Back in Time: The game — Stillwater verses the national champion

BY BRENT PETERSON
GAZETTE COLUMNIST

When spring is in the air, the flowers start to bloom, the street cleaners sweep up the sand from the winter’s past and the crack of the bat and the yell of the umpire to “play ball,” rings throughout the Valley.

Stillwater has seen its share of wins and losses of the National game throughout 150 plus years of playing ball. There have been Major Leaguers from Stillwater – state high school championships and many others – for those who could remember, the game that meant so much in Stillwater took place during the Centennial of the County.

During the 19th century, the baseball champions would barnstorm across the country after the season, taking on any town ball team that would challenge them. Of course they would play in larger cities to make more money at the gate. Well, Stillwater had a pretty good town team, and for the time, it was a larger than average city. On Thursday Oct. 19, 1876, Stillwater took on the “Champion club of the United States,” the Chicago White Stockings.

It was the first year of competition in the new National League in 1876. There were eight teams and Chicago, led by future Hall of Famers Albert Spalding and Adrian “Cap” Anson, captured the league title with a 52 and 14 record. This was the team coming to play Stillwater’s best.

Stillwater, who had been state champions only eight years earlier, had a strong team. They would routinely beat clubs from Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the team, and the town itself, was ready to take on Chicago.

The game began in the afternoon, and Chicago won the toss of the coin, but sent Stillwater to bat first. The Stillwater club hit three ground ball outs off of Chicago pitcher Al Spalding (who had a regular season record of 47 wins, 13 losses). The Chicago team came to bat, and also went down 1-2-3. The score stood tied at 0-0 after one inning.

Want to keep reading? Grab the June 9, 2017, edition of The Gazette, at newsstands through June 15. Subscribe to The Gazette to read Peterson’s column in its entirety each week. Brent Peterson is the executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. Contact him at [email protected].