Monday, February 7, 2011

West Ends Vs. Pinchbacks: Game Three

The third and last game between the Pinchbacks of New Orleans and the West Ends was played before a small crowd yesterday afternoon. The local club had out its strongest combination and resolved to do or die. They died, but not without a struggle. The game proved to be a cyclone of fun from beginning to end. The crowd was neutral and lavished its applause and suggestions on both sides with equal vigor...The Pinchbacks were first at bat, and they scored-yes, they scored several times. This aroused a spirit of ambition in the West Ends and they sailed in and soared. Then the grandstand opened up.

"Go in there, Sam!" "Now, den, ole man, piece of melon if you lines her out. Sho' you didn't come within a foot of dat! Oh, Sammy take your seat, you humbug, you." Sam had been called out on strikes.

Every time the ball was hit, whether fair or foul, the crowd yelled. The collisions and falls were many, and very fall and every error made the crowd happy. For seven innings the game was full of excitement. The visitors started off in the lead, but in the sixth the West Ends, by some terrific batting, headed off New Orleans and it looked as if they would be first passed the post. The West Ends had the bases full in the sixth and the score a tie, when "Steve," the black Dunlap, took his place at the plate. "Steve," who covered second, had been putting up a great game. He was implored by everyone to "jes paste dat ball once." Two men were out and a hit meant a good lead. Once the bit bat made an effort to secure a connection with the sphere and failed. The crowd groaned-but the second swipe was a success, and the ball went sailing off to left field, and before it returned three runs came in. This lead, however, was not sufficient, for old New Orleans came in and piled up four. The West End pitcher was a poor fielder. While the ball was seeking the plate to cut off a runner, he hit it a kick and sent it into the grandstand. He would make a good foot ball player. The West Ends tried in every way to win but were forced to leave the field one run behind. In the ninth inning, after two out, the local club got a man on first, and he stole around to third, but he didn't score. The base hit that he longed for never came. The score was 16 to 15.
-St. Louis Republic, August 29, 1888

First of all, I thought Frank Grant was the black Dunlap. Who's this "Steve" guy and why is his name in quotes?

Second, we have a great game here. Sixteen to fifteen, with the lead going back and forth. The tying run got on with two outs and stole second and third before getting stranded. That's dramatic stuff. So lets concentrate on the actions of the crowd. And let's not include a box score.

Finally, we have a couple of more images from the Republic. Compare these images to the cartoon from the Globe that I posted a few days ago. Compare the way that the Browns, in humiliating defeat, are portrayed to the way that black ballplayers are portrayed. Compare these images to this image of Curt Welch:

This image appeared in the Globe and The Sporting News in 1886, after the Browns victory over Chicago in the world's series. There were similar images of all the Browns' players.

It almost goes without saying that there was a difference in how white baseball and black baseball was covered in St. Louis. But when one compares the differences in tone, language and images used in the coverage, the difference is rather shocking. The Republic's coverage of the West Ends series against the Pinchbacks is a great example of that, especially when you contrast it with the reporting on the 1887 world's series that I've been posting. There's a stark contrast that has nothing to do with the relative stature of the clubs involved or the importance of the games being played. There was an editorial decision made, that may not have even been conscious, to portray black baseball as something less than white baseball. By extension, 19th century newspaper coverage of black baseball perpetuated a portrayal of blacks as inferior to whites.

In the end, the Republic's reporting on the West Ends series with the Pinchbacks and the tone, language and images they used in that reporting really had nothing to do with baseball. It was about perpetuating a social structure.

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