Alfred H. Spink
Author The National Game
St. Louis, Mo.,
Dear Sir-One of the reporters of "The Standard Union" of Brooklyn, N.Y., showed me a few days ago a book written by you entitled the history of baseball.
To start at the commencement of the game in its first introduction into Missouri I would refer you to the files of "The Missouri Democrat" for the Winter of 1859 and 1860, where in you will find published "the rules of the game," also a diagram showing the field and the position of each player made from a rough sketch I gave to Mr. McKee and Fishback, the publishers, or to Mr. Houser, at that time their bookkeeper, cashier and confidential office man (and, by the way, a mighty fine young man).
At this same time I was organizing the first baseball club, "The Cyclone," which name was suggested by one of its members, Mr. Whitney, of the Boatman's Savings Bank.
Other members of "The Cyclone" were John Riggin, Wm. Charles and Orvill Mathews (the latter the late Commodore Mathews of the U.S. Navy), John Prather, Fred Benton, (later captain under Gen. Custer), Mr. Fullerton, (later a General, U.S.A.), Mr. Alfred Berenda and his brother, Mr. Ferd Garesche, Mr. Charles Kearney (son of Gen. Kearney), Mr. Edward Bredell, Jr., and a number of other young men of St. Louis.
Soon after the organization of "The Cyclone" several others were started, viz: "Morning Stars," "The Empire," "The Commercial" and later on several others.
The first match game played between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, (if not to the Pacific Coast), was between "The Cyclone" and "The Morning Stars" and was played in 1860, just back of the Old Fair Grounds in North St. Louis, "The Morning Stars" winning the game, the score of the game I now have. It is 50 years old, and the ball used in that first match game was for years used as the championship trophy, it going from one club to the other, and the last the writer ever heard of it, it was in possession of the Empire Club. I personally sent to New York for the ball to be used in this first match, and after the game it was gilded in gold and lettered with the score of the game.
"The Morning Star Club" was a "town ball" club and played from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. on Tuesday and Friday mornings in Carr's Park, but after considerable urging and coaxing on my part they passed a resolution at one of their meetings that they would try the national rules for one morning if I would coach them, or more properly, teach them, which I consented to do if they would agree to stick to it for the full hour without "kicking," for as I told them they would no like it until after playing it for a sufficient length of time to become familiar with some of its fine points, all of which they agreed to and kept their word like good fellows as they were, but in ten minutes I could see most of them were disgusted, yet they stuck to it for their hour's play. At the breaking up of the game to go home they asked me if I would coach them one more morning as they began to "kindy like it." I was on hand their next play day, or rather play morning at 5. Result they never played "town ball" after that second inning and in their first match, as stated above, "waxed" my own club. I could give you many incidents up to the breaking out of the civil war and the disbanding of "The Cyclone" by its members taking part on one side or the other.
Hoping you will excuse my intruding with these little facts in regard to early ball playing in St. Louis, I am
Merritt W. Griswold.
P.S.-Although I am now in my 77th year, I take just as much interest in that splendid game as when a kid at school in old Chautauqua Co., New York, or when a member of the "Putnams" of Brooklyn in 1857 and the "Hiawathas" of the same place in 1858-59 in which latter year I went to St. Louis.
I link those two together for one simple reason. The one thing - the publication of the rules - helps to verify the other - Griswold's letter to Spink. The one thing I have always liked about the Griswold letter is that there are numerous things in it that are verifiable. Griswold makes statements in the letter that you can prove are true. You can fact check Griswold and that lends support to the statements he makes that you can not verify.
The most important statement that Griswold makes in his letter is that he organized the first baseball club in St. Louis. It's an important statement. While poking holes in the Cyclone Thesis, I said that Griswold's testimony doesn't support the Thesis but I was really just exaggerating for effect. Griswold states that the Cyclones were the first baseball club in St. Louis history and that is exactly half of the Thesis. While his testimony does not support the Thesis' claim as to when the club was formed, it does support the idea that the Cyclones were the first club.
That is extremely important but unverifiable. I can not prove Griswold's statement to be correct. I have plenty of supporting testimony but no contemporary sources. And it's important to state Griswold was writing fifty years after the fact and he may not be remembering things correctly. The memory of man is fallible. But he gets a lot of things right in his letter.
Let's go through the things in Griswold's letter that I can prove:
-Publishing the rules of the game in the Democrat. He was off by a few months but Griswold did publish the rules of baseball in the Missouri Democrat in 1860.
-Mr. McKee and Fishback. William McKee and George Fishback were the publishers of the Missouri Democrat.
-Mr. Houser. Daniel Houser was the bookkeeper and, later, one of the co-owners of the Democrat.
- Mr. Whitney. Robert S. Whitney was a teller for Boatman's Bank.
-Members of the Cyclone Club. Members mentioned by Griswold who are also mentioned by other sources include Ed Bredell, John Riggin, Ferdinand Garesche, William Matthews, Orville Matthews, Griff Prather, and Joseph Fullerton. Griswold, himself, is mentioned as a member, officer, and co-founder of the club by several other sources.
-Other pioneer-era clubs. Griswold mentions the Morning Stars, Empires, and Commercials by name and there is plenty of contemporary source material proving their existence. He also mentions that there were other clubs at this time and that is also provable.
-The first match game. Griswold mentions that the match game between the Cyclones and the Morning Stars was the first in St. Louis history. There are contemporary sources that verify this claim.
-The gilded trophy ball. There are actually a few sources that mention that the ball used in the first match game was gilded, engraved, and given as a trophy to the championship baseball club of St. Louis and Missouri.
-The Morning Stars. Richard Perry confirms that the Morning Stars played the local baseball variant prior to playing the New York game.
-The Civil War. There is plenty of evidence showing that the members of the club were divided by the war, with members joining both sides. There is also no record of the club after April 28, 1861, and we know that several members of the club were in uniform at that time or shortly thereafter so I have no doubt the club broke up due to the outbreak of the war. It's really one of the most fascinating things about the club.
-Chautauqua Co., New York. It's a provable fact that Griswold was born in Chautauqua County on May 12, 1835.
-Playing baseball in Brooklyn. I have box scores from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle showing Griswold playing with the Hiawathas in 1858. Bill Ryczek has a source, noted in Base Ball Founders, showing he was also a member of the Putnams.
That's a lot of stuff that I can prove. There are just a lot of things in Griswold's letter that are true and this lends credence to his testimony. Why do I believe Griswold when he says that the Cyclones were the first baseball club in St. Louis history? Because just about everything else he said was true.
There is really nothing in his letter that I can state is absolutely false. His testimony about how the Morning Stars came to play the New York game is contradicted by Richard Perry but I can't prove that it's not true. There is probably some truth to both of their versions of the story. I don't know. But my point is that there is a lot in the letter that is provable and that makes Griswold a great source.
The only thing Griswold gets wrong in the entire letter that I can point to is the dating of the founding of the club. He says the club was founded in the winter of 1859/1860 but his own statements place it in the spring of 1860 - sometime in late April of 1860, to be specific. Now, can you tell me what you were doing in April of 2006 - just ten years ago? What about April of 1996? April 1986? April 1976? Etc. Griswold was talking about events fifty years in the past and, more than likely, he got the dates wrong. Tobias, in some circumstances, did the same thing when he was dealing with the era but was writing a decade earlier and he had club records to look at. Griswold, off the top of his head and working from memory, got most of the facts correct. I just think he got the dates wrong. I think he just confused two events - the founding of the club and the publication of the rules of the game - and mixed them together.
Tomorrow, we'll look at the timeline and see if it was possible for the Cyclones to have been playing baseball in the summer of 1859.