Thursday, December 29, 2011

And Now You Know The Rest Of The Story

The Match Game of Base Ball Interrupted--The match game of base ball, on Gamble avenue, yesterday, was brought to a somewhat abrupt termination.  While the game was in progress a German Home Guard came upon the field and persisted in remaining in the way of the players.  After having been asked two or three times to retire behind the line he was then taken by the arm by the person appointed to keep the field clear, when he (the Home Guard) attempted to strike him.  The blow was returned, the German going down.  He then went away, and in about half an hour afterwards a detachment of Home Guards came and surrounded the whole field, creating quite a panic among a number of ladies and gentlemen who were assembled to witness the game.  The order was given to take all the players to Turners' Hall as prisoners, but Mr. Griswold (formerly a captain in the Home Guards) and a few others persuaded the acting captain of the Home Guards to withdraw his men from the field.  The Guards were withdrawn.
-Missouri Republican, August 23, 1861

One of the interesting things about the information that I've recently found in the Republican is that it contradicts a lot of the information about the Civil War era as presented by E.H. Tobias.  I have a great deal of respect for Tobias and regard him as one of the pioneers of baseball history.  His work, appearing in The Sporting News in 1895 and 1896, is invaluable and he had access to a great deal of primary source material that has been lost to us.  However, as I find more and more primary source material from the period, I'm beginning to find errors in Tobias' account and his conclusions regarding baseball in St. Louis during the Civil War.

The description of the game above is one example.  Tobias' account is much more dramatic and he gets several key facts about the game wrong.  The two most significant things he was wrong about was the date of the game (describing it as the Empire Club's anniversary game, which was held in April) and the motivation for the conflict (that he describes as involving a pennant flying over a tent that the Home Guard mistakenly believed was a pro-Succession flag).  While Tobias was correct that a baseball game was broken up by the Home Guard and that Merritt Griswold played a role in easing a tense situation, this was not the Empires' first anniversary game and it had nothing much to do with Civil War politics.

Tobias' account of the game makes for a much better story but his version was not entirely accurate.  That saddens me a bit because it was probably my favorite story from the St. Louis pioneer era and it turns out to not be exactly true.  I guess my favorite story from the period now is the one about Alex Crosman getting eaten by sharks.  

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