Sunday, June 15, 2008

Shepard Barclay

Shepard Barclay, a member of the Union Base Ball Club, was a lawyer, jurist, and Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court.

Born November 3, 1847, Barclay was the son of Capt. Elihu H. Shepard, "of pioneer American settlers." A member of the St. Louis University baseball club, he graduated in 1867 and received his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1869. After studying law at the University of Berlin, Barclay returned to St. Louis in 1872 and set up his practice. On June 11, 1873, he married Katie Anderson.

In 1882, Barclay was elected as a judge to the circuit court in St. Louis and in 1888 he won election to the Missouri Supreme Court. Barclay was named the Chief Justice of the Missouri Supreme Court in 1897 and resigned that position the next year, returning to St. Louis to practice law as a partner in the firm of Barclay, Fauntleroy, & Cullen. In 1901, he returned to the bench after being appointed to the St. Louis Court of Appeals and served until 1903, once again returning to private practice.

Barclay passed away in St. Louis on November 17, 1925.

Shepard Barclay is the source for the Fruin myth. In The National Game, Al Spink quotes Barclay as saying that "(it) was in the early fifties...that Mr. Fruin brought the game to St. Louis. I was a little fellow at the time and with other boys I played all sorts of games on a field located right where Lafayette Park is now. I remember while playing there one day Jere Fruin, a great tall boy came among us. He was a stranger who had come from somewhere in the East and on our field he laid out a diamond much the same as the diamond in use to-day, and in fact, showed us just how to play the game. That was really the introduction of the game to St. Louis."

Of course, this claim is without merit and is demonstratively false. Fruin himself, quoted in The National Game, states explicitly that he did not introduce baseball to St. Louis. But this hasn't stopped the myth from being repeated, accepted as fact, and published in histories and on websites. It makes for a nice story but Barclay, when relating it to Spink, was sixty-three years old and talking about events more than fifty years past. I've always felt a bit of scorn for Barclay for perpetrating this myth on us and I'm still working on finding it my heart to forgive him.

W.E. Kelsoe, in A Newspaper Man's Motion-Picture of the City, has a nice piece on Barclay and his baseball exploits:

The night of the conversation with Pitcher Fitzgibbon I had one also with Judge Shepard Barclay, referred to in a former paragraph as a crack pitcher of the Unions in his St. Louis college days. The judge had pitched for the Pickwicks of St. Louis University in their games with the Olympics of Washington University before he joined the Unions. He pitched the Unions to victory in one of their games with the Empires for the championship of Missouri and was their pitcher when the St. Louis Unions (played) the Nationals of Washington City. His fame as a pitcher for a college club continued with him after he left St. Louis University. This was the Barclay who pitched in the game that won for University of Virginia the championship of the South over the Washington and Lee University, the contest being reported by Chadwick for his publication. Nor was that all. Not content with his pitching victories in America, the St. Louisan crossed the ocean and pitched a winning game for "Columbia," a newly organized college club in the University of Berlin. The victory, however, dearest to his heart, the one this ex-member of the Missouri State Supreme Court loves to talk about most, was the one played in St. Louis, May 23, 1867, by the Olympics and the Pickwicks, a contest between the college clubs of, respectively, Washington University of St. Louis and St. Louis University, the latter winning with Barclay as the pitcher. The Judge remembers that Nat Hazard pitched for the Olympics and that the only player in that locally famous game still living, besides the two pitchers, is George A. Strong, now a New York lawyer,who played second base for Washington University. The umpire of the game was Adam Wirth, of the St. Louis Fire Department, as before stated, and nationally famous (because of the honor of having his picture in Harper's Weekly) as the first baseman of the old St. Louis Empire Club. The judge told of a game in which one side scored 127 runs, but I think that was another contest, perhaps one between the Unions and Nationals.

Note: The Book Of St. Louisians, from which I took the biographical information, lists Barclay as the son of Elihu Shepard while my notes list him as Shepard's grandson. I lean rather strongly to idea that he was Shepard's grandson but have to admit that I haven't run down the information. I've bought a copy of a 1931 biography of Barclay (first edition no less) and it's on the way. Hopefully, it will answer the question of Barclay's parentage. Once I get my hands on the book expect to be hearing more about Shepard Barclay.

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