Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Nationals At St. Louis, Part One

I know that I posted about the Nationals' 1867 visit to St. Louis recently and I've covered it in the past but it was an important moment in St. Louis baseball history and it's important to look at it from as different angles as we can.  Plus, Richard Hershberger sent me a copy of the August 1, 1867 edition of The Ball Players Chronicle, which had fantastic and detailed coverage of Washington's trip and I wanted to share that.  As usual, big tip of the hat to Richard. 

As The Ball Players Chronicle's coverage of the two St. Louis game was extensive and runs rather long, I'm going to break it up into a few posts for ease of reading:

The Nationals At St. Louis

Interesting Contests with the Union and Empire Clubs.

At 9 P.M. they reached the great river of the West, opposite St. Louis, and there they were met by a committee of the Union Club, who had stages in readiness for them, and in these they crossed the river on board one of the wide ferry-boats.  As the stages left the depot, three cheers were given by the crowd for Fox, who had become notorious already.  At 10 P.M. they were all assigned apartments in the Southern Hotel at St. Louis, the most splendid establishment of the kind in America, a parlor being set aside especially for the use of the club.  The large hall was crowded with ball players on their arrival, the reception given the visitors being the best they had yet had on their tour.  The worthy president of the club met the Nationals some miles from the city, and the Union Club did all they could to make the Nationals feel at home, and they succeeded admirably.

After a good night's rest in splendid apartments, the Nationals on Sunday formed themselves into little parties, each having members of the Union Club to accompany them.  Some attended the churches, and others took walks around the city until dinner time.  The day was excessively hot.  In the afternoon carriages were placed at the service of the Nationals, and they were taken to the noted residence of Mr. Shaw, the millionaire, whose botanical garden is not only the feature of the city, but the finest horticultural collection in America.  The beautifully laid out lawns, the endless variety of shrubs, the splendid floral display, and the rare collection of tropical plants, was a sight worth the journey to witness.  A novelty to the strangers was the sight of the number of ball clubs engaged in play, either in practice or match games, outside the city.  On the common and the Benton Barrack ground, as well as on the river grounds, clubs were to be seen playing from 1 o'clock till near dusk.  The Catholic Institution known as the "Brothers" allow their scholars to play ball every Sunday.  In fact, there are but two clubs out of about thirty in St. Louis who do not - in Northern eyes - break the commandment.  Despite the argument that, if they were not playing ball they would very likely be engaged in something far worse, there is no doubt that Sunday ball play militates greatly against the interest of the game in the West.  Business men, though, are much to blame for this, by not allowing their employees some time during one week day for healthy relaxation of this kind, as our business men of the North now do by closing up their stores at 3 P.M. on Saturdays.

We beg to acknowledge our indebtedness to Mr. T.S. Smith, the efficient secretary of the Union Club, for most courteous attentions during our stay in St. Louis, as also to the president and other gentlemen of the Union Club.  The secretary, by the way, is the best posted man on the rules of the game we have met with on the tour, and we should judge him as first-rate authority for the State clubs.  He was evidently studied them closely. 

On Monday the heat of the weather was intense and the boys kept pretty quiet until it was time to go to work.  After dinner, the Nationals were taken in carriages to the Union Ball Grounds, located on Grand avenue, near Franklin, and on their arrival they found a huge crowd.  Only a few ladies were present, while the roughs of the city seemed to have got in on the free principle to a very great extent, although fifty cents admission was charged, the enclosure of the ground being merely an ordinary farm fence around the greater part of it, over which the barefooted urchins and the rowdy crowd of the city jumped with impunity, the police force present being useless and glaringly inefficient.  The seats appropriated for ladies were chiefly occupied by the noisy class, while on the left about a dozen ladies managed to procure seats, the others who were present taking seats in the carriages, a number of which were inside the grounds.  The fact was, the grounds were entirely unsuited for a contest of the kind, not only from being too limited in extent, but also from the rough surface, good fielding being next to impossible.  Had the ground been properly prepared early in the season and entirely enclosed, the admission fee charged would have led to a very respectable gathering, and the amount received would have defrayed expenses.  As it was, however, nothing was satisfactory, either to the club or the crowd, the grounds being entirely inadequate to the purpose.  So great was the desire to witness the game, some three thousand people crowded themselves on a field not large enough to allow of a thousand seeing the game without encroaching on the players.
-The Ball Players Chronicle, August 1, 1867

We'll get to the Unions/Washington game tomorrow but I want to point out a few things that Mr. Henry Chadwick covered here:

-T.S. Smith is Thaddaeus Smith, the older brother of Asa Smith.  While I know the outline of Thaddaeus Smith's life and his basic biographical details, I really couldn't tell you anything about what the man was like.  Chadwick gives some nice details about the man.

-I must admit that I always pictured the Union Grounds as having a tall fence surrounding it but it seems it had an ordinary, waist-high fence.  Amazing. 

-As usual, the heat and the poor condition of the field are mentioned. 

-The stuff about Sunday baseball and the Early Closing movement is fascinating.  I'm always interested in reading about how outsiders viewed St. Louis and Chadwick's view of St. Louis' Sabbath practices is great stuff. 

No comments: