Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Samuel C. Davis Club.

A game of base ball was played yesterday between the Sam'l C. Davis Base Ball Club and a picked nine from Main and Second streets, called the Richardson Base Ball Club. Both clubs played a good game, resulting in a victory for the latter, with a score of 9 to 4.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, June 20, 1875

The Sam'l C. Davis Club was organized in 1872 and was still playing in the Business League in 1886. One would assume that the club was made up of employees of Samuel C. Davis & Company, one of several wholesale dry-goods stores in St. Louis. There were numerous teams like this in St. Louis at the time and it makes putting together a comprehensive list of 19th century St. Louis clubs an impossible task. The Davis Club just happens to have been one of the more prominent of these minor clubs and therefore we know a bit more about them than we do the others.


Richard Hershberger said...

Is there any hint of how much of a club apparatus this group had? I am interested in how in the 1870s you start to see bare teams: that is, "clubs" consisting merely of what used to be called the "first nine," plus perhaps a few substitutes. These groups retained some of the trappings of the old fraternal clubs, but the essential difference was that they existed to play match games. The old club days, where members gathered once or twice a week to play intramural games, was gone.

I suspect that the "Samual C. Davis Club" was essentially like a modern company softball team, and a club in name only. But it is often hard to tell from this remove. If this group was comparatively well documented, there may be hints.

Jeff Kittel said...

I don't have much more information about the club. I think this piece from the Globe was the third or fourth reference I've seen to the club and most of the references simply show that the team existed or was playing. Tobias mentions the club starting up in 1872 and ties it to the early closing movement. He wrote that the employees of the businesses that were part of the movement "were brought into organized clubs...In these clubs some fine baseball talent was developed that took a more tangible existence in '73."

I think you're right that these were more like rec league teams and had little in common with the older clubs. I seriously doubt that the Davis Club was holding an annual ball, playing an anniversary game between the married and single club members, or having the big, post-game, inter-club banquet.

However, I'm not sure if competition was the only reason for clubs like this to exist. If Tobias is right and these clubs are somehow tied into the progressive movement then there are probably other reasons such as getting workers out of the shop and into the fresh air, giving them time to socialize in a non-bar, non-drinking setting, and stuff like that. Help the employees find a balance between work and their personal life and you'll have a better employee-that was the thinking behind the early closing movement.

David Ball said...

The opening of Warren Goldstein's "Playing for Keeps" has some sketchy but interesting remarks on teams like this that flew below the radar screen of the National Association.

Actually, "a picked nine from Main and Second streets, called the Richardson Base Ball Club" is interesting. A picked nine was an All-Star team or just a pickup team, players gotten together to play a single game. Strictly speaking, a picked nine was something completely distinct from a club.

Jeff Kittel said...

I noticed the thing about the picked nine and thought it was strange. I read it as the Davis Club playing a hastily arranged team that decided to name itself. Can't say that I've ever seen a picked nine name itself.