Tuesday, September 18, 2007

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".

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