The ludicrous always partakes of the unexpected and nowhere does the unexpected happen more frequently than on the ball field. One of the most laughable incidents occurred in a game between the Union and Hope Clubs played west of the Fair Grounds [in 1868], on which occasion the Union boys appeared in bright new uniform that had been ordered from the East. One of the Union nine selected for this game, Kieselhorst failed to put in an appearance, and Julius Smith was chosen to fill his position but the latter’s uniform had not materialized and he positively refused to go on the field without a uniform in which resolution he was determined, more particularly so, because he had escorted his sweetheart to the grounds and naturally desired to show up to the best advantage. Jule Smith and Kieselhorst were about the same height, but the former was of much larger and more muscular development. He was finally induced to don Kieselhort’s uniform and though it was a tight fit he was so anxious to show his lady love what a fine player he was that he put forth all his energy to outdo his fellow players. Jule Smith was a fine batter and when his time came he hit the ball with so much force that it went sailing way down centerfield while he himself flew like a winged Mercury to first base where he was encouraged to continue his running by the loud shouts of his companions “to make a home run.” At third base the shouts were more vociferous and urgent. Jule put in his best sprinting licks and landed safe at home amid the most terrific shouts ever heard on the ball field. When he recovered himself enough to look around it was to discover the players rolling around on the grass all convulsed with laughter and the game at a standstill. A friendly Indian, Rufus Lackland, came to his aid and escorted him to the dressing room where Jule was quickly brought to a realization of the fact that his pants had parted.
-E.H. Tobias, writing in The Sporting News (November 30, 1895)
I think this little story is a much better way to put the 1868 series of posts to bed than to have me write up some kind of ponderous essay on the significance of it all. If you've been following along, you already know my thinking as to the importance of the 1868 season and I'm not feeling the need to go over everything again. I'd rather just point out that Julius Smith, in a game that year, splint his pants while hitting a home run.
The match game of base ball, which was to come off on yesterday afternoon between the Hope and Resolute Clubs of this city, did not come off on account of a dispute arising between both Clubs - the latter Club having two players on their nine belonging to the Empire Club.
And now we know even more about the Hope and Resolutes. The Resolutes were a bunch of cheaters and the two clubs probably didn't like each other much.
At first glance, the Resolutes attempt to use two members of the Empire Club in their nine doesn't appear to be that big of a deal. It wasn't uncommon for a club to use members of other clubs to fill out their nine for a match, if they were short players. The fact that the Hope protested this tells us a few things. First, the scheduled match was viewed by the clubs as something more than a friendly. There was something at stake in this match. It may have been simply pride or honor but it may also have been the season series.
Secondly, this tells us a great deal about the nature of baseball in St. Louis during the Civil War. The fact that there was a protest shows us that the game had developed beyond its social function and was seen as something more than physical exercise and fun. The game had developed a competitive function and the teams were playing to win. This is extremely important as it parallels the national evolution of the game Morris talked about in But Didn't We Have Fun? and Goldstein wrote about in A History of Early Baseball. This is more evidence to support the idea that St. Louis baseball, during the war, was dynamic and growing.
We see this kind of dispute, again and again, in the late 1860s and early 1870s, as teams are fighting for the championship under the auspices of the state amateur association and the association had to adjudicate the disputes. It's fascinating to see the same thing in 1864 when there was no official body to mediate between the clubs and enforce the rules of competition.
While the war in the east had devolved into trench warfare and the seige of Petersburg by September of 1864, the war in Missouri, after a rather lengthy calm, had become, once again, rather dynamic. On September 19, 1864, Sterling Price invaded Missouri, with the goal of capturing St. Louis, and, by extension, the state for the Confederacy. It was, without a doubt, a desperate gamble and the last Confederate offensive west of the Mississippi.
On September 27, 1864, Price engaged Union forces at Pilot Knob. While a Confederate victory, the outnumbered Union forces held off Price's army long enough and bloodied them to such an extent that the idea of taking St. Louis became an impossibility. Price's secondary target was Jefferson City, the state capitol, but as he moved westward, he found the city too heavily guarded to take. While Price would continue to push westward, into Kansas, and engage Union troops through October, Pilot Knob really put an end to possibility of Price achieving any of his strategic goals.
Also on September 27, Bloody Bill Anderson and his guerrilla forces road into Centralia, Missouri, stopped a train on the North Missouri Railroad, and captured twenty-three Union soldiers who were aboard the train. Anderson executed twenty-two of those soldiers, sparing only Sgt. Thomas Goodman, who Anderson took prisoner and planned to exchange for one of his men who had previously been captured by Union forces.
It should be noted, without excusing the actions of Anderson in Centralia, that Union forces had executed six of Anderson's men just four days earlier, after they had been captured following a skirmish near Rocheport. Executing prisoners is always a bad idea because it places your own men at risk, should they be captured. Sheridan and Mosby went through the same thing in the Shenandoah before coming to their senses and reaching an agreement about the treatment of prisoners of war.
Sometimes we romanticize the Civil War but it's important to remember that, like Sherman said, war IS hell. It's ugly, brutal, and violent. The worst aspects of human nature come to the surface, even among good men in a noble cause. War corrupts the human spirit and makes devils of us all.
On that pleasant note, we come to the end of 1864. Rather than put up a post summarizing the material from that year just yet, I'm going to push on and put up stuff from the beginning of the 1865 season. What I plan on doing is folding the 1865 stuff, through the Empire Club's anniversary game, into the 1864 summary and put up one page for 1864/1865. At that point this series is at an end and I'll try to put together some kind of broad overview of Civil War-era baseball in St. Louis. I will be pushing on into 1865 but nothing comprehensive; rather, I'll be covering the Empire Club's claim to the Championship to the West. So we have that to look forward to.
There was an interesting match of base ball Saturday afternoon, between the Hope and Resolute clubs, the former being successful. The total runs were: Hope 33; Resolute 21.
This is the first reference I have to the Resolutes, a club that would exist and compete in St. Louis into the 1870s. They are one of my favorite St. Louis clubs because, in 1865, they held their baseball picnic in Illinois, less than a mile from my house. While people lived in the Granite City area beginning around 1830, the city itself wasn't founded until 1895 and the Resolute picnic is really the only 19th century baseball activity that I'm aware of in my hometown.
One of the things I've been thinking about is the names that these Civil War-era clubs choose to take. Union. Hope. Resolute. I think that says something about these men and what was important to them. Empire. Imperial. Enterprise. Liberty. These men were not all cut from the same political clothe and we could discuss the political leanings of the Empire and Union Clubs all day but I certainly have to believe that the times that they lived in had something to do with the names they choose for their clubs. It says something to name your baseball club the Unions in 1860. It says something to name your club Resolute in 1864. These names evoked very specific values and characteristics. There was post-war club in New Orleans named the Robert E. Lees and that name made a very specific political statement. But I'm really struck not so much by the Unions or the R.E. Lees but by clubs choosing to evoke hope and resoluteness in 1864. If our forebearers could summon such courage in the face of their difficulties than we can as well. Because, I believe, that it takes courage to be hopeful and resolute. Fear and cynicism is easy; hope is difficult. So let's be resolute in our hopefulness.
Here endeth the lesson.
First grand Basket Pic-nic of the Hope Base Ball Club, to be given on August 4th, at Laclede Station, on the P.R.R. Cars leave precisely at 8 o'clock A.M. Tickets one dollar.
The baseball picnic would become a bit of a fad in St. Louis and we'll see that in 1865. For now, I think this is the first reference I have to a baseball picnic. So I guess that's something.
Three days before this squib appeared in the Republican, the Battle of the Crater took place. It's become a bit of a cliche to call the Civil War the first modern war. I'm not even sure what it means when we say that but the Siege of Petersburg and the Battle of the Crater have always reminded me of the First World War. Now I've also seen references to the First World War as being the last ancient war and I really have no idea what that means. Wars are a product of their time and are neither ancient nor modern. That simply are. We apply the tools that we have to the problems that we face. They did that in both the Civil War and the First World War. All civilizations and societies thought, at some point, that they were modern. And all of them, at some point, became ancient. Time is a relative concept and pretty much everything depends on where you're standing.
A match of base ball was played on Sunday afternoon, September 27th, between two newly organized clubs of this city - Hope and Eclipse - which was a decided victory of the former. Umpire, David Coyle; Scorers, J. Fountain and J.H. Teahen...
So we have two new clubs here - the Hope and the Eclipse - and the Hope would survive the war and be one of the more prominent clubs in the post-war amateur era. This is a significant sign of the health and growth of the game in St. Louis during the war years. As I've stated before, the war certainly stunted the growth of the game in St. Louis but it absolutely did not kill it. In the middle of war, amid all of the difficulties that the war brought, clubs were still being formed and the game was still being played.
The week before this match was played, the Battle of Chickamauga was fought. I mention this merely as an excuse to post this:
And for those who are confused about the subtitle of this post, it's a lyric from the above-posted Uncle Tupelo song.
We have already mentioned that on Saturday next a grand contest at base ball will take place on the grounds of the Union Club, the proceeds to be devoted to the aid of the Fireman's Fund Association. The players for the occasion have been selected from the senior clubs of the city, and are all skillful adepts at the exiting game. The following are the selections:
On Saturday afternoon the Union and Hope Base Ball Clubs played their final game for the championship of Missouri. The Union club won the game 41 to 22.
Was the Hope Club the last hope in denying the Union the championship? I'm not entirely certain but I think the Unions still had another game with the Empires to play in late October. It would help if I organized my notes and was able to check all of this stuff quickly.
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