Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wonderfully On The Increase

An outstanding match of base ball came off last Sunday, at two o'clock, near the Abbey, on the grounds of the Resolute Base Ball club. The contest was between the Hope and Baltic Clubs, and resulted in the defeat of the later (by a score of 30-15)...

An unusually large number of spectators were on the grounds, and the game passed off pleasantly.

There are now five base ball clubs in this city-the Empire, Resolute, Hope, Baltic and Eureka, and we learn that they all are in a flourishing condition.

As peace is about dawning upon us, and the winter months are gone, sports of all kinds are reviving. Outdoor sports and gymnastic exercise are wonderfully on the increase.
-St. Louis Daily Press, May 10, 1865

A few quick notes before I comment on this rather informative article:

The umpire for the game was James Brennan of the Resolute Club and the scorers were Jas. Graham for the Hope and P. Dillon for the Baltic. One would have to assume that this was not Packy Dillon of Red Stocking fame, as he would have been twelve years old at the time.

Playing for the Hope that day was Richardson, c; Seaman, p; McMahon, 1st; Wiber, 2nd; Reed, 3rd; Rutherfur, ss; Verhein, lf; Ruble, cf; and McDonald, rf. Playing for the Baltic was Donnelly, ss; Delaghy, c; Reilly, 1b; Nugent, 2b; Clancy, 3b; Mahoney, cf; Cooke, lf; Farrell, rf; and Wilker, p. The field captains were Joseph Reed for the Hope and Edward Donnelly for the Baltics.

The Hope Base Ball Club is mentioned by E.H. Tobias as among "the very first of regularly formed clubs in St. Louis..." I have no record of them playing in the antebellum period but Tobias groups them with other antebellum clubs. It's unknown if they were active during the war, had reformed in 1865 or if this is an unrelated club that assumed the name.

The location of the game was at the Abbey Race Track Grounds. Tobias writes that the "Atlantic Club having established itself on new grounds at the Abbey race track played an inaugural game on Sept. 14 (1870) with the Empire Club...The grounds were not in suitable condition but one prior game having been played upon it." We now know that the site, which was located near the intersection of Page Blvd. and Whittier St. (southwest of the Fairgrounds and northwest of St. Louis University), was used as a baseball grounds as early as 1865.

The thing that really stands out for me is how quickly the game rebounds from the interruption of the war. This article mentions five clubs and there were several more that would become active by June of 1865. While we are now assuming that there was substantially more baseball activity during the war years then previously believed, it certainly had declined from the dozen or so clubs that were playing in 1860. By the summer of 1865, baseball in St. Louis had recovered to the point that there were as many clubs active in the first summer of peace as there were during the last summer before the war.

However, the question still remains, in my mind at least, as to whether or not the war was actually over in May of 1865 and whether these games should be classified as having been played during the war or as postbellum games. In this article, the statement that "peace is about dawning upon us" gives one pause. The logical conclusion of that statement is that peace has not, as of yet, dawned and that the war was still going on. Certainly, the war was in the process of ending and was, for all intents and purposes, over. But the Confederate Cabinet held a meeting on May 5, 1865 and Jefferson Davis wasn't captured until May 10th. Andrew Johnson stated that the war ended with Davis' capture. So if we go by the word of the President of the United States, the Hope/Baltic game was technically played while the war was still going on.

Just to continue the discussion of when the war ended, it should be noted that General Jeff Thompson, who was in charge of the military district of Arkansas, didn't surrender until May 11, and that Confederate forces in North Carolina didn't surrender until the next day. The Battle of Doaksville, the last battle of the war, was fought on June 23, 1865. And as I've mentioned previously, the last Confederate force surrendered in November of 1865. This was the CSS Shenandoah (pictured above), which continued hostilities throughout June and was heading to attack San Francisco in August when it received word of Lee's surrender.

No comments: