Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Giants On The Ball Field, Part One

You will be surprised when you read below that this dignified bank president, that railroad manager or that rushing business man was once a promising backstop or a "reliable man in the field."  The appended chapter of local history is rich in happy recollection and interst.  There are judges, merchants, bankers, lawyers, engineers, capitalists-scores of busy men of to-day who were marvels in the baseball field.

Asa W. Smith, seventh son of the pioneer actor-manager of the West, Sol Smith, was the founder and for many years president of the old Union Baseball Club, an organization that ranked high in anti-professional days.  At the time of his death, in 1874, by drowning at Biddeford Pool, Maine, where he was spending his summer vacation, he was a member of the banking firm of Kelligher & Smith, and ranked high both in social and business circles.  Probably no one of the young St. Louisans could have been taken away whose loss would have caused such general and poignant sorrow.  He was a friend and companion, whose qualities of head and heart were of the finest character, and in business he had already proven successful.  He was an ardent devotee of the national game, and a No. 1 player.  Two of his brothers belonged to the same club, and another, Mark L. Smith, was one of the finest comedians of the country.  

Judge Shepherd Barclay of the State Supreme Court was another of the brilliant players of the Union Club, ad sustained the difficult position of pitcher with great effect.  He was also a fine fielder.

On February 9, 1895, the St. Louis Daily Republic published an article entitled "These Busy St. Louis Men Were Giants On The Amateur Ball Field."  This article, the beginning of which is produced above, mentions well over one hundred St. Louis baseball players from the antebellum pioneer era and the postbellum amateur era.  The article also gives some biographical information on about eighty of these players.  I'm going to post the entire article here over the next few days.

Once you've read the entire article, I'm sure that you'll agree with me that this is one of the most significant sources of information that exists for the era.  The only other sources that presents so much unified information is the Tobias series and Spink's The National Game.  The 1895 Republic article is truly extraordinary in its scope and relevance.  

I should note that this significant discovery was the work of John Maurath of the Missouri Civil War Museam and he was kind enough to pass it along to me.  I can't thank him enough.

Edit:  No more late night posting for me.  I not only misidentified the paper the article was in (the Daily Republic, not the Republican) but it also appears I had some issues with the concept of noun/verb agreement.  Not to mention my normal problems with spelling.  On the bright side, my English As A Second Language class is going well.       

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