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.
-Missouri Republican, September 27, 1864
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.
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.
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.