The Empire B.B. Club, of this city, accompanied by a number of their friends, take their departure this morning, for Dubuque to engage in the Silver Ball contest, on Friday next. Special arrangements have been made for the round trip, by which parties desirous of joining the excursion can procure tickets at half price. The club will leave their rooms, No. 124 North Third street, at 11 A.M. May success attend them.
-Missouri Republican, September 27, 1865
-1881: A hugely successful season, both financially and on the field, for the minor, professional, independent Brown Stockings. This season set the stage for the creation of the AA Browns and, by extension, the modern Cardinals. It also saw the emergence of Chris Von der Ahe, who would dominate baseball in St. Louis and nationally for almost the next two decades.
-1874: Rather similar to the 1881 season in that the excitement that was generated by the Empire/Reds championship series set the stage for the 1875 season and the first openly professional clubs in St. Louis. There had been a lull in the popularity of baseball in St. Louis in the seasons prior to both 1874 and 1881 and the success of those seasons propelled the game to greater heights.
-1865: We were coming out of the Civil War, baseball was expanding across the country and reaching every small town in America, and the Empire Club established itself as one of the very best baseball teams in America. Baseball had continued to grow in popularity in St. Louis during the war but I think that the success of the Empire Club in 1865 fueled that momentum in a way that sustained it through the rest of the decade. There were things that would happen in the later part of the decade that I don't think would have happened if the Empire Club had failed in Freeport and Dubuque. That may sound a little cryptic but I'll go into this in more detail when I wrap up this little series.
-1885: The Browns championship victory over Chicago cemented baseball's place in the culture of St. Louis. St. Louis had been a baseball town going back to the antebellum era but the popularity of the game waxed and waned over the years. There were times when it struggled mightily and the future of baseball in St. Louis was in question. While there would be difficult days ahead (and there are always difficult days ahead), after 1885, the question of baseball's place in the culture of St. Louis was never in doubt. If things had gone a little bit different, this would have happened in 1875 but it didn't.
-1867: I'm putting the year that the Union Club won the championship of Missouri and St. Louis ahead of the 1875 season because I think it had a more lasting impact. The seeds that the Empires planted in 1865 were really beginning to bloom in 1867. You have the establishment of a state baseball association, the building of the first enclosed baseball grounds in St. Louis, big Eastern clubs coming to town, and the peak of the Empire/Union rivalry. That was the first time that St. Louis engaged with the Eastern baseball establishment and everything that had happened between 1865 and 1867 was building towards the moment when the St. Louis clubs would engage the Eastern clubs. The idea of a national league was impossible without the Western clubs competing with the Eastern clubs. In 1867 that begins to happen. I probably should have ranked this much higher. The idea of the significance of the 1867 season is something I think I want to explore some more. So prepare yourself for that.