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.

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