A correspondent in St. Louis - a member of one of the best clubs in the State, writes us the following interesting gossip: - "It is a source of much gratification to us to observe a disposition on the part of the Eastern journals to notice our efforts in the West to establish the National Game upon a substantial footing. We have struggled hard here in the last two years to get the support of the press and the mercantile community, and have met with much discouragement. The papers generally have taken no interest in us, and the business men have almost altogether frowned us down. In spite of these obstacles, however, base ball has begun to assume a prominent feature on this side of the Mississippi, and we, in Missouri, hope this year to bring out some players and clubs that will compare favorably with the first class organizations of the East.
"We hold our first base ball convention in this place on the 22d of the present month, at which time we propose to organize a State Association, composed of some thirty or forty clubs. Of the proceedings of this convention I shall take great pleasure in informing you.
"The Union Club, of St. Louis, is a young organization, composed of a manly set of young gentlemen, who take great pride in their club, and aim to make it a first class club in every particular. They played fourteen match games last year, of which they lost but two. They won the championship of the State early in the season and held it, winning every game played for the champion belt and ball. They will have a stronger nine this year than before, composed entirely of home material - pure, unadulterated western muscle. The Unions' season will commence May 1st, as their new grounds will not be in complete order before that time. They have engagements so far with the Cincinnati and Buckeye clubs of Ohio, Louisville of Kentucky, and Excelsior of Chicago. They have also received favorable replies to their invitations extended to the Atlantics, Athletics, and Unions, of Morrisania, all of whom we expect to visit us during the early part of the season. I will take pleasure in giving you accounts of all these games and also of all others we play...
"Of the other clubs here I cannot at present give you any particulars - though I understand they are all vigorously preparing for the campaign - and several have notified the Unions that they intend to wrestle with them for the championship..."
-New York Clipper, May 2, 1868
I've gone over some of this material before. I put up this article from the Clipper, for instance, in October. But, while I don't want to be repeating myself, I think it's important to put all of this material together in chronological order, just to give us a good sense of how things went down. So consider this fair warning because I think the next post is the stuff about the first game at the Grand Avenue Grounds, which is something I posted just a few weeks ago. But, again, I'm just trying to tell the story in order and get all of this information organized together.
Missouri State Association.
The Clipper had much of the same information that the Republican had so I don't feel the need to repeat all of that. What I want to highlight today is the fact that Charles Paul was one of the delegates at the convention and was involved, in some capacity, with the Athletic Base Ball Club of St. Louis in 1868.
Charles Paul is mentioned in one other baseball-related source that I've seen and it happens to be one of the most significant sources that we have.
The above image comes from the September 3, 1859 issue of the New York Clipper and mentions an unnamed St. Louis baseball club that was organized on August 1, 1859. It is the earliest known reference to a St. Louis baseball club that we have. The text, which is difficult to make out in the picture, reads as follows:
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...
Charles D. Paul was the president of this unnamed club.
Here's a better image of the squib, from the Mears Collection:
Now, I don't really want to get into everything about this unnamed 1859 club but the information that we have now - that Paul was involved with the Athletics in 1868 - is significant because it goes to some of the questions I have about the 1859 source.
One of the big questions I have about the 1859 source is whether or not this unnamed club was playing the New York game of baseball. There is nothing in the source material that explicitly states that this is the case but I do assume that the unnamed club was playing the NY game. The fact that Paul was later involved with a club that was, without question, playing this game gives me some confidence that this assumption is true. It's not the best evidence but it is some sort of evidence. And given that we had no evidence at all, prior to this, I was excited when I found it. So we have that going for us.
I don't have a lot of information about Paul but I do know that he was born in Missouri in 1840 and that he was living in St. Louis in 1860, working as a printer. His older brother, Edmund Paul, was also a member of the unnamed club and, in 1860, the two were living with their father. And I guess, now, I also know that Charles Paul was a member of the Athletic Club in 1868.
And a quick note on the name of this 1868 club. The contemporary references in April and May of 1868 refer to them as the Athletes but Tobias refers to them as the Athletics and specifically mentions Edward McKeon, one of the club's delegates at the convention, as an officer of the Athletics. There are also contemporary references to the Athletic Club so I'm going to refer to them as the Athletics.
Formation of a State Association.
The following were the clubs represented and their delegates at the first convention of the Missouri State Base Ball Association, as reported by the Republican:
Lew P. Fuller
Jas. T. Spaulding
Chas P. Seener
Chas. D. Paul
Edward J. McKeon
Ernest W. Ziegler
Jno. T. Callahan
Asa W. Smith
Geo. H. Denny
First, let me say that I love lists like this. It gives us a good idea of the best clubs in the city in 1868 and also gives us names of players and club officers that we may not otherwise have. Good stuff.
The second thing about the information we find here is something I'm going to save for tomorrow. We have a name listed here that's extremely significant and that I've found in only one other baseball-related source. How's that for a tease?
A convention of the base ball clubs of this city and State will be held at the Polytechnic Institute on Wednesday next, to make some arrangements required by the action of the National Base Ball Convention, which, in December last, made it incumbent on persons attending their meetings to produce credentials from State Associations.
The anniversary game of the Empire Club was always getting postponed for one reason or another. This was the eighth anniversary game and, off the top of my head, the fourth postponement. Something was always happening that caused the game to be moved to another date. In this instance, it probably has something to do with the new Grand Avenue Grounds not being ready for use.
Missouri State Base Ball Convention. - A preliminary meeting for the formation of a State Convention was held at the Union Club Rooms, on the 21st ult., at which sixteen city clubs were represented. It was resolved at this meeting that the First Annual Convention of the Missouri State Base Ball Association be held at Philharmonic Hall, in the city of St. Louis, on Wednesday, April 22d, at 2 o'clock P.M. This Convention is authorized by the National Association, and is intended both to lessen the expense occasioned by each club being obliged to send delegates East every year, as, under the proposed system, each State Association sends two delegates to the National Convention; and also, to afford a nearer tribunal for the trial of matters of differences between clubs belonging to the State. A cordial invitation is extended to clubs throughout the State, to send each two delegates, with credentials, to represent them at this Convention.
The main reason the state association was created in 1868 was because the National Association had put in place rules stating that local clubs could only be represented by a state association. If the St. Louis and Missouri clubs wanted representation in the National Association, they had to form a Missouri Base Ball Association. If a club, such as the Unions, wanted to compete for the national championship, this had to be done.
Union Base Ball Club. - There will be a special meeting of this club on this, Saturday, evening, at their rooms over the National Loan Bank, when business of great importance will be considered. A general attendance is earnestly requested. By order of President.
My thinking about the 1868 season and the role that the Union Club played in the development of baseball in St. Louis has always been heavily influenced by Edmund Tobias. Here's what Tobias wrote on the subject:
It was early developed in 1868 that the year would mark an era in local base ball. The leading spirit of the Union Club, Asa W. Smith had devised plans to advance his club to the foremost and to maintain that position being animated mainly by that true spirit of sportsman and athlete love of the game for its own intrinsic merit. At no time were either the Union or Empire Clubs actuated by a desire to make money and when they adopted the plan of placing a price upon admission to the games, it was because necessity forced them into it. The increased and still increasing interest of the general public demanded better surroundings and accommodations and Asa Smith recognizing this fact set afoot plans that he deemed best calculated to promote the National game by catering to the desires of the public. For this work he was not only ably fitted by his own personal traits of character for which he was beloved and honored by the fraternity in general and a host of friends in business and social circles, but he was most fortuitously situated in having at his command all the necessary elements that would lend to success. The membership of his club had been strengthened, not in numbers alone, but in first-class material, both physically and financially, all animated by the one passion, love of base ball. In this aggregation that Asa Smith had gathered around him are to be found the names of men now occupying the most responsible and honorable positions in professional and business life. They were young men of means mostly, even at that time, and base ball was with them what the originators of the game intended it should be, a means of recreation for themselves and entertainment for others. That the game had reached that stage when it was one of the most popular of entertainments was attested by the experience of the preceding year when charging admission was inaugurated with success. In order to gratify this public taste it was necessary to incur large expenses, particularly so whenever it was desired to secure the presence of any of the great clubs of the East or West and these demanded one-half of the gate receipts, the home club bearing all expenses with the other half.
This is, without a doubt, one of the more interesting periods in the history of St. Louis baseball. Some of the things that took place include the introduction of enclosed grounds, the charging for admission to games, the scheduling of major Eastern powers, the beginning of player compensation, and, of course, the organization of a state association, which allowed for the official recognition of a state champion.
These were major advances in the evolutionary history of baseball in St. Louis and when I talk about moving St. Louis into the national baseball mainstream, these are the things that I'm talking about. While St. Louis had been playing the New York game since 1859 and was a hotbed of the sport during the Civil War, the baseball fraternity of the city was slow to accept some of the changes that had taken place in the game in the previous decade. Asa Smith and the Union Club recognized this and took steps to modernize the game in St. Louis.
Smith's goal, I believe, was to have the Union Club compete for a national championship. To do this, he needed to improve the infrastructure by building, first, the Union Grounds and, in 1868, the Grand Avenue Grounds. He needed to charge for tickets so that the club had money to pay for the grounds and to compensate the players. If you wanted the best players, the Unions were going to have to pay for them. Also, if you wanted your players focused on baseball, you had to pay them so that they weren't busy working a real job. He needed the grounds and the players so that the Unions could compete against the best clubs from New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and Boston. Because if you wanted to win the national championship, those were the kinds of clubs you had to schedule and defeat.
Smith, ultimately, failed in his goal to create an environment and club that could compete for a national championship. What he failed to do was to go outside of St. Louis to purchase the best players that he could find. That was a large oversight on his part and it may have been a result of a parochial perspective. This failure had an extremely negative impact on the popularity of baseball in St. Louis and probably was the reason that the city failed to place a club in the NA in 1870. It would fall to the Brown Stockings of 1875, led by former Union Club members, to finish Smith's work.
Regardless of the ultimate outcome, Smith's vision of what St. Louis baseball could be and the steps needed to achieve that vision changed the game in the city forever. Smith shouldn't be judged by his failure but, rather, by what he hoped to achieve and the steps that he took to improve the game in St. Louis. A St. Louis baseball club that plays in an enclosed ballpark, that charges for tickets, that pays its players, and competes for a national championship, such as the St. Louis Cardinals, is direct result of the steps that Smith, and others, took in 1868. Baseball, during this era, was evolving and Smith's great achievement was that he recognized this and attempted to move St. Louis baseball forward in alignment with this evolution.
A meeting of the Presidents of the Base Ball Clubs was held on Saturday evening the 7th inst., at the Union Rooms, at which the following clubs were represented: Resolute, Excelsior, Atlantic, Baltic, Magnolia, Dirigo, Commercial, St. Louis, Aetna, Active and Union.
A few points:
-I have to think that the organization that the clubs showed in putting together the charity ball made the organization of a state baseball association substantially easier. In many ways, you can see the charity ball as a dry run for the organization of the state association. With the charity ball, the clubs had shown an ability to work together in a way that they had not demonstrated in the past.
-Where was the Empire Club? It's a similar question to the one I asked about the Unions and the charity ball. It may be that the rivalry between the two clubs was so substantial that they were unable to work together. If the Empires were involved in the charity ball, the Unions would have nothing to do with it. If the Unions were trying to organize a state association, the Empires were out.
-The organization of a state association was an important step if the St. Louis clubs wanted to participate in baseball on a national level. The National Association had put in place a rule that all of its members had to be a member in a state association and, therefore, if the St. Louis clubs wanted to be part of the NA, they had to organize a state association.
At Prof. Henry's Hall a ball was given on Tuesday night by the Base Ball Clubs of the city, for the benefit of the poor. As an evidence of the extent of this affair, we transfer from the programme, to our columns, a list of the Committee of Arranagements: Hon. James S. Thomas, James Yule, Empire Club; E. Donnelly, Baltic Club; E.J. Grace, Resolute Club; J.M. Williams, Hope Club; W.R. Peterson, Atlantic Club; J.J. Spaulding, Commercial Club; W.J.L. Stewart, National Club. The receipts aggregated about five hundred dollars above expenses, and the ball may be safely set down as the largest and must successful that has been given in the city this year.
Five hundred dollars, in 1868, was a lot of money. I know, off the top of my head, that per capita income in Missouri in 1880 was around $150, so that gives you an idea of how much money the clubs raised to help the poor of St. Louis in 1868. Good for them.
Grand Ball for the Benefit of the Poor
This article obviously gives us more details about the charity ball that the clubs were organizing but, more importantly, it gives us a nice list of clubs and members, which is always nice to have.
The one question I have is where was the Union Club? I think that last bit about "prompt attendance of a delegate from every Base Ball Club" may have been a subtle request for the Union guys to show up. It's just kind of odd, given the stature of the Union Club and the make-up of their membership, to not see them at this meeting. I would have expected them to be one of the leaders in organizing this charitable event but they were not.
Also of interest here is that James Spaulding was, at the beginning of 1868, a member of the Commercial Club. By the end of the season, he was playing with the Empires and would be a mainstay in their first nine into the mid-1870s.
We understand that all the base ball clubs in the city have notified the Mayor that they intend to give a grand soiree, the proceeds of which will be donated to the poor. His Honor was asked to act as Grand Secretary and Counsellor, and has accepted the invitation.
So I guess we're going to be taking a look at the 1868 season. There are a few things going on that season that I think are significant and that I want to document. What I think we're really seeing in 1868 in St. Louis is a maturation of the game. I've always said that there was an attempt, that year, to move St. Louis baseball into the national baseball mainstream. It's an awkward turn of phrase and probably doesn't communicate my thinking particularly well. This series of posts will allow me to organize my thinking a bit better and, hopefully, communicate it in a way that makes sense.
This particular article is pretty neat and really grabbed my attention. Luckily for us, the Republican followed up on the story and we have more information about this charitable event. While the event is really interesting, in and of itself, I think we'll see the significance of it a little bit later. I'll just leave you with the tantalizing fact that this will not be the last time that all of these clubs get together to organize something.