A great silver ball match for the championship of the Northwest will come off at Dubuque, Iowa, September 29th, 1865. The Dubuque County Agricultural Society offer a silver ball of regulation size as a prize to the club declared to be the champion base ball club of the Northwest, the championship and prizes to be played for on the grounds of the Dubuque County Agricultural Society, on Friday, September 29th, 1865, commencing at 9 1/2 o'clock A.M., and 2 o'clock P.M. The contest is open to all base ball clubs in the Northwest. Clubs from Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, and Iowa, are particularly invited to attend and take part in the contest.We premise that our Empire Club-which carries the champion belt of the West-will not fail to be present and contend for the silver ball.
-St. Louis Daily Press, September 19, 1865
And now we arrive at the tale of how the Empire Club was declared Champions of the West in 1865.
The reference to the champion belt is interesting because I thought they got that after their victory in Dubuque (sorry, didn't mean to spoil the ending for you). I was talking to somebody last week about 19th century memorabilia and mentioned the belt and the trophy ball from the Cyclone/Morning Star match as the two pieces of St. Louis memorabilia I'd really like to find. My assumption is that they were both in a box in Jeremiah Fruin's attic and got thrown out after his death.
And I found the Tobias reference to the belt:
On September 6th, 1865, the Empire Club was presented with an elegantly devised belt as "champions of the West." The presentation speech was made by Martin Collins, Esq., on behalf of citizens who were interested in base ball and who desired that all Western clubs should take a whack at winning it, whenever they felt able to tackle the holders. As president of the club the late Judge John F. Walton accepted the belt in one of his most graceful speeches and it was placed in a...receptacle of the club room on Third street.
So the belt was not necessarily a representation of a championship that the Empire Club was claiming but rather a trophy to be won in a struggle for that championship. Essentially, the club was saying that they believed that they were the best club in the West and if you wanted that championship, you had to play them. If you wanted the belt, you had to beat the Empire Club.
Essentially, by winning in Dubuque, the Empire Club gained not only the Great Silver Ball but also a legitimate claim to the belt.