What I think was going on was that St. Louis baseball was developing strata, or levels, of clubs. In earlier years, there was no differentiation between clubs. The game was new and the clubs were, essentially, all equal. There wasn't enough clubs during the 1860-1865 period to distinguish between the upper and lower level clubs. This began to change in the post-war era, as the number of baseball clubs in St. Louis began to increase exponentially. While, in 1863, it was probably rather difficult to distinguish the third best team in St. Louis from the seventh best team, by 1868, we're talking about distinguishing the third best team from the seventy-third best team. And that's a lot easy to do.
There were others things, besides the increase in the number of clubs, that helped create these strata of baseball clubs in St. Louis. You had clubs like the Unions and Empires building enclosed ballparks, which gave them a revenue stream that other clubs did not have. You had the establishment of the state association, which created a stratum of clubs that were in the association and one of clubs that were not in the association. You had a club like the Unions that believed it could compete nationally and scheduled games against some of the best Eastern teams and this, again, distinguished them from other clubs. You had clubs that had a legitimate chance to win the city and state championship and those that did not. You had clubs that had been in existence since before the war and had some of the most experienced players in the city and, on the other hand, you had a bunch of new clubs and new players. All of these things helped to distinguish the clubs from each other and create strata.
This was, in my opinion, part of the process of the game evolving towards its modern form. Think about modern sports for a minute. We use the term "big league" for a reason. The big leagues contain the biggest and best clubs in a given sport and exclude minor clubs. In modern baseball, we have various levels of competition. In college athletics, we have various levels of competition. In English soccer, you have various levels of competition. We've created a modern athletic pyramid, with the best clubs and players at the peak of that pyramid, competing among themselves.
In 1868, I think we can see the beginning of that process in St. Louis, as the best clubs and players separated themselves from the lesser clubs and players. That's why, in my opinion, the Stonewall/Missouri match didn't represent the beginning of the baseball season in the opinion of the Republican. Right now, in 2015, the St. Louis University Billiken baseball team is already playing but that doesn't mean the baseball season in St. Louis has begun. That doesn't happen until the Cardinals take the field. It's about strata and level of play. For better or worse, we often associate a sport with its highest level of play. So, in 1868, the baseball season wasn't seen as having begun when lower level clubs like the Stonewalls and Missouri took the field. The season started when clubs like the Empires and the Unions took the field.
I have another idea that's kind of associated with this and that I kind of touched on here but I'll save that for tomorrow.