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
Smith's goal, I firmly believe, was to have the Union Club compete for the national championship and he was laying the groundwork for that with these efforts. At this point in 1868, the Unions were the best club in St. Louis and I think that a lot of people in St. Louis believed that that made them the best club in the West. I'm sure that Smith thought he had the best club in the West and he probably thought he had the best club in the country. He wanted to prove that against the Eastern clubs. I've believed for a long time that all of Smith's efforts in 1867 and 1868 was about creating the right environment in which his club could challenge for the national championship.
In the end, it was all for nothing, as the Eastern clubs beat up on the St. Louis clubs rather handily. But I still admire Asa Smith as one of the great baseball pioneers and a true visionary. He helped create the St. Louis baseball market and we are the beneficiaries of his vision. I really believe that he was a great man and one of the most significant figures in the history of St. Louis baseball. In this letter from the Clipper, I think we are getting a rather rare glimpse into his thinking and that's rather extraordinary.