So just as the 1861 season ended with a match between the Union and Empire Clubs, the 1862 season ended with a match between the two clubs in late November. However, based on the contemporary source material in the Missouri Republican, I think it's safe to say that the two seasons were very different.
The 1861 baseball season in St. Louis saw a consolidation of the growth of the game that was experienced in the city during the antebellum period. It does not appear that there were more clubs or more games played in 1861 than in 1860, the first full baseball season in St. Louis, but it's evident that the clubs that did exist were growing larger. Based on this and the increased coverage of the game found in the Republican, we can argue that the popularity of the game in St. Louis was still growing in 1861 and that the Civil War may have slowed the momentum of the game's growth in the city but it had not stopped it.
1862 was a different story and what I think we're seeing is the negative impact that the war had on the growth of the game. To illustrate this, let's look at the data we've garnered from the Republican in 1862 and compare it to what we found in the Daily Bulletin in 1860 and in the Republican in 1861.
I found seven references to baseball in the Republican in 1862. In the Bulletin, in 1860, I had found thirteen references to the game and in the Republican, in 1861, I had found twenty-seven references. Obviously, we have a sharp decline in the number of references to the game in the Republican in 1862. As I've written before, in general, we can gauge the health and popularity of the game by the amount of coverage it receives in the local newspaper. This is not foolproof because it's almost certain that I've not found all of the contemporary newspaper references to the game in St. Louis in 1862 but the fact remains that there was substantially less baseball coverage in the Republican in 1862 than there was in 1861.
The Republican in 1862 has references to eight specific clubs. The Bulletin, in 1860, mentioned eight clubs and the Republican, in 1861, mentioned ten. However, looking a little closer at the data, we find that, in 1862, the Republican mentions four senior clubs and four junior clubs. In 1861, the breakdown was eight senior clubs and two junior clubs. If we assume that all of the junior clubs were affiliated with their senior namesake, we can only identify five baseball clubs that were active in St. Louis in 1862. This is a sharp decline in the number of active baseball clubs in the city and it's the fewest number of active clubs in St. Louis since 1859.
There were five specific games of baseball mentioned in the Republican in 1862. The Bulletin, in 1860, had references to eight games and the Republican, in 1861, had references to fifteen games. This is a significant decline in the number of known baseball games played in St. Louis in 1862 and is related to the decline in the number of active clubs. Fewer active clubs mean fewer games played.
One thing I do want to point out is that two of the known games played in 1862 were matches between the Union and Empire Clubs that were specifically mentioned to have been played for the championship of St. Louis and, by extension, the state of Missouri. This is very significant because this was the first known championship series played in St. Louis and it was at least, and most likely, a three game series. So I know that there was at least one game that didn't make the Republican and I have no doubt that there were more games that didn't make the paper. I'm also certain that there were games played in 1860 and 1861 that didn't make the paper. I know I don't have all the data and will most likely never have all the data but I'm satisfied with what I have and believe the trends we see are real.
Regardless, the point I really want to make about the Union/Empire series is that even with the growth of the game in St. Louis stalled at best, we're still seeing some forward momentum. The organization of a championship series is significant and points to some health and interest in the game. The game wasn't dead in St. Louis. The Civil War hadn't killed it. If we're looking at Civil War baseball in St. Louis in a larger context, the organization of a championship series was an important step in the growth of the game in St. Louis. It shows that game was maturing. It shows that it was moving beyond the gentleman's social club stage of the game and towards the modern form of the game. It shows that there was a growth in competitive spirit and an emphasis upon winning that was almost anathema to the older idea of baseball as a predominantly social activity. During the Civil War, baseball in St. Louis was evolving into a modern sport and the baseball club was evolving from a social club organized for the recreation of its members to a sporting club organized to win baseball games.
Getting back to the data, the Republican, in 1862, mentions by name only one place where baseball games were played: Gamble Lawn. In 1860, the Bulletin had mentioned games played at Gamble Lawn, Lafayette Park, and the Fairgrounds. In 1861, the Republican also mentioned games played at all three places and, in 1860, they mentioned a game played at the Laclede Grounds. So, in 1860 and 1861, we have contemporary references to baseball being played in four different locations and the secondary sources mention other places where baseball was played at the time, such as Carr Park and the Veto Grounds, but, in 1862, we only have references to Gamble Lawn.
Was baseball only played at Gamble Lawn in 1862? Of course not. But, as I mentioned the other day, we know that Union troops had occupied Lafayette Park and the Fairgrounds by August of 1861. These were two of the main places were baseball matches were played in 1860 and 1861 and they were not available for games in 1862. Lafayette Park was the home grounds for the Cyclones and the Commercials. Based upon the testimony of club members, we know that the occupation of their grounds was one of the reasons the Cyclones broke up and it certainly forced the Commercials to find new grounds for their club days. The Fairgrounds was kind of a neutral grounds to play matches on and probably would have been the site of the Union/Empire championship series, if it had been available.
I think the loss of these grounds was significant and played a role in the decline of the number of active clubs and the number of matches played in 1862. You can't play baseball if you don't have somewhere to play. Certainly, there were other grounds to use and Gamble Lawn appears to have been the site of all of the big matches played in 1862. Also, I'm certain that there was baseball being played at Carr Park and around Compton Avenue. But I don't believe that those locations were sufficient for large matches. I don't think they could hold the crowd that would gather for a big game. They were fine for club days but not for any kind of significant match game.
I said at the beginning of this post that I think what we're seeing in the data from 1862 is the negative impact that the war had on the growth of the game in St. Louis. As we gather more data from the around the country, we're beginning to see this same pattern emerge in other places. The game spreads to a given area in the late 1850s, there is exponential growth into 1861, a sharp decline in baseball activity beginning in 1862 and continuing throughout the war, and, finally, a sharp rebound and a return to exponential growth beginning in 1866 and continuing through the rest of the decade. So what we're seeing in the 1862 St. Louis data is not particularly unique or much of a surprise. It appears to fit a national pattern.
Correlation does not imply causation but I think we have more than enough evidence to argue that the Civil War had a depressing effect upon the growth of the game in St. Louis. There were fewer clubs, fewer games played, and fewer grounds available for use. Players went off to war. Clubs broke up. Grounds were occupied by the army. By 1862, the nation was fully engaged in the war and they were fully aware of the price that was being paid, in lives, to fight the war. One cannot fault the people of this era if their interest in baseball declined after becoming aware of the horrors of Shiloh and Antietam.
On last point I want to make is that the growth in the number of junior clubs is, I believe, a reaction to the negative impact of the war upon the game in St. Louis. These junior clubs, which were affiliated with senior clubs and made up of young players who were not seen as old enough to join the senior club, appear to have been, in a sense, making up for the lack of activity by the senior clubs. One has to understand that numerous young men in St. Louis, who would have played baseball for a senior club, had gone off to war. The junior clubs were, most likely, made up of those who were too young to join the fight. While it may have been difficult for the senior clubs to field multiple nines, it was easier for them to put together a junior club.
Let me put it to you this way: over 150,000 men from Missouri fought in the Civil War. While I don't know what the exact number is, about one-third of those men were from St. Louis. The population of St. Louis in 1860 was about 160,000. So about one-third of the city went off to war. That's a lot of people and it had to have impacted the number of people available to join a club and play baseball because the vast majority of those who went off to fight were men who were of an age to play baseball for senior clubs. Essentially, the war effort took a large portion of the player pool out of circulation for four years and, I believe, that sharp decrease in the supply of players was made up by the formation of junior clubs.
While I believe that the growth in the number of junior clubs was a result of the negative impact of the war, it can also be seen as a positive development. There was a younger generation that was interested in and wanted to play baseball and these junior clubs gave them an outlet to do so. I believe that the experience of these young boys with the junior clubs during the war contributed to the growth of clubs after the war, when the junior club players had grown up and were old enough to join a senior club. Also, it shows that, despite the difficulties that baseball was experiencing during the war years, there was still a demand for the game. People still wanted to play baseball. People were still interested in watching a game. Newspapers were still covering the game. There was still a demand for the game and the junior clubs were working to fill that demand, in the absence of activity by the senior clubs. There may not have been enough men playing the game in 1862 as there was in 1860 or 1861 but a new generation of players was stepping up and, in the end, that was very healthy for the growth of baseball in St. Louis and the nation.