Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Final Day Of The War?

The Empire Base Ball Club will celebrate their fifth anniversary on Gamble Lawn to-morrow afternoon. We shall be there to take note.
-St. Louis Daily Press, April 18, 1865

Opening of the Base Ball Season.-The Empire Club observed their fifth anniversary yesterday by a match between the married and single members. There was a large assemblage of ladies and gentlemen on the ground, who were received with that kindly hospitality so characteristic of the Empire boys. The married members, under the sagacious lead of Captain Fruin, obtained a single victory over their bachelor brothers, who under the lead of Captain Wirth, struggled hard to carry off the prize. The runs stood: married 25; single 11. The marked features of the game were an ace by J.T. Murphy, of the bachelors, and five runs made by H. Noble, of the benedicts.
-St. Louis Daily Press, April 27, 1865

As we've seen, the Empire Club was in the habit of playing their anniversary game on April 16th, the date of the club's founding. However, April 16, 1865 happened to be Easter Sunday and even in St. Louis, where Sabbath observations were not as strict as in other parts of the country and Sunday baseball was quickly becoming part of the culture, they weren't going to play this game on Easter. Therefore the game was scheduled for April 19th.

However, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865 and his funeral procession in Washington D.C. (pictured above) was scheduled for April 19th. The Empire Club's anniversary game was once again overcome by events and it appears that the game on the 19th was cancelled in order to observe a period of mourning for the fallen President.

The game was rescheduled and played on April 26, 1865. This brings up the question of whether of not the Empire Club's fifth anniversary game was technically played during the Civil War. Lee had surrendered on April 9 but Joe Johnston didn't surrender until April 26. There were still Confederate forces surrendering in June and the final surrender of a Confederate force didn't take place until November. Generally, I always believed it was Johnston's surrender that marked the end of the war and I'm willing to argue that this game took place on the final day of the Civil War.

Of course, one of the reasons I'm willing to make that argument is that I like the symmetry of St. Louis Civil War baseball beginning with a game three days after the fall of Fort Sumter and ending with a game on the war's final day. It's perfect.


Richard Hershberger said...

As a point of interest, this would be by far the earliest example I know of a baseball game being postponed due to a public figure's death. I know of one such postponement after Garfield's death, but this was not generally observed in baseball. In one case the Metropolitans of New York had an exhibition game scheduled against a League. The Mets wanted to cancel, but the League club (I don't recall offhand which one it was) refused to waive their guarantee. Classy.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

It's an interesting point. One wouldn't think that there were that many opportunities to postpone a game before Lincoln's death. There were probably local instances where the death of a prominent citizen may have caused a game to be postponed but those would likely be difficult to find and it might not even have been mentioned in the press.

I should point out (and I probably didn't make it clear in the post) that there's nothing in the local StL papers about the game being postponed due to Lincoln's death. It's simply my conclusion after looking at the dates, what was happening on those dates and how everything lined up. I think it's a fairly reasonable conclusion but there was nothing explicitely mentioned.