It is worse than useless to speculate, as a great many have done, how it happened and why it happened that the Unions, of St. Louis played such a superior game on Friday. Success is the standard of all merit upon earth, and when this St. Louis Union Club lifted up their brown hands after the purple, and almost plucked the alluring plume of victory from the gray caps of the champions, why then in all conscience let the St. Louis people speak brave words to them, and encouraging words, and words that tell how ultimate triumphs may be won by pride and perseverance.
On Saturday the Champions of the United States entered the arena with rested sinews, and with a determination made aggressive by the close playing of the day before. They were clean-limbed handsome fellows all - sunburnt and smiling. Scarred with the manifold blows of fitty victories, and drilled and dressed as some crack corps of the line, they stepped soldierly along, as if they heard already the blare of victor bugles and the shouts and the cheers of triumph. Their uniform was handsome and close-fitting, consisting of gray pantaloons, gray caps, and white shirts, with the initial letter "U" worked in the middle of the breast.
The Empires were first upon the ground and amused themselves by batting and fielding promiscuously in order to give their muscles tension and their legs flexibility. The field looked picturesque with their red caps dancing ever and anon upon the crest of the race and the scramble, and their white shirts and blue initial letters gleaming out from the more sober dress of the spectators.
The announcement of the match between the Unions and the Empires had attracted at least two thousand admirers of the game tot he grounds, and the weather was propitious. The game opened at 3:20 - the Unions at the bat, and the expectation eager and anxious. Some were sad enough to believe that the champions had been overestimated, and that, judging from their play of the day before, they would surely be defeated.
At first the Empires played superbly. What they lost at the bat they more than made up in the field, and at the close of the 5th innings the score showed badly for the Unions. Could they hold to the speed of the starting, and could they keep what had been gained by sharp, hot work? Look yonder and tell what means that ominous grouping of the Union nine. Why is there a frown on Birdsall's handsome face, and why does the low battle murmur run through the ranks: "Steady, boys, with firm eyes to the front?" Why? Ah, the wary Birdsall has seen the strength of the enemy's line and he is massing his column for the grand pas de charge. If their play was good at first, in the end it was simply superb. Drill and discipline told. While the Empires wearied and halted, the Unions never for a moment rested by the wayside or left off pressing steadily to the crowning run.
In commenting upon the playing of the two clubs we would do the Empires injustice if they were not given credit for handsome fielding and their excellent runs in the first five innings. Barron, short stop, led his club in the honors of the day, his play in the field being the best of anyone in either club, eliciting highest commendations from all present. His playing in the seventh innings was magnificent, and one at his efforts deserves a special mention, as it was a very difficult one, and one which is not often made. Austin struck an air ball over the short stop position, which Barron caught on the fly while running in the same direction with the ball. Throughout the entire game his fielding was of the first order, and he was most highly applauded, not only by the spectators, but by the members of the Union Club. Worth, as usual, displayed great skill, and was cool, smiling, always wary and effective. He was struck once heavily in the side, but his fine development bore him through without a murmur. Shockey and Hazelton gained new laurels in the field; Murray was first-rate at the bat; Quinn pitched well; Fitzgibbons caught with judgment and devotion; and Roberts and O'Connell tried hard and did as well as they could.
But the fifth innings came and the Unions advanced steadily to a perfect victory. Bad batting here on the part of the Empires, and bad throwing there; a little indifference and a little weariness worse than all - and the champions thundered down with a great rush. Five runs to a "round 0" came speedily; the Unions, like some swift racer, increased the distance fearfully between themselves and their rivals, until at last in the ninth innings skill rose almost to omnipotence and science grew at once into perfection. Birdsall is the rarest catcher of the age; left-handed Pabor's balls were swift as minnies; Wright's smiling face lit merrily over the thoughts of battles won and another certain; Austin ran beautifully; Martin's hands opened and closed by intuition almost; Shelley was cool as a grenadier; and in the far fields Smith and Belian were skirmishers beyond comparison. It was finished with three magnificent home runs from Wright, Smith and Austin. With every muscle strained into tension, and with every eye alit with a battlelight, the gray clad champions of the United States, carrying their spotless banner as a talisman of victory, closed the game with a score of thirty-six to eleven. The Unions cheered the Empires and the Empires cheered the Unions...
The umpire was quick, always decided, thoroughly impartial, and gave universal satisfaction.
Mr. Charles Kafkemeyer very generously furnished the reporters of the city press with champagne and cigars, and was unremitting in his attentions to the gentlemen of the Union Club. His desire was to prove how hospitably the St. Louis Clubs can entertain their guests.
It was unfortunate that the Empires changed their pitcher, for Quinn was excellent and his balls were hard to follow.
The Union leave this afternoon for Louisville, taking with them the good wishes of our entire city and the earnest hope that they may be as successful elsewhere as they have been here.
-Missouri Republican, August 16, 1868
As far as the specifics of this game, the Empires were up 11-8 after four innings but failed to score the rest of the way. After five innings, they were only down 13-11 and the score was still close after seven, with the Unions leading 16-11. However, the defending Champions of the United States went on to score twenty runs in the final two innings to blow the thing open. Despite this late-inning explosion, it was quite a good showing by the Empires and it's rather remarkable, given their record against the Eastern clubs, that both the Unions and the Empires were able to give the Morrisanians some trouble.