Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Top Twenty Games In 19th Century St. Louis Baseball History: # 7

7. September 25, 1865: Empires vs. Freeport

...on September 25, 1865, the Empire club went to Dubuque, Iowa, to play for a silver ball offered by the Agricultural Association of that city at their Fair and here the Empires were again victorious, not only defeating all other clubs but also again defeating their namesakes of Freeport, Ill., who in the meantime, since the former match, had met and beaten Chicago's best club. This game was much talked about and...was declared by witnesses to have been the very best fly game on record at that time. It was umpired by Samuel Cox, Esq., of Dubuque and occupied three and one half hours and the silver ball won there was deposited with the other trophies of the club...
-The Sporting News, November 9, 1895

The members of the Empire Base Ball Club of this city returned last night from Dubuque, Iowa, after winning the silver ball and the championship of the northwest, in one of the best and most ably contested match games ever played in this country. The people of Dubuque, who witnessed the game, magnanimously extend to the St. Louis boys the praise to which their nobly won victory so justly entitles them, and declare the Empire Club of St. Louis to be the Champion Club of America. The game was witnessed by an enthusiastic multitude, numbering over fifteen thousand persons, including hosts of the fair sex, and representatives from all the States of the Northwest. The Empire boys, on arriving in East St. Louis, yesterday morning, were received at the depot by a large delegation of their friends, including members of the Baltic, Liberty, Magenta, Dinga, Columbia and O.K. Base Ball Clubs, and with music, escorted to their headquarters, No. 124 North Third street. The handsome prize ball of solid silver will be on exhibition at Miller's saloon for some days, and every one can see it who wishes to gratify a curiosity. The Empire Base Ball Club is composed of our worthiest citizens-gentlemen who would reflect credit on any community-representing as much intelligence and wealth as any society of a similar nature in the United States. Their object is to cultivate a taste for out-door sports, which has been too much neglected by the American people in their march to opulence and greatness-over-burdening the mental faculties while the physic system remains undeveloped. Our citizens should take a lively interest in fostering and encouraging such associations as the Empire Club, and when such sports become more generally indulged in by our youth, we can dispense with billiard saloons and similar dens of iniquity. We extend to the Empire boys our congratulations, and feel a tinge of pride suffuse our cheeks when we hear the notes of praise that are uttered by all who witnessed the achievements of the Empire Base Ball Club of St. Louis.
-St. Louis Daily Press, October 3, 1865

It was on the basis of this victory, as well as the earlier victory against Freeport, that the Empire Club claimed the mythical Championship of the West.  Based upon this win, the Empires claimed to be not only the best club in St. Louis and Missouri but the best club in all of the Western United States.  This was an extremely important moment in the history of baseball in St. Louis and the Empires' victories over outside competition in 1865 helped establish St. Louis as one of the great baseball cities in the country.  It also, obviously, created a great deal of excitement and helped establish a strong foundation for St. Louis baseball in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War.  With the war over and the Empires beating all challengers, St. Louis baseball threw off the inertia of the war years and the baseball fever took a strong hold in the city.

The best comment I've ever heard about this game came from the late, great David Ball.  When I first posted about this game, David left me a note saying "You win a game in Dubuque, and suddenly you're the champion club of America? Imagine the excitement if they had managed a win in Peoria."  We lost David about a year ago now and I still miss him.       

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