Saturday, December 15, 2012
The match game of base ball, which was to come off on yesterday afternoon between the Hope and Resolute Clubs of this city, did not come off on account of a dispute arising between both Clubs - the latter Club having two players on their nine belonging to the Empire Club.-Missouri Republican, September 27, 1864
And know we know even more about the Hope and Resolutes. The Resolutes were a bunch of cheaters and the two clubs probably didn't like each other much.
At first glance, the Resolutes attempt to use two members of the Empire Club in their nine doesn't appear to be that big of a deal. It wasn't uncommon for a club to use members of other clubs to fill out their nine for a match, if they were short players. The fact that the Hope protested this tells us a few things. First, the scheduled match was viewed by the clubs as something more than a friendly. There was something at stake in this match. It may have been simply pride or honor but it may also have been the season series.
Secondly, this tells us a great deal about the nature of baseball in St. Louis during the Civil War. The fact that there was a protest shows us that the game had developed beyond its social function and was seen as something more than physical exercise and fun. The game had developed a competitive function and the teams were playing to win. This is extremely important as it parallels the national evolution of the game Morris talked about in But Didn't We Have Fun? and Goldstein wrote about in A History of Early Baseball. This is more evidence to support the idea that St. Louis baseball, during the war, was dynamic and growing.
It's possible that were looking at the development of the idea of a St. Louis baseball champion and a series that determined or impacted the championship. While I've always believed that the Empire Club was the best team in St. Louis during the war years, the Hope and Resolutes appear to have been more active in 1863 and 1864 and it's possible that they were the two best clubs in St. Louis at the time. The list of teams that could have been the champions of St. Louis during the period is certainly limited to the Empires, Hope, Resolutes and Commercials and I have no real evidence that suggests one club was better than the others. The idea of a St. Louis and Missouri champion didn't really develop officially until after the war and it's probably futile to talk about a St. Louis champion until the 1865 season, when the Empires claimed the mythical Championship of the West. But, if the game in St. Louis had developed a competitive character by 1863 or 1864, it would have been natural to argue over and attempt to determine who was the best club in the city. It's human nature.
We see this kind of dispute, again and again, in the late 1860s and early 1870s, as teams are fighting for the championship under the auspices of the state amateur association and the association had to adjudicate the disputes. It's fascinating to see the same thing in 1864 when there was no official body to mediate between the clubs and enforce the rules of competition. It's simply not something I expected to see during the war years and is another in a growing list of examples showing that the evolution of the game in St. Louis was not as retarded during the Civil War as I had previously believed.