A few weeks ago, I mentioned the upcoming blogiversary and said something along the lines that this would be our sixth anniversary. Well, obviously I'm a bit math challenged because today's the fifth anniversary of This Game of Games, not the sixth. Sure we're starting our sixth year of blogging but I offer no excuses for my inability to do basic arithmetic. Heck, half the time I need a calculator to figure out how old I am and most the time that doesn't help because I can't remember what year it is. They say time heals all wounds but it also makes you forget stuff like the date, the year and how to add and subtract. It's entirely possible that I'm suffering from the early onset of Alzheimer's.
What was I talking about?
To make matters worse (as far as the whole remembering what year it is thing is concerned), I have Game Six of the 2011 World Series on right now. I've probably watched that game ten times now. I rewatched it the first time the day after the game, as a lead-in to Game Seven, and it never gets old. I refer to it now as The Greatest Baseball Game Of All Time. Honestly, most of the game was bit craptastic but the last three innings weren't too bad. Unless you're a Rangers fan. Wait. Hold on a minute...
I'm back. I just had to watch this:
That's never going to get old.
So back when I was talking about how this was going to be the sixth anniversary, I said I'd tell the story of how all this nonsense got started and, since I don't think I ever told anyone this story, I might as well go ahead and tell you. It's not really an interesting story but I'm going to tell it anyway. How's that for a build-up?
In all honesty, I'm not sure exactly how this all started. I was online and reading something or looking up something or screwing around. I can't remember exactly what I was doing. All I know is that I came across a reference to the St. Louis Red Stockings. Now I was not exactly ignorant of the history of 19th century St. Louis baseball or, I should say, I had grown up reading Bob Broeg and Bob Burns and knew about Von der Ahe and the Browns. I was knew that the old Brown Stockings had existed. I liked baseball history and I liked reading about baseball history so I knew a little bit about the 19th century game in general. Before I even started this website, I probably knew more about 19th century baseball than ninety percent of the population. That's not saying much but I had a general familiarity with the subject. It was a shallow familiarity and I would quickly learn how little I actually knew but I knew about the Four Time Champions. I knew about the National Association, the Knickerbockers, the 1869 Red Stockings, Cap Anson, King Kelly, John Ward, Candy Cummings, Jim Creighton, the Perfectos and stuff like that. I knew the basic outline of the history of the game going back to the 1840s. But I had no idea who the St. Louis Red Stockings were. And I wanted to know who they were.
And that's how it started. Very innocently. I had a simple question: Who were the St. Louis Red Stockings?
I started with Google. Now that did answer the question but it did so in an unsatisfying manner. Google the Reds and you'll get Wikipedia, B-Ref and some other sites that will tell you that they were an NA club. You'll get the roster and the games. But what you find really lacks context. A quick search might turn up the phrase "co-op club." What the hell was a co-op club? Who was Joe Blong and Packy Dillon and Art Croft and the rest of these guys? Okay, I know who Charlie Sweasy is. What about the rest of the players? What was the Compton Avenue Grounds? Who was Thomas McNeary? Why did they only play 19 games? What happened? Who where these guys? A basic online search answered a few questions but brought up many, many more.
I checked my local library and found a bit more but, again, the information I was finding was only leading to more questions. To really understand the history of the 1875 Red Stockings of St. Louis (and, in the process of researching the club, you should discover that there never was a club called the St. Louis Red Stockings but, rather, there was a club called the Red Stockings who played in St. Louis), you have to understand the post-Civil War history of amateur baseball in St. Louis. Who have to know who the Empire Club was and why they were important. You have to know who the Union Club was. You have to understand why the 1874 season was so significant. To understand 1875, you have to understand 1874 and to understand 1874, you have to understand 1865-1873. That's the reality of it. When I started with this one simple question, I didn't know that. I didn't realize that I was peeling off one layer of an onion. I didn't know how many layers deep the information I was looking for laid. If I knew, I probably wouldn't have bothered.
So I started researching the Golden Age of 19th century St. Louis baseball - that wonderful period from the end of the Civil War through the 1874 season. And then I stumbled upon an interesting piece of unrelated information. There was a book I had (and I'm not even going to give you the title or author because it's just full of errors) that attempted to tell the story of baseball in St. Louis. It was a general history that actually had some stuff on 19th century baseball in it and that was great. But at the beginning of the book, the author mentioned how the New York game came to St. Louis. This was the Fruin Myth. I quickly noticed that this story was commonplace. It seemed to have become the accepted version of how the game came to St. Louis.
And it took me an afternoon to destroy it.
It took almost no time at all to find the errors and inconsistencies in the story. Anyone who took the time to look at the Fruin Myth and do a bit of fact-checking would have quickly discovered that the story wasn't true. I just happened to be one of the first who did the work and raised the questions. But destroying the Fruin Myth was never my goal. I wanted to know how the game came to St. Louis and the answers that were being offered were unacceptable. So I started to look into the origins of the game in St. Louis.
To the answer the questions that I had and to answer the questions that arose from the original questions that I was asking, I had to start doing my own research. I had to start looking at the primary source material because the secondary sources were crap. They were full of errors and misleading statements. They were written by people who didn't understand 19th century baseball. And I was very lucky - very early in the process - to find the 19th century baseball research community online and they were very, very helpful and very, very encouraging. I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I am to the members of the 19th century baseball research community. They are an incredible group of people. I'm amazed at how many smart, smart people are engaged in this work and I often feel rather small when working with them because they just seem brilliant to me and I know how little I actually know on the subject.
But I started doing original research and found a great deal of encouragement and support in my endeavors. Then the question arose of what I was going to do with the stuff I was finding. This website - my little corner of the internet- was the answer. And I'm glad I started doing it because TGOG has been a blessing in my life. I've been able to meet so many wonderful, smart and interesting people through this site. It's because of this website that I've gotten involved in numerous research and writing projects, many of which I've talked about. This website is fun and I enjoy doing. I'm to the point now that I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I quit.
Now all good things come to an end and I'm sure this blog will end at some point. But we've been going for five years and there's no end in sight. There's too much that I want to do with this site, too much that I want to get out there. The end will come but, to quote Dylan, it's not dark yet. As a measure of my commitment to this thing, I should tell you that, at long last, I've bought the domain name thisgameofgames.com and am going to be moving the whole operation over at that in the near future. It's been a long time coming but it is coming. I'll more on that as we get closer to moving day.
I can't let the anniversary pass without thanking you, my brilliant readers. You guys are the best. It's hard to express how much I enjoy the emails that I get from you guys. I get great questions that are a challenge to answer. I get box scores and game accounts and pictures. I get these great stories from family members of some of the ballplayers I write about. There are readers who I started talking to five years ago and I'm still in contact with them. This website has allowed me to make some good friends. And that in the end, for me, will be the legacy of TGOG. For me, the best part of all of this is my readers.
So thank you very much and here's to another five years. Que the music:
And I should mention one more thing. My 2000th post is coming up in the next week or so. To celebrate that I'm going to be counting down the top 20 games in the history of 19th century baseball. So we have that to look forward to. And, as God is my witness, some day I will finish the series on the 1884 Maroons. But it may take another six months.