Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Novel Encounter

About 500 enthusiasts assembled at Compton Avenue Park, to witness the novel encounter between the colored Blue Stockings and their white rivals. The game was hotly contested throughout, and was a tie from the third to the ninth inning...
-The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 5, 1876

The implication was that the game between the Olives and Blues took place the previous day. The Blues scored first, getting a run in the second inning, with the Olives striking right back with a run of their own in the top of the third. Both teams scored two runs in the seventh and the game was tied 3-3 going into the ninth. In the top of the ninth, the Olives plated four runs to take a 7-3 lead. In the bottom of the inning, the Blues managed just a single run and lost 7-4.

At the Red Stocking Park, the colored Blue Stockings got away with their white antagonists in style...
-The St. Louis Globe-Democrat, July 10, 1876

The second game between the Blues and the Olives, which most likely took place on the 9th, was a rout. The Blues jumped out to a 9-1 lead and won the game 16-9.

It seems (from what I can understand) that interracial games in this era were common in some areas but not in others. Lawrence Hogan, in Shades of Glory, mentions a game played between a white and black club in Philadelphia in 1869 and another played in Baltimore in 1870 but indicates that these were exceptions to the rule. He states that, in the North, the "opportunity to play a white team would be a significant feather" in the cap of a black club. However, he goes on to write that in New Orleans interracial games were "frequently held, without the need for (the) extensive diplomacy" that was needed to arrange these games in the North.

Where St. Louis fell along this spectrum is unknown at present.


Richard Hershberger said...

Black clubs date back to 1860 or so. The 1869 game between the (black)Pythian club of Philadelphia and the Olympics of Philadelphia is thought to be the first such. Just to confuse the issue, though, Priscilla Astifan has presented good evidence for at least one integrated club in Rochester before the war, with its membership including the son of Frederick Douglass. Rochester was something of a hotbed of abolitionism.

There were at least two inter-racial matches in Philadelphia that year, and I believe one in Washington. These should be understood as political acts. One white club in DC refused to play the white club that had played the black club. Look into the politics of the Philly white clubs that played the Pythians and you will find radical Republicans.

If you aren't familiar with him, you might look up Octavius Catto, the founder of the Pythians. He was an up-and-coming civil rights leader until assassinated for voting while black. Second baseman, if I recall correctly. He was an interesting guy, and several good articles have been written about him.

I know nothing about inter-racial play in New Orleans, but New Orleans has always been an oddity. I would not be surprised to find a different pattern there than elsewhere.

As for St. Louis, just how southern was it in the 1870s? Did it have a significant civil rights faction? I would be unsurprised to find a political subtext to these matches.

Jeff Kittel said...

St. Louis was, and is, a southern city. The earliest white settlers were Creoles followed by Virginians/Kentuckians/Illinoisans. If it wasn't for the Federal army taking action to secure St. Louis in 1861, the city and the (slave-holding) state of Missouri would have been lost to the Confederacy.

After the war, Radical Republicans were in charge of the state and city but lost power by 1870. With the Democrats back in control, civil rights for African-Americans pretty much went out the window.

Certainly there were progressive elements in the city, particularly among the German immigrant community, but the powers that be were all former slave holders, anti-civil rights, and members of a powerful Democratic Party machine. This has left a legacy of racism in the city that's still prevalent today.

I honestly wish I had more time to devote to the topic because I find it fascinating. Hopefully, somebody will find the little bits and pieces of information that I post and run with it.

Richard Hershberger said...

The later Negro leagues garner the attention, but there is a very good doctoral dissertation waiting to be written on interracial play in the 1860s through the 1880s. Bits and pieces of this have been written about: Octavius Catto and the Walker brothers are obvious examples. But this deserves the full treatment by someone conversant with the social history of the period. This person is not me. I'm just faking it.