Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Mears Baseball Scrapbooks

I've been poking around, trying to find information about entry 1859.39 of the Protoball Chronology.  The source, taken at face value, is the earliest record we have of a St. Louis baseball club.  The earliest mention in contemporary material that we have of the the Cyclones or the Morning Stars or any other St. Louis club doesn't come until 1860 and I've been looking high and low for something from 1859.  We know, based on the testimony of members of the Cyclones, that the club first formed in the summer of 1859 and that the Morning Stars were likely playing the local St. Louis baseball variant as early as 1857.  But, other than 1859.39, we don't have any contemporary sources until 1860.  And, based on the notes about the source at Protoball, I had some problems with it.

Yesterday, though, I went looking for the original source for 1859.39, which was a newspaper article that Craig Waff found in "the Mears collection" and that Larry McCray describes as "Under-identified."  After a quick search, I found the Charles W. Mears Baseball Collection online at the Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery.  And it is unbelievable awesome.

According to the OhioLink Finding Aid Repository, the Mears Collection "documents the early statistical history of professional baseball.  It includes scrapbooks, monographs, baseball magazines (now mostly on microfilm), early league constitutions, team histories, and photographs.  There are nearly complete runs of the Spalding and Reach Guides included among the 281 books, pamphlets, periodicals, and publications that are part of the collection."  The OhioLink site includes a brief biography of Mears that mentions that he purchased "the Tim Murnane Libary and that of William M. Rankin, baseball editor of the New York Clipper."  It's in the Rankin material that I found the original source of 1859.39.

But I'm going to get to that in a few days, after I do a bit more digging.  What I want to get across today is how fantastic this material is.  The Rankin scrapbooks have a ton of material from the 1850s.  There is all of this primary source material from the Clipper and Spirit of the Times that I've never had access to, covering baseball history from 1853 into the 20th century.  I can't even begin to tell you how thrilled I am to find this and how excited I am to begin digging through this wonderful source.  

Just to give you an idea of what kind of stuff I've already found after looking through the stuff for maybe an hour, here's  a little something from an 1860 issue of the Clipper:

Baseball in St. Joe in 1860 - how about that?  Was this the first baseball club in St. Joe's history?  Most likely.  Were they playing the New York game?  Unknown, but it's possible.  Regardless, this is cool stuff.

As I mentioned Friday, I've been busy finishing up a piece on the Knickerbocker Rules for Protoball and I'm busy at work so I haven't had a lot of time to work on the website.  But the stuff that I'm finding in the Mears Collection is so neat I couldn't wait to share it with all of you.  I'm going to post some random stuff from the collection over the next few days, while I'm writing up what I hope is a long piece on 1859.39, and then I'm going to mine this thing for all it's worth.    


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