Monday, January 12, 2009

The Protoball Chronology Has Been Updated

The extraordinarily fantastic Protoball Chronology has been updated and I thought I'd share some of the new St. Louis related stuff they now have up on the chronology. I've been sitting on this information since it was passed along to me a month or so ago and I wanted to wait until they put it up before posting it here. I can't tell you how difficult it was to sit on this stuff and not share it with you. But enough about me and my internal struggles, here's the new St. Louis entries:

1858.42 – In Downstate Illinois, New Club Wins by 134 Rounds

“BASEBALL IN ILLINOIS. – The Alton [IL] Base-Ball Club . . . a meeting was held on the evening of May 18, to organize a club . . . . The Upper Alton Base Ball Club . . . sent us a challenge, to play a match game, on Saturday, the 19th of June, which was accepted by our club; each side had five innings, and thirteen players each, with the following result: The Alton Base-Ball Club made 224 rounds. The Upper Alton Base-Ball Club made 90 rounds.” “Base-Ball”, Porter's Spirit of the Times, Volume 4, number 20 (July 17, 1858), p. 309, columns. 2-3 Alton IL is a Mississippi River town 5 miles north of St. Louis. Missouri.

Obviously, this isn't the New York game that they're playing in Alton but I believe this is the earliest reference to a non-cricket safe haven game in the St. Louis area that anyone has found as of yet. Very significant and very exciting stuff. This certainly helps shed some light on what was happening with bat and ball games in St. Louis prior to the introduction of the New York game.

1859.39 – Club Organized in St. Louis MO

“CLUB ORGANIZED, -- A base ball club was organized in St. Louis, Mo, on the 1st inst. It boasts of being the first organization of the kind in that city, but will not, surely, long stand alone. It numbers already 18 members, officers as follows: President, C. D. Paul; Vice do, J. T. Haggerty; Secretary, C. Thurber; Treasurer, E. R. Paul. They announce their determination to be ready to lay matches in about a month. Source: Underidentified clipping in the Mears collection – The Clipper or the Spirit of the Times – annotated “Sept 1859” in hand. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.

Again, very significant in that this is the earliest contemporary reference to a club that was (most likely) playing the New York game in St. Louis. While the best available evidence suggests that the Cyclone club organized in the summer of 1859, all the references are based on the later memories of the participants. Interestingly, this club is a complete mystery in that I have no information about it. The men mentioned in the source are not mentioned by Tobias in his history of early baseball in St. Louis. It's possible that this may be the Resolute, Hope, or Olympic Club but much more research is needed.

I have done some research and identified three of the men mentioned in the source. Edmund R. Paul was born in Missouri in 1837 and in 1860 he was working as a clerk in a real estate office that was owned by his father Edmund W. Paul. He had a brother named Charles S. Paul who is most likely the C.D. Paul mentioned in the source. Charles Paul was born in Missouri in 1841 and in 1860 he was working as a printer. C. Thurber is most likely Charles H. Thurber who was working as a clerk in an insurance office in 1860. J.T. Haggerty has been difficult to identify because of the fact that there were several Haggerty's and Hagerty's and Hagarty's with first names that started with "J" living in St. Louis in 1860.


Richard Hershberger said...

The Alton cite is also interesting in that it is one of a mere handful of examples of the term "base ball" used in the part of the country where I would expect "town ball". (I know of no such examples in reverse.) One of the others is from Quincy, Illinois. I don't read too much into this. One should expect some noise amid the signal, and I am surprised there isn't more of it. At most, it suggests that this region got immigration from various directions, which I doubt is much of a surprise.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

Today, I just found an article in the Alton Weekly Courier, dated June 24, 1858, that contains all of the information from the July 17, 1858 Spirit of the Times piece except for the stuff about the club organizing in May. As of right now the earliest reference to the New York game in Alton that I can find is from 1867 (and that post is scheduled to go up on Friday, I think). Still digging through the Alton papers. There are references to baseball in the papers in 1866 but nothing specific to a club in Alton.

I don't know a great deal about the history of Alton but it is located near the confluence of the Mississippi, the Missouri, and the Illinois river which would have made it relatively easy to reach during the period we're talking about. I'm not sure how big it was relative to StL but it was certainly the biggest city on the east side of the river and probably the biggest in Southern Illinois. I have no doubt that there was a large immigrant community there in the 1850's.

Richard Hershberger said...

Did the piece in the Alton Weekly Courier use the term "base ball" or "town ball"? Porter's Spirit undoubtedly was sent the item by the club. If the Alton paper used "town ball" this would suggest that Porters normalized the vocabulary.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

The Courier (6/24/1858) specificially says "Base Ball Club." Late last night I also found an earlier article from the Courier (6/3/1858) that mentions "Ball Club" and "the old and popular pasttime of 'Base Ball.'"

I'm posting both articles sometime this week but I'll email them to you.