Monday, November 26, 2012

Conduct Anything But Creditable

Empire vs. Union (of St. Louis). - A very exciting contest between these clubs took place June 18; and we regret to state that the match was marked by conduct anything but creditable to the followers of the Empire Club.  The games with the Athletics on the 12th and 13th of June were looked upon as testing the comparative strength of the two home-organizations and the result of those games led the partisans of both clubs to expect a close contest...

The trouble occurred on the occasion of the effort of Kennedy to play foul.  Murray popped up a ball, which Duncan settled himself to take; but just as the ball touched his hands, Kennedy, who had stolen his second, concluding to risk his third, ran with his full force into Duncan, causing him to drop the ball.  The umpire promptly decided "out"; but the partisans of the Empires, who had staked large sums on the result, raised a yell of disapproval, shouting "Not out; reverse that decision", and began to crowd inside the ropes, with threatening looks and other spiteful demonstrations.  For a few minutes great disorder prevailed; and it was with no little difficulty that the police succeeded in clearing the playground of the rabble.  The umpire being then appealed to by the Empire captain, promptly answered, "Out, for intentionally obstructing the fielder in catching the ball", when another hubbub arose.  Shockey, of the Empires, tossed his cap upon the ground, shouting that he would not play the game out, which (to say the least) unseemly demonstration was loudly cheered by the enraged crowd.  Mr. Jerry Fruin, however, advanced into the field, and with a few remarks appeased the tumult; and Mr. Worth, Captain of the Empires, promptly ordered his men to take their positions in the field.

We are glad to see one umpire manly enough to punish this mean style of play, which is only worthy of the lowest riffraff of the city.
-New York Sunday Mercury, June 28, 1868

E.H. Tobias wrote about this game in his series on the history of St. Louis baseball: "On June 18 the Union and Empire Clubs met in the first game of the season's contest for supremacy, the latter being the challenging club with the hope of regaining the championship.  Nearly 2,500 people witnessed the game, the interest in it being sustained by a close score throughout.  The issue of this game caused the Empire Club to appeal it to the State Association on the ground that the umpire in the eighth inning after having declared one of the Empire players "not out" reversed himself at the suggestion of the Union captain and decided him out and for a second reason cited fact that the umpire failed to sign the score.  This appeal was heard by the Judiciary Committee on the 9th of July and after hearing evidence took the case under advisement.  This committee was composed of E.S McKeon, of the Athletic Club, G.H. Denny, of Dirige, Jno. Halpin, Baltic, and C.P. Stener, Resolute.  Their decision, when given late in the season, sustained the action of the Empire Club and declared this game invalid, necessitating the game which was played Oct. 14 and which was won by the Union Club."

Two things should be pointed out.  First, these two clubs, by 1868, didn't like each other much.  The Unions had defeated the Empires for the championship in 1867, dethroning the Empires after a seven year run as the best club in St. Louis and Missouri.  Also, there was the whole silk stockings/blue collar thing going on, with the working class Empires not having much respect for the more well-to-do members of the Unions.  These two clubs fought each other for the championship over the entire second half of the 1860s and it was a rather heated rivalry.

The other interesting thing here is the role Jeremiah Fruin played in calming the situation.  Fruin, of course, had been the long-time captain and second baseman of the Empires and had recently retired from the game.  However, this incident shows the respect in which he was held by the Empire Club and the St. Louis baseball fraternity in general.  This is the second game that I know of where Fruin, through strength of personality and leadership, calmed an unsettled situation and stopped things from getting completely out of hand.

Lastly, I have to thank Richard Hershberger for sending this game account to me.  Richard always finds the best stuff.    

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