Saturday, October 22, 2011

The First Baseball Game In Quincy, Illinois

 The first game of Base Ball ever played according to regulations in our city, came off yesterday at Alstyne's Prairie, before a large crowd of spectators.  Great interest was manifested by all present in the exciting sport and the "boys" played remarkably well considering that this was their "first appearance in public."  A few more such games as we had yesterday and the "championship" will be Quincy's.
-Quincy Daily Herald, June 24, 1866

This small blurb in the Quincy paper helps illuminate the process by which baseball spread in the Illinois/Missouri/Iowa region.  Quincy, Illinois, which sits on the Mississippi River not too far south of where the three states meet, was founded in 1818 and, geographically, lies within the boarders of a west-central Illinois region that had an active, documented town-ball culture in the early and mid 19th century. There is enough evidence to support the idea that St. Louis shared in that ball-playing culture, prior to the arrival of the Regulation Game in the area in the late 1850s.

What appears evident to me is that, at least in this area of the United States, the evolutionary spread of the New York game of baseball took place in two steps.  The first took place prior to the Civil War, when the game reached the larger cities of Illinois, Missouri and Iowa.  The second took place after the war, when the game began to spread beyond the big cities and reached smaller towns such as Quincy.  I believe that this is evidence that the war hindered the development and spread of baseball, rather than that the war was a factor in the spread of the game to places like Quincy.  If not for the extreme disruption of life that the war brought, I believe that the game would have spread to the smaller towns in the area in the early 1860s rather then in the immediate post-war era.  If not for the war, Quincy probably would have had their first baseball clubs in 1860 or 1861 rather than in 1866.


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