By a very remarkable public pageant and other emphatic expressions of rejoicing, the colored citizens of St. Louis celebrated the ratification of the 15th amendment yesterday. The demonstration had been a long time maturing, and really embraced, within a small fraction probably, the entire colored population of the city. It was in fact quite a grand affair...They did not appear to make it merely an occasion for a formal pageant, but a day of rejoicing and festivity, and the participants even in the wearisome array of a marching procession manifested an enthusiasm and delight which banished all idea of fatigue...While the memories of slavery are still fresh, and personal liberty is still fragrant with novelty, the fruition of their hopes comes with the declaration of their political equality. It is very easy to understand, then, the genuine enthusiasm which characterized the celebration of yesterday...
The most important feature in such a demonstration as yesterday is the procession...
The following was the line of march: Starting from corner Twelfth and Clark avenue; up Twelfth street to Washington avenue, up Washington avenue to Fifteenth street, up Fifteenth to Wash, down Wash to Seventh, down Seventh to Washington avenue, down Washington avenue to Fourth street, down Fourth to Myrtle, up Myrtle to Fifth, down Fifth to Carondelet avenue, thence to Yeager's garden.
-Missouri Republican, April 12, 1870
But for our purposes here, the significant piece of information concerns one club that took part in the parade:
Base Ball Club.
The champion base ball club of Missouri (colored) rode next in a wagon.
But the important thing is that we have a black club in St. Louis in April of 1870. Also, the proclamation that they were the "champion" club of Missouri implies that they were active in 1869. I don't think anyone declares themselves champions in April so there had to have been some past play that backed up their championship claims. Now the earliest reference to black baseball in St. Louis that I have comes from an article that appeared in the Atlantic in June of 1867 but it's kind of a vague reference without much meat on the bone. The stuff about the Brown Stockings from November of 1870 and into 1871 is really the earliest information we have about black clubs in St. Louis. This reference gets us to April of 1870 and, kind of, into 1869.
Based on my reading of the Atlantic article from 1867, I have no doubt that there were African-American baseball clubs in St. Louis in 1867 and I wouldn't be surprised if there were black clubs in 1866. We now have some evidence suggesting that there was a professional African-American club in St. Louis as early as 1869 and I don't think that should come as a surprise, given the trends in baseball at the time. What's new and unique here is that we now have solid evidence suggesting this and something real to base our assumptions on.
The other cool thing here, which also shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, is that baseball history has the ability to inform our understanding of American history generally. Just as we have baseball history entwined with the history of the Civil War, here we find the history of St. Louis African-American baseball tied up with the history of the 15th amendment. And it works both ways, as well. What we're really seeing here is the history of the passage of the 15th amendment informing our understanding of St. Louis baseball history. And that's just a lot of fun.
So here we go. We're kicking off a trip through the 1870 baseball season in St. Louis. I really don't know what I'm going to find - I'm just starting to look through the Republican for that year. You're going to find out everything at the same time I do. I have some ideas about what happened that year, based on my reading of Tobias, but I really don't know how this is all going to turn out. In all honesty, I don't think I'm going to find anything cooler or more significant than this so it might be all downhill from here.