Wednesday, November 14, 2007

General Sherman Visits The Ballpark



W.A. Kelsoe, in A Newspaper Man's Motion-Picture Of The City, describes the second Brown Stockings-White Stockings game:

"The second game between the Chicago Whites and the St. Louis Browns, played here Saturday, May 8 (1875), resulted in another victory for the home club, but this time St. Louis made only four runs and Chicago scored three, all in the last inning. The crowd was even larger than at the first game, being estimated at over 8,000 people. One of the spectators was General Sherman, who viewed the game from a seat with the reporters in the press stand. He seemed to enjoy the game fully as much as he did the trotting when with General Grant at the 'Big Thursday' races of the St. Louis Fair a few months before, in October, 1874. The headquarters of the United States Army were still in St. Louis, southwest corner of Tenth and Locust streets. It was a splendid game throughout, 'the best ballplaying ever seen west of the Mississippi,' said City Editor Stevens in one of his headlines for my report of the contest. Ed. Cuthbert, noted as an outfielder, caught three flies in this game and ended the eighth inning with a foul-bound catch, fouls taken on the first bound then counting as outs. Chicago had now had seventeen innings in succession (counting those of the first game) without making a single run. Then came the last inning of the second game, when Bradley, the St. Louis pitcher in both games, was batted for three safe hits, as many as Chicago had made in the other eight innings, and three runs resulted, every one of them earned. The umpire was James Baron, shortstop of the old Missouri champion Empires."

Sherman, who had been appointed Commanding General of the United States Army by President Grant, had moved his headquarters to St. Louis in order to escape the political infighting of Washington D.C. Prior to the Civil War, Sherman had lived in St. Louis and served as president of the Fifth Street Railroad. Interestingly, Sherman writes in his memoirs "that Mr. Lucas...held a controlling intrest of stock" in the railroad and was one of the people who wanted to hire him for the job. Lucas was most likely J.B.C. Lucas, one of the richest men in St. Louis and president of the Brown Stockings. Sherman, who died in 1891, is buried in Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.

The "St. Louis Fair" that Kelsoe mentions is, of course, not the World's Fair that was held in 1904 but rather an event that was held annually in the city. In 1856, a group called the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association purchased a site of 50 acres north of the city on Grand Avenue and set up the Fairgrounds, which included what was at the time the largest amphitheater in the United States, a mechanical hall, a agricultural hall, a floral hall, a Gothic fine arts hall, a three stories high "Chicken Palace" for displaying poultry, a race track, and a grandstands. According to the Fairground Park website, "(the) fair was an immediate success and soon became noted all over the country. It was, in reality, a gigantic country fair. There were booths for vending wine, beer, and other delicacies. There were displays of livestock, poultry, vegetables, grains, and the latest inventions in farm machinery, tools, household gadgets, etc." In 1860, the first baseball game ever held in St. Louis took place on the Fairgrounds.

I think that Sherman's presence at the game shows the significance of the Brown Stockings' May 6th victory over Chicago. The hoopla that followed that game brought out not only a larger crowd, as noted by Kelsoe, but also one of the city's most prominent citizens.

5 comments:

Richard Hershberger said...

Was there any connection between JBC Lucas and Henry Lucas? It seems a bit of a coincidence for there two be two rich Lucases interested in baseball in St. Louis.

Jeff Kittel said...

I used to think that I knew the answer to that question but now I'm not so sure. They're certainly related and members of the prominent Lucas family of St. Louis but what the relation is I can't say.

I used to think that JBC Lucas II and Henry Lucas were the sons of JBC Lucas but the elder JBC died before Henry was born. It's possible that Henry is the son of JBC II (David Nemac insinuates that in The Beer & Whiskey League). But taking a quick look at some sources, it looks like Henry might be JBC II's nephew.

I'll have to run it down because Jeremiah Fruin mentions JBC II playing baseball in the early 1860's and there's a Robert Lucas with the Union Club at the same time. The Lucas family is all over the early history of baseball in St. Louis and I guess I'm going to have to sort out their family tree.

By the way, thanks for sending me your article on co-op teams and the NA. It was a good piece and I enjoyed reading it. You were certainly right about me needing to take a look at the Easton team. I know that Orrick Bishop, a member of the Brown Stockings board of directors, "went East" to round up some players and one of the places he went to was Philadelphia. If the Easton team was essentially an extension of Philadelphia baseball then it's understandable how several of the Easton players ended up on the Brown Stockings in 1875. I just need to figure out the details.

Richard Hershberger said...

Regarding the Eastons (and some of this may be redundant with the article I sent you) their manager was one Jack Smith, who was a native of Philadelphia and came up through the Philly amateur ranks. He was recruited to Easton and spent three years building the team. In 1874 only one Easton player was actually from Easton, with the rest being Philadelphians.

Smith maintained his Philly baseball contacts. He also worked for one of the Easton papers and some of its coverage shows some inside information. So Easton was certainly in the loop.

Are you familiar with the Thomas Miller controversy? If not, you should take a look a reportage of the NA's meeting in February (or perhaps March: I am going from memory) of 1875. The Davy Force question was the hotter topic, but there was a dispute between St. Louis and Hartford over the rights to Miller, who had played with Easton in 1874. The coverage is explicit that one or more agents of the Browns visited Easton.

Jeff Kittel said...

I don't think I've read anything about the Miller controversy. I've looked at the coverage of the NA's 1875 convention in the Eagle and remember seeing all the stuff about the Force case but I must have just skimmed it (or wasn't focusing on the Brown Stockings). I'll have to go back and look at it again.

I'm continually shocked at how little I actually know about all of this stuff and how much I still need to learn. I still don't have a complete handle on the 1875 season let alone everything else. It's ridiculous how much research is still left to do.

Richard Hershberger said...

This is the thumbnail version of the Miller controversy. He was signed by the Browns at the same time as his teammate George Bradley in (IIRC) October of 1874. Subsequently, Bob Ferguson (who had just taken over management of the Hartford club) came to town needing a backup catcher. He strongarmed Miller, who was young and callow, persuading him that the St. Louis club was unlikely to get off the ground, and in any case his contract with St. Louis was defective. Ferguson rather famously had a strong personality. He persuaded Miller to sign with Hartford. The St. Louis contingent then got to Miller again, and he recanted his Hartford contract and signed another one with St. Louis. The first St. Louis contract really was defective according to NA rules, as it was not witnessed properly. The dispute went to the judiciary committee at the next NA meeting in Philadelphia, which ruled in Hartford's favor. At roughly the same time, though, Ferguson found a Philly amateur, Bill Harbidge, to fill that slot and Hartford waived their rights to Miller, so he ended up in St. Louis after all.

The irony of this is that Bradley's contract was literally the same piece of paper as Miller's, and equally defective. Miller was a good defensive catcher but couldn't hit major league pitching. Bradley would have two terrific years with St. Louis. No one thought to try to entice him with a better offer.

Miller was signed by St. Louis as a utility player for 1876, but never got in a League game. He fell ill while the team was in Brooklyn. He was put on a train to Philadelphia and he died a couple of days later at his brother's house. The Browns had arrived in Philly to play the Athletics, so the two teams got to hold a baseball funeral. I believe this was the first since Jim Creighton died.

I have quite a lot of material on Miller which I will eventually write up for SABR's bioproject. You should be able to get a fair amount of it, but if you get interested I could send you some from the Philadelphia papers, with some pretty inside baseball stuff.