First let me say this is a supplement to the video above. So if you haven’t seen the video above, this isn’t going to make sense to you.
Let’s talk a minute about Alfred H Spink, the writer of The National Game, as mentioned in the video.
I’ll be vague as to avoid spoilers, but Al Spink is both a factor in why the Cardinals almost don’t exist at all, and also a factor in why they still exist today.
Spink founded The Sporting News in 1886, and while the newspaper was called “sporting” baseball was its primary topic. And also while it was a national publication, Spink’s decade long link with St Louis meant that the team was covered heavily. There’s no doubt that even while St. Louis when into a long decline in success, Spinks advocacy and coverage helped keep interest in the team.
Amazingly, the Sporting News archives have ALL been digitized, and if you sign up to be a member of https://sabr.org/, the Society of American Baseball Research, you can have access to their entire archives. And if you have, or if you gain an interest into Cardinals history, man oh man, these are priceless.
Spink wrote The National Game in 1910 (with a 2nd edition in 1911), as he was looked at as one of the most respected writers in the game – and realized upon being questioned that no one had actually written the story of the history of baseball. Now keep in mind, this is in 1910, this is BEFORE BABE RUTH. Cy Young was still pitching. It’s a bit like writing the History of the United States right before Washington snuck through the Potomac.
That’s what makes the book fascinating. It details the birth of baseball across the country, as well as giving readers a chance to see career total stats, and telling them who the best players of all time at each position were – and most of them the casual fan would have never heard of because again, we’re still a decade away from the end of the dead ball.
Best of all is that while 97% of baseball history seems to be told from a New York point of view (Weren’t the 50s great when New York Teams were in basically every single World Series!?! Those were the golden years of baseball!!!) This book is by Spink and it basically 50% St. Louis. The book contains a plethora of photos, especially considering when it was published, so that people had a chance to see what these players looked like. While not every actual MLB star is featured in the book, you can see what Joe Quinn looked like the year he played independent ball in St. Louis in 1884! (Answer: He looked like a neo-nazi) Something biased FOR St. Louis? Sign me up.
The best part is, the book is out of copyright, so it’s free. And you get to read history with such brilliant headlines as the following:
Go ahead and tell me that doesn’t make you smile. Anyway, the book is full of things like that, and you can read it here:
Spink, by the way, is the father of JG Taylor Spink, who inherited The Sporting News from his father, and was the inspiration for the Spink Award, which is basically the Hall of Fame for baseball writers. Yeah, it all comes from St. Louis. You’re welcome, baseball world.
Spink’s book is the modern source for the Frain legend, which as I stated is not true at all, and it’s a little curious why the legend has endured for this long. I mean, the book itself not only debunks it, but also tells what still today appears to be the actual story (that I’ll be detailing in the next episode).
I don’t know is Shepard Barclay was a liar, or just spun tall tales, or embellished, or just had his memory go, but do give you a run down:
⦁ Jere Frain was not the name of the person he’s referring to (though it’s possibly a nickname)
⦁ It didn’t happen at Lafayette Park
⦁ It wasn’t in the early 1850s, or even close, and was definitely after baseball was already being played.
Other than that, the story is spot on.
#1 may be completely innocent. #2 may be a case of confusion or forgetfulness. But #3, the early 1850s?
You can get lost in the following brilliant website and while baseball has changed rules many times, it’s pretty clear that what people call the “modern” game of baseball was established in 1857. That’s 9 innings, 90 feet, 9 men on a side. Pretty big rules written down at that time. Jere Frain was not teaching this game in the early 50s, and considering Barclay was born in 1847, it was pretty unlikely he was playing baseball with grown adults in, say, 1851. The best I can say is the hope that Barclay was misquoted, but most likely I’d imagine is that he had a story people wanted to hear, which contained the personal glory of getting to witness the moment baseball arrived, and so he made the facts fit his story.
Let me now thank GOD that no more than 12 people will ever read this, because the last thing I’d ever want to happen is for this to cease: Lafayette Park vintage baseball
If you’re in the St. Louis area, there are several games scheduled per year, and come on, what’s more fun than this? Besides, old timey baseball was definitely played at Lafayette Park, and while we can’t be sure what the original location was (and best guess suggests not Lafayette Park), it did host some of the earliest games and practices there before being taken over by Federal troops during the Civil War. The park is historic and beautiful and you need to visit it.
Last I want to tell you some sources that you should read that I gathered information and inspiration from for this Episode besides the ones listed above, and many to come through this time period.
Special Credit to those that helped me
⦁ @drewmaniac for his help that is probably not quite ethically sound enough to spell out what he did, but he knows what he did, and it’s amazing and has expanded the research abilities endlessly.
⦁ @AlexEntrup who sent along some amazing photos his grandfather had taken of Sportsman’s Park. I’m not quite certain any made it into this episode in the 11th hour, but you can bet there are plans for future episodes anyway.
⦁ @adiqua78 who went well and beyond the line of crazy to spent lunch visiting the Missouri State Supreme Court because I had a hunch there was a painting of Shepard Barclay in there. There was, but it was in a private area, and so they had a person who worked there go and take a picture for them, and therefore that beautiful portrait you see as the symbol of this episode is all thanks to Adi, and can’t be found anywhere else. Awesome. Thank you.
And Lastly to the Annals team, all who have been a part of the creative process and consulting and promoting this thing, but also have done their parts specifically:
Lauren Bundy, @lbundy90 who has spent her free weekends running around St. Louis taking photos for this project, WHILE SHE WAS PLANNING HER WEDDING.
Jeff Niehaus, @Fly_The_L who did all of the music and much of the video work, along with the promo videos, all while being suspended by Twitter in the meantime.
cardinalsgifs, @cardinalsgifs Gifs did picture work, obviously, video work, obviously, gave us a home over at Birdsontheblack.com, but most of all believed in and signed up for my nonsense, and has continued to push its progress. If you think this sucks, he’s to blame. Wouldn’t have happened without him.
And thank you to all of you. Gifs would disagree, but I find it entirely pointless to do this sort of thing for only 5 people to look at. If you like it, it drives me forward. If you don’t like it, there’s no need for me to do it only for myself.
Next episode is already being worked on and will talk about the actual founding of professional baseball in St. Louis. And it’s fun. I hope you stay tuned.