Thursday, April 30, 2009

A St. Louis Cricket Reference From 1852

Harry Doyer is trying his hardest to entice the boys into the formation of a Cricket Club, but as the game is not understood-more's the pity-they hang fire confoundedly.
-Spirit of the Times, Aug 7, 1852

This brief note from Spirit of the Times' St. Louis correspondent is rather significant.  It's the earliest reference to any kind of bat and ball game in St. Louis that I've yet found and gives us a better understanding of what Edmund Tobias meant when he talked about the general popularity of cricket and town ball during the antebellum era. 

We know that there were at least two cricket clubs in St. Louis by 1858 and now we can assume that the first clubs were formed sometime between 1852 and 1858.  When Tobias wrote that cricket had a strong hold on lovers of sport in St. Louis, he most likely was speaking only from personal experience.  Born in New York, Tobias didn't move to St. Louis until sometime in 1860 when he was in his mid-twenties.  So by the time he got to the city, cricket had already established itself and there were multiple clubs.  The game continued to be popular in St. Louis throughout most of his adult life.  So when he was writing his history of early St. Louis baseball in 1895, Tobias was correct to say that the game of cricket had "long had a strong hold" in St. Louis.  But what he was specifically trying to say was that cricket had been played in the antebellum period and predated the New York game in St. Louis.

If my reading of this is correct and cricket wasn't played in St. Louis to any great extent prior to 1852 then I think it's reasonable to suggest that base ball predated cricket in the city.  With nostalgic references in 1860 to base ball and town ball as "old" and an understanding that these were long-standing folk games that didn't spring up overnight, I have to believe that the game was being played in some form prior to 1852.   

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