Sunday, August 2, 2009

Three Days After The Fall Of Fort Sumter

The gentlemen of the Empire Base Ball Club design celebrating the first anniversary of their club next Tuesday afternoon (April 16), on Gamble Lawn. The programme will include games, refreshments, &c., and the inauguration of new bats, new bases, and a new regulation ball. There will be a ample tent for refreshment and retirement, and an abundance of seats for ladies and gentlemen. The exercises are announced to commence at 2 P.M. As the Market street cars run to within two squares of the lawn, visitors will experience no difficulty in getting to the grounds. We trust the weather will beam auspiciously upon the occasion.
-Missouri Democrat, April 12, 1861

The April 16th date for the Empire Club's first anniversary game is significant. Considering the events of the game and the behavior of the Home Guard in breaking up the game, the question was always whether or note the game took place before or after Fort Sumter and the outbreak of the Civil War. Considering that Al Spink wrote that the club was founded on April 16, 1860, I always assumed that the game took place after Fort Sumter but now we know for certain. Technically, the Empire Club's first anniversary game was the first baseball game played in St. Louis during the Civil War.

Sadly, I was unable to find an account of the game in the Missouri Democrat. The tone and the coverage of the paper, and that of the other Civil War-era St. Louis papers, changes immediately upon the attack of Fort Sumter. The focus of the paper is concentrated upon the outbreak of the war and all local news has to do with preparations for war, troop movements, etc. This is completely understandable. One of the difficulties in finding information about baseball in St. Louis during the war years is that there seems to be little room in the newspapers for baseball coverage amid all the war coverage. Of course, there is also substantially less baseball activity during the 1861-1864 era when compared to 1860 or 1865 and finding accounts of what activity there was in the archives is difficult. I have no doubt that we'll find the information but it will take time.

The one thing I like about the notice for this game is the announcement of the "inauguration of new bats, new bases, and a new regulation ball." Obviously, baseball equipment was precious and difficult to come by. It's fascinating to see the Empire Club trumpeting the fact that they had a new baseball.

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