John Tice, a German, and an uncle of the celebrated Prof. Tice, of St. Louis, settled in Warren county about 1809, and was the first settler on Pinckney Bottom...The names of Mr. Tice's children were-John, Joseph, Mary, and Sally. The latter was a splendid ball player, and played with the boys at school, who always chose her first, because she could beat any of them.
-A History of the Pioneer Families of Missouri; p 223
This is absolutely one of my favorite references to ball-playing in the protoball-era, simply because it had me looking at things that I never really looked at before. Specifically, it had me researching the life of a young woman in pioneer-era Missouri. While I don't have a lot of information about Sally Tice, the glimpses that I did get of her life were fascinating. Also, the things that this reference says about early ball-playing in Missouri are significant.
First off, I should say that, other than the Gratiot reference, this is the earliest reference to ball-playing in Missouri that l've found. I date the reference to the late 1810s/1820s, around the time that Missouri entered the Union as a state. That's interesting because the first references to ball-playing in Tennessee and Illinois also comes from around the same time that they became a states. That may mean nothing or it may mean that the stability brought about by statehood allowed a ball-playing culture to flourish. I don't know but I'm big on the idea that the quest for stability in the dynamic American frontier had something to do with the spread of early American baseball. That's a post for another day but if you're interested in the idea and want to read more about it, I wrote a rather long piece called The Search for Stability: Baseball and the Voluntary Association as a Cultural Organizing Principle in the Trans-Appalachian West. Just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about I'll provide a quick quote:
We have a great deal of information about how new towns and cities developed in the Trans-Appalachian frontier in the first half of the century and the ways in which these new societies organized themselves culturally. When one combines this with information regarding how, at the same time, proto-baseball games spread in the region, a picture emerges of a new American society that used baseball as a cultural tool to help organize the new society, to promote social stability and order and to integrate new members into the society. While baseball can be seen as a cultural organizing principle used by the new American society of the Trans-Appalachian west to promote stability within the community, the game was also used by individuals – new members of the society – as a tool to culturally integrate themselves in a society in which they had no roots. Just as the society used the game to promote stability within the larger community, individuals were able to establish stability within in there own lives by taking part in the game. Both the society and the individual benefited by the playing of the game within a community and, as the game was beneficial to all, the game spread and grew in popularity.
Make of that what you will, because I think I'm the only person who believes in the argument or, at the very least, understands what the heck I was getting at.
But what about Sally Tice?
Sarah C. Tice was born on September 10, 1810 in Missouri - one assumes at Pinckney Bottom. On January 23, 1834, she married Samuel O. Rice, in Warren County. They had six children: Elizabeth (b. 1836), Riley (b. 1838), Serena (b. 1839), Clinton (b. 1841) and two twins, who were born in 1844 and died the same year. All of her children, except for the twins, lived to adulthood. It appears likely that Clinton was killed in the Civil War but his siblings lived to a ripe old age.
Sally Rice died January 27, 1844, at the age of 34, and is buried in Jefferson City. One has to assume that she either died in childbirth or of the same disease that took the life of her infant twins.
The above is a photo of her headstone, which I found at Find A Grave. It was taken and posted by Nancy Thompson.
I think this is an extraordinary amount of information about a random person from the Missouri frontier. If you know anything about life on the frontier, you can fill in a lot of the details regarding what her life was like. Up early, cooking, cleaning, tending to the animals, taking care of her young children - things like that. She probably lived a very common life that was similar to rural women throughout history. Her death, if it was a result of childbirth, was also common. There was nothing special about Sally Tice, other than her innate uniqueness as a human being. And yet here we are talking about her two hundred years after her birth. I guess that does, in some small way, make her special.
And that's a result of the one unique detail we know about Sally Tice: she was a splendid ball-player.
I said that I dated this reference to ball-playing to the late 1810s/1820s and that's a result of knowing when Sally Tice was born. We know she was born in 1810 and our source says her ball-playing activities took place at school. Let's say she started school at the age of six and continued her schooling through the age of twelve. That would date the reference somewhere between 1816 and 1822. Due to the physical differences between men and women, I would doubt that she would have continued to be a better ball-player than her male schoolmates after the age of fourteen or fifteen so that gives us a date of 1825 on the outside. Certainly, one has to imagine that her ball-playing days were over by the time she married in 1834.
If we accept that dating, what does this source tell us? It tells us two things, specifically. First, it tells us that school children on the Missouri frontier in the late 1810s and early 1820s were playing ball of some sort. While we don't know, specifically, what kinds of games they were playing, with regards to this reference, based on other sources that involve people remembering life on the frontier and their school days, we're probably dealing with games like bullpen, ante over, prisoner's base, and some form of cat. They probably didn't have enough people to play a form of town ball. Regardless, it's evidence of a ball-playing culture on the Missouri frontier, that was, interestingly for my purposes, only about fifty miles west of St. Louis. It's a really nice step from the Gratiot reference to the American baseball variants that were being played in St. Louis a generation later. It's these kind of games, played within the local culture, that led to the development of location-specific baseball variants.
Secondly, it's evidence of female participation within frontier ball-playing culture. That's not new or particularly ground-breaking as we have plenty of evidence and references to female participation in ball-playing in the Trans-Appalachian West, specifically at school, but it's still pretty neat to see it. It's particularly interesting to me that the first reference we have to Anglo-American ball-playing in Missouri and in the greater St. Louis area is to a female ball-player. While there are some really smart people doing great work researching and writing about the history of women in baseball, you don't see a lot of stuff about women baseball players in the protoball era. And it's a huge part of the story. Going back to medieval Europe and the ball-playing culture there, ball-playing was a co-ed activity (which very well have been a large part of the fun). The co-ed nature of ball-playing, particularly on the youth level, continued when these ball games came over to America.
So Sally Tice wasn't alone as a frontier-era, female ball-player but she is one of the few specific women that we know of who was a ball-player. I think that makes her an important historical figure. I think it makes her unique. I think it makes her special. And it absolutely makes her my favorite protoball-era player.