New book traces the love and history of baseball in St. Louis | Art Stories and Interviews | St. Louis | St. Louis News and Events
Baseball historian Brian Flaspohler says the first all-professional baseball game in St. Louis was on May 4, 1875. St. Louis won — and lost.
The St. Louis Brown Stockings defeated the St. Louis Red Stockings 15–9. Out-of-town ringers recruited to form the city’s first professional team formed the Brown Stockings. The Red Stockings were a scrappy bunch of players, hitherto amateurs, who didn’t like that their hometown pro team didn’t have anyone from St. Louis on their roster.
“Most people think the Cardinals have been around forever,” Flaspohler says. “They kind of were, but they weren’t the first major league team to be in St. Louis.”
Brian Flaspohler’s new book St. Louis Baseball History: A Guide covers the deep story of Lou’s favorite pastime. The book is organized by geography, with its short chapters all tied to a specific city location.
This first professional game was played at a stadium on South Compton Avenue in what is now Midtown. Lafayette Park was a hot spot for amateur baseball during the Civil War. The Harris-Stowe State University baseball field sits exactly where the first purpose-built baseball park for the St. Louis Stars, a Negro League team, was built a century ago. Supposedly, Babe Ruth’s favorite brothel was on Forest Park Avenue.
By the mid-20th century, St. Louis had two major league teams – the Cardinals and the Browns – and the managers of the two teams shared an apartment in what was then the Lindell Towers (now Coronado Place and Towers in Grand center). One team was always in town when the other was out, so the arrangement worked.
It worked, that is, until the two teams met in the World Series.
“The Cardinals manager telegramed the Browns manager and said, ‘You can have the apartment for the World Series,'” Flaspohler said. “I guess it paid off for him, karma-wise, because the Cardinals won the World Series, even though he gave up his apartment for this week.”
St. Louis baseball history covers the nine baseball franchises that have called St. Louis home since 1875. Three of those teams have played in the Negro leagues.
Many people are familiar with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro League, but Flaspohler says the league’s history in St. Louis is “a fascinating, untold story.” In 1920, the St. Louis Giants (later renamed the Stars) were one of the top six teams in the league. They tore apart about a decade later when they won pennants in 1928, 1930 and 1931.
“The Stars is a great story that a lot of people just don’t know much about,” he says. “It’s so cool that baseball is still played where their stadium once was.”
These days Flaspohler is a huge fan of the Cardinals, the second winningest team in baseball.
“Every generation in St. Louis dating back to 1926 has had a championship team to support,” Flaspohler says, referring to the fact that the Cardinals are one of the few teams to never go more than 25 years without a Series win. world.
However, as a historian, he has a problem with them.
The team we now know as the Cardinals was founded in 1882. Yet, on all Cardinal T-shirts and other gear, it says “est. 1892” below. It was the year they joined the National League, but they had already been there for a decade.
Flaspohler has a theory on how this happened. He suspects that in the mid-1980s, someone in the Cardinals organization realized they had missed the real centennial celebration, so they decided to retroactively declare 1892 the year the team has been “established”.
Flaspohler commends the efforts of the Cardinals’ owners, the DeWitt family, to preserve the game’s history. He specifically cites the Hall of Fame Museum at Busch Stadium as an example of their efforts.
“Their family has a long history in baseball, and they’ve done a great job maintaining that history,” he said. “Except for the fact that they won’t change the T-shirts in 1882. If we manage to do that, I’ll be happy.”
Flaspohler will sign copies of St. Louis baseball history at Lafayette Park at 11 a.m. on June 4. Along with the signing there will be an exhibition game played under 1860s rules.