Saturday, May 12, 2012

A Tantalizing 1859 Reference To Baseball In The St. Louis Papers

 The Buffalo Courier avers that there has been organized in Lockport a base ball club, composed wholly of fat men-none weighing less than three hundred being admitted.  The name of the association is the "Paunches Pilate" B.B. Club.
-Missouri Republican, August 30, 1859

This doesn't seem like a big deal but, after checking my notes, I'm pretty sure this is the earliest reference to baseball I've ever seen in the St. Louis papers.  I think the earliest reference I've seen previous to this comes from May 1860, although there is a September 1859 reference to baseball in St. Louis in Spirit of the Times and the 1858 references in the Alton papers.  But as far as the St. Louis papers are concerned, this is the earliest reference to the game that I've seen.

I've been scouring the 1859 issues of the Missouri Republican, looking for baseball references in general and a reference to the Cyclones specifically with little to show for it.  I do, however, know a lot about what was going on in St. Louis that year.  Without going too much into it, I'll just say that antebellum St. Louis was a rough, dirty and violent place.  But they did have hot-air balloons, which is pretty cool.

The true significance of this piece from the Republican is in what the paper leaves out.  They forwarded information to their readers about a baseball club without explaining to them what a baseball club was, leaving us to assume that people in St. Louis were very familiar with baseball clubs in 1859.  Now we know that there was baseball and baseball clubs in St. Louis in 1859 but we haven't found any contemporary evidence to support these beliefs.  This is really the first piece of contemporary evidence from 1859 St. Louis that I've found, scant as it is.        

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