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.

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