Friday, October 23, 2009

The 1876 Brown Stockings: Well Ducked With A Vengeance

The Chicago White Stockings have been very shabbily treated by the weather clerk since their arrival in St. Louis, and they, as well as the thousands who were present at the Grand Avenue Park yesterday afternoon to witness the second game of the series with the Browns, were greatly disappointed. In spite of the fact that rain threatened all day, hundreds of the fair sex were also present, and the majority of them were, doubtless, well ducked before reaching their firesides. When the rain did make up its mind to fall, it fell with a vengeance, and play was, as a matter of course, out of the question. Hail followed rain, and the storm was an unusually fierce one. The probabilities are that the Whites will remain in the city and pull off their second game on Monday-weather permitting. On Tuesday, Spalding's men are booked to play the Cincinnati team in Chicago, and a longer stay here at this time is, of course, impossible.
-St. Louis Globe Democrat, May 7, 1876

There's a few interesting things here in this little rain out notice:

-The first two home games of the season were rained out. I've talked about the weather in St. Louis during the spring, specifically regarding the poor weather the clubs experienced at the beginning of the 1875 season, and there's no real need to go into it again. If you want to experience all of the extreme weather conditions that this planet offers, come live in St. Louis for a year. We have it all.

-No Sunday game. The game was scheduled for Saturday, May 6, but weather interfered. The make-up game was played on Monday, May 8, rather than Sunday, May 7.

-I've not really tracked it and this can't be the first time it was used but note the reference to the Brown Stocking as "the Browns." The nickname wouldn't be officially shortened until 1883 and that was really a different club altogether. But, still, the nickname Brown Stockings/Browns has a long history in St. Louis and there would be a club by that name, playing baseball in the city, from 1875 through 1953 (except for 1899-1901). It's a shame that the name has faded away.


David Ball said...

Notice also that the Chicagos are referred to alternately as White Stockings and Whites in the same article. Reds and Red Stockings alternate in the same way in Cincinnati.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

Good point. Of course, I'm so parochial in my focus that I don't even notice those things. It's interesting that the Brown Stockings and (Cin) Red Stockings names evolved into Browns and Reds but White Stockings and (Bos) Red Stockings didn't evolve in the same way. It's a question for etomologists I guess.

james e. brunson said...

It must have occurred at a very early date:

In 1870 the Chicago Blue Stockings and Rockford Pink Stockings are nicknamed the "Pinks" and "Blues."

Perhaps it has something to do, stockings functioning aesthetically as a surrogate for skin color? Some newspaper accounts, as you know, use terms like red legs, blue legs, green legs, black legs and so on.

David Ball said...

Well, the modern White and Red Stocking/Sox were revivals after the turn of the century.

The origin of this family of names I am pretty sure lies with the original Cincinnati Red Stockings. They were the first team to wear knickerbockers instead of long pants. Since nobody else had stockings prominently displayed, the red color was all the more noticeable.

Chicago organized the White Stockings in 1870 explicitly to beat Cincinnati and probably deliberately patterned the stockings and the nickname after them, Harry Wright took the color and the nickname to Boston and other teams followed the example because of the spectacular success of the Cincinnati club.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

The unofficial nature of the nicknames of the time also probably has something to do with it. It would be difficult to change the Cardinals' name to the Cards (which is what everyone around here calls them). It would involve trademarks and lawyers and MLB would get involved. Back then, if the sports editor of the local paper decides to shorten your name and call you the Browns or the Reds or whatever, you just got stuck with a new name.