Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Silver Ball

Below will be found the rules governing contests for the championship of Central Missouri, and a silver ball.  This ball was given by the Cooper County A. and M.A., and first played for in 1872.  It is now held by the Washington Base Ball Club of Washington, Franklin County, Mo., who won it from the Occidentals, of New Haven, on July 5, 1875.  The Washingtons played eight games during 1875, losing but one.  They beat the St. Louis "Continentals," 27 to 16.
-St. Louis Globe-Democrat, March 10, 1876

This is significant for a couple of reasons.  First, we know that, during the pioneer era, there was a gold trophy ball that was awarded to the baseball champions of St. Louis.  That ball was the game ball used in the Cyclone/Morning Star match of 1860.  It was gilded, engraved and presented to the Morning Stars by the Cyclones at a banquet held some time after the match.  Later, after the 1861 season, it was presented to the Empire Club and, it's assumed, went back and forth between the Empires and the Unions in the late 1860s.  I had believed that the gold ball also represented the championship of Missouri, as the best club in St. Louis was usually the best club in the state, but with this information, I can't be certain of that.  By the time the silver ball was being awarded, there was a Missouri baseball association that coordinated the official state championship and it's unclear how all of this is tied together.

The second significant thing here is that St. Louis clubs, according to the rules as they were presented in the Globe, were eligible to win the silver ball.  According to the article, "Central Missouri" was defined as the part of the state south of the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad and north of Rolla.  The mention of the Continentals game against Washington implies that at least one St. Louis club challenged for the trophy ball.  However, it's unclear to what extent the St. Louis clubs valued this trophy and competed for it.  I don't recall E.H. Tobias mentioning it in his work and, if the trophy was important to St. Louis clubs, I'd imagine that he would have written something about it.

While the body of the article states that the ball was first played for in 1872, the rules mention that the ball was first awarded in October 1868.  I'm not sure how to reconcile that but if their was a competition for a silver trophy ball among the baseball clubs of central Missouri in the late 1860s and early 1870s and the St. Louis clubs were eligible, I would imagine that either the Empires or Unions would have won the thing.  So I'd have to say that either they didn't play for it or they played for it and didn't win it.  The latter would force a reevaluation of the relative strength of St. Louis clubs within the context of Missouri baseball while the former would make the silver ball relatively insignificant with regards to St. Louis baseball history.    

No comments: