Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Griswold Letter

In The National Game, Alfred Spink wrote a great deal about the history of baseball in St. Louis. He gave substantial space to Shepard Barklay's account of Jeremiah Fruin's role in bringing the game to the city "in the early fifties." This account resulted in Merritt Griswold writing a letter to Spink in which Griswold gives his account of how baseball first came to St. Louis. Spink printed this letter in the second edition of his book, which was published in 1911. Below is Griswold's letter in its entirety.

Alfred H. Spink
Author The National Game
St. Louis, Mo.,

Dear Sir-One of the reporters of "The Standard Union" of Brooklyn, N.Y., showed me a few days ago a book written by you entitled the history of baseball.

To start at the commencement of the game in its first introduction into Missouri I would refer you to the files of "The Missouri Democrat" for the Winter of 1859 and 1860, where in you will find published "the rules of the game," also a diagram showing the field and the position of each player made from a rough sketch I gave to Mr. McKee and Fishback, the publishers, or to Mr. Houser, at that time their bookkeeper, cashier and confidential office man (and, by the way, a mighty fine young man).

At this same time I was organizing the first baseball club, "The Cyclone," which name was suggested by one of its members, Mr. Whitney, of the Boatman's Savings Bank.

Other members of "The Cyclone" were John Riggin, Wm. Charles and Orvill Mathews (the latter the late Commodore Mathews of the U.S. Navy), John Prather, Fred Benton, (later captain under Gen. Custer), Mr. Fullerton, (later a General, U.S.A.), Mr. Alfred Berenda and his brother, Mr. Ferd Garesche, Mr. Charles Kearney (son of Gen. Kearney), Mr. Edward Bredell, Jr., and a number of other young men of St. Louis.

Soon after the organization of "The Cyclone" several others were started, viz: "Morning Stars," "The Empire," "The Commercial" and later on several others.

The first match game played between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, (if not to the Pacific Coast), was between "The Cyclone" and "The Morning Stars" and was played in 1860, just back of the Old Fair Grounds in North St. Louis, "The Morning Stars" winning the game, the score of the game I now have. It is 50 years old, and the ball used in that first match game was for years used as the championship trophy, it going from one club to the other, and the last the writer ever heard of it, it was in possession of the Empire Club. I personally sent to New York for the ball to be used in this first match, and after the game it was gilded in gold and lettered with the score of the game.

"The Morning Star Club" was a "town ball" club and played from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. on Tuesday and Friday mornings in Carr's Park, but after considerable urging and coaxing on my part they passed a resolution at one of their meetings that they would try the national rules for one morning if I would coach them, or more properly, teach them, which I consented to do if they would agree to stick to it for the full hour without "kicking," for as I told them they would no like it until after playing it for a sufficient length of time to become familiar with some of its fine points, all of which they agreed to and kept their word like good fellows as they were, but in ten minutes I could see most of them were disgusted, yet they stuck to it for their hour's play. At the breaking up of the game to go home they asked me if I would coach them one more morning as they began to "kindy like it." I was on hand their next play day, or rather play morning at 5. Result they never played "town ball" after that second inning and in their first match, as stated above, "waxed" my own club. I could give you many incidents up to the breaking out of the civil war and the disbanding of "The Cyclone" by its members taking part on one side or the other.

Hoping you will excuse my intruding with these little facts in regard to early ball playing in St. Louis, I am

Yours Respectfully
Merritt W. Griswold.

P.S.-Although I am now in my 77th year, I take just as much interest in that splendid game as when a kid at school in old Chautauqua Co., New York, or when a member of the "Putnams" of Brooklyn in 1857 and the "Hiawathas" of the same place in 1858-59 in which latter year I went to St. Louis.

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