Monday, December 31, 2012

Winter Warm-Up 2013

I'm going to be speaking at the 2013 Winter Warm-Up on Saturday, January 19th.  Not sure what time we're going on but I do know that we have an hour and a half to talk.  Last year we packed the room for an hour on Saturday and Sunday, plus we stayed late on Sunday to answer any and all questions.  It was a blast. 

This year, I'm going to be talking about early bat and ball games in the St. Louis area, going all the way back to the 18th century, and Ted Yemm will be talking about vintage baseball in St. Louis.  I believe we also have Dwayne Isgrig talking a bit about the history of black baseball in the city and Steve Pona may speak a bit about the St. Louis Baseball Historical Society.  It's going to be a lot of fun.

You can get tickets to the event at the Cardinals' website.  And if you're coming, come up and say hi.  I'd love to meet and talk to as many of you as I can.     

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to everyone. As my gift to you, here's some Dean Martin and some Darlene Love:

I'm going to take the week off and try to get some rest.  I'll be back right after New Year's with more 19th century St. Louis baseball nonsense and some Winter Warm-Up news.  If you're desperately missing my wonderful prose, head over to Protoball and check out some of the stuff we're doing there.  My piece on the Massachusetts Game just went up and it's long enough to keep you busy for a bit.  And if you're going to read that, you might as well read my piece on Town Ball.  

Monday, December 24, 2012

The End Of An Era

A match game will be played to-day between the Hope and Empire Clubs on the grounds of the former Club, corner of Biddle and Twenty-sixth streets.  The game will commence at 1 o'clock, and ladies and gentlemen desirous of witnessing the game are assured that the strictest rules of propriety and good breeding will be observed upon the grounds.
-Missouri Republican, November 4, 1865

This is the last St. Louis baseball game of the 1865 season that I'm aware of and it really was the end of an era.  In my thinking, the 1865 season marks the end of the pioneer baseball era in St. Louis.  Beginning in 1866, the city would see an explosion in the popularity of the game and the development of the Empire/Union rivalry, which would mark the golden age of amateur baseball in St. Louis.  It's distinguished from the pioneer era by a new generation of clubs and players as well as by Asa Smith's attempt to bring St. Louis baseball into the national mainstream.  The St. Louis baseball landscape was much different going into the 1866 season than it was in 1859, when Merritt Griswold came to town and inaugurated the pioneer era in the city.

Also of note here is that the Hope grounds were located at Biddle and Twenty-sixth street.  Always good to know.   

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Triumph Of The Empire Club

The members of the victorious Empire Base Ball Club returned about 11 o'clock Monday night from Dubuque, bringing with them the handsome prize ball of solid silver.  They were received on the other side of the river by the remaining base ball clubs of the city, including the Baltic, Liberty, Magenta, Diana, Columbia, Hope and O.K.  Frank Boehm's silver band was in attendance, and all the clubs together formed quite a procession.  Several flags, including a very large one borne by the Empire fellers, gave a sort of martial or triumphal aspect to the procession.  After landing at the Levee the company marched up Chesnut street, stopping to give a round of cheers for the Republican, and then proceeded to their quarters, at No. 124 North Thrid street, over Miller's oyster saloon.  On reaching their rooms they were addressed in a few words of welcome by Mr. E.H. Tobias.  Mr. Walter, President of the club, responded in a few remarks, in which he thanked the different clubs for welcoming the "Empires" home, and hoped that they might all go on similar expeditions one of these days, and bring home silver prizes.  The silver ball, we are informed, will remain on exhibition in Mr. Miller's saloon for a time, and every-body who desires may see it.  The following are the names of the young men who won it:  John Quinn, Adam Wirth, Robert Duncan, David Duffy, J.M. Johnson, C.C. Northon, S.R. Barrett, J. Frain, and F.C. Billow.
-Missouri Republican, October 4, 1865

This account of the Empires' return to St. Louis, after their victory in Dubuque, is similar to Tobias' account, which appeared in The Sporting News in 1895.  I don't have much to add except that the description of Miller's saloon as an "oyster saloon" is new to me.  Also, the Republican got the names of several members of the Empire Club wrong.  Nothing like returning in triumph only to have your name mangled in the local paper. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Great Base Ball Match At Dubuque

The great base ball contest which took place at Dubuque yesterday, competition having been invited from all parts of the Northwest, resulted in favor of the Empire Base Ball Club of St. Louis, to whom the silver ball was awarded.  The score stood twelve to five.  The Empire Club of Freeport, who were defeated in their contest at Freeport, some weeks ago, with the Empire of St. Louis, were again defeated yesterday.  The news of the result came by telegraph last evening to some of the friends of the victors in this city.
-Missouri Republican, September 30, 1865

The Empires' victory in Dubuque was notable enough to receive two notices in the same issue of the Republican

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Victory In Dubuque

A private dispatch received from Dubuque yesterday says that the base ball match in that city was won by the "Empire Club," of St. Louis, on a score of twelve for themselves, and five for their opponents.  The prize contended for was a superb ball of silver, offered by a club at Dubuque.
-Missouri Republican, September 30, 1865

I know I've been mocking the Empire Clubs' big victories of 1865 but they really are significant.  They were the first games played by a St. Louis club against outside competition and the first victories by a St. Louis club against outside clubs.  The idea that the Empires were the best club in the West doesn't really hold up but these games were historically significant. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Note About How The Championship Of The West Was Won

The Empire B.B. Club, of this city, accompanied by a number of their friends, take their departure this morning for Dubuque to engage in the Silver Ball contest, on Friday next.  Special arrangements have been made for the round trip, by which parties desirous of joining the excursion can procure tickets at half price.  The club will leave their rooms, No. 124 North Third street, at 11 A.M.  May success attend them.
-Missouri Republican, September 27, 1865

I think I've posted this before but I wanted to contrast it with yesterday's information about the Empire Club crowning themselves Champions of the West. 

I had previously believed that the Empires didn't claim their invented Championship until after the Dubuque tournament, which they won by once again defeating the Empires of Freeport.  But that isn't true.  They threw themselves a party, gave themselves a championship belt and declared that they were the Champions of the West three weeks prior to the Dubuque tournament.

I always thought that their claim to the mythical Championship was tenuously based on the Fourth of July victory at Freeport and the Dubuque tournament win.  That's a weak nail to hang your championship claims on.  But I was wrong.  The Empire Club's entire basis for claiming the Championship of the West is their victory over the Empire Club of Freeport, at Freeport, on July 4, 1865.

And that is an absurd basis on which to make such a claim.    

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Empire Club Crowns Themselves Champion

 We are glad to see that this noble national game is fast gaining ground in popularity in our city.  There are several fine clubs in St. Louis, and our readers will not have forgotten that the championship of the West is held by the Empire B.B. Club, having wrested that proud title from the Empire Club of Freeport, Ill., last 4th of July, in commemoration of which event our well-known citizen, Martin Collins, Esq., has presented the club with a magnificent belt, gotten up in the most artistic manner.  The presentation was accompanied by an eloquent and interesting speech, delivered in our friend Martin's most happy manner, and was appropriately responded to by Messrs. J. Fruin,. B. Higgins, and other members of the club, all of whom expressed the sentiment that the club would give a "hard fight" to whatever club may endeavor to take it from the Empire.
We understand that an interesting game will shortly take place between the married and single men of this club; also that the second nine propose to play any other first nine in St. Louis.
-Missouri Republican, September 7, 1865

There should be no doubt about the fact that the Empires were the self-proclaimed "Champions of the West."  I usually refer to the championship as mythical but I think self-proclaimed may be a better description.  Collins, who presented the club with the championship belt, just so happened to have been a club member and it looks like the Empires invented a championship, threw themselves a party and presented themselves an emblem of said championship.  A year later, the Chicago all-stars would show them what that what that self-proclaimed championship was worth.   

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It Looks Like We Have A Trend

In Consequence Of The Very Disagreeable weather last Sunday, the Picnic of the Hope Base Ball Club has been postponed till Sunday, July 30, 1865.  Ample preparations have been made for the accommodation and enjoyment of all our guests on the occasion.  Tickets of 16th inst. remain good.
-Missouri Democrat, July 22, 1865

If I had been better organized, I would have put all these picnic notes in one post and wrote something about the social nature of a baseball club.  But that's not how I work.  I'm rather unorganized and usually just hunt around 19th century newspapers until I find something interesting to post.  Lately, I've been going through the Civil War-era Missouri Democrat and writing up posts as I find good stuff.

Anyway, it looks like the baseball club picnic was a trend in St. Louis during 1865.  And that really is rather interesting and sheds some light on what it was like to be a member of a baseball club in the city during that period.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

It Must Have Been Picnic Season

First Grand Annual Picnic will be given by the members of the Baltic Base Ball Club at Pecan Grove, Ill., Sunday, June 25th.  Cars leave Terre Haute Depot at 8 A.M.  No intoxicated liquors will be on the ground.  Cars return at 6 P.M.
-Missouri Republican, June 25, 1865

Yesterday, we saw that the Jackson Club was holding a picnic and now we see the Baltics doing the same.  It must have been the cool thing to do.  More importantly, this shows that the social function that a ball club served had not been completely consumed by the growing competitive nature of the game.  These were still social clubs and not just baseball teams.

The reference to Pecan Grove, Illinois, is puzzling because I can't find a town in Illinois by that name.  It's possible, based on quick research, that it may have been in Greene County but that might have been a bit far to travel in 1865.  It's an odd reference.   

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Jackson Base Ball Club

First Grand
Annual Basket Picnic
Of The Jackson Base Ball Club,
will be given at Gritasley Station, Iron Mountain Railroad, on Thursday, June 15, 1865.
Tickets - One Dollar.
Cars will leave Plum Street Depot at 8 A.M.
-Missouri Republican, June 12, 1865

I can't find any record in my notes or on the blog of a Jackson Base Ball Club so I'm calling this a new discovery.  They're probably an example of the explosion in popularity of baseball that we see immediately after the Civil War ends.   

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Resolutes Were A Bunch Of Cheaters

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.     

Friday, December 14, 2012

It Seems That I Know A Lot About The Hope And Resolute Clubs

There was an interesting match of base ball Saturday afternoon, between the Hope and Resolute clubs, the former being successful.  The total runs were: Hope 33; Resolute 21.
-Missouri Republican, August 30, 1864

The Hope and Resolute Clubs were two of the more active clubs in St. Louis during the later part of the Civil War and they continued to play in the post-war era.  They both had junior clubs and there is substantial evidence of the social activities of the clubs during the late war years.  It is known that the Resolutes had their home ground at the Abby Racetrack and that the Hopes formed in September of 1863.

This is actually a shockingly large amount of information to have about two obscure St. Louis Civil War-era clubs.   

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The 1861 Rules

There is an ad in the August 8, 1864 issue of the Missouri Republican for a book entitled The Finger-Post to Public Business.  The subtitle of the book is Containing the mode of forming and conducting Societies, Clubs and other Organized Associations and the ad mentions that it contains the "Rules of Cricket, Base Ball, Shinny, Yachting and Rowing, and Instruction concerning Incorporations..."

Being the industrious fellow that I am, I thought I'd see if I could find a copy of this book and, it just so happens, that there is a copy online at Google Books.  It turns out that The Finger-Post to Public Business contains the "Rules and Regulations Adopted by the National Association of Base-Ball Players, Held in New York, December 11, 1861."  

The 1861 rules (or the rules for the 1862 season) are interesting in themselves but they are not as significant as the 1857 rules, which defined the modern game, the 1858 rules, which allowed the umpire to call strikes on the batter, the 1860 rules, which introduced the batter's box, or the 1863, which allowed the umpire to call balls.  I don't consider myself to be an expert on the minutia of 19th century baseball rule changes but those four sets of rules, I believe, are the most significant of the antebellum and war years.  I haven't gone through the 1861 rules in detail but it may be that they introduced the use of chalk foul lines, which is a unique distinction.  

More importantly, we see here, in the use of newspaper advertising, a way in which the rules of baseball were spread from New York throughout the country.  The Finger-Post was a book published in New York and it could be purchased from the publisher by anyone in the United States for $1.50.  Send your money to New York and you would receive your book in the mail.  Simple enough.  But if it wasn't for the growth of daily newspapers in the antebellum era, someone in St. Louis would never have discovered that he could have purchased the book.  When we talk about the growth of baseball and its spread outside of New York, newspapers and the new information technology of the era are an important part of the story.         

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More Civil War-Era St. Louis Baseball Clubs

A match game of base ball came off on Thursday afternoon, between the Laclede and Young Commercial Base Ball Clubs, which resulted in a victory for the former.

A match game was also played yesterday afternoon on Gamble Lawn, between the St. Louis and Missouri Base Ball Clubs, which resulted in the defeat of the former.
-Missouri Republican, May 7, 1864

We continue to discover more baseball clubs that played in St. Louis during the Civil War.

I was aware that the Lacledes had organized in 1861 but this is the first evidence that I think I've ever seen of them playing a match during the war years.  The Young Commercials, I have always assumed, were the same club as the Commercial Juniors, who I knew were active during the war, but I should really look into that more.  And here we also find evidence of the existence, during the war, of the St. Louis and Missouri Clubs.

I should also point out that the St. Louis/Missouri match is more evidence of the popularity of Gamble Lawn as a site of games during the war.    

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Were The Morning Stars Active In 1863?

An interesting game of Base Ball came off on Thursday, at Lafayette Park, between the "Morning Star" and "Young Commercial" Base Ball Clubs, resulting in the defeat of the former.
-Missouri Republican, May 3, 1863

I'm not sure why I titled the post in the form of a question given the material that I just presented to you but I have some doubts.  I've shown previously that clubs using the name "Morning Star" were active in both 1861 and 1862.  Here we have a club using the name and active in 1863.  But I'm unconvinced that the old antebellum, Carr Park Morning Stars were still active in 1862 and 1863.  I can see them being active in the spring and summer of 1861 but I know too much about the antebellum club to accept that it was still in existence after that. 

What I think we have here is clubs using the Morning Star name after the original club disbanded, much as you see various versions of a Red Stocking club in St. Louis in the 1880s.  I don't have much evidence to support this other than a hunch and the fact that there is no one in this 1863 game that I can identify as a member of the antebellum club but I think I'm right.        

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tobias Was Holding Out On Us

At a meeting of the "Commercial Base Ball Club," the following gentlemen were elected officers for the ensuing year:

Wm. Bliss Clark, Esq., President.
A.W. Howe, Esq., Vice President.
Jno. W. Donaldson, Esq., Secretary and Treasurer.
Messrs. C.F. Gauss, Edwin Fowler and Hy. L. Clark, Directors; and Messrs. E.H. Tobias and E.C. Simmons, Field Captains.
-Missouri Republican, May 3, 1863

While he mentioned that he was a member of the Commercials, Edmund Tobias never bothered to mention that he was one of the captains of the club during the Civil War.  I also don't believe he ever mentioned the fact that the Commercials played during the war.  In fact, I believe that he specifically mentioned that the club broke up at the beginning of the war.  But I guess I can find it in my heart to forgive the Herodotus of 19th century St. Louis baseball. 

Captain Tobias' club was one of the most important pioneer-era baseball clubs in St. Louis and I regret not writing about them in Base Ball Pioneers.  When the publication of the book got pushed back, I mentioned to Peter Morris that I wanted to add something about the club to my chapter, which was already completed.  In the end, I choose not to do so even though Peter thought it was a good idea.  I liked my chapter as it was and while I had some information on the Commercials, I just didn't think I had enough to put together something interesting.  Of course, it's three years later and I know a lot more about the club.  I know that they were one of the two most active clubs in St. Louis during the Civil War.  I know about their role in developing Lafayette Park as a baseball grounds.  I know more about the members of the club.  I know that they had a junior club.  I know who their officers were in 1863.

The Commercials have been overlooked by baseball historians.  That's something I want to rectify.        

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Third Anniversary Game

The Match Game of Base Ball between the married and single nines of the Empire Club, on Thursday, 16th instant, was won by the former by five runs.  
-Missouri Republican, April 19, 1863

This was the Empire Club's third anniversary game and was played at Gamble Lawn.  Unlike most of their other Civil War-era anniversary games, there were no problems or postponements.  For once, everything went smoothly.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Empire Club Officers For 1863

The Empire City Base Ball Club held a meeting Monday evening and elected the following officers for the ensuing year:

President, L.P. Fuller; Vice-President, Jno. F. Walton; Secretary, Jno. W. Williams; Treasurer, Henry Barklage; Captains, James Rule and Jno. F. Barrett; Directors, Daniel Coyle, C. Mosier and J.T. Murphy.

A grand game is to be played by the Club on Gamble Lawn on the 16th inst., the occasion being the anniversary of the organization of the Club - playing to commence at 2 P.M.
-Missouri Republican, April 9, 1863

A couple of weeks ago, I gave you the Empire Club officers for 1861 and now we have the officers for 1863.  Still haven't found the officers for 1862.  Of interest only to me is that one of the club directors was a Mosier.  My maternal grandmother was a Mosier and I like the idea that one of my ancestors could have been a member of the Empire Club.   

Friday, December 7, 2012


I'm not certain that I can write English well and I know that I often struggle to speak it.  But, being from a generation that was actually educated in the language, I know that I can speak it, write it and read it better than those who have had the misfortune of having attended school in the last twenty years.  This interests me because, as someone who works in a written medium, I'm trying to communicate ideas in language and it's possible that, regardless of my level of mastery of English, the number of people who can comprehend what I'm doing is dwindling rapidly.

Some of you may know that I work in the restaurant industry.  I've been in the business for a long time and I'm used to working with young people.  It's fun to work with young kids and I enjoy it, for the most part.  Most of the people who I work with are teenagers and kids in their early twenties who are going to school or working their first real job.  And while I hate to sound like a cranky old man, these kids are, for the most part, morons.  Very few of them have any understanding of history, literature, philosophy, economics, politics or anything you need to understand in order to live well.  They certainly have no understanding of English, grammar or spelling.  I've threatened, on more than one occasion, to buy everyone I work with a dictionary and an English grammar for Christmas.  I've also accused them of speaking Dolphin, which is some kind of high-pitched squeal that I've yet to master, and Gibberish.  I often quote Jules Winnfield. And then I yell at them in German. 

The point of all of this, besides insulting young people, is that I was reading an article about how English has devolved over the last twenty or twenty-five years.  The author talked about how we're failing to teach the language and how that resonates across all areas of society.  It was a relatively interesting and familiar argument but it made me think of George Orwell and "Politics and the English Language".  So I looked the essay up online and reread it for the first time in many years.

I first read Orwell's essay, like many others, as a college freshman.  At the University of Illinois, all freshmen had to take an introductory rhetoric course, which was the equivalent, I suppose, of English 101.  We read Orwell and The Elements of Style and learned how to construct sentences, paragraphs and essays.  We learned how to write and, more importantly, how to think critically.  To this day, I still believe it was the most important class I ever took and my rhetoric professor was one of the two best teachers I ever had.

Rereading Orwell, it amazed me how much the lessons of that essay has stayed with me.  When writing in a more formal style than I apply in a blog post, where I tend to ramble and I'm usually pressed for time, Orwell's rules still influence me.  I use his rules all the time and had forgotten where I had picked them up.

For fun, I'll give Orwell's six rules from "Politics and the English Language":

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Rules two, three and a casual combination of one and five have always been in my mind when writing anything over the last twenty-five years.  Always, even after I had forgotten where I first read these rules, Orwell has probably had more of an influence on my writing than anyone.

I'm now thinking that, along with dictionaries and grammar books, everyone will also be getting a copy of this essay for Christmas.

Note as to the title of this post:  I actually thought I invented the term Anglish, although I like to call it Angle-ish.  I figured that the word "English" must have derived from something like the word "Anglish" and that's the word I often use, along with Dolphin and Gibberish, to describe the devolved form of English.  But, it appears, as happens often, that I'm wrong and I did not invent the word.

Another random note:  I just wanted to point out that I went to a public high school.  My family wasn't rich and I didn't get a fancy, private school education.  But we read Shakespeare when we were high school freshmen.  We read Milton when we were sophomores.  We read Faulkner when we were juniors.  We read Kafka when we were seniors.  You can't write well if you don't read well.                     

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Only A Game Of Trap-Ball

On the second of October [1819], there was a game of cricket played at Wanborough [Illinois] by the young men of the settlement; this they called keeping Catherine Hill fair, many of the players being from the neighbourhood of Gadalming and Guildford, &c...

This day [October 2, 1820] was kept at Wanborough, as last year, instead of Catherine Hill fair; but as some of the young men were gone to a county court at Palmyra, there was no cricket-match, as was intended, only a game of trap-ball.  There have been several cricket-matches this summer, both at Wanborough and Birk Prairie; the Americans seem much pleased at the sight of the game, as it is new to them.
-Two Years' Residence In The Settlement On The English Prairie, In The Illinois Country

These references to cricket and trap ball, as I mentioned yesterday, are the oldest references that I'm aware of to ball-playing in Illinois.  Given the sparseness of the population in Illinois prior to 1818, I would be pleasantly surprised to find a reference to a ball game that predates this one.  I believe we still need to take a closer look at the 18th century French settlements in Illinois but nothing I've seen to date, other than the Gratiot reference, has been fruitful with regards to ball-playing among the early French settlers.  The two earliest references that I know of that mention ball-playing in the Trans-Appalachian West date to the late 1790s and ball-playing references in the West prior to 1820 are rather rare.  So the English Prairie reference is a significant one.

Two Years' Residence was written by John Woods and published in London in 1822.  According to Robert Rogers Hubach's Early Midwestern Travel Narratives, "John Woods...was a British farmer who settled on the English prairie in 1819.  His book gives a favorable view of conditions there and contains a full account of his life and much valuable information on social, economic, and political conditions in Illinois during 1819-1821.  It includes notes on travel, agriculture, towns, and American customs."  John Drury, in Old Illinois Houses, described English Prairie as "a semi-utopian colony of British immigrant-farmers" that was centered around Albion, Illinois, in Edwards County.  The English nature of the settlers explain why they were playing cricket and trap ball, both well known English ball games.

I should also point out that the 1820 reference is the earliest, as well as one of the few, references to trap ball being played west of the Appalachians.

Note: The picture at the top of the post comes from the David Block's Baseball Before We Knew It site.  Please don't sue me, David.            

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Pioneer School House

The above illustration comes from A History of Edgar County, IllinoisPublished by Wm. Le Baron, Jr., & Co. in 1879, the book appears to have been one in a series of Illinois county histories that were published in the late 1870s.  The Edgar County history is notable because it contains the Jonathan Mayo town ball reference, which, if I've dated it correctly, is a reference to the second oldest known instance of ball-playing in the Illinois Country.

Based on the research that I've done, I believe the game that Mayo witnessed took place in 1822.  The oldest known reference to a ball game in Illinois is the Wanborough cricket and trap ball references from 1819 and 1820.  Since I don't think I've ever written anything about the Wanborough reference, I'll post something about that tomorrow.  But my point here is that the Mayo reference is rather significant and that makes the Edgar County history a fairly important work.

What I really want to point out, however, is this illustration.  It's entitled "A Pioneer School House" and, if you look at it closely, the details reveal something rather fascinating.  On the side of the school house, in the yard behind the boys by the creek, there are three boys.  It appears to me that the boy on the left has a bat in his hand and the middle boy has his arm thrown back, as if in the act of pitching a ball.  This looks to me like some sort of ball game, played by school boys.

I find this significant.  There are numerous accounts of ball games being played by school children in Illinois during the first half of the 19th century.  The most popular ball games were bullpen and town ball, although there are references to other games, such as long town, being played as well.  But it is well established, based on the recollections of people who were children in Illinois during the pioneer era, that bat and ball, safe-haven games were a popular pastime.  And here we find an illustration portraying that.

It should be pointed out that this was not an illustration portraying a contemporary event but, rather, an illustration made specifically for the 1879 book in which it appeared.  It is, essentially, a work of fiction put together by the illustrator to convey an idea about what life was like during the pioneer era in Illinois.  Having said that, the illustration is based on the testimony of people who lived in Illinois during the era and it has to be one of the earliest portrayals of Illinois baseball in existence.     

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

New Protoball Launch

Larry McCray sent out an email last week announcing the launch of the redesigned Protoball and I wanted to pass along the link to the site.

Among other things, Larry had this to say:

Our general view is that a website like ours may help the origins community by putting a range of relevant data where it can be easily found, and, more important, corrected, as fresh information from digitized sources comes to light.  David Block estimates that early writers on origins had only a small fraction of the data that we now have, so we need a way to test their early conjectures against our new stock of facts.

If you haven't visited Protoball recently, take a look at what wiki-type software can do for a clunky old Word-oriented facility.  Amazing. 

What's new.  There is a much better site-search capacity and ease of navigation.  That's thanks to our developer, Dave Anderson.

What's old are:

[] An 1150-item origins chronology at, with about 30 "subtopic chronologies" for different locations, different games, etc. 

[] The Protoball Games Tabulation (version 1.0), built by Craig Waff, with data on almost 1700 games played through 1860, at

[] A list of active researchers, and a big old bibliography of published sources.

[] A “Glossary” of over 200 baserunning games, some of which preceded base ball (the Massachusetts game, Philadelphia town ball) and some of which were later derived from base ball (softball, stickball, kickball, Finnish baseball).

What’s coming, we think, is a comprehensive data base on the spread of base ball, including club data, players, and maps.

I'd also like to point out some of the stuff that I worked on for the Glossary.  Larry and I are in the process of working through the list of games in the Glossary and analysing them in an attempt to discover what role some of these games played in the evolution and development of baseball.  It's a long process but the work is beginning to bear fruit.  You should take a look at the write ups we did for town ball and rounders to get an idea about where we're heading.  I also came up with a chart that divides the glossary into new classifications.  The links in the chart all lead back to the Glossary and, in the near future, I'm going to expand the thing outward, putting in more details about each game and linking that to the Chronology.

While I've done a bit of work for the new site and feel fortunate to be involved in the project, all of the credit for new Protoball has to go to Larry and Dave Anderson.  The two of them have done a fantastic job taking the best baseball research site online and making it better.  Great job by them.     

Monday, December 3, 2012

Some Misunderstanding

According to previous announcement, the Harvard University Base Ball Club, of Cambridge, and the Union, of this city, met yesterday afternoon on the St. Louis base ball park.  Owing to some misunderstanding between the two clubs in regard to the time when the game was to be called, the members of the Union did not arrive on the field until 4 o'clock.  Unluckily the Harvards had arranged to leave on the 5:15 train for Chicago.  This of course made the proposed game short, only one inning being terminated. 

The game was called at 4:10 by the favorite umpire, Mr. W. Kennon, of the Olympic Base Ball Club, of Carondelet.  His fame in the position of umpire is well known.  During his short term of office yesterday, he acquitted himself in his usual creditable manner.

The Unions winning the toss, went to the field; the Harvards the "bat."

First Inning.

Harvards. - Eustis, on a low grounder made his first.  Wells out on first by Easton, assisted by Greenleaf.  Prim got his base on called balls.  Eustis came home on a passed ball by W. Wolf.  Prim stole home on a passed ball.  Bush attempted to steal home but was put out at the "plate" by Turner.  Austin Smith and Willard scored each a run.  White was put out on first, closing the inning with a total score of 5 runs.

Union - Turner took his base on called balls.  Gorman knocked a low one to second base, which was held and then thrown to first, putting Turner and Gorman both out, by this beautiful, but easy and mechanical double play of the Harvards.  Easton got his first on a swift grounder to centre.  Stansberry out on first, leaving Easton on second and adding the last 0 for a white-wash; terminating the first inning with a score of 5 to 0 in favor of the Harvards.

Second Inning.

The inning was not completed on account of the hastened departure of the Harvards.  The Harvards had 9 runs with two men out and two on bases, when the captain of their nine called them from the field, thus ending the game.

It might be well to state, that unless five innings are played the game cannot be called a match, hence we omit the base ball order of the score, it being enough that the game was entirely under control of the Harvards, they using their opponents to suit themselves.

The crowd being a little displeased at the sudden termination of the game, Clay Sexton, assisted by some members of the Empire club, made up a picked nine, composed of the best players on the ground, including, we believe, some members of the Lone Star B.B.C. of New Orleans.  The bat thrown down by the Harvards was taken up by this undaunted picked nine, and the Union found in them some true base ball metal.  This impromptu match was quite interesting and the spectators were highly pleased with it.
-Missouri Republican, July 24, 1870

So let's just say that I was right all along.  Harvard did not technically play a baseball game in St. Louis in 1870.  The whole thing, if you ask me, was fubar from beginning to end.

The Lone Stars, if you were wondering, were in town to play the Empires and the Unions.  

Sunday, December 2, 2012

We Are Ready

So, maybe I was a bit hasty yesterday in saying that Harvard didn't play a game in St. Louis on their 1870 tour.  Looks like things were a bit more complicated:

Until yesterday morning it was not known that the Harvard club were prepared to play in St. Louis, but a telegram received by Mr. Asa W. Smith, president of the Union, yesterday morning, put that idea to rest.  The Harvard club inquired if the Union were ready and Mr. Smith laconically replied "Come on, we are ready."  They are expected to arrive this morning and the match will be played at the base ball park during this afternoon between the Harvard University nine and the Union club.  They were supposed to leave Louisville last night at half past ten o'clock.
-Missouri Republican, July 23, 1870

There was also an ad in the paper promoting the game.  According to the ad, game time was at 3 o'clock.  Remember that.  It's relevant to tomorrow's post.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

That Explains That

The Harvard club of base ball players, which is making a tour of the country, was expected to play the Empire club of this city yesterday and the Union club on Saturday next, but owing to the oppressive heat of the weather and the fatigued condition of the Harvards the project has been abandoned for the present.  Asa W. Smith, president of the Union club telegraphed on Tuesday to the president of the Red Stockings, offering them their grounds and the whole proceeds of the gate money if they would come here and play a game with the Harvards on Saturday next.  The answer was received yesterday morning and stated that it would be impossible for them to come.  It also stated that the Harvards were so terribly worn out that they begged to be released from their engagement here.  A favorable response was made and there will be no game.
-Missouri Republican, July 21, 1870

Years ago, in the New York Times, I found the itinerary of the Harvard Clubs' 1870, that included games against the Empires and Unions.  I looked for years to find any evidence that the Harvards came to St. Louis and played a baseball game but to no avail.  Now I know why.

The reference to the Red Stockings is interesting.  It has to be a reference to the famous Cincinnati ball club because the St. Louis Reds didn't come into existence until 1873.  It looks like this was a missed opportunity to get the Cincinnatis back to St. Louis.   

And I almost titled this post "Harvard Dainties Can't Handle The St. Louis Heat" but didn't want to be cruel.