Friday, December 2, 2011

The Dancing Was Kept Up Till A Late Hour

The sixteenth annual ball of the Empire Base Ball Club came off at Masonic Hall last night, and proved to be an entire success in every particular.  It was, without doubt, the best ball ever given by the club, both in attendance and in the agreeable manner in which it passed off, and, of course, was highly enjoyed by all present. 
The balls hitherto given by the Empire lads have been the events of the season in which they occurred, and have always been longingly looked forward to by those who have participated in the festivities of the one preceding.  The fact is, the balls given by the club are very much like a family reunion, as all are well acquainted.  It was noticed that a good many who attended the first ball given by the club sixteen years ago were on hand last evening.  The officers of the club are as follows:  President, H. Clay Sexton; Vice-President, Edward C. Donnelly; Secretary, Charles H. Stevens; Treasurer, H.G.D. Barklage.  The music was furnished by Postlewaite's Quadrille Band, and was all that could be desired, and seldom a party ever sat down to a more elegant supper than that furnished by Mr. Louis Heinrich, of Franklin avenue.  The carriages were from the popular livery stable of Cullen & Kelly. 
The managers have every reason to feel proud over the "reunion," and the guests owe thanks to them for the pleasure afforded them last night.  The dancing was kept up till a late hour.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, January 26, 1876

I love the traditions of the Empire Club, especially the anniversary game and the annual ball.  They were unique in St. Louis baseball history in that they lasted for almost a generation.  During the St. Louis pioneer baseball era, clubs came and went but the Empires endured until the end.  And what makes this particular ball almost bittersweet is that this was end for the great club.

The 1875 season was one of the great demarcations in St. Louis baseball history, marking the end of the pioneer era and the beginning of the professional era.  By the end of the 1875 season, it was obvious to see that the Empire Clubs' fifteen year run as the best baseball team in St. Louis had come to an end.  Not only that but the entire baseball universe had shifted to the point that the old, "amateur," social clubs like the Empires were an endangered species.  They would never dominate the culture of the game as they had prior to 1869 or 1870, as the focus of the game shifted to the national competition between professional clubs.  It was a brave new world and, although they soldiered on for a few more years, the Empire Base Ball Club was never going to be a part of it.       

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