Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Empire Base Ball Club.—At the regular monthly meeting of this Club, held at their hall, corner of Third and Vine streets, on the 3d of July, 1860, the following officers were duly elected: B.J. Higgen, President; Peter Naylor, Vice-President; John F. Walton, Secretary; and Patrick Cooney, Treasurer.
The following resolution was adopted:
Whereas, The [Cyclone] and Morning Star Ball Clubs are matches for a game on the 9th inst.
Resolved, that the Emprie Base Ball Club challenge the winning party. If not accepted by them, then this challenge is extended to any Ball Club in
Joe Hallesbeck, Sec’y.-Daily Missouri Republican, July 7, 1860
I posted about the Empire Club's challenge to the winner of the Cyclone/Morning Star match before, having found basically this same article in the St. Louis Daily Bulletin. The one piece of information that the Missouri Republican includes that the Daily Bulletin did not is the mention of the secretary of the Empire Club, one Mr. Joseph Hollenback. The impossibly illusive Joseph Hollenback, or Hollenbeck, or Hallesbeck, or Hallenbeck.
This is the first contemporary reference to Hollenback (as it's spelled in the 1860 census and the 1860 St. Louis city directory) being involved with the Empire Club that I've ever seen. Edmund Tobias wrote in The Sporting News (October 26, 1895) that "The origin of the Empire Club was mainly due to Joseph Hallenbeck, a deputy under Constable Dan Manning, who acted as such for both Justices Ed A. Allen and Peter W. Johnstone. Hallenbeck was a New Yorker, and had played with the old Knickerbocker Club before his advent in St. Louis, and he was assisted by L.P. Fuller in forming the club." Al Spink, in The National Game, stated that "Jacob Hollenbeck" was at the first meeting of the Empire Club and was elected as the club's first secretary. The above article from the Republican seems to confirm that Hollenback was indeed the first secretary of the Empire Club.
Finding information about Hollenback has been very frustrating. I can't really even tell you how his last name was spelled. What I do know is that he was born around 1836 in New York state. In 1860, he was single, was living in St. Louis at Mrs. Boston's Boarding House, was working as a constable, was involved in the formation of the Empire Club and was elected as the club's first secretary. What I think is probable but can't prove is that he played baseball in the East (although I seriously doubt he was a member of the Knickerbocker Club) and was one of the founders of the Empire Club (the distinction being that while I know Hollenback was at the first meeting, I'm not certain what his role was in the organization of the meeting). What I think is possible but can't prove is that he was serving with the Missouri Militia in 1864 and died in 1866.
That's all kind of convoluted but that's how I've had to organize my thinking about Hollenback because I have a lot of information about him but can't confirm most of it. The major problem is the spelling of the last name (of which I've given you four variations). It's tough to track down information about a guy when you don't know how to spell his last name. Also, I really believe that he died young. I thought for a time that he was killed during the Civil War but I found the death record for a Joseph Hollenbeck, who died in St. Louis in 1866, and that feels right to me. But it's possible that he lived into the 20th century. I can't say for sure but if he died young, that would be a reason why there's not a lot of information about him in 19th century databases.
Regardless of my personal struggles with the Hollenback problem, the above article from the Republican gives us some contemporary confirmation of the secondary sources. And that's a good step in the right direction.