Saturday, January 12, 2008

If I Can Make It There...

The Brown Stockings made there first Eastern trip in July and August of 1875. On July 12, 1875, they became the first St. Louis team to play a game in New York. Okay, technically, it was Brooklyn but let's not split hairs. The team made the hajj to the cradle of baseball and made a favorable impression. It was a sort of homecoming for several of the players on a club that the Globe-Democrat liked to refer to as the "St. Louis-Easton-Atlantic professionals."


Richard Hershberger said...

Any win is a good win, of course, but the Atlantics were pretty much on their last gasp at that point. They never really were successful with the transition to full professionalism. Different clubs dealt with it in different ways. The Atlantics club (meaning the dues-paying membership) pretty much lost interest and drifted away, leaving the first nine as a co-op team with poor finances. They were able to remain respectable through 1874 through sheer willpower on the part of Bob Ferguson. Once he was hired away by the new Hartford owners, the remaining Atlantics team was pretty much a local semi-pro club with pretensions. This was a sad fall from the 1860s when the Atlantics were one of the strongest clubs in baseball.

It's interesting that not until 1875 did a St. Louis club tour the east. The Cincinnati Club (aka the Red Stockings) went east in 1868. IIRC, The Chicago Club (aka the White Sockings) did so in 1870. Any ideas why St. Louis was so tardy?

Jeff Kittel said...

That's a very interesting question that I never considered before.

The Empire Club did tour in 1869, making a trip to Cincinnati and Louisville. In 1871, they made a trip to New Orleans and in 1872 they traveled to Keokuk and Quincy, Illinois.

Prior to that the only record of a "road" game that I can find is a trip to Alma, Illinois in 1867. Alma is a little town in central Illinois located about 75 miles east of StL. The Empires played the Lone Star club of Alma every year from 1867 to 1870 and every game except the 1867 one was in StL. It's possible that the April 16, 1867 game in Alma was the first game the Empires played against a non-StL club.

While the Empires aren't really travelling that much, they are getting some visitors. In 1867, the Nationals of Washington came to town. In 1868, teams from Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Alma, and Lawrence, Kansas came to StL. In 1869, Alma, New Orleans, Vandalia, Rockford, and Cincinnati visit. In 1870, the White Stockings come to town for the first time (they also return in 1871 and we still can't get rid of those guys) and the Shabbona club of Ottawa, among others, also come to StL. In 1872, the Empires look like they're getting return visits from all the teams they played the year before in New Orleans.

Why the Empires wouldn't travel to New York, Philadelphia, or Washington, especially after getting visits from clubs from those cities, is unknown. It may have something to do with money and the cost of travelling that far East.

But the Empires look like they're the only StL club of this period doing any travelling. Doing a quick search this afternoon, I don't see clubs like the Unions, the Reds, the Resolutes, or the Atlantics playing any matches outside of StL. They probably did play some matches outside the city, on the East Side in Illinois or something like a short trip to a city like Alma but there's nothing like a trip to Cincinnati or New Orleans.

It may just be a StL thing. There were plenty of clubs in the area and between intramural games and matches between the StL clubs that may have been enough in their way of thinking. In many ways, I think, the StL clubs were behind in the evolutionary cycle of clubs of this era and this may just be an example of that.