Thursday, September 29, 2011

The St. Louis Baseball Historical Society Presents: The Merritt W. Griswold Championship Trophy Ball

The St. Louis Baseball Historical Society, in conjunction with some of the vintage baseball clubs in the area, has a great event taking place this weekend:


St. Louis, MO - On Saturday, October 1, 2011, a base ball tradition that dates back to 1860 will be revived by the Saint Louis Baseball Historical Society with the presentation of “The ‘Merritt W. Griswold Championship Trophy Ball’ to the champion club of regional vintage base ball nines.

“The new championship trophy ball is named after a man who should be recognized as one of the most significant figures in St. Louis baseball history,” stated 19th century baseball historian and author Jeff Kittel. “Griswold was a true base ball player, evangelist, teacher and organizer. He was the first to introduce the “New York” rules of base ball to St. Louis and personally taught players the intricacies of the new game. Moreover, he helped develop the structure under which amateur teams organized and competed.”

The new “Merritt W. Griswold Championship Trophy Ball” is a re-creation of the original gold trophy ball he commissioned in 1860 to commemorate the very first competitive match between two athletic clubs in St. Louis; a game that Griswold organized. The game was played on July 9, 1860 between the Morning Star Club and The Empire Club. The Morning Star defeated the Empires by a score of 50-24 on a field just west of the Old Fairgrounds. (Note: It is not yet known if the original gold championship trophy ball had a formal name. The original trophy ball was last seen in the mid-1880’s.)

“We’re bringing a significant piece of St. Louis base ball history back to life,” stated Kittel. “The original gold championship ball was a coveted trophy awarded to the club that won the city championship. And the club that held the gilded ball was recognized as not only the best club in the city but also the best club in the state of Missouri and, often, the champion base ball club of the West.” Kittel added, “This trophy grew to become the symbol of base ball excellence in the American Heartland and the most treasured award a St. Louis base ball club could possess.”

The original gold trophy ball, commissioned by Griswold, was engraved noting the date, the teams and the score. The new ball will feature the exact same engraving.

July 9, 1860 
Morning Star 50
Empire 24

“On the surface, the gilded ball symbolized the championship of St. Louis baseball,” stated Steve Pona, founder of the Saint Louis Baseball Historical Society. “But the ball was also representative of the pioneering spirit of the men who laid the foundation for what would become one of the country’s great baseball towns. Without the passion and dedication of these men, our community would be a much different place.” Pona continued, “It feels right to bring the memory of Griswold and his peers, as well as this piece of our history, back to life.”

Vintage base ball is played by the rules and customs of the game in 1860. There are four teams that compete locally and many teams, regionally. The schedule of play runs from March to October with each team playing an estimated 35 game schedule.

“The entire St. Louis Vintage Base Ball community is excited about the revival of the tradition of awarding the championship gold ball to St. Louis’ top club,” stated Ted “Doc” Yemm co-founder of the St. Louis Perfectos. “There couldn’t be a more deserving person for this honor than Merritt Griswold.”

Merritt Griswold Biography:

• Born in New York City in 1835
• Played baseball with the Putnam Club of Brooklyn in 1857 and the Hiawatha Club of Brooklyn in 1858 and 1859
• Moved to St. Louis in 1859
• Worked for the Missouri Glass Company
• With Edward Bredell, Jr., founded the Cyclone Base Ball Club of St. Louis in late Spring 1859 and served as the club’s field captain
• Discovered a town ball club, the Morning Stars, in St. Louis and taught them the rules of the New
York game of base ball, leading to the establishment of the Morning Stars as a base ball club
• Published the rules of the New York game in the Missouri Democrat on April 26,1860, leading to
the creation of multiple new base ball clubs in St. Louis
• Played in the game between the Cyclones and the Morning Stars on July 9, 1860, the first
competitive match game played in St. Louis history
• Ordered the ball that was used in the first game from a company in New York
• Served as an umpire for St. Louis games until he moved back East during the Civil War
• Served as an officer with the 3rd Regiment of the United States Reserve Corp, the “Home Guards,” from May, 1861 until August, 1861 and his unit was involved in the capture of Camp Jackson in May, 1861
• Was an engineer who was awarded multiple patents
• After leaving St. Louis, he lived most of his life in Englewood, New Jersey
• Died on March 24, 1915
• In 1910, Griswold wrote a letter to Al Spink, the founder of The Sporting News and author of The National Game, within which he laid out the early history of base ball in St. Louis and his involvement in the establishment of the game in the city. The letter was published in the second edition of The National Game and is one of the most important documents in St. Louis baseball history.

The schedule for the games Saturday is as follows:


‘Merritt W. Griswold Championship Trophy Ball’
To Be Awarded for First Time Since 1876

Location: Emmeneger Park, Kirkwood, MO

    9:00 - Brown Stockings vs Unions
    10:30 - Cyclones vs Perfectos
    12:00 - Perfectos vs Unions
    1:30 - Brown Stockings vs Cyclones
    3:00 - Cyclones vs Unions
    4:30 - Perfectos vs Brown Stockings
    6PM - Merritt W. Griswold Championship Trophy Ball Presentation

I sadly am going to unable to attend (damn you, real life) but it's going to be a great event and I hope you can get out to Emmeneger Park to catch the festivities.  This is something that we've been working on for some time and it's great to see it come to fruition.  Good luck to all the clubs involved. 

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