Monday, January 5, 2009

A Quick Reference To A College Game In 1886

The Resolutes, of the Christian Brothers' college, defeated the Monarchs, of the St. Louis university, on last Thursday, by a score of twenty to three. The heavy batting of C. Jenks and J. Shockey were the features of the game.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, May 16, 1886

I'm absolutely not an expert on 19th century college baseball so I'm not really sure that this game represents an actual college baseball game or just a game between clubs made up of college students. In fact, I don't know enough to state that that's even a distinction that should be made.

There were clubs in St. Louis made up of college students going back to the mid-1860's when both SLU and Washington University fielded clubs that, at least unofficially, represented their respective schools. The Union Club, of course, was made up largely of students from those two schools and was established in 1859 or early 1860. So college students were forming clubs and playing games twenty years before this particular game.


Richard Hershberger said...

I don't claim to be an expert on college athletics in this period, but I suspect that the modern system of official sporting activities under the aegis of an athletic director had not yet developed. There does seem at some schools to have been a quasi-official student athletic club.

My understanding is that football schools at some point went back and created official lists of games played, but there was no coordination. So a school might include a game on its list which the opposing school omits. (One guess which school won that game.) There also have been at some school later revisions to delete games played under rules unsufficiently like what American football evolved into. So early college football is a complete mess.

With college baseball there isn't the question of what set of rules was used, but there seems to be a huge gray area with fully official school-sanctioned games at one end and informal collections of students forming clubs at the other.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I have a link to a site somewhere that has a brief history of SLU and Wash. U. baseball. I haven't been able to find it but if I remember correctly they include the 19th century games as part of their official history. That still doesn't answer the question of whether or not these were "official" college games but it's interesting to note that the games are recognized by the schools.

My guess is that these are club activities with no official connection to the schools but I have no evidence to support that other than some vague knowledge that what we think of as college athletics wasn't really organized until the early 20th century.