Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Top Twenty Games In 19th Century St. Louis Baseball History: # 8

8. July 10, 1867: Unions vs. Empires

The second game of the championship series between the Union and Empire Clubs was played on July tenth.  The Union Club again won, this time by the narrow margin of thirty-four to thirty-two, thus taking the championship from the Empires, who had held it for six years.  The newly crowned champions celebrated their victory with an evening of merrymaking, reported in the Missouri Republican [July 11, 1867] as follows:

 The great victory...naturally enough caused no small elation and enthusiasm among the members of the organization.  Their joy, however, was not manifested in any unseemly or intemperate manner toward their conquered foes, but in an inoffensive, harmless way.  In one respect it assumed a most agreeable development.
 Between eleven and twelve o'clock last night a large party of the victorious knights assembled in front of the REPUBLICAN office, having a fine band of music in attendance, and we were soon apprised of their presence by the sweet strains of music floating up through the still air of night in most agreeable melody...

 The party were in exuberant spirits, and full of fun and frolic, and somewhat inclined to be a little boisterous, which however, under the circumstances, might be expected.  As the party dispersed three cheers were given for the REPUBLICAN office, and then, with generous spirit, for the Empire Club.
-The Background Of Professional Baseball In St. Louis

The five seasons following the end of the Civil War in April of 1865 marked the golden age of amateur, pioneer baseball in St. Louis and that era was dominated by the rivalry between the Empire and Union Clubs.  Riding the wave of the baseball fever that was sweeping the nation, baseball had never been more popular in St. Louis.  The Unions victory over the Empires, wresting away the St. Louis and Missouri championships from their rival, was one of the high points of the pioneer era in St. Louis and was certainly the greatest achievement in the proud history of the Union Club.

This game was also significant because baseball was always healthier and more popular in St. Louis, between 1859 and 1874, when the Empire Club, who was the dominant St. Louis baseball club of the era, had a rival and had to fight for the championship.  The Union Club was the only club to take the championship from the Empires during that period (and they did it in both 1867 and 1868) and that was very healthy for the game in St. Louis.  A lack of competition has a stagnating effect and we see that after the break-up of the Union Club in 1870.  There is a lull or downturn in the popularity of the game in the city and I've always believed that that was a result of the Empire Club lacking a rival or a team that could give them a real fight.  It wasn't until the Reds came along and gave the Empires a run for their money that the popularity of the game picked up again in St. Louis.

So this really represents the pinnacle of the pioneer era in St. Louis.  There are numerous good baseball teams in the city and two really great teams.  This was probably the most exciting baseball season St. Louis had ever seen, with everyone anticipating and looking forward to the championship series between the Unions and Empires.  Everybody had the baseball fever and St. Louis had a new champion.       

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