Friday, January 16, 2009

Baseball At Shurtleff College

Shurtleff College was planted by New England Baptists, and consecrated with prayer to the education of a Baptist ministry, and for over thirty-five years it has been true to its mission. The churches of the Mississippi Valley have looked to it for their chief supply of educated ministers. Nearly an hundred preachers went forth from it before the theological department was opened...With earnest piety Shurtleff has united elevated patriotism. Though on the borders of rebellion, she has sent more men into the army than any other college in the West. In the dark days of the republic her whole body of students enlisted as three month men, and the Trustees gave up their Commencement to enable them to serve their country...

The Theological School has now been five years in operation, and has graduated three classes. About thirty students are now pursuing study in the regular course, and there are about fifty students for the ministry in the collegiate course. Both the School and the College have doubled their numbers during the last four years, and have quite overgrown their present accommodations.
-Alton Daily Telegraph (quoting the Watchman and Reflector), December 7, 1868

In 1827, Reverend John Mason Peck established a theological school near Belleville, Illinois and in 1832 he moved the school to Alton, naming it the Alton Seminary. In 1835, Dr. Benjamin Shurtleff donated ten thousand dollars to the Seminary, which was used for the construction of new buildings and the establishment of a professorship of oratory, and the name of the school was changed in 1836 in honor of its benefactor. In 1957, Shurtleff College, the oldest Baptist college west of the Appalachians, was absorbed by the Southern Illinois University system and is currently used as the campus for the university's dental school.

And it just so happens that in 1867 Shurtleff College had a baseball club.

Below we append the score of the match game of base ball between the "Shurtleff" Base Ball Club, of Upper Alton, and the "Athletic" Base Ball Club, of Carlinville (Illinois) played Saturday, October 26th, on the grounds of the "Athletic," in Carlinville..."
-Alton Telegraph, November 1, 1867

The Shurtleff College club defeated the Athletics of Carlinville by a score of 38-30. In their summary of the game, the Telegraph made note of the number of "fly-catches" made by each club (thirteen apiece) and the number missed (two each). The umpire of the game was Mr. L. Dubois of the Athletic Base Ball Club of Springfield, Illinois.


"When Greek meets Greek then comes the tug of war.

When Shurtleff meets Shurtleff the contest thickens, the encounter hands in the balance, and the result becomes doubtful. Frequently have we seen the array of brain and mental vigor against the brain and mental vigor-declaimer against declaimer, debater against debater, and orator against orator, when the result seemed to be uncertain, the choice so nearly equal. But Saturday last we witnessed the array of muscle, bone, joints and activity, against activity, joints, bone and muscle. At first muscle was in the ascendant, 24 to 9, bearing down all beneath it, when activity came the rescue, and, aided by joints, muscle was compelled to relax, making the contest nearly equal. Again muscle takes the lead, supplemented by activity, is hotly pursued, and even outstripped by counter muscle and activity 33 to 32.

The Freshmen class were arrayed against a picked nine from the College in a game of baseball. The Shurtleff club had beaten the Atletics, of Carlenville, by a score of 38 to 30, the Actives, of Alton, 52 to 14, and the Bluff City, 59 to 10. Now a part of the Shurtleffs meet a part of the Shurtleffs, and it is "nip and tug" with only a slight gravitation towards tug.

The Freshman took the ins, and with K. Dubois to pitch and F. Dubois to catch, and promised hard work to their opponents. Though Fred at the bat did not play with his usual skill, yet as catcher took balls under all circumstances, sending them swiftly to the 2d base, stopping short the run of one and another. K. Dubois, being hurt in the beginning of the game, was unable to pitch for a few innings; in which the College seemed to gain an advantage, making 15 runs in two innings, but recovering somewhat, he checked their gain, and made a good score for himself. Riggs was at home in his part of the field, and no wonder, for he hails from Rockford, and has seen the "Forest City" play. A ball from the bat coming near him is a fly catch or is on a very short route to the first base, where Stookey was well prepared to hold every one of them. Simpson, at the 2b, took good care of it, of all balls that came to him, and when he appeared at the bat he was there to some purpose. A. Phillips, Gilham and Haugh, in the field, did good service, the last taking three fly balls in succession (applause), the former two, and played well at the bat and base, the first on forced run, saving a tally by swift running.

We noticed in the playing of the College nine that Castle hit the ball hard and caught well, putting out 13 men on foul strikes. Starne light of foot, sure of hand and swift as Achilles, made one-fifth of the whole scores. Merriam did some heavy batting, caught two fly balls in fine style, and added six to the score. McFarland went in on his muscle, put out one on the first base, another and then another to emphasize it. Beran as usual used but one hand in striking, but hit full double-handed blows, and showed himself "no sardine" at catching. At one period of the game Dixon was seen pursuing a foul ball. The ball hit by Clawson, was going swiftly, and Dixon, was going swiftly ten feet at a stride; the ball made a bound and Dixon made a jump, catching it fair, by reaching out one hand apparently two yards (applause). Stiffler attended well to the 3d base, took foul balls, and gave more than one the sad pleasure of walking to the home base as slowly as he chose. J.E. Phillips batted fair, adding four to the score, while Corey gave the ball some of the hardest hits, and as a fielder sent it quickly to the place where needed.

At the close of the ninth inning, a hasty count announced 33 for the College, and 34 for the Freshmen. (Great cheering for the latter.) A second count increased the cheers, as it showed a drawn game of 34 to 34.

A tenth inning is proposed to settle it. Heigh, in earnest, is at the bat but his expectations are cut short, for McFarland is on the alert, and takes the ball straight from the bat. Simpson makes one run, and the two following go out on fouls caught by Castle.

The College boys come in from the field cheering. Starne is at the bat, and with one of his hard hits, sends the ball beyond every fielder, going to the third base with hearty cheers, many hoping he may make a home run. He finishes it, while the next three go out on fouls caught by Stockey and F. Dubois, and the tenth inning stands 35 to 35. (Furious cheering.)

An eleventh is called for and every ballist throws off his hat and strings his nerves. Clawson, in behalf of the Freshmen, hits a "high roller" which promises a home run, but nimble feet are in pursuit of it, and he is forced to halt at the 2d base before coming home. One, two are out. Gilham is called to the bat, and F. Dubois on deck. The Freshmen are hopeful. G. puts in one of his last, but is left for the fourth time on base, for Fred, though he gave the ball a blow full of power, was caught out on the fly by Merriam, and the freshmen gave place to the College nine, who make five runs and win the game 40 to 36. The Freshmen claim 11 fly catches and 3 passed balls, to the College 8 fly catches and 6 passed balls. The game lasting three and a half hours, was spirited and highly interesting, the umpire, H. Milts, of the Shurtleff club, giving general satisfaction. F. Long and S.B. Force acting as scorers...
-Alton Telegraph, November 22, 1867

A hotly contested game of base ball played upon the beautiful campus of the Wyman Institute at Upper Alton, between the students of that Institute and a nine made up of Shurtleff College students and town players, was commenced last Saturday, continued on Tuesday and concluded last evening. The result was in favor of the Wyman Institute boys by a score of 32 to 31 with the last inning unfinished.
-Alton Daily Telegraph, May 14, 1880

A game of base ball was played last Thursday p.m., on the Shurtleff College campus, between a College 9 and a picked 9 of this city. The game resulted in a score of 16 to 9 in favor of the Shurtleff boys. The time of the game was 2 hours 40 minutes; umpire Dr. H.T. Burnap.
-Alton Telegraph, June 14, 1883

Playing that day for Shurtleff was Morrill, ss; Johnson, p; Kendrick, 3b; Worden, 1st; Williams, 2b; Caldwell, rf; F. Morrill, cf; Bonham, lf; and Roach, c.

Thus memories of '87's Commencement bring thoughts of a year of "sweetness and light," with suggestions of the pioneer class day banquet, the beginning of the ladies' hall, the last great literary contest, the nearly organized orchestra, and the inauguration of the school of music, to say nothing of the baseball team, which won laurels in its victories over Blackburn University and other hapless contestants.
-The Pioneer School: A History of Shurtleff College

Another game of ball was played between the Shurtleff and the W.M.A. boys Saturday afternoon. It was an exceedingly closely contested game. The Shurtleff boys led off with 5 runs to 1 for the first few innings and scored no more runs afterwards. The W.M.A. boys kept gradually gaining until in the last half of the ninth inning the score stood 5 to 4 in favor of Shurtleff, with the W.M.A. at the bat. The Academy boys had splendid prospects for the game with two men on bases, but just after a foul ball, before the pitcher was in his box the man on second stepped off his base and was declared out. This made three out and the game was ended. Sloane, of the College, and Shapleigh, of the W.M.A., both pitched a very fine game, fanning one after another as they stepped up to the bat. Both teams are weak on batting. The next game will be between Shurtleff and Blackburn next Saturday at Sportsman's park.
-Alton Telegraph, May 14, 1896

There seems to be sufficient evidence (much of which, believe it or not, I didn't include here) to state that Shurtleff College had an active baseball club from the end of the Civil War and into the 20th century. Interestingly, there is numerous references to a college football club in the 1890's suggesting that the college had a rather healthy athletic life.

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