Monday, April 29, 2013

Ed Achorn, Author of The Summer of Beer and Whiskey, In Town This Week

Ed Achorn is going to be in town this week to talk about his new book, The Summer of Beer and Whiskey.  If you haven't gotten a copy of Ed's new book yet, you should do so now.  Or you can come by Left Bank Books on Thurday, May 2, at 7 P.M., buy your copy, listen to Ed tell stories about Chris Von der Ahe and the 1883 St. Louis Browns and have him sign your book.  He also will be out at Lafayette Park on Saturday, May 4, at 11 A.M. to watch a vintage game between the Perfectos and the Springfield Long Nines.  Both event are going to be a lot of fun and I plan on being at both.  So I hope to see you there and I know that Ed would love to have you come out.

If you have any questions about the events, drop me an email and I'll get you more information.  

A Determination To Win

The first game of the season for the championship will come off on Saturday afternoon, at the St. Louis Base Ball Park, between the Union and Empire clubs.

The Union club being at present champions will undoubtedly put their "best foot foremost" while the Empires will present a strong nine who will enter the contest with a determination to win.  Much interest is manifested as to the termination of the game and no doubt there will be a large attendance.
-Missouri Republican, May 28, 1869

No one should be surprised that a look through the 1869 season would involve a championship series between the Unions and the Empires. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

No Equal Hereabouts

The second game of the match between [the Empire and Aetna] took place on the afternoon of the 23d, at St. Louis Base Ball Park, in the presence of a goodly number of spectators.  The grounds were in admirable condition and the weather all that the most ardent lover of the game could desire.  The playing, though not characterised by any very brilliant display, was a close contest and showed an improvement on the play of the former game some two weeks since, especially at the bat.

The Empire's Wirth is to be credited with a fine running fly and some very excellent play at 1st base, which was more in his old style than anything he has given lately.  Fitzgibbon, pitcher, did well, and is evidently improving, his balls being delivered with more accuracy and regularity.  Murray, short-stop, did some handsome fielding to 1st base, and captured his share of the "flies."  Barron, catcher, "filled the bill" admirably, though he is not fully at home in that position, and we cannot but think that it is a mistake to take him from his own position of short stop, in which he has no equal hereabouts.  Of the Aetnas we must say they played a fine fielding game, displaying much activity, and in throwing of balls more accuracy and skill than their opponents.  Kenney, catcher, did great execution both behind and at the bat.  Savignac at 1st is a promising player, as also O'Brien, 3d base, who should use more care in batting and running the bases.  Tighe, at 2d, is in the right place, and did safe business at the bat, but was "out of luck."  Messrs. Whalen, Carroll and Wheeler filled their positions with credit and did some fine batting.

The result of the game we give below, and, considering all things, it is creditable to the Empire Club, if it is not of the same huge proportions as the previous one.  Mr. H. Smith of the Union Club, filled the position of Umpire with much credit to himself and general satisfaction to the players.
-Missouri Republican, May 25, 1869

James Barron, who is described here as the best shortstop in St. Louis, was one of the cornerstones of the great pioneer-era Empire Club.  He was a mainstay at shortstop, playing with the first nine from at least 1867 to 1875, and a member of seven championship clubs.  Barron was also the Empires' field captain in 1869.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Nothing Is More Uncertain Than A Game Of Base Ball

The second game between the Union Club and the Union Jr. Club, took place Thursday afternoon at the St. Louis Base Ball Park, and was well attended, considering the state of the weather.  Both clubs presented good representatives, and it was generally expected that the Union Club would take all the honors of the match, but nothing is more uncertain than a game of base ball, as was demonstrated by this match.  The result of the game is very creditable to the Union Jr. and places them among the foremost clubs of the city, a position which they have great confidence in maintaining.

The Union Club did not make such an exhibition of strength as was generally looked for, though their batting was very commendable and of the safe order.  Messrs. Carr, Greenleaf, Turner and Lucas are deserving of creditable mention for fielding as well as batting.

Of the Union Jr. Club, Yeatman, Wolff and McCreery take the honors.  Yeatman particularly distinguishing himself by a running fly catch.  Barada, pitcher, did good execution, and is evidently improving.

Owing to the weather but six innings were played, resulting in a score of 8 to 6 in favor of the Union Jr...
-Missouri Republican, May 15, 1869

Even in a shortened game, this was a huge upset.  The Unions were the two-time defending champion of St. Louis and Missouri and they weren't supposed to lose to a junior club.  They weren't supposed to lose to anyone but the Empires or one of the big Eastern clubs that periodically came to town. 

Having said that, the Union Juniors had some good ballplayers on the club.  Wayman McCreery was a young player who would play with the Unions in the future and Wally Wolff was an experienced player who had played with the antebellum Olympic club and also had played with the Unions.  They weren't a bunch of scrubs.   

Friday, April 26, 2013


A match game of the most interesting and exciting character came off on the Veto Grounds, on the 13th inst., between the two clubs, the former, students of the Christian Brothers' Academy, the latter of the St. Louis University, which resulted in the defeat of the Academic.  Both nines exhibited in a proficiency at the "bat" and in the field not to be expected in the initial game of the season.

The excellent play, together with the favorableness of the weather, rendered the game all that could be desired.  The conduct of the defeated nine merits unqualified approbation from members of the Pickwick, nevertheless, we would suggest to the non-combatants who cheered so vociferously, and whose sympathies appeared to be enlisted on the side of the Academic, that attempts to disconcert opponents are by no means manly, nor are they exactly in good taste.  We hope the gentlemen of the Academic will not take offence at these remarks, as they are not intended for them.  On the contrary, we repeat that they accepted their defeat gracefully, and as becomes a nine beaten, were not dishonored.

The score at the end of the ninth inning was: Academic 38; Pickwick 48.
-Missouri Republican, May 15, 1869

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Considerable Good Play

The first game of the season between the Empire and Aetna clubs of this city took place at the St. Louis Base Ball Park, on the afternoon of the 9th, and called forth a large attendance of the friends of the game, who were treated to a display of considerable good play for so early a time in the season.  The result of the match was not unlooked for, though the score of 2 to 1 was more than could have been expected by any one.  The Empire presented a good nine, both at the bat and in the field, a nine who gave assurance for the season's play.  In their nine we were pleased to notice some old faces who acquitted themselves in an honorable manner.  Their batting was very safe in general, and their fielding more lively and far better than last season.  Those worthy of mention for fly-catches are Messrs. Welsh, Barron, Wirth, Heep and Fitzgibbon.

Of the Aetna nine, Messrs. Savignac, Tighe, Mack, Carroll and Queenan are to be credited with fly-catches, the latter with the most difficult of the game, and, had they displayed more judgment at the bat and in running bases, would have shown a better score.
-Missouri Republican, May 11, 1869

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Charles H. Thurber

Charles Hequembourg Thurber, the secretary of the 1859 unknown St. Louis baseball club, was born on December 25, 1842 to Edward E. Thurber and Emma Hequembourg, most likely in Buffalo, New York, where his parents were married in 1840.  His father died in 1857 in Cincinnati and it's probable that Charles and his widowed mother moved to St. Louis shortly thereafter.  While there is conflicting evidence, several sources state that Emma was born in St. Louis around 1820 and it appears that Emma Thurber returned home in the late 1850s, following the death of her husband.  Interestingly, Charles Thurber is directly related to Charles Hequembourg, in whose offices the Empire Club was formed in 1860 and who was also the brother of Emma Thurber.

By 1860, the young Thurber was working as a clerk in an insurance office in St. Louis and, following the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the 1st Missouri Infantry in June of 1861, mustering in as a sergeant.  In August of 1861, he saw action at the Battle of Wilson's Creek and, soon after, his unit was reorganized as the 1st Missouri Light Artillery.  At some point prior to April of 1862, when his unit was fighting at the Battle of Shiloh, Thurber had been promoted to Lieutenant.  In 1863, the 1st Missouri Light Artillery was transferred from the Army of Tennessee to the Department of Missouri and Thurber spent the rest of the war in central and western Missouri.  Also, in May of that year, he was promoted to Captain.

1864 was an interesting year for Capt. Thurber.  He was transferred to the 2d. Missouri Artillery and was stationed in Warrensburg, Missouri.  In Warrensburg, he met Amanda Ellen Moody, a sixteen year old local girl, and married her on May 24, 1864.  In the fall, Sterling Price invaded Missouri and Thurber was involved in several battles, helping to drive the Confederate raider back into Arkansas.  By the end of the year, Thurber was serving as a staff officer in Warrensburg and operating as the district inspector for the army.

In 1865, Thurber and his wife had a daughter, Mary, and, with the war over, he mustered out of the army in the fall.  Thurber and his new family settled in Warrensburg and it appears that he spent the rest of his life there, working as a clerk in the Secretary of State's office.  He and his wife had three more children, all sons.

Charles Thurber died in Warrensburg on June 9, 1891.  He's buried in Warrensburg and that's his tombstone at the top of this post, which I found at Billion Graves.

Thurber certainly lived an interesting life and his was rather typical of pioneer-era St. Louis ballplayers.  Meeting his young bride during the war, while he was stationed at Warrensburg, was a nice detail but the most interesting part of his biography was his relationship to Charles Hequembourg.  Now I stated earlier that Hequembourg was his uncle but it's entirely possible that he was his grandfather.  Both Emma's father and brother were named Charles but the father was a Reverend and, therefore, I don't think he would have been the Justice of the Peace in St. Louis in 1860.  The young Charles was in his late forties and, without looking into it too deeply, I peg him for the Justice Hequembourg in whose offices the Empire Club was first organized.  Charles Hequembourg didn't really have anything to do with the organization of the Empire Club and I doubt that he was ever a member but it's an interesting coincidence that Thurber, a member of what was possibly the first baseball club in St. Louis, was related to Hequembourg, who is tied to the organization of another antebellum St. Louis club.  It is probably just a coincidence but it's something that jumped out at me.  Without reading too much into it, it's possible that there is some connection between the Unknown Club of 1859 and the Empire Club.                

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Did You Miss Me?

So I'm back from vacation, batteries are recharged and I'm ready to get back to it.  Some interesting stuff coming up this week.  I have something on Charles Thurber going up tomorrow and then some stuff from the 1869 season.  Working on a long piece on the Cyclones that I'll have finished in the near future.  Also slowly working on a new version of This Game of Games that I hope to launch sometime this summer.  Lots of stuff on the burner.  So come back tomorrow.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

On Vacation

I'm on vacation and out of town so there won't be any posts this week.  Since I'm spending the week traveling around Illinois and digging through various library collections, I'll hopefully have some interesting things to post next week.  And, yes, my idea of a vacation is spending a week in a library reading 150 year old newspapers. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Peculiarity Of Clapp's Catching

John Clapp

We can almost safely say that the finest display of catching we have ever seen in a single game was that exhibited by Clapp of the St. Louis nine during the June contests in Brooklyn in 1876.  His play close behind the bat on these occasions was excellent.  A peculiarity of Clapp's catching the past season was his adoption of the rule of play behind the bat - mentioned in an article on catching published in 1866 - of a rapid return of the ball to the pitcher.  This is as important for effective play as is a rapid delivery by the pitcher; we don't mean as regards pace, but in sending in balls in rapid succession, by which the batsman is obliged to be on the alert all the time, with but little opportunity afforded for leisurely judging the balls.  Some catchers hold the ball, after receiving it from the pitcher, for some time, with a view of throwing it to a base, or being ready for that play.  But the best plan is to promptly return it to the pitcher, unless a base-runner has started to run on the actual delivery of the ball.  We have seen many a base stolen while the catcher has thus held the ball, apparently in readiness for a throw.  A prompt return bothers a base-runner, especially if the return throw is swift and accurate to the pitcher.  But the main value of it is that it enables the pitcher to play his strong point of catching the batsman napping by a rapid return of straight balls when the batsman is not ready to strike.  This point was played by Bradley last season almost as frequently as by Spalding, and its success was mainly due to Clapp's quick returns.  Clapp is another of those quiet players who are seldom heard of except in the way of fine play in their position. 
-Mears Baseball Scrapbook, Volume 4, 1856-1907

This is a great article because it's rare to get specific details about a player's idiosyncrasies like we're getting here with John Clapp and George Washington Bradley.  I knew that Clapp and Bradley were two of the best players in the NL in 1876 but, besides the numbers, I couldn't have given you a lot of details about what made them great players.  This little play, where Clapp quickly returns the ball back to Bradley who, in turn, quickly delivers it back, tells us something about why they were so successful in 1876.  It's a small but illuminating detail.    

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Claiming The Forfeit

The Red Stockings Club of St. Louis, Mo., claim forfeit of a game which the Philadelphia Club failed to play with them on Sunday, June 20...

On the 20th the Atlantic of St. Louis, Mo., surrendered to the Red Sox, who scored 36 to 4...
-Mears Baseball Scrapbook, Volume 4, 1856-1907

This is kind of interesting.  The Whites of Philadelphia played four games in St. Louis from June 14 to June 21, including one with the Reds on June 15, and I'm not sure what happened with the game that the Reds believed was supposed to be played on the 20th.  The Philadelphias were in town and didn't play the Brown Stockings that day, so they could have played the Reds.  Maybe they just chose not to play the game.  Regardless, it looks like the Reds picked up a game against the Atlantics after the game with Philadelphia fell through. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Great Injustice

George Smith, a member of the Empire Club of St. Louis, Mo., writes as follows, under date of Sept. 25 [1874]:

Your article in this week's Clipper about the Empires being ungentlemanly at Louisville does the Empires great injustice.  They wanted the game played out, and it could have been, as it was only 6 o'clock when the umpire called the game.  The Eagles played their half of the ninth inning, making two runs.  The Empires then pitched in and made three runs, tieing the game, 16 to 16, with no man out on the Empire side, and one of the best batters (Wirth) the Empires have at the bat.  The Empires went to Louisville twice this season, and the Eagles have not returned the visit.  I was on the grounds, and saw nothing done whatever by the Empires that gentlemen would not do.  The Empires, being the visiting club, handed a dead ball to play with, which the Eagles objected to, as they said they were nt used to a dead ball, and the umpire, Capt. Seward, allowed them to furnish the ball, a live one.
-Mears Baseball Scrapbook, Volume 4, 1856-1907

Thursday, April 11, 2013

September 27, 1874

Games at St. Louis, Mo., Sept. 27: Empire vs. Red Stockings, 19 to 9; Essex vs. Olympic, 20 to 16; Rover vs. Little Eagle, 41 to 15; Jackson vs. Silver Star, 32 to 11; Haymakers vs. Rapids, 25 to 7; Cows vs. Calves, 30 to 28; Alma vs. Granger, 9 to 0; Una vs. Currier, 9 to 0; Atlantic vs. Imperial, 31 to 27...
-Mears Baseball Scrapbook, Volume 4, 1856-1907

This must have been an interesting day of baseball in St. Louis, highlighted by the championship game between the Empires and the Reds. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Let A Club Be Started At Once.

The admirers of the game in St. Louis, Mo., are talking about getting up a reliable baseball ten to represent St. Louis in the contest for the professional pennant of 1874.  They do not relish the idea of Chicago having a club and getting a chance of winning the championship, while St. Louis has to look on without participating in the fight.  A well-managed professional ten in St. Louis would not only pas as a stock investment, but it would greatly add to the interest of the game in that section of the country.  We hope the St. Louis gentlemen will not allow Chicago to be the only representative in the arena from the West next season.  Ten fine players could be had at very moderate salaries now.  Let a club be started at once. 
-Mears Baseball Scrapbook, Volume 4, 1856-1907

This seems to come from the Clipper of January 3, 1874, and it's the first time I've ever heard of the idea of putting a St. Louis Club in the NA for the 1874 season.  It's significant that people in St. Louis were talking about putting together a professional St. Louis team in 1874 (and, most likely, going back to the late fall of 1873) prior to the events of the 1874 season.  Certainly, this doesn't change the fact that the loses St. Louis clubs suffered at the the hands of Chicago in 1874 was a motivating factor in the formation of the Brown Stockings but it's extremely interesting that there was talk about a professional club well prior to that.     

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The 1871 Atlantics Of St. Louis

Atlantics, of St. Louis. - At a regular meeting of this club, held at their rooms on April 6th [1871], the following named gentlemen were elected officers for one year: - W.R. Peterson, president; Christ. H. Overbeck, vice president; Henry Peterson, treasurer; H.A. Libby, recording secretary; Charles F. Mueller, corresponding and financial secretary; field captains, William R. Peterson and Charles F. Mueller; board of directors - Christ. H. Oberbeck, president; Julius C. Seamen, Robert Terry, J.C. Peterson, J.J. Mathews, E. Giegler and J. Nangie.  The corresponding secretary would be obliged to clubs if they would send names and address of their corresponding secretaries in full.  Address Charles F. Mueller, care of Grether and Boeck, No. 322 Chestnut street, St. Louis, Mo.
-Mears Baseball Scrapbook, Volume 4, 1856-1907

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Olympics of Carondelet

Olympic B.B. Club of Carondelet, Mo. - The following officers have been elected for the coming year: - Pres., F.W. Kennon; Vice Pres., James Burke; Sec., J.J. Foster; Treas., Jos. Decker; Directors, S.Y. Collins, W. Knight and J.J. Foster.
-Mears Baseball Scrapbook, Volume 4, 1856-1907

This item comes from 1870.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The 1869 Convention Of The Missouri State Base Ball Association

The delegates to the Annual Convention of Base Ball Players of the State of Missouri met at St. Louis on Nov. 5th.  Owing to the inclemency of the weather a great many clubs belonging to the association were not represented.  The meeting was very harmonious and considerable business was transacted.  The following gentlemen were elected officers and delegates to the National Convention for the ensuing year: - President, Joseph Ketterer, of the Lone Star Club; 1st Vice-President, James Foster, of the St. Louis Club; 2nd Vice-President, David Murphy, of the Washington Club; Recording Secretary, Wm. Medart, of the Turner Club; Corresponding Secretary, George D. Barklage, of the Empire Club; Treasurer, C.H. Overbeck, of the Lone Star Club; Delegates to the National Convention, Col. David Murphy, of the Washington Club, Washington, Mo., and Joseph Ketterer, of the Lone Star Club, of St. Louis.
-Mears Baseball Scrapbook, Volume 4, 1856-1907

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Summer Of Beer And Whiskey

Look what I found.  Ed Achorn's new book, The Summer of Beer and Whiskey, is available for pre-order at Amazon.  You should get yourself a copy.  I can tell you that it's a fantastic book but you don't have to take my word for it.  Over at Ed's website, there are reviews and an excerpt.  It's a great book, covering a fantastic pennant race and Chris Von der Ahe and the Browns play a big role in the story.  I know that Ed's going to be in town in early May, doing some events and hawking the book, and I'll let you know what's going on as I get more information.

By the way, that's the 1883 Browns on the cover of the book so that should tell you about the role the club plays in the story.  

Friday, April 5, 2013


The source of the trouble

 "CLUB ORGANIZED, - A base ball club was organized in St. Louis, Mo, on the 1st inst.  It boasts of being the first organization of the kind in that city, but will not, surely, long stand alone.  It numbers already 18 members, officers as follows: President, C. D. Paul; Vice do, J. T. Haggerty; Secretary, C. Thurber; Treasurer, E. R. Paul. They announce their determination to be ready to play matches in about a month.

Source: Under-identified clipping in the Mears collection - The Clipper or the Spirit of the Times - annotated "Sept 1859" in hand. Facsimile provided by Craig Waff, September 2008.
-Entry 1859.39 of the Protoball Chronology

Protoball Chronology entry 1859.39 is problematic.  I've dealt with the problem mostly by ignoring it or rationalizing my disinterest in it by noting Larry McCray's description of the source as "under-identified."  But if we're to have a complete understanding of early baseball in St. Louis, we have to deal with 1859.39 and, to that end, I decided to take a closer look at the thing.

There are three aspects of 1859.39 that have to be looked at if we're to make any sense of the thing.  First, we need to deal with the issue surrounding the sourcing.  Second, we need to analysis the information contained within the source.  Finally, we need to consider the implications of the information gleaned from the source.  Hopefully, by doing this, 1859.39 will cease to be a thorn in my side and become a celebrated part of early St. Louis baseball history.

I. The Source

 I have nothing but the utmost respect for the work done by Larry and his group of diggers at Protoball and, being involved in the project myself, I know how the sausage is made.  I know that Larry isn't going to put something up on the site that isn't properly sourced.  Protoball is one of the best baseball history sites out there and I personally believe that it is the very best.  The integrity of the site can not be questioned.

With that in mind, I took Larry's description of 1859.39 as "under-identified" seriously.  It's always been a big red flag for me.  As a historian and researcher, I try to be meticulous in my sourcing.  You have to document your sources.  It's rule number one.  Document the source not just so that your work can be checked but so that others can find the source and use it or build on it.  A second-hand reference to a primary source is much different than the original source itself.  As a historian, I make judgements based on the sources I see but other people may reach different conclusions and sometimes they may reach better conclusions.  You have to allow others to see the original source so that they can reach their own uninfluenced conclusions.  And when you can't properly document the source, you tell people that, as Larry did with 1859.39.

But it was obvious that there was something there, although I didn't know what it was.  The source was provided by Craig Waff, a fantastic researcher who was well respected within the community of 19th century baseball historians.  I didn't know Craig but I know people who knew him and they all speak highly of him.  If Craig Waff found this and passed it along to Larry then there had to be something to it.  I couldn't be dismissed out of hand.

So where did Craig find this?  The entry at Protoball says that it was found in the Mears Collection and came from either the Clipper or the Spirit of the Times.  The first time I saw 1859.39, I had no idea what the Mears Collection was.  When I decided to get serious about digging into this, I did some research on the collection and found the scrapbooks contained in the collection online.  If you've been reading this site the last month or so, you know that I found the Mears Collection and that it contains an incredible wealth of information.  But the reason I went looking for the Mears Collection in the first place was to check the sourcing for 1859.39 and I was able to confirm that the information was in Volume 1 of the Mears Baseball Scrapbooks, grabbing the picture at the top of the post as proof.

But that was only the first step.  The problem with the Mears scrapbooks is that the sourcing within them is inconsistent.  Sometimes you can tell where the information comes from and sometimes you can only approximate the date.  And that's not good.  For 1859.39 to have any significance, we need to know where exactly it came from.  Waff gave us a general clue that it came from the Clipper or Spirit of the Times and that information is based on the nature of the Mears Collection, which contains the papers of William Rankin and Tim Murnane, but, based simply on the information we have in the chronology entry, we can't be sure what paper it originally appeared in.  This is what Larry meant when he notes that the source is under-identified.           

However, there is one more clue.  There is a hand-written note on the article from the Mears Collection that says "Sept. 1859" and you can see that in the picture above.  This, of course, implies that the article appeared in an issue of either the Clipper of Spirit of the Times in September of 1859.  And that's all the information I needed to run this thing down.

I started with the Clipper.  Fulton History has a nice online collection of 19th century New York newspapers that includes numerous back issues of the Clipper.  The search engine didn't return any information so I decided to browse the individual issues.  I have another, unrelated project I'm working on and I needed to look at back issues of the Clipper from the mid 1850s anyway so I started going through page after page, beginning in 1854.  About 2:30 in the morning, I remembered that I needed to check September 1859 and started looking through that.  And I found what I was looking for in the September 3, 1859 issue:

It was a rough looking copy and there was some damage at the bottom of the page, where the article appeared, but there was no doubt that this was the same article as the one that appeared in the Mears Collection.

So, based on this, we can identify 1859.39 as coming from the New York Clipper of September 3, 1859.  One problem solved.

II. The Information

So we confirmed that 1859.39 originally appeared in the Clipper in September 1859 but what information can we glean from the source.  Let's quickly go through what the source says:

  • "Club Organized. - A base ball club was organized in St. Louis, Mo., on the 1st inst."
This appears to be self-explanatory but there is a little wrinkle that we need to look at.  Obviously, the source relates the organization of a baseball club in St. Louis in 1859 but when exactly in 1859 did this happen?

The club organized on "the 1st inst." and that implies the first of the month.  "Inst." is an abbreviation for instant and refers to the previous first of the month.  With this notice appearing in the September 3rd issue of the Clipper, my immediate thinking was that the club was organized on September 1, 1859.  The notice appears on September 3 and the 1st inst., in relationship to September 3, would be September 1.  However, that's simply not possible.  There is no way that the information got from St. Louis to New York and into the Clipper in two days.  Therefore, "the 1st inst." can not refer to September 1, 1859 and most likely refers to August 1, 1859.  If the club organized on August 1, that's plenty of time for the information to reach New York and find its way into the newspaper.

  • " It boasts of being the first organization of the kind in that city, but will not, surely, long stand alone."
And here it is.  This is the most important piece of information in the notice and what makes 1859.39 so significant.  According to the Clipper, the first baseball club in St. Louis was formed on August 1, 1859.  This directly contradicts the Cyclone thesis - the idea that the Cyclones were the first baseball club in St. Louis - and the testimony of members of the Cyclone Club, several of whom stated that they formed the first baseball club in St. Louis in the summer of 1859.

While there is a great deal of evidence supporting the Cyclone thesis, there is no primary source evidence of their existence prior to 1860.  We have Griswold publishing the rules of the game in the Missouri Democrat in the spring of 1860 and then references to the match between the Cyclones and Morning Stars in July.  If you want to be technical, the earliest reference we have to the Cyclones comes from July 1860.  There is no primary source evidence that notes their existence prior to that.

I've been looking for primary source confirmation of the Cyclone thesis for years and have come up with very little.  I've discovered evidence around the edges - stuff like when Griswold came to St. Louis, when the Missouri Glass Company was formed and Ed Bredell's likely exposure to the game in the East.  All of that supports and strengthens the thesis.  But there is no smoking gun.  I'm looking for an article or notice of the formation of the club and have been unable to find it.

But we have 1859.39 and the formation of an unknown club in St. Louis on August 1, 1859.  Assuming that the club was playing the New York game (a reasonable assumption based on the fact that the notice appeared in the Clipper), then this is the earliest known reference we have to a baseball club in St. Louis.  Not only that, it's the earliest reference we have to baseball in the city.  We can argue the Cyclone thesis all we want but the fact remains that this is the earliest documented baseball club in St. Louis history.  And, it's important to notice, the club itself makes the claim that they are the first baseball club in St. Louis.   

  •  " It numbers already 18 members..."
Eighteen members is the absolute minimum number of members that a baseball club could have.  If they're playing the New York game, they need nine men a side and, therefore, eighteen members to play a game.  It's really not enough guys.  A baseball club of the era really needed about thirty playing members to ensure that enough people showed up on club days to have a game.  It's possible that the Unknown Club added more members after its formation but it's also possible that the club fell apart due to a lack of members.

  • "...officers as follows: President, C. D. Paul; Vice do, J. T. Haggerty; Secretary, C. Thurber; Treasurer, E. R. Paul."
 I've been able to identify three of the four officers of the Unknown Club.

Chas. D. Paul, according to the 1860 census, was born Missouri in 1840 and was living with his father, Edmund W. Paul.  He was working as a printer.

E.R. Paul, according to the same source, was born in Missouri in 1838 and was also living with his father.  He worked as a real estate agent, most likely with his father, who was also a real estate agent.  The 1860 St. Louis directory lists E.R. Paul's occupation as clerk, so he was probably working as a clerk for his father.  One assumes that his first name was Edmund, like the father.

It's obvious, based on the sources, that Charles and Edmund Paul were brothers.   

There is a Charles H. Thurber in the 1860 city directory, working as a clerk in an insurance office and it's likely that this is the C. Thurber of the Unknown Club.  According to the 1860 census, there was a Charles Thurber living in St. Louis, who was born in 1842.  The Missouri Historical Society has some information about Charles H. Thurber that confirms that the Thurber in the city directory is the Thurber in the census.  According to their information about the Charles H. Thurber papers, "Charles H. Thurber was born in 1842 and mustered into the Union Army at the St. Louis Arsenal on 11 July 1861 as a 2nd Lieutenant in Buell’s Battery, Missouri Volunteers.  Throughout 1861 and 1862 he was mustered into various batteries until his battery was transferred to the 1st Missouri Light Artillery, Battery I in August 1862. The battery was part of the Army of the Tennessee and was at the Battle of Shiloh. Eventually Thurber returned to Missouri and was captain of Company L of the 2nd Missouri Light Artillery Battery that participated in forcing General Joseph O Shelby’s retreat from western Missouri. Thurber died in 1891."  I'll post more information on Thurber soon. 

There are numerous J. Haggerty's in the city directory and the census.  Most are blue collar workers, although one is an engineer.  There is one John Haggerty in the census who was 19 and listed his occupation as laborer but I've not as yet made what I believe to be a positive identification. 

  • "They announce their determination to be ready to play matches in about a month."
Who were they going to play?  "Matches" implies games played between clubs but if they're the first baseball club in St. Louis, who would they play a match game against?  Maybe they're talking about intra-club matches.  I don't know.

 III. Implications

I've written before about the need to recognize what we know and separate that from what we think we know.  By this, I mean that we need to recognize what facts we've established through primary source documentation and separate that from the things that we think we know based on secondary sources and deductive reasoning.  It's important to remember that a lot of what I do involves deductive reasoning, intuition and guess work.  There's so many holes in the historical record, especially prior to 1860, that we make a lot of educated guesses about what was happening.  We have to remember that a lot of this is guess work rather than established fact.

1859.39 is an established fact.  An unknown baseball club formed in St. Louis on August 1, 1859.  This unknown club is the earliest documented club that we know of.  Evidence of this club predates the evidence we have regarding the Cyclones, Morning Stars, Empires and Unions.  That's a fact.  That's real.  Unless other evidence presents itself, we have to accept that the Unknown Club is the earliest St. Louis baseball club we have evidence of.

This is extremely significant because it brings the Cyclone thesis into question.  The testimony of the former Cyclones leads us to believe that the club was established in the summer of 1859 but there is no primary source material supporting this.  The Unknown Club was established in the summer of 1859 and we know that for a fact.  It's much easier at this point to make an argument that the Unknown Club was the first baseball club in St. Louis history and that the Cyclones didn't form until 1860.  Occam's razor forces me to this position.

1859.39 and the Unknown Club forces us to re-evaluate the Cyclone thesis, Merritt Griswold's role in introducing the New York game into St. Louis and everything we know about the origins of the game in the city.  It is a significant source and running it down, I believe, is one of the most important things I've done as a researcher.  It brings everything into question.      

And this is not, in any way, a negative thing.  This is something to be celebrated.  I've been trying to find primary source material about St. Louis baseball in 1859 for years, without any success.  Now I have it.  I've proven (with the extraordinary help of Craig Waff and Larry McCray), beyond a doubt, that baseball was being played in St. Louis in 1859 and that the first club formed that year.  Did all of this happen exactly as I expected it to happen?  Absolutely not.  But it's done.  It's an established fact that can never be erased.  That's a fantastic thing.

Now I just have to deal with the fallout and I'll start by posting a restatement and re-evaluation of the Cyclone thesis here in the near future.      

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Reds, Of Course, Were Not Allowed To Score A Run

On April 28 the amateur Red Stocking Club of St. Louis, called so in compliment to the Boston champions, met the professional White Stocking nine.  The players of the St. Louis "Reds" are lithe and active youngsters, who go in for fielding skill in preference to heavy hitting, and on this special occasion they gave the Chicago professionals about as close a fight as they are likely to have in their championship battles in the professional arena.  The contest up to the close of the fifth inning was marked by one of the prettiest displays of fielding ever seen in St. Louis, neither side scoring a single run.  In the sixth inning, owing to a wild throw of Redmond's, the Chicagos escaped a blank, and before the inning closed they had credited themselves with four runs, not one of which was earned.  In the seventh and eighth innings the "Reds" again "whitewashed" the "Whites," and it was only in the last inning that the Chicago nine even came near earning a run, errors giving them two more, which made their total 5.  The "Reds," of course, were not allowed to score a run.  The game was witnessed by a numerous assemblage of spectators, and the result of the game, so different from that anticipated, will have a tendency to give a new interest to the national pastime in St. Louis.
-Mears Baseball Scrapbook, Volume 2, 1870-1877

I'm always entertained, for some reason, by the whipping the Chicagos gave to the St. Louis clubs in 1874.  They went through the best that St. Louis had to offer like a knife through butter, like Sherman marching through the South, like something something through a goose.  And it's an important moment in the history of St. Louis baseball.  When the Chicagos got through chewing bubble gum and kicking butt, the baseball fraternity in St. Louis realized that it was time to put together a serious professional club, leading to the birth of the Brown Stockings.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Empire Club In New Orleans, Part Four

The visitors met the Lone Stars on Sept. 24th, and never before did such a crowd assemble to witness a game of base ball in that section.  In the first contest between these clubs, at St. Louis, the score was 7 to 6 in favor of the Stars, and speculation was rife as to whether the well earned laurel would remain in the possession of the New Orleans boys or not.  The game, upon the whole, was a very creditable one, both clubs playing safe and sharply, and run getting was a difficult thing.  The Stars played a good up-hill game, while the Empires did the contrary, as will be seen by the runs in each inning.
-Mears Baseball Scrapbook, Volume 2, 1870-1877

Tobias had this to say about the game:

The fourth and last game was with the Lone Star on Sunday, Sept. 24, and both clubs started in with full determination to win, the Empire because the Stars had won a game from them at St. Louis earlier in the season by a score of 7 to 6 and the Stars were inspired by the three defeats suffered by the other home clubs.  The Stars being the strongest team in the South, the game attracted a larger and rougher crowed than either of the others...

The largest crowd ever seen in the New Orleans ball park witnessed this game which should and would have ended in a fourth victory for the Empire, but that two erroneous decisions in the seventh inning enabled the Stars to score six runs, aided by remarks from roughs in the crowd.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Empire Club In New Orleans, Part Three

On Sept. 22d the Empires met the Crescent Club, and this time the contest was one worth witnessing.
-Mears Baseball Scrapbook, Volume 2, 1870-1877

The box score is in rough shape but you can at least make out the final score. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Opening Day 2013

I completely forgot it was Opening Day.  Having the day off work, I woke up late.  Checked my phone and had a bunch of messages mentioning Opening Day.  It was a pleasant surprise.  So now I'm listening to the Yanks/Sawks and about to switch over to Cubs/Pirates.  The Cards play tonight in Arizona.

This is the best day of the year.  

The Empire Club In New Orleans, Part Two

The next day the Empires played the Robt. E. Lee nine, and again were they successful.  The Mound City nine showed considerable improvement over their play of Wednesday, while the Lees played one of the worst muffin games ever shown in New Orleans.  Not only was their fielding poor, but their batting was far below the average of junior clubs.  Welch and Duncan bore off the palm for fielding on the part of the St. Louis nine, the former player particularly distinguishing himself at first.
-Mears Baseball Scrapbook, Volume 2, 1870-1877

This game was played on September 21, 1871.