Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Red Stockings Of Cincinnati Visit St. Louis: Part One

E.H. Tobias, writing in the December 7, 1895 issue of The Sporting News, details the visit of "the famous Red Stocking Club of Cincinnati" to St. Louis in 1869:

That great aggregation of ball players, the famous Red Stocking Club of Cincinnati, on their way across the continent, stopped at St. Louis and played the Union Club on September 15.

The defeat of the Union Club was, of course, looked upon as a foregone conclusion, but the disparity in the figures was not, so that on the following day, September 16, when the Empire Club was scheduled to be wiped out by the visitors, the home club agreeably surprised everyone of the large crowd in attendance by putting up an unusual vigorous game and holding down the score of the Red Sox. The non-appearance of Murray necessitated some changes in placing the players and the results shows they were put where they could "do the most good." Fitzgibbon pitched effectually, Barron did shortstop to perfection, Shockey took four running flies and Heep two very difficult ones. The altogether good showing at the bat of the Empire boys put their admirers in such good humor that they were willing to forgive all the past sins of omission and commission , particularly those in the Forest City and Southern Club games. But for a muff by Welch in the seventh the National Champions would have been white washed in that inning.


Richard Hershberger said...

Is it just me, or does the run total for the Empires not add up right in that box score?

As for the disparity in scores, this was a pitcher's era. It looks like Asa Brainard was roughly equally effective both days, but Fitzgibbons had much better stuff than did Warner.

Jeff Kittel said...

No, it's not just you. The individual run totals add up to 14 while the team score is posted as 11. Wright, in his book on the NABBP, has the score as 31-14. This is probably either a printing error at TSN (there were a few during the run of Tobias' series which he had to fix in the next article) or an error in the records of the Empire Club which Tobias just transposed.

How was this a pitcher's era?

Richard Hershberger said...

"How was this a pitcher's era?"

I guess that was oversimplified. It was an era where clubs had pitchers of wildly differing skills, and wildly differing experience with facing good pitching. This accounts for the pattern of city clubs going on tour and schooling the country clubs. The city club would have a fastball pitcher with decent control and perhaps a bit of movement on the ball. The country club wouldn't know what hit them, having never seen such a thing. In the meantime their guy would be lobbing soft ones to the city boys, who would tee up.

St. Louis, of course, wasn't hicksville. But what we are seeing here is that its best clubs were at best second tier in the grand scheme. One thing to keep in mind about the Nationals tour of 1867 was that the Nationals could barely compete with the best New York clubs, but won fairly handily out west apart from their one bad day. Cincinnati responded to this by importing eastern players. My understanding is that St. Louis didn't do anything like this until the Brown Stockings era.

Swift pitching would become more widespread, so in the 1870s any strong club, professional or nominally amateur, would have a swift pitcher. Then later in the decade the curve ball would come along, and the pattern would repeat itself.

As an aside, in my (admittedly limited) experience with vintage base ball, this is one of the biggest limiting factors. Until we see vintage ballists with strong swift pitching, vintage base ball will at best simulate country clubs.

Jeff Kittel said...

I understand what you're saying and it makes sense. It certainly fits with my thinking about how St. Louis baseball was continually behind the baseball developmental curve until at least 1875 (and one can make the argument that StL never got ahead of the curve until the 1920's).

Richard Hershberger said...

I think 1920s is unfair. The Brown Stockings of 1875-1876 were very good, but faced a juggernaut both seasons.

And hey: I'm a Phillies fan. Philadelphia fell behind the curve sometime in the mid 1870s and hasn't caught up yet.