Monday, May 14, 2012

The Union Club Organizes For 1862

The Union Base Ball club has now commenced its regular playing season.  The practicing days are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, in the afternoon, and Saturdays at 10 o'clock.  The following are its officers: F.C. Billion, President; W.E. Greenleaf, Vice President; R.P. Renick, Treasurer; J.P. Carr, Secretary' S.D. Barlow, Jr., Jos. H. Holliday, Jos. C. Cabanne, Directors; E.F. Finney, W.E. Greenleaf, Field Captains.
-Missouri Republican, April 8, 1862

The study of history is always an ongoing process.  You can never know enough about a given subject and you can never know everything that there is to know.  One must take the best evidence available at any given moment and reach conclusions based upon that but, at the same time, one must always be looking for more evidence.

When I wrote the St. Louis chapter for the Base Ball Pioneers book, my knowledge of what was happening in St. Louis during the Civil War was limited and I've been lucky enough, since then, to find more and better sources that have helped me flesh out my understanding of what was happening in the St. Louis baseball world at that time.  This article about the Unions organizing for the 1862 season is an example of that.

My previous belief, based upon secondary sources, was that the Unions disbanded during the war, only to reorganize after the conflict was over.  That belief was wrong and I have plenty of evidence now to show that the Unions were active during the war.  I believe that is a significant fact.

In general, we need to reevaluate what was happening in Civil War St. Louis.  The old idea that there was little baseball being played is wrong and there is enough evidence to support the idea that there was an active baseball scene in St. Louis during the war.  A lot of the clubs playing at the time were junior nines but there were also plenty of adult nines playing baseball throughout the war years.  I still believe that the war had a detrimental effect on St. Louis baseball but not to the extent that I previously believed.  There was plenty of baseball being played in St. Louis during the Civil War and the war did not kill the young baseball scene that started in 1859.

At some point, I hope to post a long piece on baseball in St. Louis during the war and flesh out my thinking.  But the research is still ongoing.


Adam said...

Yes, there was base ball in St. Louis during the Civil War -- I have seen evidence to it, and it has a brief mention in my book, The Great Heart of the Republic: St. Louis and the Cultural Civil War.

Adam Arenson

Jeffrey Kittel said...

I actually have your book sitting here right next to me on my desk. Haven't had a chance to finish it but I'm enjoying it a great deal. It's a great book and you did a fantastic job on it. Congrats.

The question is not whether or not there was baseball being played in StL during the war because that's well established. The question is about the extent to which the game was being played and, more specifically, the effect that the war had on the growth of the game in the city. I personally don't agree with the idea that the war helped or facilitated the growth of the game. It's been stated time and again that the war helped the spread of the game but I don't see the specific evidence to support that. There has been no direct casual relationship shown between the war and the spread of the game. It's all anecdotal.

With regards to StL, specifically, the 19th century secondary sources all agreed that the war retarded the growth of the game. Edmund Todias wrote that most of the antebellum clubs broke up as the members went off to war. To a certain extent, this is true and the contemporaty evidence supports that in some specific cases (such as the Cyclone Club). However, I've been spending a lot of time reading the Civil War-era Missouri Republican and the contemporary source shows a great deal more ballplaying than I expected. As I stated in the post, a lot of this is junior clubs and teenagers organizing and playing matches but there are many more adult clubs than I would have thought.

What this means as far as what effect the war had on the growth of the game, I'm not yet certain. Or, rather, I'm not reached a point were my thinking is clear. I would imagine that if the war had not broken out, we would have seen the game grow much more than it did from 61 through the 64 season. The tremendous growth in the number of clubs and players that we see from 65 onward, I think we would have seen in 61 and 62. But I want to finish the research before I try and reach any real conclusions.

I appreciate you stopping by the website and commenting. It's good to talk to you and, again, congrats on the book.