Friday, April 10, 2009

Giants On The Ball Field, Part Four

E.C. Meacham, founder of the Meacham Arms Company, played first with the Olympic and afterward with the Union Club.

H. Clay Sexton was one of the most prominent early ball players, having joined the Empire Club in the '50's before he became Chief of the St. Louis Fire Department.  He never took much stock in his own playing abilities but always stood ready to back up his pet Empire Club.  He was a frequent player prior to the time he became Fire Chief, while connected with his brothers, John and Hugh, in the building business, after which he played the part of regular attendant to perfection.  He was "a boy again" all over at such times, and no one outdid him in demonstrative applause of a good play.

The Empire Club furnished St. Louis with several other prominent members of the Fire Department beside Chief Clay Sexton.  Captain Geo. N. Stevens, who was Chief prior to Sexton's time, and later was Deputy United States Marshal for many years in Judge Treat's court, was one of the earliest of ball enthusiasts, and his son, Charles W. Stevens, now paymaster of the Iron Mountain Railroad, was an exceedingly fine player in the club...Assistant Chiefs John Shockey, Richard Beggs and Eugene Gross were also members.  Adam Wirth, now Captain of one of the engines, was for many years a player in the Empire team, and ranked as the king of first baseman.

One of the best fielders that St. Louis had was Wm. Duncan, now vice president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  His brother, Robert, was a superb short-stop.  They played in both the Empire and Union nines, at different times.  "Bob" is connected with the Continental Freight Company at Louisville, Ky.

Wayman McCreery, the well-known vocalist, was a fine ball tosser in his day.  His career began with the Olympic Club and ended with the Union.

Another accomplished singer, who included baseball in his repertoire, was Nat Hazard, one of the most genial and popular society young men of his day.

J.C. Cabanne, secretary of the St. Louis Dairy Company, was one of the sure sphere-splitters of the Union Club that knew how to stop the hottest liner and was a good base player and fine fielder.  

Incredulous as it may seem when looking at the rotund face and form of that busy real estate dealer, Chas. H. Turner, nevertheless it is true that for several seasons he was one of the most active and reliable members of the Union team.  He was good in any position but in those days he was not built on so broad a plan as at present.  He filled both pitcher and catcher positions with credit.
-St. Louis Daily Republic, February 9, 1896

I'm reasonably certain that this is the first reference I've seen to Henry Clay Sexton playing baseball.  Most other sources only mention that he was a member and officer of the Empire Club.  The reference to his playing with the club in the 1850's is also interesting given that the club didn't form until 1860.

Also of note is the description of the Empires as Sexton's "pet."  Given what we know and suspect about the relationship between the Empire Club and the St. Louis Fire Department under Sexton's management, this may be a rather apt description of the club.   

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