I'm trying to put together a long series of posts on the history of the Red Stockings, which I don't think I've ever covered in any systematic way before, and until I get a decent handle on that I'm just looking through my files trying to find interesting things that I can post quickly. With that said, what we have here is...honestly, I have no real idea what this is. Found it in the files and it's labeled as "Empire BBC, St. Louis silk ribbon." I'm guessing it's some kind of memento or keepsake given out by the Empire Club but I really don't know anything about it. I have absolutely no idea on the dating of the item - it could be from anywhere between 1860 to 1876 or so. No idea. I don't even remember where I got this. Maybe somebody sent it to me? No clue.
What I do know is that this is really cool. There just aren't a lot of tangible things relating to the Empire Club. Besides the historical accounts of the club, the only other thing I can think of like this is the team image that appeared in The Sporting News in 1895. The fact that we have this image of a club souvenir is fantastic. I just wish I knew more about it.
Update: It is an amazing day and age we live in. Soon after posting this, I got a tweet from Jimmy Leiderman stating that this was probably a ribbon that was exchanged between clubs at a match. Tom Shieber chimed in and provided more information:
One or two of the customs of the old game were unique. Such for instance was the habit of the better class of clubs of exchanging, just before each match, silk badges imprinted with the club name. The players wore these accumulated trophies pinned upon the breast, sometimes with startling color effects; and the base-ball man was proud, indeed, who could pin on the outside of his deep strata of badges a ribbon from the mighty Atlantics, Mutuals, or Eckfords, attesting his worth for meeting giants, if not mastering them.
-Clarence Demming, Old Days in Baseball (1902)
That was quick and outstanding work, providing us with an answer as to what this thing is.
Mr. Leiderman even appears to have found the source from which this image comes from. It seems that there was a collection of sports memorabilia auctioned off by Heritage Auctions in 2010 and one of the items offered for auction was a collection of these ribbons, arranged in a rather nice display. Interestingly, it is speculated that this collection was originally the property of Charlie Sweasy, due to the fact that his name appears on one of the ribbons. If this is true, we can date the Empire Club ribbon to 1869, when the Red Stockings of Cincinnati (for whom Sweasy was then playing) came to St. Louis to play the Empires and the Unions. I have to assume that the image that I have was originally cropped out of the photo below:
Another thing to note about this collection is the presence of a second Empire ribbon.
You can see the ribbon that I originally posted in the upper center of the image of the collection. Look to the center right and you'll see a red ribbon with the words "Empire St. Louis" on it. So now we have two ribbons.
Update 2: Here's a good look at the second Empire ribbon: