never been wrong or contradicted itself. In Dillon's case, his first name has been listed as both Patrick and Packard Andrew. Also, there's no evidence that John Dillon is actually Packy's brother. I don't think that anyone, myself included, can state that they have any real personal details about Packy Dillon. Do I really know his first name? His date and place of birth? His date and place of death? Family details? Anything? The reality is that anything that I state about Dillon's life outside of baseball is nothing more than an educated guess.

Another person dealing with this problem is Jason Christopherson. While researching another book on baseball in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Jason came across a catcher playing for the 1887 Eau Claire team who he believes is Packy Dillon. If Eau Claire's Dillon is "our Packy" then this is fairly significant for a few reasons. First, I've found no references to Dillon playing baseball after 1886 and this would add a little more to our knowledge of Packy's playing career. Second, Jason has a reference to Dillon either playing in or living in Guelph, Ontario. This is the first source I've ever seen that could tie Dillon to Guelph.

The Eau Claire Dillon actually creates more problems then he solves. He's listed early in the season as "A. Dillon". Jason believes that this may be evidence of the Eau Claire Dillon being Packard Andrew Dillon (the assumption being that if your first name was Packard, you'd probably go by your middle name). This, like Morris' assertions, goes against the assumptions that I have regarding Dillon. I believe that his first name was Patrick and the whole "Packard" thing was the mistake of 19th century sportswriter. There's about a billion Irish-Americans named Patrick and I don't know any named Packard. But I can't prove his first name was Patrick. It could have been Packard. It could have been Patrick Andrew. I just don't know.

But this is were it really gets crazy. Maybe there were two guys. Both baseball players in the 19th century and both named Dillon. One played for the Reds in 1875, was from St. Louis, and was named Patrick. The other one was named Packard, played in Eau Claire and other northern Midwestern cities, and lived and died in Guelph, Ontario. Their names, personal information, and playing records got meshed in the Baseball Encyclopedia, leaving us to sort out the mess. Anything's possible.

Right now, I have more questions than answers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

More Cards From The Browns Champions Subset

The above cards, again from the 1887 Old Judge St. Louis Browns Champions subset, are of Chris Von Der Ahe, Arlie Latham, Bill Gleason, Curt Welch, Doc Bushong, and Nate Hudson.

A Charlie Comiskey Card From 1887

Everybody's favorite 19th century baseball card set, the Old Judge series (catalogued as N172) was released between 1887 and 1890. Issued in packs of Old Judge cigarettes, there were over 500 different players represented, subsets dedicated to specific teams, and minor league players as well. There are still new players and variations being found to this day.

The above Charlie Comiskey card is from the St. Louis Browns Champions subset, issued after the Browns defeated the the Chicago White Stockings in the 1886 World Series.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Merritt Griswold

I haven't found a whole lot on Merritt Griswold. He was born in New York (probably Brooklyn) around 1835 to William and Zilpha Griswold. His mother (whose maiden name was Busch) had family in Missouri which is probably how Griswold ended up in St. Louis for a few years.

He served as a Captain with the 3rd regiment of the United States Reserve Corp during the Civil War. Interestingly, military records show him mustering in on May 8, 1861 in St. Louis and then mustering out on August 17, 1861. So it looks like Griswold, who would have been in his mid 20's when the war started, was not a member of the active military during the war. I guess his unit never got called up.

It appears that Griswold was a mechanical engineer by trade. After the war, he was working for the Knox Railway Clamp Company and, in the 1880 census, he listed his occupation as "pump maker". Griswold also holds two patents. One is for a "ventilating apparatus", which from what I can understand is some kind of flue, and another for a type of window glass.

Griswold lived most of his adult life in Englewood, New Jersey. He was married to a woman named Emma and had three daughters (Grace, Edith, and Carolyn). He died on march 24, 1915 and is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

I can't find any connection between Griswold and baseball after he left St. Louis.

Jeremiah Fruin And Shepard Barklay

The source for Golenbock’s claim that Fruin was the first to introduce the game to St. Louis was Shepard Barklay. Barklay stated that “(it) was in the early (1850’s) that Mr. Frain brought the game to St. Louis..."

Barklay was a member of a prominent 19th century St. Louis family and a bigwig in his own right. Born in 1847, Barklay went to St. Louis University, got his law degree from the University of Virgina, and studied civil law for two years at the University of Berlin. He was admitted to the Missouri bar in 1872, was a candidate for mayor in St. Louis, and was elected to the circuit court of St. Louis in 1882 (by a huge majority). Barklay was elected to the Missouri Supreme Court in November of 1888 and served for ten years. He also served for a time as the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court. Barklay passed away on November 17, 1921.

Barklay’s grandfather was Elihu Shepard, one of the most influential St. Louisians of the 19th century. Shepard was a captain in the Mexican war, the founder of the Missouri Historical Society (god bless him), and one of the original promoters of the city’s public school system. The Shepard School in St. Louis is named after him.

I can understand how Golenbock placed such weight on Barklay’s claim regarding Fruin and early baseball in St. Louis. The guy was a bigwig, a former Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, and knew Fruin personally (having played baseball with him in the the 1860’s). But his statement about Fruin bringing the game to St. Louis in the early 1850’s is not accurate. Based on Fruin’s statement alone, Barklay’s account is provably wrong.

It looks like Barklay is the Abner Graves of St. Louis baseball.

Jeremiah Fruin

Alfred Spink interviewed Jeremiah Fruin for his 1910 book, The National Game. Fruin stated explicitly that he was not the “father” of baseball in St. Louis. “No, I do not claim to have been the first to introduce baseball in St. Louis,” he said, “but I was perhaps the first to show the boys how to catch the ball easily rather than by fighting it, how to trap the ball, to make a double play and that sort of thing.” The most Fruin says about his role in the development of the game in St. Louis is that he learned to play the game in New York while playing with some of the top teams such as the Excelsiors and Atlantics, that he brought his knowledge of the game to St. Louis and “gave the boys I found playing…a few lessons on the improved methods (of play).”

Jeremiah Fruin is a fairly interesting guy. He was born on July 6, 1831 in Glen of Aherlow, County Tipperay, Ireland. His family immigrated to the states in 1833 and settled in Brooklyn. Fruin’s father was a contracter and owned his own construction company, so it seems that the family was reasonably successful. Fruin served with the 72nd regiment, N.Y.S.M (“the National Rifles”) as an officer prior to the Civil War (and prior to the regiment being taken over by German immigrants). During the war, he served with the union’s Quartermaster Corp and was stationed in St. Louis in 1861.

After the war, ruin remained in St. Louis working in street and sewer construction (and playing baseball with the Empires) before starting his own company, Fruin & company general contractors, in 1872. Fruin’s company (which changed its name to the Fruin-Colnon co. in 1908 when Fruin added his son-in-law to the business) was rather successful and did a great deal of streetcar and railroad work for the city. He became something of a big shot in the city, serving as police commissioner, and counting among his friends numerous St. Louis politicians, judges, and businessmen. In the 1880 census, three servants are listed as members of his household which speaks to Fruin’s success and status.

Fruin died on March 10, 1912 of arteriosclerosis. He left behind a wife, Catherine, and two children, Catherine and John.

Note: A lot of this research opened up for me when it became obvious that "Jere Frain" was Jeremiah Fruin. I have to thank Richard Hershberger for pointing me in the right direction on that one. Peter Golenbock mentioned that "Frain" had played for the Charter Oaks and the Empires and Richard pointed out that there was a "Fruin" playing for the Charter Oaks in 1859. Further research discovered that Jeremiah Fruin played for both the Charter Oak Club of Brooklyn and the Empire Club of St. Louis. I believe that the misunderstand with regards to Frain/Fruin was due to a letter Shepard Barklay wrote, discribing his ballplaying days, in which he mentioned "Mr. Frain".

Supporting Griswold's Claim

I have two sources that support Merritt Griswold's claim that he brought the New York game to St. Louis.

The first is from A History of Missouri, Vol III 1860-1875 which states that "(the) first known game in (Missouri) occurred at the St. Louis Fairgrounds between the Cyclones and the Morning Stars on July 8, 1860." The other source is a notice for that game in the St. Louis Democrat. The notice, which Griswold claims to have placed in the paper, is headlined "The First Base Ball Match In St. Louis" and states "(the) first regular game of base ball played in our city will come off between members of the 'Cyclone' and 'Morning Star' Base Ball Clubs on Monday, the 9th, at 4 o'clock, P.M., in the field immediately west of the Fair Grounds. The to be played according to the rules of the National Convention of Ball Players...We rejoice to see the national game coming into such high favor with our young men."

Baseball Comes To St. Louis

It’s always been my understanding that baseball was first introduced in St. Louis in the early 1850's by Jere Frain, a 'contractor' who moved to St. Louis from New York. Frain had played for the Charter Oak Club of Brooklyn and was captain of the Empire Club of St. Louis in 1864. Peter Golenbock wrote, in The Spirit of St. Louis, that Frain laid out the first baseball diamond in Lafayette Park in St. Louis and showed the locals how to play the game. I've seen this mentioned in other sources but I've never seen any evidence to support the claim. When researching Frain, all I've ever found were other sources that told the same story as Golenbock. It seems that the story has just been accepted and gets rehashed whenever the history of baseball in St. Louis is told.

However, I found a letter from a man named Merritt W. Griswold, reprinted in Richard Peterson's St. Louis Baseball Reader, in which Griswold claims to have brought the game to St. Louis in 1859. In this letter, Griswold tells how he first published the rules of the game, along with a diagram of the playing field and the positions of the players, in the Missouri Democrat newspaper in the winter of 1859/60. He claims that at the same time he was organizing a baseball club called the Cyclones. Their first match game, he wrote, was played against a club called the Morning stars in 1860. Interestingly, he stated that the Morning Star Club played town ball and he convinced them to play by the "national" rules. The Morning Stars defeated the Cyclones at the old Fairgrounds in north St. Louis and the game ball was gilded, engraved with the score of the game, and used as a trophy ball "for years" in St. Louis. Griswold wrote that the last he heard of the ball it was in the possession of the Empire Club. The Cyclones, he said, disbanded when the civil war broke out and the players went off to fight "on one side or the other".

While I've never been able to confirm anything about the Frain story, i was immediately able to find some evidence supporting some of Griswold's claims. He stated in the letter that he had played for the Putnam Club of Brooklyn in 1857 and then for the Hiawathas of Brooklyn in 1858 and 1859 (before moving to St. Louis). Checking the teams and rosters of the NABBP from 1857-1859, I found a Griswold playing for the Putnams in 1857. The Hiawathas were not members of the NABBP during the time frame and so I couldn't find their roster but there is a record of them playing a game against the Osceola club of Brooklyn on July 31, 1858. The Hiawathas are also mentioned as being in existence in 1859, although no games are mentioned. While this is hardly proof positive that Griswold is telling the truth and that he, rather than Frain, is the “father” of baseball in St. Louis, it does put his story on some factual ground.

If Griswold's account is truthful then we have a primary source that places the beginning of baseball in St. Louis (as played by the "national" rules) in 1860 (or possibly as early as 1859). While this conflicts with the Frain account, I'm much more comfortable with Griswold's letter than I am with the Frain mythology. On its face, while the two stories are similar, the Frain account just sounds like something somebody made up in 1864, telling stories in the bar after a game. It sounds like legend to me. The Griswold account has a more truthful ring to it.

The Rumors Of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

From the Sedalia Daily Democrat, October 2, 1875:

"At last I must acknowledge and record it-St. Louis is tired of Base Ball."

Okay. And here we are one hundred thirty odd years later...

This little nugget of wisdom was based on the fact that a game between the Browns and the Philadelphia Quakers "did not gather altogether as large a crowd as a month ago." What's amazing really is that the analytical powers of the press hasn't seemed to have improved over time.

St. Louis Brown Stockings Ad

This notice appeared in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat on May 25, 1875. The small text at the bottom reads "Season Tickets, admitting purchasers to all of the games of the St. Louis Club, and securing seats in the Grand Pavillion, are for sale at $1 each at 619 Olive street."

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Early Rules

I found this while going through some of my notes:

Condensed Rules of Base Ball

Adapted from Beadle's Dime Base-Ball Player (1860)

General Rules:

The bases must be four in number, placed thirty yards from each other, and must each cover one square foot of surface. The first, second, and third bases shall be canvas bags, painted white, and filled with sand or sawdust; the home base and pitcher's point to be each marked by a flat circular iron plate, painted or enameled white.

The pitcher's position shall be designated by a line four yards in length, drawn at right angles to a line from home to the second base, having its center upon that line, at a fixed iron plate, placed at a point fifteen yards distant from home base. A fair pitch is deliverer as near as possible over the center of the home base and for the striker.

If an adversary stops a ball with his hat or cap, or takes it from the hands of a party not engaged in the game, no player can be put out unless the ball shall first have settled in the hands of the pitcher.

If two hands are already out, no player running home when a ball is struck, can make an ace if the striker is put out.

Clubs may adopt such rules respecting balls knocked beyond or outside of bounds of the field, as the circumstances of the ground may demand; and these rules shall govern all matches played upon the ground, provided that they are distinctly made known to every player and umpire, previous to the commencement of the game.

The Umpire:

The umpire shall ensure that all regulations respecting balls, bats, bases, and player’s positions, are strictly observed. He shall keep record of the game and shall be the judge of fair and unfair play, and shall determine all disputes and differences which may occur during the game; he shall take especial care to declare all foul balls and baulks, immediately upon their occurrence, unasked, and in a distinct and audible manner.

Hurling and Striking:

The ball must be pitched, not jerked or thrown to the bat. Whenever the pitcher draws back his hand, or moves with the apparent purpose or pretension to deliver the ball, he shall so deliver it, and he must have neither foot in advance of the line when delivering the ball. If he fails to do so, the pitch is declared a baulk.

If the ball, from the stroke of the bat, is caught behind the range of home and the first base, or home and the third base, without having touched the ground or first touches the ground behind those bases, it shall be termed foul, and must be so declared by the umpire, unasked. If the ball first touches the ground, or is caught without having touched the ground, either upon, or in front of the range of those bases, it shall be considered fair.
When a baulk is made by the pitcher, every player running the bases is entitled to one base, without being put out.

If three balls are struck at, and missed, and the last one is not caught, either flying or upon the first bound, it shall be considered fair, and the striker must attempt to make his run.

A Batsman is out:

If a foul ball is caught, either before touching the ground, or upon the first bound.

If three balls are struck at and missed, and the last is caught, either before touching the ground or upon the first bound.

If a fair ball is struck, and the ball is caught either without having touched the ground, or upon the first bound.

If a fair ball is struck, and the ball held by an adversary on the first base, before the striker touches that base.

If a ball, from the stroke of a bat, is held without having touched the ground more than once.

If at any time a baserunner is touched by the ball held by an adversary, without being on a base.

Any player, who shall intentionally prevent an adversary from catching or fielding the ball, shall be declared out.


No ace nor base can be made upon a foul ball, nor when a fair ball has been caught without having touched the ground, and the ball shall, in the former instance, be considered dead, and not in play until it shall first have been settled in the hands of the pitcher; in either case the players running the bases shall return to them, and may be put out in so returning in the same manner as the striker when running to the first base.

General Conduct of Players and Spectators:

No person engaged in a match, either as umpire, scorer, or player, shall be, either directly or indirectly, interested in any bet upon the game. Neither umpire, scorer, nor player shall be changed during a match, unless with the consent of both parties.
No person shall be permitted to approach or to speak with the umpire, scorers, or players, or in any manner to interrupt or interfere during the progress of the game, unless by special request of the umpire.

The St. Louis Red Stockings

Some general information about the 1875 Reds from the good folks at baseball-reference:

St. Louis Red Stockings History & Encyclopedia

Statistics and Roster

Schedule, Box Scores, and Splits

Player profiles:

Joe Blong
Packy Dillon
The Packy Dillon Angle
More On Packy Dillon
Silver Flint
Silver Flint Part 2
Charlie Sweasy

Tom Oran

The Baseball Biography Project over at the SABR website has a great piece on Tom Oran, the first Native American to play in the major leagues, a member of some of St. Louis' great amateur teams, and one of the 1875 Reds. The piece, written by Peter Morris, is a goldmine of information about baseball in St. Louis during the 1860's and 70's.

Some of the highlights:

"In 1867, Oran became the catcher for another amateur St. Louis club, the Olympics. In 1868 he joined the Union Club, which had captured the local championship from the Empires in July of 1867. Oran took over as the Union Club's starting catcher and helped them retain the championship in 1868, leading the club in runs scored.

On June 5, 1869, the Empire Club defeated the Unions to regain local supremacy. Shortly afterward, the Empires lost their catcher to injuries and recruited Oran to take his place. (Spink, 42) Both clubs appear to have been amateurs, and it is unlikely that Oran was offered money to change clubs. It is, however, quite possible that he received another sort of inducement to join the Empires. Empire club president Henry Clay Sexton was the chief of the St. Louis fire department and Oran was soon working as a city fireman.

The Empires retained their championship through the 1873 season and Tommy Oran remained one of their mainstays. He played catcher until early in the 1871 season, at which point he switched to primarily playing third base.

By 1872, the Empires' toughest local rival was a new club called the Red Stockings. In 1873 the two clubs split their first four games before the Empires pulled out the fifth and deciding game to retain the championship. But many wondered whether the veteran club could continue to hold off the upstart Reds.

The 1874 season saw the younger club continue to improve. On May 24, they beat the Empires in the first game of that year's championship series, and shortly thereafter Oran jumped to the Red Stockings. His appearance in their lineup in a game on July 12 sparked a protest."

"(While playing for the Reds in 1875), Tommy Oran became the first Native American major leaguer. He played in all nineteen of the team's games, and retroactive calculation shows him to have had a team-best 10 runs batted in. Otherwise, however, his performance was unimpressive. His batting average was a mere .185 and his eleven errors and .633 fielding percentage while playing the outfield were unacceptably high. (He also played part of one game at shortstop.)"

Sunday, September 16, 2007

East Coast Bias

"A correspondent of the St. Louis Globe wants to know why the Clipper does not give as full reports of club matches played in other cities as it does to those in (New York)." The Brooklyn Daily Eagle August 19, 1875

It's an old problem.

Just Don't Frighten The Horses

"The police have orders to stop the playing of base ball within the city limits, but the orders are not strictly enforced in the matches which are played where there is no danger of broken windows or of frightening horses." St. Louis Democrat April 4, 1875

The First Game

The first game of baseball in St. Louis, according to multiple sources, took place on July 8, 1860. A game was held that day, behind the St. Louis Fairgrounds, between the Cyclone and Morning Star Base Ball Clubs. The Morning Stars emerged victorious.

This was certainly not the first game of ball ever played in St. Louis but rather the first match game played under the New York rules. I plan on posting a lot more on the origins of the game in St. Louis and the men who claim to be the "fathers" of baseball in St. Louis. But this post is nothing more than an excuse to post another picture from Pictorial St. Louis.

The above picture shows the St. Louis Fairgrounds as they looked in 1875. I'm simply awed by Camille Dye's craftsmanship and attention to detail. Pictorial St. Louis is an amazing achievement.

Silver Flint Part 2

By the fall of 1891, Flint, most likely as a result of his alcoholism and a “wide open policy” with money, was broke and homeless. He was also very ill. His former wife, M.S. Flint, found him wandering the streets and took Flint in, nursing him and paying for his doctor’s bills. By late October, he was bed ridden and diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Flint died on January 14, 1892 and he was laid to rest next to his parents in St. Peter’s Cemetery in St. Louis. At his funeral, Anson, who admitted that he had not treated Flint well in his final days as a player, broke down and wept like a child. In an obituary in the Herald Dispatch, of Decatur, Illinois, it was stated that “Flint was regarded for years as the best catcher on the diamond.”

Silver Flint had the reputation, through the first fifty years of baseball history, as one of the finest catchers to have ever played the game. It was proclaimed in the Indianapolis Star in 1915 that “(as) a fielder and thrower Flint might be compared to Buck Ewing…He was by long odds the greatest catcher of his day.” Anson also heaped praise on his former catcher. “(I) cannot see a catcher anywhere as good as Silver Flint,” Anson stated in 1895. According to George Gore, Flint was the greatest catcher of all time. “He knew more than any other man with the mask,” Gore said in 1912. “He had the greatest head of any man in the business. Nobody before or since could touch Flint…Every pitcher he ever handled he made a star…Once Frank took them in hand they all developed into stars. He could make cracks out of every pitcher who ever toed the slab.” Paul Hines also stated, in 1913, that Flint was the greatest catcher who ever lived.

Flint had a well earned reputation for physical toughness. In an article on Flint in an 1888 issue of the Decatur Weekly Republican, the headline simply states “He Is Tough” and the article goes on to say how it seems as if Flint was made of cast iron. A 1910 Washington Post article on Flint declared that “(he) was a horse for work. His stamina caused a feeling of awe among players and fans, for he caught incessantly in spite of many broken fingers and a smashed nose.” Flint, of course, was a catcher in the days before gloves, masks, chest protectors, and shin guards which added to the esteem in which he was held by more modern viewers of the game. The amount of abuse that Flint took behind the plate is illustrated by Flint’s admission to friends that he had broken every joint in every finger in both hands at least once, that his nose had been broken frequently, and that he had lost several teeth while playing the game. There are also several stories, that may be apocryphal but which added to Flint’s reputation for toughness, about how he had attempted to use a glove and a mask in a game but had tossed them aside after a few pitches, proclaiming them to be a hindrance.

One interesting note about Flint is how common stories about his hands are. Cap Anson was particularly fond of telling stories about Flint’s “money makers”. “Silver’s hands were battered into so many angles that when spread out they resembled pretzels,” he said in 1896. “Silver’s hands were one of the sights the sporting fraternity sought when visiting Chicago.” In 1904, Anson went on to say that Flint’s “fingers were like the gnarled and knotted branches of a scrub oak. Rheumatism in its worst stages never gave a person such a pair of hands.”

Toward the end of his playing days, a story made the rounds in the press about Flint meeting a surgeon while both men were waiting for a train. The surgeon got a good look at Flint’s hands and wanted to take him to the hospital, insisting that all of his fingers would have to be amputated. Silver Flint just laughed at him.

Silver Flint

Frank Sylvester Flint, one of the best catchers of the 19th century, was born in Philadelphia on August 3, 1855 and his family moved to St. Louis a few years later. According to the St. Louis Republican, “every boy in St. Louis (at the time) who was but half a boy learned to play and love baseball.” This generalization certainly applied to the young Silver Flint.

Flint first gained notice as a baseball player while playing as an amateur with the Elephant Base Ball Club of St. Louis in the early 1870’s. When baseball enthusiasts decided to enter the top amateur team in St. Louis, the Red Stockings, in the professional National Association, Flint was brought in, at the tender age of 19, to start at catcher, replacing the club’s veteran captain.

This rookie campaign was certainly an interesting one and the young man received several lessons about the nature of professional baseball that year. Flint played in 17 of the Reds 19 games and hit a woeful .082 on a team that won only 4 games. He saw the Red’s starting pitcher, Joe Blong, and starting third baseman, Trick McSorley, removed from the team for crooked play. Shortly after that, the team essentially dropped out of the NA.

With his first pro team, according to William Ryczek, “alive only in that they had not officially disbanded”, Flint, rather than stay in St. Louis with the Reds and scuffle around playing in games against amateur and semi-pro teams, headed to Covington, Kentucky to find employment for the rest of the season. The Covington Stars essentially became the St. Louis Reds East as Flint was joined on the Stars by Blong, McSorley, and Reds reservist, Packy Dillon.

In 1876, Flint was back with the Reds, along with McSorley. The highlight of the year was a no hitter thrown by the young Pud Galvin against the Cass Club of Detroit in a baseball tournament held in Ionia, Michigan. A year later, in 1877, Flint was playing on the Indianapolis Club that won the championship of the International Association, joined again by former Reds teammates McSorley and Charlie Hautz.

With their championship in hand, the Indianapolis Club decided to join the National League in 1878 and Flint enjoyed a bit more success in his second season in the big leagues then he did in his first. Flint hit .224 while playing in 62 of 63 games for a team that was, unlike the old Reds, relatively competitive. Cap Anson certainly had enough respect for the Blues to raid the club and take Flint, Ned Williamson, and Joe Quest for his White Stockings team.

It is in Chicago that Flint found success and fame as a player. While never a great hitter, he certainly had his best offensive years with the White Stockings and as the team found success, winning five pennants between 1880 and 1886, Flint gained a reputation as a stalwart defender behind the plate, an excellent handler of pitchers, and one of the toughest men in professional baseball. Flint even managed the White Stockings for a time after Anson went down with an illness late in the ’79 season.

By the end of his career, Flint, of course, also had a reputation as a drinker and a curmudgeon. A rumor that he had fallen off the wagon in the middle of the season made headlines in 1887, stirring up “a regular hornet’s nest”, according to the Mitchell Daily Republican. Both Flint and Anson had to publicly deny the rumor that Flint had violated his temperance pledge. The veteran catcher also refused to go on Albert Spalding’s world tour in 1888/89 with his Chicago teammates, stating, according to Mark Lamster, “(no) trip for me. I don’t care who goes, but you can rest assured that Silver doesn’t.” While Flint did accompany the tour as far as San Francisco, playing with the All-American Club against his Chicago teammates, his time on the tour was punctuated with several bouts of drunkenness.

Flint also had a falling out with Anson towards the end of his career, as Anson began to phase out his veteran catcher in favor of younger men. In 1885 and 1886, King Kelly was cutting into Flint’s time behind the plate (although Flint was always the number one catcher). By 1887, Flint found himself backing up Tom Daly and would never regain the starting job.

Flint retired from the game after the 1889 season and a benefit was held in Chicago that raised $1,000 to help him ease his way into a post-baseball life. He remained in the public eye in 1890 as the proprietor of a bar in his adopted home town but it doesn’t appear that the business was much of a success.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Pictorial St. Louis Part 2

The pictures shown above are taken from Pictorial St. Louis and show the exquisite detail that Camille Dye put into the work. The first picture is plate number 69 and the seceding pictures zoom in closer and closer on the Compton Ave. Base Ball Park. In the last picture, you not only get a good look at the infield and grandstands but you can even see little guys out on the field.
The "4" that appears at deep short is a reference number for the "Page" section of the book.