A matched game of base ball between the White Stars of Reeb's station, and the Lone Star, of Alma nines, St. Clair county was played on the 4th at Reeb's station. The contest was for a silver cup. At the close the score stood for the White Star club 14 to 28 for the Lone Star.
-Missouri Republican, July 7, 1870
It took a bit of digging to figure out where this game was played and who played in it but, essentially, this was a game between Belleville and O'Fallon, played in Belleville. Reeb's Station was in Belleville, on a railroad line that ran from East St. Louis to Belleville. I thought originally that Alma was the Alma located north of Salem but it was a small village on the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad line, just a bit east of O'Fallon.
The Empire Club of this city made a visit to Alma, Ill., on Wednesday, for the purpose of playing a return game with the Lone Star Club, who, it will be remembered, were signally defeated some two weeks ago in their first encounter with the Empires at the St. Louis Base Ball Park, by a score of 63 to 19.
Sounds like the Empire Club had a nice time in Alma. But while this account has fantastic details about the club's trip, what is most important here is a mention of the Kaw Valley Club and the announcement of the first visit to St. Louis by a club from Kansas. We'll have more about that next week.
The matched game of base ball between the Lone Star of Alma, St. Clair county, and the Bluff Club, of Belleville, came off at the appointed time on Saturday. A large crowd of spectators were present to cheer the boys and enjoy the sport of the occasion. The game throughout was pretty closely contested, the Bluffs, for the first time since their organization, having been vanquished. The boys, however, take their defeat good humoredly, and will endeavor soon to regain their lost honors...
This was a bit of an odd box score, in that it was split in two, with the second paragraph of the above text crammed in between. Don't think I've ever seen that in a St. Louis paper before.
A couple of other things of note:
-I'm assuming that this was the first season for the Bluffs, considering that this was their first loss. If they had gone undefeated in a previous season, it probably would have made a bit of news.
-This must have been a heck of a game to watch. You don't often see a one run game where there are almost seventy total runs scored. It was 25-14 after four innings, when the Bluffs started their come back. If the Bluffs were batting first, they took the lead 28-26 after their half of the seventh, before giving it right back in the bottom half of the inning. They took the lead again in the top of the ninth, 33-29, before giving up five in the bottom of the ninth to lose it. Must have been an exciting game.
-As to the pitcher of the Lone Stars and his delivery, I don't really have the time, space, or inclination to go into this in depth. It would require a detailed explanation of the evolution of the rules of baseball in the 1850s and 60s and the ways in which pitchers attempted to skirt, or simply ignore, the rules. If you're interested in that, I recommend you head over to Eric Miklich's site and you can see how the rules changed over the years. I'd also recommend taking a look at A Game of Inches, as Peter Morris does a great job of explaining what the pitchers were trying to get away with.
I'll just say that the original idea of pitching was that the ball was to be pitched, not thrown, to the bat (and I think that's the actual way it was stated in the 1845 rules). The game was supposed to be a battle between offensive batters/runners and defensive fielders. The pitcher merely instigated the action by delivering the ball to the batter and then defended his position. But pretty much from the beginning, pitchers realized that they had a great deal of control over the game and that the act of pitching could, itself, be an instrument of defense. While the pitchers began to stretch the rules as much as possible, or even ignored them, in an effort to prevent runs, the idea that pitchers only existed to initiate the action persisted for a long time. And I think that's kind of what we're seeing here. The guy was probably "jerking" the ball, as it was known at the time, and that was expressly prohibited in the rules but it was the direction in which pitching was headed. The rule book simply was unable to contain the imagination and ingenuity of pitchers. They were in the process of seizing control of the game and nothing was going to stop them.
A matched game of base ball will be played on Saturday next between the Lone Star Club of Alma and the Bluff Club of Belleville, at the grounds of the latter, near the depot.
This is the earliest reference I've seen to a baseball club in Alma, Illinois, which is about fifty or sixty miles east of St. Louis. It's also just north of Sparta and, interestingly, I have references in my notes about four old cat being played in that city in the late 1830s or early 1840s. So I have no doubt that there was some form of baseball being played in Marion County prior to 1868, although references to this kind of proto-baseball activity in Southern Illinois is much more scarce than it is from the central part of the state.
But we're talking about the New York game here and there is plenty of evidence to show that the game had reached the smaller towns of Southern Illinois by this time. It was being played in the Metro East area by 1866, at the latest, and, with the popularity of the game being what it was in the post-war era and the exponential growth in the number of clubs, it's not surprising to see a baseball club in a smaller town like Alma in 1868. And, again, I'd imagine, without checking, that there was some kind of railroad line running from East St. Louis to Sparta or Centralia that made it easy for the Lone Stars to get to Belleville and also aided the spread of the game to the region of the state.
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