Sunday, January 20, 2008

Leonard Matthews And The Cyclones

In 1927, a transcription of Leonard Matthews autobiography was published privately under the title A Long Life In Review. In the book, Matthews, the brother of Orville Matthews, wrote the following about the Cyclone Base Ball Club:

In the early days in St. Louis my most intimate young men friends were John Riggin, Louis Hutchinson, John Stetinius and Paul Prewett, all “high rollers,” except myself. We belonged to the St. Louis Cyclone Base Ball Company in 1860. We leased what is now Lafayette Park. At that time, it was surrounded by an osage orange hedge. We spent $600 to put the grounds in shape. This company was one of the first of its kind, formed long before the game became professional. The members were all young men in business, or sedentary life, and the club was for exercise, recreation and social intercourse. I was the first President. Among its members, I remember, were Edward Bredell, who lived opposite on Lafayette Avenue; Jack and William Collier, Ferd Garesche, Alex Crosman and E. O. Matthews, the latter two cadets in the United States Navy; Edw. Farish, my brother W. H. Matthews, now of New Orleans, and others I do not recollect. One afternoon some of us, Ed. Bredell among the rest, were lying in the shade of the hedge, pitching a ball from one to the other, when someone remarked – “Boys, we will soon have another kind of ball to pitch” – and poor Ed. caught one in battle in Virginia, early in the war.
A couple of notes:

-Both Leonard Matthews and his brother William H. Matthews worked for J. Matthews & Co., an apothecary business that they owned along with their father John Matthews, Jr. and their brother John III.

-Matthews account confirms the fact that the Cyclone Club played games at Lafayette Park (an idea advocated by Bill Battle); Al Spink lists Lafayette Park as one of the places were some of the earliest baseball games were played in St. Louis.

-Members of the Cyclone Club mentioned by Matthews but not by Griswold include Leonard Matthews, Louis Hutchinson, John Stetinius, Paul Prewett, Jack Collier, William Collier, and Alex Crosman.

-Interestingly, Matthews does not mention Griswold, Ed Bredell's co-worker from Brooklyn. I'm not sure how to interpret this. Matthews also fails to mention that the Cyclones were the first baseball club in St. Louis and that they played in the first baseball game in the city. While this suggests numerous possibilities, I don't want to read too much into it.

-That quote about "we will soon have another kind of ball to pitch" sounds awfully familiar. I don't know if I've heard it before, if Matthews "borrowed" it, or if I'm just imagining things.

-The photo of Leonard Matthews that is at the top of this post was taken from Life in St. Louis: The Matthews Family Exhibit 1851-1933, the website where I also found Matthews' autobiography.

4 comments:

Richard Hershberger said...

I too wouldn't read too much into the ommission of the material about the first game. These reminiscences are pretty general, and clearly influenced by later developments. Calling the organization "the St. Louis Cyclone Base Ball Company" is an example of this.

As for the line about "another kind of ball to pitch", the rhetorical comparison of the baseball to the musket ball is pretty common from the Civil War era. I also have one example from the Mexican-American War. It is a pretty obvious way to toss in a bit of poetic flair.

Richard Hershberger said...

Also, wasn't it the Morning Star club that Griswold found playing town ball? My recollection is that the Cyclones were founded as a base ball club, and the Morning Stars persuaded to try it so as to provide competition.

Jeff Kittel said...

Ach, du lieber Himmel! You're absolutely correct. I got the two clubs confused. Griswold did say that he found the Morning Star Club playing town ball at Carr's Park and "coached 'em up." He also said that he was "organizing the first baseball club, 'the Cyclone'". Sorry, for the confusion.

Jeff Kittel said...

I was thinking last night that maybe, in Matthews' eyes, the Cyclones and their match against the Morning Stars just wasn't that significant. There were obviously games of ball being played in St. Louis before this and their were clubs that were playing these games. The fact that they were a new club playing under a different set of rules just wasn't that big a deal at the time. Because the club is significant to me doesn't necessarily mean it was going to be significant to Matthews.

One interesting thing about Matthews' recollection of the Cyclones is the emphasis on his friends and their social interaction just before the War broke out and destroyed the tranquility of his youth. It's rather poignant really if you think about this group of young friends sitting in Lafayette Park enjoying one of their last afternoons together. Members of the club would go their seperate ways to fight on both sides in the Civil War and at least one would be killed. I can understand why that would be more important to Matthews than a game of bat and ball.