Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Game Hardly Calls For A Detailed Description

The Chicago Base Ball Club inaugurated the match game season of 1870, today, by a contest with the Unions, of St. Louis, and achieved one of the greatest victories on record.

The Chicago nine reached (St. Louis) at 11 o'clock this forenoon, after a safe and comfortable journey over the Illinois Central, being supplied with quarters in the sleeping car, and proceeded to the Laclede Hotel, where they were allotted spacious and nicely furnished rooms, the same suite as that occupied by the Red Stockings (of Cincinnati) on the occasion of their visit here last season.

Dinner over, the club entered carriages supplied by the Unions, and were driven to the base ball park, about four miles northwest of the city, where both clubs were soon on hand in readiness for work.

The Chicago nine were clad in their new uniform, which they had donned for the first time and an elegant one it is. It consists of a blue cap adorned with a white star in the centre, white flannel shirt, trimmed with blue and bearing the letter C upon the breast worked in blue. Pants of bright blue flannel with white cord, and supported by a belt of blue and white; stockings of pure white British thread, shoes of white goatskin, with the customary spikes, the ensemble constituting by far the showiest and handsomest uniform ever started by a base ball club. Already the snowy purity of the hose has suggested the name of "White Stockings" for the nine, and it is likely to become as generally accepted, not to say as famous, as that of the sanguinary extremities.

The Union Club, which is composed entirely of the best class of St. Louis young men, also sported their new outfit for the first time, the same being made up of white cap, shirt, and pants and blue stockings.

About 600 hundred people were present, and the day was as bright and warm and beautiful as could have been prayed for.

The grounds were not in the best of condition, owing to the extreme length of the grass, which materially altered the calculations of the Chicago players in stopping ground balls. A vast deal of interest was taken in the game by the St. Louis people, who were curious to see whether the Chicago Club would administer as severe a beating to the Unions as did the Red Stockings in 1869, when the score stood 70 to 9-the prevailing opinion being that it would not be done.

The Union nine is considered materially stronger than that of last year, being now constituted as follows: Turner, second base; German, short stop; Easton, first base; Mellier, left field; Lucas, pitcher; Greenleaf, right field; Duncan, third base; Wolff, centre field; and O'Brien, catcher. They certainly proved themselves a strong nine in the field and on the bases-stronger than any of the amateur organizations-but id not develop a corresponding skill at the bat.

The Chicago Club was positioned in the regular way, McAtee playing at first, although yet troubled by his leg, and Flynn served as a substitute, the first game, by the way, which he ever witnessed as a spectator, played by a club with which he was connected.

...(The) game hardly calls for a detailed description, the Union...scoring but 1 run in the game, while Chicago secured 47.

In the fifth inning Pinkham, who had played at third, took Myerle's place, the latter having been far more effective and regular than usual. Of course, Pinkham sent them in hot and hard to hit, the Unions being unable to bat more than high flies during the game. Their fielding, however, was splendid, there being very few muffs in that line, while the bases were most efficiently played. Lucas is a swift though rather irregular pitcher and O'Brien an excellent catcher. In the seventh inning the latter was severely hurt by a ball, and was obliged to retire for a time, Turner taking his place, Wolff coming to second, and Asa Smith going to centre field. The result was a few more passed balls, which made no especial difference in the score...

This evening the Chicago nine accepted the invitation of the Unions and visited the Varieties, where two private boxes were placed at their disposal. The club has been handsomely received and treated by the Unions, and the St. Louis people in general.

To-morrow the club plays a match game with the Empires, of this city, a nine about the same strength as the Unions.
-Chicago Tribune, April 30, 1870

This is without a doubt the finest written account of a 19th century baseball game I have ever read. It was written as a special dispatch to the Trib so I don't know who wrote it but all I can say is that the Spink brothers were hacks compared to this guy. The detail in this piece is incredible and I even edited out the inning by inning account of the game. As a researcher, I simply can't ask for a better game account than this.


Richard Hershberger said...

I have somehow missed seeing this before. Thank you for posting it. You can find comparable accounts for major eastern games. Check out the accounts of the Atlantics/Athletics rivalry from around 1866. What is interesting here is that this objectively was not a major game. The Chicagos were a new club, and while the Unions were an established and locally important club, they were pushovers for the top tier teams.

What this tells me is that the club's organizers and the Tribune were pushing this hard. The White Stockings were more or less created to beat the Red Stockings, and part of this process was giving them the publicity normally associated with established organizations.

Was Meacham with the Tribune in 1870? If so, he would be a plausible guess for authorship.

Jeff Kittel said...

You're very welcome.

The StL/Chicago rivalry may account for the coverage. And I'm not just talking about on the field (which had already had several years of build up) but the general rivalry for economic, cultural, and political supremacy of the West. This game was taking place the same year that StL was fudging census records to make it look like the city was more populous than Chicago just to get a psychological and public relations boost over their rival-which illustrates the nature of the relationship between the two cities.

As far as Meacham, Al Spink wrote in The National Game that he was working for the Trib and covering baseball in the 1860's. He also specifically stated that he was covering the White Stockings in 1870.