Monday, March 31, 2008

The Leading Spirit

A couple of interesting notes from E. H. Tobias' writings on St. Louis baseball history:

It was early developed in 1868 that the year would mark an era in local base ball. The leading spirit of the Union Club, Asa W. Smith, had devised plans to advance his club to the foremost and to maintain that position, being animated mainly by that true spirit of sportsman and athlete, love of the game for its own intrinsic merit. At no time were either the Union or Empire Clubs actuated by a desire to make money and when they adopted the plan of placing a price upon admission to the games, it was because necessity forced them into it. The increased and still increasing interest of the general public demanded better surroundings and accommodations and Asa Smith, recognizing this fact, calculated to promote the National game by catering to the desires of the public. For this work, he was not only ably fitted by his own personal traits of character for which he was beloved and honored by the fraternity in general and a host of friends in business and social circles, but he was most fortuitously situated in having at his command all the necessary elements that would tend to success...That the game had reached that stage when it was one of the most popular of entertainments was attested by the experience of the preceding year when charging admission was inaugurated with success. In order to gratify this public taste it was necessary to incur large expenses, particularly so whenever it was desired to secure the presence of any of the great clubs of the East or West and these demanded one-half of the gate receipts...
One of the first movements made by Asa Smith as president of the Union Club this year was that of forming a State Association of Clubs, there being then quite a number of clubs organized in the interior cities and towns. This was quite a pet idea with its originator and although his first effort in this direction in '67 proved a failure, he was not deterred from another endeavor to accomplish this object and on the 21st of March a preliminary meeting was held at the rooms of the Union Club, which was attended by representatives of sixteen city clubs and presided over by Asa Smith with Nat Hazard, of the Olympic Club, as secretary. It was then resolved to call a state convention on April 22 and pursuant thereto the delegates met on that date in Philharmonic Hall on St. Charles Street, west of Fourth, and formulated a State Association under National Association laws with the following officers: President, A.W. Smith; vice-presidents, H. C. Carr, O.P. Seiner, C.D. Paul; recording secretary, J. E. Mcginn; corresponding secretary, G.H. Denny; treasurer, L.P Fuller, of the Empire Club.
-From The Sporting News, November 23, 1895

St. Louis' two NA teams of 1875 are often referred to as the first professional teams in St. Louis history and St. Louis has been called a bastion of amateurism during the late 1860's and early 1870's but none of that is actually true. St. Louis baseball players were most likely getting paid by 1867 (at least some of them) and certainly by 1868 when August Solari built the baseball grounds on Grand Avenue. This is neither shocking nor unique and merely shows that St. Louis baseball was following national trends.

While Tobias' reasoning about why money was introduced is romanticised, there are some elements to it which I find interesting. First, he talks about how Smith wanted to "advance his club to the foremost and to maintain that position" and one way of doing that would be to hire the best players. Also, Tobias mentions the needs for better grounds and drawing Eastern teams to St. Louis. When the Nationals of Washington came to St. Louis in July of 1867, there was some talk by the Nationals' players about the poor condition of the grounds. To compete on a national level and draw the best teams to the city, St. Louis needed a first-class baseball facility. If Smith's goal was to create one of the best baseball teams in the country then he needed better players, better grounds, and better competition. All of that took money and the best way to raise the money was to charge admission.

The other thing that I find interesting is Smith's involvement in attempting to organize a state association "under National Association laws." This also appears to be a part of Smith's plan to advance both the interests of the game in St. Louis and those of the Union Club as well as to bring St. Louis baseball into the national mainstream (if there was such a thing). In 1867, Smith is not only trying to establish a state organization but he also has the Union Club entering upon the national baseball stage by joining the NABBP, the first St. Louis club to do so. The next year, the Empire and Atlantic Clubs also joined the NABBP and St. Louis was visited by clubs from Washington, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, and Brooklyn-so Smith's plan was having a positive effect on the local baseball scene.

As I said, baseball in St. Louis at this time was developing according to national trends but Smith certainly played a role in recognizing those trends and having St. Louis baseball clubs adapt to them. While these developments may have occurred without him, Smith was, as Tobias wrote, "the leading spirit" in advancing the game in St. Louis in the late 1860's. Charging admission, paying players, building better facilities, organizing on a local and state level according to the national model, expanding from parochial to national competition-Asa Smith was a leader in all of these changes and played a prominent role in the development of the game in St. Louis.

Opening Day 2008 (With Video!)

Finally. I'm not going to get all poetic on you about the meaning of Opening Day. All I'm going to say is that this should be a national holiday. If you've never experienced Opening Day in St. Louis, you need to make arrangements to do so. It's something special.

Opening Day 2007

Living St. Louis-Busch Stadium

The Wizard

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Jerry Denny's Obituary

Jerry Denny's obituary appeared in the New York Times on August 17, 1927 and he was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Houston, Texas. Both the grave photo and the obituary were found at The Deadball Era.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Main Base Ball Center Of The City

The subject matter of providing a permanent habitation and home for the Empire Club had long been under consideration by leading members of the club and early in (the 1867) season assumed a tangible form by the appointment of a committee to select suitable grounds. They reported favorably upon what became known as the St. Louis Base Ball Park, the property being then a cornfield and owned by John Dunn. At the same time the Union Club, having become dissatisfied with their own grounds further South on Grand Avenue and opposite where now stands the Rock Church, also discovered the availability of the tract selected by the Empire committee. The main recommendation of this ground was its near proximity to the Fair Grounds, which was then the objective point of several street car lines built and to be built. August Solari, a member of the Empire Club, secured a five-year lease of this property and entered into an agreement with the Union Club whereby upon the payment of a small rental and giving him the lumber contained in their old grounds for use in the erection of grandstand, fencing, etc., in the new park, Solari was obligated to provide necessary accommodations, keep the grounds in good order, the Union Club to have the exclusive right to use of the park on certain days. The Empire Club rented from Solari two days in each week, one being Sunday. It was in the foregoing manner that old Sportsman's Park, as it was known eventually, became the main base ball center of the city and for several years thereafter it remained so.
-E.H. Tobais, writing in The Sporting News, November 23, 1895

Friday, March 28, 2008

Asa Smith And Henry Clay Sexton

During the years of rivalry for supremacy on the ball field between the Union and Empire Clubs there were two men whose marked personalities were prominent features of that long struggle, Asa W. Smith and H. Clay Sexton, the old fire-fighter. Both stood in the same relation to his own club: the latter as the father of the Empire and the former of the Union. Both were ardent admirers and promoters of the game, each in his own way, as an athletic sport at which his own club should outdo all home rivals. Personally they were the best of friends and their good-natured chaffing of one another was one of the regular by-plays of each contest.

Asa Smith was a young man of many bright and endearing traits and it was his personal magnetism that gathered into the Union Club that galaxy of young athletes whose names adorned its role of membership. Like Clay Sexton, he had the most implicit confidence in the superiority of his own club and the two seldom failed to risk a small wager either upon the result of a game or the probability of a run being made in an inning, the loser having to bear no small amount of chaffing.
-E.H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News, November 16, 1895

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Excelsior Club

In a previous communication mention was made of the Excelsior Club as being one of the ante-bellum organizations that met with an early dissolution. Through the kindness of one of its surviving members, John McKernou, Esq., of Washington avenue and Twenty-First street, the following additional and interesting data has been obtained: The club was orgainized by the election of Jas. Fitzwilliams, president; Patrick Keenan, a whitener, was treasurer; W. Sullivan, a drummer, who taught the comedian, Jos. K. Emmett, how to handle the stick, was secretary and among its active members were Peter Fitzwilliams, who was killed in the rebel army; John Hogan, a bookbinder; Joseph Champine and my informant, whose memory fails him as to the others. The club found birth and home in two old omnibusses placed end to end at Sloan's Carriage Factory, Eighth and St. Charles streets where now stands N.O. Nelson & Co.'s building. When the club membership became too large for its original quarters, its meetings were held on the east side of Sixth street between Morgan and Franklin avenue back of what was known as Beckner's Garden and in front of the Sans Souci Garden, both being places of public resort. The club played on Gamble Lawn during its brief existence of one season, that period of time being long enough to tire the boys out in carrying the old style sand bag bases back and forth the long distance to the grounds. Another feature of the game that added to the disheartening of this mis-named club was the round shape of the bats, whereby they were unable to hit the ball so frequently as with the old paddle.
-E.H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News, November 16, 1895

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nothing Will Ruin A Game Faster Then Buffalo Or Hostile Indians Wandering Onto The Field

Among the players of the Cyclone Club, heretofore referred to, was Fred W. Benteen, then with Asa Wilgets & Co., house and sign painters. He early joined the Union army and distinguished himself by many deeds of valor. After the rebellion he was assigned to duty on the plains in the regular army where as an Indian fighter he added fresh laurels to his fame. He was major of the famous 7th Cavalry, Custer's old regiment. He is now living at Atlanta, Ga., in retirement with the rank of Brevet Brigadier General...

The day before Gen'l Benteen left St. Louis to join the army he lost a fine seal ring while playing a practice game early in the morning on the Ham street grounds. Because of its associations, he attached much value to the ring and for several hours he and the writer searched in vain to recover it. In the army the soldier did not forget his cunning as a ball player for in 1865 two troops of the U.S. Cavalry, Benteen's and Col. R.M. West's wile on the Solomon Fork of the Republican River, Kansas played three games, twenty seven innings on the same day. Col. West's nine was named after that officer and Major Benteen christened his the "Cyclones" in honor of his old club. The latter made mince meat of their opponents by a score now forgotten. The grounds were picketed to keep off straggling bands of buffalo and Indians then on the war path. This incident is taken from a personal letter received by the writer from Gen'l Benteen...
-E.H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News, November 9, 1895

The picture of Benteen, above, was taken in 1865-the same year the U.S. Calvary supposedly played a game of baseball on the Republican River. It's entirely possible that the article says 1885 and I'm just misreading it. The date is difficult to make out but since the article from which this was taken was covering the 1865 season, it seems logical to assume that it reads "1865." The only problem with this is that Benteen mustered out of the army in the late spring of 1865, only to be promoted to lieutenant colonel and placed in command of the 138th U.S. Colored Volunteers, which he led from July of 1865 until January of 1866. The game that Benteen described to Tobias sounds to me like it took place between units of the 7th Calvary, which Benteen didn't join until January of 1867. So I'm not sure how much stock we can place in the 1865 date. This is not to say that Benteen wasn't still involved in the game while he was in the calvary. There are a couple of references to games played under his command that I mentioned in this post. I just wouldn't take the 1865 date at face value unless we can place Benteen's unit on the Republican River at that time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Not So Fast, Nostradamus

This very attractive piece, which is described at the Zmotive Ebay gallery as a "celinoid," is listed as a team portrait of the 1888 Browns. There's just one small problem with that-it's obviously the 1887 team. Caruthers, Foutz, Welch, Bushong, Gleason, Boyle-definitely the 1887 Browns.

The team is hailed on the piece as American Association champions in 1886, 1887, and 1888. Before I realized that they misidentified the team, I was curious as to why they didn't mention the 1885 championship. It seemed a bit odd. But when you realise that the portrait was meant to say "1885-1886-1887" and that the Browns did win the championship in 1888, despite the fire sale that cost them a great deal of talent, this piece takes on a portentous quality.

I recommend clicking on the photo so you can get a good look at all the rich details. It's a really nice piece of work.

Monday, March 24, 2008

I Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself

Base ball, particularly on Sunday, is a boon to the working man, clerk, business or professional man, who finds himself so occupied on week days that he is only too glad to embrace the fresh air, together with the opportunity to enjoy the benefits derived from association with the national game and the solid enjoyment it affords.
-From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 3, 1889

Amen. One week to go until Opening Day.

Unidentified Players Part 2

Now that I think about it, I guess it's possible that this team was just visiting St. Louis and, to commemorate the occasion, got their pictures taken.

Unidentified St. Louis Baseball Players From The 1890's

As I promised in this post, here are photos of the individual members of one of the unidentified teams.

Not a whole lot to go on. The pictures were obviously taken at the Fischer studios at 9th and Franklin, most likely by Joseph Fischer himself or a member of his family. The players are in uniform and wearing a badge, a button, and a medal. The ribbon of the medal appears to read "West St. Louis Convention."

The photos come from the Zmotive Ebay gallery.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Te Deum Laudamus

More Easter video:

Te Deum

Worthy Is The Lamb

Behold The Lamb Of God


Christus resurrexit!

Here's wishing you all a Happy Easter and as a gift (as if last nights giant post on the Reds weren't enough) here's a link to highlights of the traditional Easter Monday baseball game at N. C. State.

Christus resurrexit!
Vere resurrexit!

And for all my Catholic brothers and sisters, here's a video of an Easter Tridentine Mass:

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Greener Pastures: Joe Blong And The Collapse Of The 1875 St. Louis Red Stockings

On June 14, 1875, the Red Stockings of St. Louis were in Covington, Kentucky to play the Stars. In the inaugural game at the new Stars Ground, a large crowd was on hand and witnessed the Reds score seven runs in the first inning and defeat the Stars by a score of 17-0. The Reds visit to Covington set into motion a series of events that would have a dramatic impact on the history of baseball in St. Louis.

By the middle of June, 1875, the Reds' on the field fortune had sunk low and it was apparent that the club was unable to compete with the best teams in the National Association. The only NA team that the Reds had been able to beat was the Westerns of Keokuk, a team whose lone NA victory came at the expense of the Reds on May 6th. The team had lost nine of eleven championship contests and would not win another NA game until June 27th. To add insult to injury, on May 30th in a game against the Empire Club of St. Louis, the Reds gave up ten runs in the bottom of the seventh and lost 15-12 to their old rivals.

The "ambitious young professionals," as E. H. Tobias described the Reds, "were passing through one of those streaks of bad luck..." The team was not only struggling on the field but were also having problems drawing a crowd. The weather in St. Louis during April and May had been poor, with a series of storms passing through the area. The Reds were unfortunate to have a number of their games rained out or played in conditions that suppressed the expected crowd. Their game against the White Stockings of Chicago on May 11th, for example, was played in a severe windstorm and only three hundred people showed up to witness a game which under normal circumstances would have drawn one of the biggest crowds of the season. On the season as a whole, the Reds only drew an average of 465 fans per game to their championship matches. While there is evidence that suggests that the team drew better crowds to games against local clubs such as the Brown Stockings, the Empires, and the Stocks, the combination of poor weather and an uncompetitive team combined to kill the Reds' box office. By way of comparison, the Brown Stockings, with a more competitive team, was able to draw over 2300 people per game.

It's generally accepted that the Reds were a co-operative team, meaning that their players were paid a percentage of the gate receipts rather than a straight salary. A poor showing at the gate meant less money in the pockets of the players. This, of course, was one of the major problems with the co-op plan and, when it happened, tended to breed dissatisfaction among the players who were not receiving what they believed to be a fair wage for their labor and instability in the club which did not usually have the capital to survive the lean times. As Richard Hershberger wrote in The Borderlands Of Professionalism, "Since a player's pay was directly tied to attendance, players were tempted to switch to clubs drawing larger gates and to skip scheduled games not likely to be lucrative. An extended dry period could lead to the entire collapse of the club, as the players drifted off to other pursuits."

With the club floundering on the field and financially, there were several avenues open to the Reds that could have salvaged their NA season. An extended road trip to the baseball hotbeds of the East would have been a lucrative enterprise for the club. While it's often been stated that the Reds had no intention of ever making an Eastern trip or did not have the money to make such a trip, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat wrote in late 1875 that the reason the club never traveled East was because they were unable to reach an agreement with the Eastern clubs as to how the gate receipts would be divided. Certainly one can not blame the stronger and more established Eastern clubs for taking a hard line in negotiations with the upstart Reds but the loss of a potentially lucrative road trip had to have been a blow to the struggling club and their players.

At the same time, the Reds were unable to schedule more games with the two Western powers, the Brown Stockings and White Stockings. The Globe-Democrat had rather harsh words for the Brown Stockings, who they claimed simply refused to play their city rival after two initial games. Obviously, a Reds/Brown Stockings series would have drawn well in St. Louis but there was no incentive for the Brown Stockings to schedule the series. They were doing just fine, on the field and financially, and saw no need to extend a helping hand to a financial competitor. The White Stockings, on the other hand, appeared to have been open to more games against the Reds and the possibility exists that the two teams were going to met in the first week of July when the White Stockings visited St. Louis at the beginning of a month long road trip. Of course by that time it was too late for any help as Reds management had already made the decision to end their pursuit of the whip pennant.

So with the team playing poorly, struggling to draw crowds, and unable to schedule more lucrative games against the best clubs in the National Association, the Reds made a trip to Covington, Kentucky to take on the Stars. Financially, the trip was probably successful with a large crowd opening the new grounds. But the consequences of the trip would bring about the end of the Red Stockings as an entity in the NA.

The Reds of St. Louis were alive only in that they had not officially disbanded...By seasons end the team's top players had deserted for greener pastures and the Red Stockings were reduced to challenging semipro competition.
-William Ryczek

Ryczek's quote from Blackguards And Red Stockings is interesting and truthful but fails to accurately convey the entirety of the Reds' situation in 1875. Like most baseball historians, Ryczek is rather dismissive of the Reds, going so far as to call them "a blasphemous incarnation" of the hollowed Red Stocking name. Of course there was nothing blasphemous about the Reds, whose history, according to Al Spink, dated back to the early 1860's. In the first half of the 1870's, the Reds were consistently one of the best teams in St. Louis and annually challenged for the championship of Missouri. The success of the Reds in 1874, when they won the championship against competition from the Empires, the Unions, the Elephants, and the Stocks, and the success of the season in general "created so much enthusiasm that in the fall of 1874 steps were taken to put a professional team in the field..." The Reds were not some fly by night operation created to milk other NA teams but a team with a rich past and a history that would continue into the 1880's.

However, by the middle of June in 1875, the Reds were experiencing difficult times. Certainly, from a pure baseball standpoint, they were in over their heads. While an outstanding amateur club, they simply were unable to compete with the professional baseball powers on a national level. They were not winning, they were not drawing well and their players were not making any money. It was under these circumstances that Joe Blong bolted the club.

In the aftermath of the Reds' trip to Covington, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported the following on June 16, 1875: "One of the Directors of the Stars says that Blong, the vigorous pitcher of the St. Louis Reds, wants to come to Cincinnati to live, and proposes to cast his base ball fortunes with the Stars." On June 19th, the other shoe dropped: "The Star Base Ball Club have secured the services of Blong, the pitcher of the St. Louis Red Stockings. He is the man that pitched those crazy balls that our boys could not bat."

One of the more interesting players in the history of 19th century St. Louis baseball, Joseph Myles Blong, the son of Irish immigrants, was born in St. Louis on September 17, 1853. He and his brother Andrew attended the University of Notre Dame in the late 1860’s, where they were members of the baseball team. Blong was married to a woman named Mary in 1880 with whom he had four children (Joseph, Mae, John, and James). In the 1880 census, Blong listed his occupation as painter. He died in 1892 and is buried at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis.

While details about his personal life are rare, much more is known about Blong’s baseball career. After leaving Notre Dame, Blong returned to St. Louis where he played on amateur teams, joining the Reds in 1874. In the spring of 1875, as the Reds got ready for their NA season by playing various amateur teams and picked nines, Blong played first base, second base, the outfield, and pitched for the team. By the time the NA season began in May, Blong was selected as the Reds' main pitcher.

The 1875 season was an eventful one for Blong. He certainly had a disappointing record on the mound, officially going 3-12 for the Reds with a 3.35 ERA and an ERA+ of 72. While his performance was certainly not what the Reds had been hoping for, Blong did throw a few gems that showed the potential he had as a pitcher. On May 11th, he held the Chicago White Stockings to six hits and one run in a 1-0 Reds loss. That game, according to Baseball, was the lowest scoring game in baseball history at the time. Also, on May 23rd, Blong threw a two hitter against the Keokuk Westerns. The Reds won 7-1 although the game, because it was played on a Sunday, did not count in the official standings.

Blong's departure from the Reds was always somewhat of a mystery. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle both suggested that Blong had been expelled from the Reds for selling games. Daniel Ginsburg, in The Fix Is In, also states that Blong was expelled from the Reds for "hippodroming." However, based on available evidence, it does not appear that Blong was involved in the selling of games while with the Reds. There are certainly no specific accusations against Blong while he was with the Reds. All the allegations against Blong in 1875 are the result of events during an exhibition game he played with the Stars on September 18, 1875. These allegations, which also are questionable, led to Blong's expulsion from the Stars on September 20th.

Based on reporting in the Globe, it does appear though that Blong was officially expelled from the Reds for breaking faith with the club, either as a result of refusing to play without getting paid or for having jumped to the Stars. Blong himself stated to The Ticket, a northern Kentucky newspaper, on June 26, 1875 that "his salary was not paid and that the St. Louis Reds have no right to complain." Blong's retroactive expulsion from the Reds and his expulsion from the Stars resulted in the negative press that he received in both the Globe and the Eagle. When combined with accusations of game selling made against him in 1877, Joe Blong's historical reputation as a blackguard was made.

Blong's departure from the Reds was a serious blow for a team that was already struggling. Unable to compete in the NA with their best team on the field, the Reds now faced the prospect of playing without their top pitcher. Also, with Blong as an example, other players began to defect. On July 23, the Cincinnati Enquirer wrote "We are a little late in announcing the engagement of Dillon, a famous St. Louis player, with the Star Club of Covington. Mr. Dillon has arrived, and is being assigned to the positions of first baseman and change catcher." Dillon was, of course, Packy Dillon, the Reds catcher who had been injured for most of the 1875 season and had lost his starting job to Silver Flint. Trick McSorley, the Reds' starting third baseman, also bolted for the Stars.

Interestingly, the departure of Dillon and McSorley for the Stars happened after the Reds made a return trip to Covington in July. W. A. Kelsoe, while writing about a game that took place in St. Louis on July 14th, noted that "The St. Louis Reds...were in Cincinnati for two games, one being with the Covington Stars across the river, which they won, losing the other." It seems that Dillon and McSorley took the opportunity, while in Covington and most likely under the influence of their old friend Joe Blong, to jump the Reds' sinking ship.

The relationship between Blong, Dillon, and McSorley is a fascinating one. They were all about the same age, all grew up in the same St. Louis neighborhood, all went to Notre Dame at the same time, all played for the same amateur teams in St. Louis, all played for the Reds, all jumped to Covington in the summer of 1875, and all would later play with W.B. Pettit’s Indianapolis club. The loss of the three friends in late June/early July 1875, along with the departure of captain Charlie Sweasy, signaled the end of the Reds NA incarnation, whose last championship match was a 12-5 loss to the Nationals of Washington on July 4th.

At this point the Reds enter a historical black hole. If any history even takes notice of the Reds, it usually states that the team disbands in July of 1875. This is, of course, far from the truth. The "loyal Reds," as the Globe described them, soldiered on for the rest of the season. They picked up new players from some of the amateur teams in St. Louis to fill out their ranks and continued to play baseball into October. Their season ending series against the Stocks was the talk of the city and drew large crowds for all four games.

The Globe, in a post-season wrap up, noted that the Reds were re-organizing and looking forward to competing for the national championship in 1876. However, subsequent events would ensure that a team like the Red Stocking Base Ball Club of St. Louis, for better or worse, would never again take a place on the national baseball stage.

Note: I want to take this opportunity to thank David Ball, who was kind enough to share his research on Blong and the Stars of Covington. This piece wouldn't have been possible without his work and generosity. Also, the picture at the top of the post is of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge that spans the Ohio River between Covington and Cincinnati.

The Last Of The Real Men

Jerry Denny played third base for the Maroons in 1886. According to Rick Stattler, in a series of biographical notes on members of the 1884 Providence Grays, "Denny was born in New York City as Jeremiah Dennis Eldredge to a poor Irish immigrant family in 1859. His parents moved to California when he was young, and died soon after, so young Jerry was raised in west coast orphanages. He began playing minor league ball in San Francisco in his teens under the name Jerry Denny, and came to the Grays as their third baseman in 1881."

One of the greatest of the greatest third basemen of his day was Jerry Denny, who covered that bag for the Providence Champions and then for Cleveland, St. Louis and other teams.

In the early eighties Denny was often referred to as the king of the third base players of his day.

He was a lightning fielder and thrower and a batsman of the first class.
-From The National Game

1894: The Last Real Man Retires

The last position player who did not wear a glove in the field was Jerry Denny, an ambidextrous third baseman who retired from the Louisville team following the 1894 season. Though a right-handed batter and thrower, Denny could catch the ball with either hand, and, if the pressures of time required, fire it to first with whichever hand it happened to be in.
-From The Historical Baseball Abstract

Bill James lists Denny, in the Abstract, as the ninety-ninth greatest third baseman of all-time and states that he recorded the most putouts per innings played at third. He also writes that "Apart from the large number of putouts credited to him there is little evidence that Denny was an outstanding defensive player." Of course he also writes, in his essay on Paul Molitor, that Denny has the best range factor (based on defensive games played) of any third baseman. Make of that what you will.

Gus Schmelz

Augustus H. Schmelz, the popular and capable manager of the Washington Club of the National League and American Association, was born in Columbus, Ohio on September 26, 1850. In his youth he was one of the best players in his native city and as he approached manhood gained a state reputation for his skill in the National game. The success with which he handled the Eastons, the crack semi-professional team of Columbus, lead to his engagement to manage the Columbus Club in 1884, in the American Association, then composed of twelve clubs, in which race his team finished second. In 1885, he managed the famous Atlanta team, the pennant winners in the Southern League of that year. Then came his engagement with the ill-starred Maroons, of St. Louis, who, however, finished higher under his management than they ever had before. In 1887, 1888, and 1889, he held the managerial reigns over the Cincinnati Reds, going to Cleveland in the Brotherhood year and remaining with the National League club of that city unit August 1 of that year...He is unexcelled in the development of young players...No one connected with base ball enjoys greater popularity with the players and patrons of the game than Gus Schmelz.
-From The Sporting News, February 15, 1896

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Burden Of August Solari's Prayers

One of the finest amateur clubs ever in St. Louis was organized (in 1875) by Mr. August Solari, proprietor of Grand Avenue Park and one of the original founders of the Brown Stocking Club. His aim was to have a team that could compete with any and all clubs, professional or amateur, and in this endeavor he was so successful that his new bantlings, the Grand Avenues, went through the seasons of 1875 and 1876 with only two defeats, one at the hands of the Brown Stockings...and the other was a forfeit to the Peerless Club...The original players of the Grand Avenues were as follows: D. Simpson, p; Jon. Solari, c; P. McKenna, 1b; Dan'l Whalen, 2b and captain; John Whalen, 3b; George Newell, ss; Jon. Schenk, rf; Joe Britt, cf; L. Simpson, lf; H. Little, H. McCaffery and R. Walsh, substitutes.
-E. H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News, February 15, 1896

Tobias goes on to list the officers of the club, among whom was one "Chris Von der Ahe, grocer." He writes that "Thus it was that the present Pooh Bah of the St. Louis Club became introduced to the base ball world and it is ducats to dimes at the present time that if that good old man and true friend to the base ball fraternity, August Solari, had the job to do over it wouldn't be done at all, for it is the burden of his daily prayers that he may be forgiven for having perpetrated this outrage on the base ball fraternity in general and St. Louis in particular."

The general mythology has Von der Ahe, the baseball neophyte, becoming involved with the Browns in 1882. Of course, Von der Ahe was no neophyte and had been involved with the Interregnum Brown Stockings for several years prior to creation of the American Association. The information that Tobias provides shows that Von der Ahe had been interested and involved in St. Louis baseball since 1875.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Worthy Of Note

The peculiar manner in which some of the crack pitchers deliver the ball is worthy of note. Every twirler possesses a style of pitching which belongs to himself only.

(Bob) Caruthers first advances his right leg, fumbles the ball on his hip a second and then with a sour look throws to the batter. He pitches without effort and seemingly does not care whether the batter hits the ball or not. His delivery looks like it would be easy to bat, but the reverse is the case.
-The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, November 25, 1888

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Never A Legitimate Star

"Never a legitimate star in a legitimate major league..." That's what Bill James wrote about Fred Dunlap in The Historical Baseball Abstract. I think that anyone who's been following this blog knows that I disagree with this and the photo above is more evidence that I'm correct in my thinking.

This a picture of the back of an 1888 Goodwin & Company album of their Champions set of tobacco inserts. It comes from the Zmotive Ebay gallery and I don't have much more information about it. I'm not sure if the album contained all fifty cards or just the eight baseball cards.

But lets think about this for a minute. Goodwin & Company issued a set of fifty cards and in that set included eight cards featuring baseball players. One of those players was Fred Dunlap-the illegitimate Dunlap mixed in with real stars like King Kelly, Cap Anson, and Dan Brouthers. And on top of that, they actually went and included the illegitimate Dunlap in the cover art.

What to make of this? Maybe (and just maybe) the illegitimate Dunlap was, in fact, considered a legitimate star by contemporary observers. Maybe (and just maybe) when Al Spink wrote things like Dunlap was "far and away the greatest second baseman that ever lived" and "of the great players of the olden times Fred Dunlap was considered by many the greatest," he was stating the conventional wisdom of the era. Maybe (and just maybe), we should pay more attention to people like Stanley Robinson who called Dunlap "perhaps the greatest player that ever lived."

There are more quotes about Dunlap like those by Spink and Robinson but I think I've already flogged that horse to death.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Nice Picture of Dave Foutz

The title of the post says it all. I really think this is the best picture of Foutz that I've ever seen. It's another cabinet photograph from the Zmotive Ebay gallery.

The Final Four (With Video!)

We're two weeks from opening day (to which I can only give thanks and praise) and VEB's All-Time Sim Tournament is now down to the final four. This can only mean it's time for another tourney update (with video!). And can I do that-a parenthetical expression ending in an exclamation point, followed by a period? I doubt it but, since my copy of Strunk & White is not within arms reach, I'm going to let it stand. While regular readers of this blog are probably used to my idiocyncratic approach to grammar, spelling, and punctuation, I am a bit wary of frightening off the newbs. Such are the vagaries of life.

Even though the Four Time Champions have already been eliminated, I'm still enjoying the tourney and want to see the thing through. Plus, it's a good opportunity to plug Viva El Birdos again. Head over and check out the new layout. If I haven't mentioned it, VEB is by far the best place online for Cardinals' information and analysis.

And as to the tourney, like I said we're now down to the final four. The 1926's, the 1946's, the 1964's, and the 1985's (my boys) are still standing. You really should check out game seven of the series between the 1964's and the Gashouse Gang. I don't want to give away the ending so all I'm going to say is ole Abner has done it again. The Moonman sure did have himself a nice series.

I believe the semi-final match-ups will pit the 26's against the 46's and the 64's against the 85's. I'm beyond making predictions at this point because I think a reasonable argument can be made for any one of these teams winning the whole shooting match. It should be fun.

On to the video! Today's offering is Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins.

Rise Up With Fists

Run Devil Run/Big Guns

You Are What You Love

Happy (and I hesitate to expose you to this video; instead of the Watson Twins, there's some creepy puppet; I don't know how to explain the whole puppet thing but I love this song)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Unidentified St. Louis Baseball Teams From The 1890's

This is an interesting group of cabinet photos from's Ebay gallery. They are identified as being of St. Louis baseball teams and are dated between 1891 and 1896.

We have a few clues about the identity of the teams but it's really not much to go on. The photographer of each photo is identified and we have information about where the photographs were taken. Also, there is a seperate group of photos, which I may post later, of individual members of one of the teams. These photos show the players wearing badges that may help in identifying them.

Certainly, it's a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma but I like the photos and wanted to share them.

Jocko Milligan At The Bat

This image of Jocko Milligan comes from the 1887 Kalamazoo Bats Cabinet card series. These cards are very rare and according to David Rudd Cycleback they were issued as either premiums or proof photographs, although the exact purpose of the cards is unknown.

Most of the 1887 Kalamazoo Bats Cabinet cards that I have seen have a black mount and the words "Smoke Kalamazoo Bats" on them. While this style, with a pink mount, is known, I think this is the first one I've ever seen.

Emmett Seery

Emmett Seery played for the Maroons in 1885 and 1886 and is probably best known for getting into a "vicious fight" with Charlie Sweeney.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The 1886 Lone Jack Cigarette Cards

The 1886 Lone Jack Cigarette card set is, according to David Rudd Cycleback, among the rarest of 19th century tobacco inserts. Issued by the Lone Jack Cigarette Co. of Lynchburg, Virginia, the set contains thirteen players from the Browns. The pictures used for the cards were taken from the Old Judge set.

The images above are of the Bob Caruthers, Tip O'Neill, and Curt Welch cards.

The Famous World Beaters

The picture above is a cabinet photograph of the 1888 Browns taken by F. W. Guerin. Guerin, according to American Heritage magazine, "was a St. Louis photographer who ordinarily took his work very seriously. Born in Ireland in 1846, he joined the Union Army at fifteen, apprenticed himself to a photographer after the war, and then, until shortly before his death in 1903, made a good living photographing well-to-do citizens of his city."

I found the picture at, in their Ebay gallary.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Empires Get Chicagoed

The Empire Club played the Chicago Whites on October 17, 1874, and the game marked an era in the history of the club inasmuch as it was the first time the Empires had ever been blankety blanked.
-E. H. Tobias, from The Sporting News, February 8, 1896

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Rowdy Jack O'Connor

There are few professional players in the ranks to-day who have led as active a life and as long a one in the professional field as Jack O'Connor.

He is the man selected by President Robert Lee Hedges to manage the 1910 St. Louis Browns.

O'Connor is a St. Louis boy. He was born up on North Broadway forty-two years ago and learned to play ball on the prairies which were then numerous out there.

It was from these lots that graduated perhaps the greatest baseball catcher that ever lived, Frank Flint of the Chicago White Stockings, and next to Flint in the olden days there were few better receivers than this same O'Connor.

O'Connor first came into prominence as the catcher of the crack Shamrock team-a nine that hailed from North St. Louis and that could beat anything in that neck of the woods.

It included in its ranks such later famous players as Pat and George Tebeau, Sam Smith, Joe Herr, George Sharinghaus, Jack (Dutch) Reinagle and Ed Struve.

O'Connor's first professional engagement away from home was with the St. Joe Club of 1886. That team, managed by Nin Alexander, now of Pana, Ill., in the Western League, went through that entire season with ten men and came within one game of winning the pennant from Denver after they had spent thousands on their team to strengthen it...

O'Connor caught such grand ball for St. Joseph that he had no trouble in 1887 securing a position with Cincinnati. The following year he went to Columbus, of the American Association. In 1890 he played with Denver.

In 1891 he joined Cleveland, where he played until 1899, when with the rest of the Cleveland team, he was removed to St. Louis.

In 1900 he was sold to Pittsburg, where he played until 1902, when he jumped to the New York Americans. There he remained until 1906, when he joined the Browns. He remained in St. Louis until 1909, when he was signed by Little Rock. He played in that city for four months and did good work until he came to St. Louis in August, 1909. He acted as scout for the Browns during August, September and October, 1909.

As far as baseball knowledge goes, O'Connor bears the highest reputation among the best judges of play in the world. Baseball men say that he is without doubt one of the cleverest judges of play that has ever graced the game.

O'Connor has made a deep study of baseball, and few men in the game have a superior knowledge of the sport. He has a knack of doing the unexpected or outguessing his adversary. It was Jack, for instance, who, while catching the Browns, made big John Anderson, then with Washington, throw the ball against the pavilion. Jack pretended to be the Washington first baseman and "Big" John heaved the ball to him. Then Jack sidestepped and let the horsehide roll, while a pair of Brownies scored. This was only one of the tricks that earned for Jack the title of "Brains."

When playing ball in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Pittsburg, New York and other towns, O'Connor always spent his winters in North St. Louis. Jack is well fixed financially. He owns considerable real estate in the "Goose Hill" district, the scene of his early triumphs as a ball player...

O'Connor learned his baseball under (Patsy) Tebeau. The pair played together with the old Shamrocks, and were afterwards together with Cleveland and St. Louis...

To sum it all up Jack O'Connor is one of the best baseball men in the country...
-From The National Game

The pictures of Jack O'Connor posted above come from The Chicago Daily News collection of photographs at American Memory and were taken in 1906 when O'Connor was playing with the AL Browns.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Harper's Weekly Comiskey/Latham Print

This picture of Charlie Comiskey and Arlie Latham appeared in Harper's Weekly in the 1880's. I found the image while looking for information about another picture that I had found. The images all came from's Ebay gallery (check out page four for the good stuff). I'm still trying to find more information about the site because I want to know if they still have this print and how much it would go for. I'm thinking this picture would look good hanging on the wall over my desk. Click on the image for a nice, full size view.

And, for those keeping score at home, that's two mentions of The Freshest Man On Earth in three days.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Rivalry Between The Empires And The Unions

The Empire membership was largely composed of men who had been connected with the old volunteer fire department and it out-numbered most all the other clubs put together. Some of its players were in the employ of the paid fire department and about all of its members were men employed in mechanical and other manual labor pursuits. They were tough, hardy men and had but little time in which to practice, while the Unions, being mostly of wealthy families, had plenty of time and facilities to practice every day if they so desired. A very jealous feeling existed for several seasons between these clubs and the announcement of a series of games was certain to create wide and intense interest, which was always kept red hot by the fact that the score was invariably close, both in the runs scored and the number of games each club won. It was upon this ground that a game was played by these clubs that created a great laugh against the Union boys. On this day the final game of a series was to be played; the score of games was a tie but the Unions had been doing a great amount of practice and were chock full of confidence, in fact they ad so much that they imparted a large quantity of it to their lady admirers who came upon the grounds armed and equipped with large floral gifts with which to crown the sure-to-be winners. The uncertainty of base ball was not so thoroughly understood that day as latter on. The Empires won the game and the series and the Union ladies kept the flowers to themselves and the Empire boys were surprised by a shower of bouquets that very mysteriously and suddenly put in an appearance.
-E. H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News, October 26, 1895

Now of course, Tobias, as an Empire man, finds this amusing. I doubt that the Union boys found it too funny that their lady friends were showering the Empire Club with bouquets.

It's interesting to note that Tobias confirms a few things that I've talked about in the past, specifically the link between the Empire Club and the St. Louis Fire Department and the economic status of the members of the Union Club.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Final Bow For The Freshest Man On Earth

I haven't written much about Arlie Latham. It's not that I'm not interested but I just feel (rightly or wrongly) that there is plenty of information out there about him already and I have enough on my plate with everybody and everything else having to do with 19th century baseball in St. Louis. So something has to give and it's The Freshest Man On Earth. But, really, if you're just dying to read something about Latham, check out Ralph Berger's essay on him over at SABR's BioProject.

Anyway, last night I was browsing the Library of Congress' Prints & Photograph Online Catalog and found the above photo of Latham and Wilbert Robinson (who played for the Cardinals in 1900). The picture was dated 1909 and I had to do a bit of digging to find out what it was all about.

It seems that Latham was the third base coach for the Giants in 1909 (and according to Fred Snodgrass he was the worst third base coach of all time) but the amazing thing was that Latham actually played in four games that year. He had been retired for ten years but, for some reason that I couldn't find, John McGraw got the 49 year old Latham into a few games. Although he only went 1-2 at the plate, Latham did have one steal, making him the oldest man to ever steal a base. It's a record that he still holds.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Basil Duke Historical Marker

There is a two sided historical marker in Kentucky that commemorates the accomplishments of Basil Duke. It's located at the Courthouse Square on Main Street in Georgetown, Kentucky and reads as follows:

A close associate of brother-in-law John Hunt Morgan, Duke provided tactics, discipline, and spirit, major elements of success of famous 2nd Ky. Cavalry. Wounded in battle twice, 1862; captured July 1863 in Ind.-Ohio raid; exchanged August 1864. After Morgan's death, Basil Duke appointed to command brigade. Later led part of the escort for Jefferson Davis in April-May 1865.

(Reverse) Basil W. Duke (1838-1916) - Scott County native Basil Duke-attorney, politician, and author-is most noted for Civil War service to Confederacy. Admitted to bar in 1858, he began law practice in St. Louis. After Civil War he settled in Louisville. Elected to Ky. House of Rep. Duke led powerful railroad lobby and was bitter enemy of Wm. Goebel. Writings include History of Morgan's Cavalry. Buried Lexington.

Basil Duke's Obituary

Basil Duke's obituary appeared in The New York Times on September 17, 1916.

Basil Duke

Basil Wilson Duke, a member of the Cyclone Club, was born in Kentucky in 1838. He attended Georgetown College and Centre College before obtaining a law degree at Transylania University in 1858. After graduating from law school, Duke decided to move to St. Louis where his cousin, also named Basil Duke and a lawyer, had a thriving practice.

According to Gary Robert Matthews' Basil Wilson Duke, CSA: The Right Man in the Right Place, "(from) the very beginning of Duke's legal career, it was obvious that his attention was held, not by the practice of law, but by politics." The politics of the day, of course, was dominated by questions regarding slavery, succession, and the impending Civil War. Louis Gerteis, in Civil War St. Louis, describes Duke as one of the leaders of Pro-Southern St. Louisans and the Minute Men, "their paramilitary organization." Gerteis writes that Duke was a "young man of twenty-five and a Douglas supporter in the election of 1860...(who) joined the Minute Men as a conditional Unionist. The arrival of federal troops in St. Louis (to guard the Arsenal and the Subtreasury) convinced him that Lincoln's administration intended to use coercion against the seceded states, and his loyalty shifted decisively to the Confederacy..."

Duke played a rather prominent role in the chaos in St. Louis in the first half of 1861. On February 13, according to Gerteis, "Basil Duke's Minute Men" were mustered into the State Guard. On March 3, as the Missouri State Convention was about to meet, Duke's men raised the Confederate flag over the St. Louis Courthouse and their headquarters in the Berthold Mansion at Fifth and Pine Street, the former headquarters of the Missouri Democratic Party. This escapade, which resulted in a violent clash between the Minute Men and the Wide Awakes, puts the actions of the Home Guard at the Empire Club's 1861 anniversary game in a new context. After the municipal elections on April 1, 1861, an anti-Republican coalition took political control of the city, electing a new mayor. As this coalition attempted to consolidate their control, Governor Jackson appointed a new police board in St. Louis that included Basil Duke.

After Fort Sumter came under fire and war officially began, Jackson sent Duke and Colton Greene to Montgomery, Alabama on April 17 to ask Jefferson Davis for siege guns and mortars to use in an attack on the Arsenal. The delegation, according to Matthews, was "warmly received" by Davis, who "agreed to provide Jackson the weapons and wrote to inform him that several howitzers and siege guns were being shipped for his use against the Arsenal." Duke and Greene picked up the guns and ammunition in Baton Rouge, took them to New Orleans, and loaded them on a steamboat, the Swan, to have them shipped up the Mississippi. While Greene stayed with the guns on the Swan, Duke went ahead by land as a scout. His trip was uneventful until he reached Cairo, Illinois, which had been recently occupied by Federal troops. In Cairo, Duke ran into James Casey, the brother-in-law of U. S. Grant, a Confederate sympathizer, and a friend from St. Louis. Casey warned Duke that his mission to Montgomery had become common knowledge and that he was in danger of being arrested. Not only was Duke endangered by the presence of Federal forces in Cairo but, according to Duke's Civil War memoir, he also was suspected by pro-Confederate forces of being a Union spy.

Duke was saved from numerous predicaments in Cairo by the arrival of the Swan, which he quickly boarded and which arrived safely in St. Louis on May 9. The weapons were delivered to the State Militia at Camp Jackson. It's unclear if Duke was at Camp Jackson when Union forces attacked on May 10, 1861. Most likely, Duke arranged to have the weapons delivered and then immediately left for Jefferson City to meet with Governor Jackson. Based on Duke's memoir, it appears that he received the news of the surrender of Camp Jackson while in Jefferson City. It also seems reasonable to conclude that the timing of Lyon's attack on Camp Jackson was prompted by the completion of Duke's mission and the delivery of the weapons to the pro-Confederate forces.

After these events, Duke moved back to Kentucky where he married Henrietta Morgan and joined the Second Kentucky Calvary under his new brother-in-law, John Hunt Morgan. His activities during the Civil War, when he rose from private to brigadier general, can be found at the Civil War St. Louis website.

Following the end of hostilities, Duke settled in Louisville where he resumed his law practice and played a prominent role in Kentucky politics. Throughout the rest of his life, he was a voice for reconciliation with the North and spent much of his time attempting to preserve the history of the Confederacy. In the 1880's, Duke was the editor of Southern Bivouac, a prominent veterans' magazine, and also helped to found the Filson Club Historical Society. He was appointed by Theodore Roosevelt as the first commissioner of Shiloh National Park and authored two books about his Civil War activities, Reminiscences of General Basil W. Duke and History of Morgan's Cavalry. Basil Duke died in New York City on September 16, 1916.

The Commercial Base Ball Club

As its name implies, the Commercial Club was composed of young business men and had for its president W. W. Sanford and among its members now recalled were Wallace, B. Delafield, Edwin Fowler, Geo. Stroupe, L. Bogy, E. C. Simmons, T. Noonan and Obas. F. Gauss. E. H. Tobias was also a player in this club for a time until he resigned and joined the Empire Club. This club also was a sufferer from the war and though it had a number of good players and played some close matches with the Union, Empire, Cyclone and other clubs, it did not meet with any considerable success and soon after President Sanford took a commission as captain in the army the club disbanded.
-E. H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News, November 2, 1895

The Commercials were also mentioned by Merritt Griswold and Al Spink as one of the first clubs in St. Louis and one of those that were playing in 1860.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

An Out-And-Out Professional Club

In February, 1875, the Red Stocking Club organized as an out-and-out professional club with a capital stock of $12,000, the bulk of which was held by Thomas McNeary, who became president and manager with Andy Blong as vice and J. McNeary secretary. The team selected was composed entirely of St. Louis boys full of life and vigor, all ambitious to become shining lights on the green diamond and this they did not fail in doing. It was composed as follows: John McSorley, Andy Blong, Joe Blong, Charles Houtz and C. McCall both of the Empire Club; William Redmond, Packy Dillon, Dan Morgan, Zach Mulhall and Jerry Seward of the Empire Club. Andy Blong was sent as the clubs representative to the National Association convention held in Philadelphia on March 1...
-E. H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News, February 8, 1896

The most interesting thing about this is the reference to the capital stock. This is the second source that I have (the other being an 1875 article from the Globe-Democrat) that mentions that the Reds had $12,000 in capital stock (and I believe the Globe actually put the figure at $12,500). Now it has been brought to my attention that selling a subscription of stock was not the same as having cash on hand. There was generally no trade of cash for shares but rather this type of transaction was more along the lines of a promise by the subscriber to contribute financially if the club needed an infusion of cash. Basically, it looks like McNeary, who owned the Compton Avenue Grounds and had managed the Reds since their inception, was promising to put up money if the club struggled financially or needed money upfront for something like luring Charlie Sweasy to St. Louis.

This raises the question of whether or not the Reds experienced financial difficulties in 1875. With McNeary owning the ballpark and, most likely, players (with the exception of Sweasy) being paid on the co-op plan, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of capital outlay or payroll. Their NA games didn't draw well due mostly to the severe weather that St. Louis experienced in the late spring of 1875 but there are sources that have the Reds drawing rather well, at home and on the road, in several circumstances. So while I doubt that the Reds were financially successful through the first half of 1875, their season was in no way a complete financial disaster. Add to that, McNeary's financial commitment to the club, in the form of capital stock, and it begs the question of why the Reds ceased their NA endeavor.

Based on currant evidence, I'd have to say that finances did play a part. With the poor weather combining with the team's poor performance in keeping attendance down, there could not have been much cash on hand. Combine that with Joe Blong's defection in late June and the difficulty the team had in scheduling championship matches, McNeary most likely came to the conclusion that the club's foray into the NA had failed and pulled the plug on the experiment.

Bat And Ball Games In St. Louis Prior To The Advent Of Baseball

It was in the latter years of the '50's that base ball found a permanent lodgement here and in 1860, 1861, and 1862 it became quite "the craze," and assumed definite proportions. This was not accomplished without considerable opposition and the overcoming of much prejudice. Cricket had long had a strong hold on lovers of out door sports and St. Louis possessed several good clubs, notable among them being the Jackson, which enjoyed quite an extended reputation and deservedly so too. The advent of base ball was met with sneers and derision, denouncements and obstructions. But its votaries or "cranks" had the "craze" bad, very bad, and they stood in to win, which they did and their success proved the downfall of cricket. Upon the disbandment of these clubs quite a number of cricketers enlisted in the ranks of base ball and proved skillful players.

-E. H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News, October 26, 1895

Tobias also wrote, in the next installment of his series on the history of baseball in St. Louis, that "Prior to the starting of any of (the first baseball) clubs, what was called 'Town ball' had quite a footing in St. Louis." One would imagine that the popularity of bat and ball games such as town ball and cricket in St. Louis in the first half of the 19th century helped pave the way for the spread of baseball in the city. While there is no doubt that Tobias is correct when he says that there was resistance to the new game from those who played the old, a solid tradition of bat and ball games in the city helped create an infrastructure that baseball could co-op.

This is one possible explanation for why the game, once it first appeared in the city in 1859, took hold so quickly. By the summer of 1860, there are at least six base ball clubs already playing in St. Louis and there may have been as many as ten. Players, clubs, ball grounds, equipment, etc. were already in existence when the game first arrived in St. Louis. While this infrastructure may not have been perfectly and completely co-opted by the new game, it certainly had to have helped facilitate the introduction and acceptance of a new bat and ball game.

While I look at the prior existence of bat and ball games in St. Louis as something that had a positive impact on the introduction and growth of baseball in St. Louis, this didn't necessarily have to be the case. In one sense, baseball, town ball, and cricket were natural competitors for the time and loyalties of people in St. Louis. As Tobias wrote, there was opposition to and prejudice against the new game. Merritt Griswold wrote about his interactions with the Morning Star Club when they were still playing town ball and the efforts that it took to get them to try the new game. While it appears that the existence of a bat and ball game infrastructure helped in the establishment of the game in city, it could have just as easily impeded that establishment and crushed the game in its cradle. While that didn't happen, it certainly could have and there was no reason to believe in 1859 that baseball would plant its roots in St. Louis as deeply as it did.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Jumbo McGinnis' Grave

I really did just kind of accidently stumble upon these photos.

Jumbo McGinnis died on May 18, 1934 and is buried at Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis. The grave photo was taken by the incomparable Connie Nisinger. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Nisinger but I'm a huge fan. Her work documenting the graves of historical figures is just extraordinary.

Lou Criger's Grave

I was messing around online tonight and just by coincidence found a photo of Lou Criger's grave. It was posted at Find A Grave by Bryan Bobb.

Criger died on May 13, 1934 and is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Tucson, Arizona.

Lou Criger

Lou Criger played in seventy-seven games for the Perfectos in 1899. "In his day," Al Spink wrote, "Criger was one of the cleverest of backstops and a fast and very effective thrower to bases." The photo of Criger, above, comes from The Deadball Era.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

It Always Has To Come To This (or My Soul Casts About Like An Old Paper Bag)

Another VEB All-Time Sim Tournament Update (With Video!):

It's over. The Reaper has come for the Four-Time Champions in the form of Dizzy Dean and the Gashouse Gang. Zubin has all the gory details over at VEB. I'm disappointed. I really expected the Browns to make more noise in the tourney. But what can you do? It was a tough bracket and there's going to be some really good teams falling by the wayside before it's all said and done. And I'm now officially switching my allegiance to the 1985 Cardinals.

So the Browns getting knocked out of the tourney makes me feel bad...but Neko Case makes me feel good. It all balances out in the end.

Here's Neko singing Deep Red Bells.


Hex (the audio and video aren't synced but just close your eyes and listen)

Update: VEB just updated the tournament and the quarterfinals are now set. In one bracket, the 2006 Evil Mojo Cards are taking on the 1946 Cardinals and the 1926's will be playing the 1968 El Birdos. On the other side, the 1982's versus the 1985's (this is going to be a fun series; two of my all-time favorites) and the Gashouse Gang versus the '64 Cards. Honestly, there's not a bad series in the lot. The Evil Mojo's going against Stan the Man. Old Pete taking on Gibby. A war between Whitey's Boys. Mike Shannon versus Dizzy Dean. Certainly, fun will be had by all.

And we even have more Neko Case. You can't beat this with a stick.

If You Knew