Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Bit Of A Preview

There are certainly days when I'm rather bored with blogging and think about chucking the whole project and then there are days like today when I'm extraordinarily excited about the information that I'm going to be posting over the next few weeks.  In light of my good mood, I thought I'd give a few hints about what's coming up here at TGOG.

First, of course, I have the rest of the fantastic Daily Republic article to post.  It's just great stuff full of information on antebellum clubs and ballplayers as well as on the postbellum amateur era.  I'm breaking it up into something like eight or nine posts.  It's a long article but well worth the read.  

After that, I'll be posting some stuff that I'm really excited about.  In Tobias' series on the history of St. Louis baseball, he mentioned that the St. Louis Daily Bulletin had published some accounts of antebellum games.  Well, today, I finally got a chance to take a look at issues of the Daily Bulletin from late April to October of 1860.  And Tobias wasn't lying.

Previously, we only had contemporary sources for one antebellum game (the July 9, 1860 match between the Cyclones and the Morning Stars) but now, thanks to Tobias' hint, I have sources for six more.  I also found specific references to town ball and a town ball club, two cricket matches, and the first meetings of the Morning Star and Commercial Base Ball Clubs.  Also, I found a reference to the election of officers for the Empire Club.  The most significant thing I found today, I believe, is a reference to base ball in a similar context to that of the 1858 Alton references.  All in all, very cool stuff.

So keep coming back because this is going to be great month here at the old blog.       


Richard Hershberger said...

Just a plug for keeping up the good work. I am really looking forward to the antebellum stuff, especially contemporary town ball cites. One of my many pet theses is that the adherants of the New York game had an ideology of spreading the game, and a marketing tool of enlisting the local press to their cause. So I am interested in comparing town ball coverage to NY game coverage in the same period. In larger cities with many newspapers it is not uncommon for one or two specific papers to be the "baseball" papers, and it isn't always obvious today which ones this would be. So it is all to the good that you tracked down the right one.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

The stuff from the Daily Bulletin should start popping up around the 14th. I think I divided the Repulic article into seven parts and then then the Bulletin material should follow immediately.

I'm actually struggling a bit with town ball/base ball references because in context we have a base ball reference that seems to be discribing both the New York varient and the local varient at the same time. It's really interesting but at the same time frustrating and seems to support your idea of a "unified theory" in that the author of the articles doesn't appear to be distinguishing between the various forms of bat and ball games but sees them as part of a whole. At the same time, one day he refers to town ball and then, a week later, base ball. It becomes a question of vocabulary and terminology. Is the author using the terms interchangeably? Is he using base ball in the same context as it was used in 1858 in Alton? Was he Easterner who recognized the New York varient and used town ball to discribe the StL varient?

I'm looking forward to your input on this once you get a chance to read the source material.

Richard Hershberger said...

Obviously I will have to see the texts before commenting intelligently, but that isn't going to stop me...

Philadelphia town ball and the New York game coexisted for about five years (1858 to 1863 or so). The Philadelphia press was scrupulous about the use of vocabulary. This was an elegant solution. The terms "New York game" and "Massachusetts game" were coined because both games were called "base ball". Since the Philadelphia version was called "town ball" this problem was avoided. The only example I have of Philadelphia town ball being called "base ball" was in the Spirit of the Times: a New York publication. Presumably the niceties of vocabulary were less established there. The only contemporary example I have of any version of "base ball" being called "town ball" is a reference in a Philadelphia paper to the Massachusetts game. Presumably this is a similar situation.

I am less familiar with the Cincinnati press, but what I have seen follows the same pattern. Cincinnati town ball was played by organized clubs at least through the 1866 season.

As for my grand unified game theory, this is a slightly different matter. In Philly and Cinci we see local standardized forms competing with the NY game. They were considered the same game in the same way that we might consider American and Canadian football the same games: clearly closely related, and players can easily switch from one to the other, but different enough that we need to make the distinction. This is more different than, say, MLB baseball and NCAA baseball, where there is no conventional vocabulary to distinguish the two.

With the Daily Bulletin material, the question will be if he is making the same distinction. If he refers to "town ball" one week and "base ball" the next, this might be because the same people were playing under both codes. This certainly happened in Philly. But the fact of the Alton BBC is rather a wild card so far as regional dialect goes. My breath is bated.