Friday, August 14, 2009

The Old And Well Known Commercial Base Ball Club

The old and well known Commercial Base Ball Club having completed their arrangements for the season, will resume their field exercises on Saturday, the 5th inst., at 4 o'clock P.M., on their beautiful grounds in Lafayette Park. Base ball players and all lovers of out-door sports are invited. Regular field days are Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. Below will be found a list of officers for the year:

President, E.H. Tobias
Vice President, A.W. Senter
Secretary and Treasurer, H.L. Clark
Directors, C.F. Gauss, P.H. Jacobs and Jas. S. Wilgus
Field Captains, Edwin Fowler, David Hutchinson
-Missouri Democrat, April 4, 1862

This puts the final nail in the idea that the Empire Club was the only active baseball club during the war years. The question remains, however, as to how active the baseball scene was in St. Louis during the 1861-1864 period. Certainly it was not as active as in 1860 or 1865 when there were about a dozen clubs in existence. Without looking through my notes for the period, I'd say that there were four or five clubs active each season. When I'm done posting all this new material, I'll go through it, post some general thoughts and put together a list of Civil War-era clubs.

So where did the idea come from that the Empires were the only active club in St. Louis during the Civil War. Obviously it wasn't Tobias, who probably would have remembered being the president of a war-era club. Looking back through the Tobias material, I found this: "It was in the latter years of the '50's that base ball found a permanent lodgement here and in 1860, 1861, and 1862 it became quite 'the craze...'" I'm sure I've read this before and must have ignored it because it didn't fit with my idea that the St. Louis Civil War-era baseball scene was a relatively barren one. So Tobias, while not giving much in the way of details, did give leave some clues about what was going on.

Al Spink? I just skimmed The National Game and don't see any reference to the Civil War. Spink did give a list of the Empire Club's officers and field captains for the era and this was certainly my basis for stating that the club was active during the war years. But I don't find a statement that the Empires were the only club active.

I don't know where I came up with the idea or what the basis for my thinking was. There might be a record of it somewhere on this blog but I'm too lazy to look for it. The main point here, however, is that I was wrong and there were several clubs active in St. Louis during the Civil War. While the outbreak of war impeded the growth and development of the game in St. Louis, it didn't kill it and it didn't diminish the game to the extent that I had previously believed.

I should also point out the use of Lafayette Park by the Commercial Club. The Cyclones had been using the grounds in the antebellum era and, in 1861, the grounds were commandeered by Federal troops for use as an encampment. This is evidence that the park was being used as a baseball grounds during the war years.

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