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Deserts, Red Stockings, and Out-of-Towners: Baseball Comes of Age in Salt Lake City, 1877-79

Utah Historical Quarterly

Vol. 52, 1984, No. 2

Deserets, Red Stockings, and Out-of-Towners: Baseball Comes of Age in Salt Lake City, 1877-79


THE LAST THREE YEARS OF THE 1870s witnessed a flowering of baseball in Salt Lake City with the first professional players in the city, the largest crowds to view local games in the nineteenth century, and controversy over the game that increased through the period. Baseball was the center of summer conversation for many Salt Lakers, and nearly everyone knew about the two best local clubs, the Deserets and Red Stockings. Religious affiliations increased local interest. The number of spectators attending games sometimes equalled 25 percent of the city's population, and more teams were fielded than ever before. These years and the two principal clubs were long remembered in the city's lore. In short, the period was the golden age of baseball in nineteenth-century Salt Lake City. Somewhat paradoxically, however, events during the period also undermined the local sport.

Baseball had been introduced into Salt Lake City shortly after the Cincinnati Red Stockings traveled through Utah Territory in 1869 on the new transcontinental railroad. After a brief period of popularity in the early 1870s, interest waned in the "national game." Slowly a more mature community interest in baseball developed, and by the mid-1870s one club, the Deserets, dominated the local game and a diamond had been laid out on Washington Square. By 1877 the Deserets were ready to take on clubs from rival Intermountain cities.

In mid-May 1877 the Deserets met "to organize a representative club for the Territory and place it upon a permanent footing." The club had earlier elected officers, leased the east half of Washington Square, and hoped to improve the field so that outside teams could be attracted to play in Salt Lake City. The desire for outside competition seems only natural because the Deserets had found no local clubs that could hope to match them. Over eighty people had joined the club by the time of this initial meeting, including prominent local businessmen who threw their financial support behind the team.

Games reported in Salt Lake newspapers in April indicated there were at least seventeen teams in the city playing baseball. The reason, to the Tribune, was evident: "Salt Lake City has for a number of years fostered the game of base ball. In fact, our city would not be up in modern ideas did she not do so." This was a theme local newspapers were to repeat for the next three years — that Salt Lake City was as modern and up-to-date as any other city in the West and probably the country, and one manifestation of this was the interest in and support for baseball. The newspapers were, according to urban community theory, attempting to draw on community pride to provide support for local baseball. The papers seemed to be telling local residents that if they wanted their city to appear modern they needed to support baseball.

The Deserets expended several hundred dollars in improvements for the ball park. Tame grass was planted on the square for the first time, and a new grandstand and bleachers were constructed. By late April the Deserets' games were attracting as many as fifteen hundred spectators, even though scores were rarely close because of the Deserets' superior playing skills. Though many people attended games, baseball had problems in establishing its respectability in Salt Lake. Betting was indulged in at the ball park; crowds, especially on the sunny east side where the cheap bleacher seats were located, were often loud and sometimes offensive; and such activity as smoking and drinking (which many Mormons found offensive, at least in public) were often seen. Because of this, the baseball clubs, with the help of the newspapers, tried to gain more respectability for the sport. "Ladies" were encouraged to attend and were provided with covered seats and free admission. For one game the Tribune of July 22, 1877, promised: "Ladies may rest assured that nothing improper will be permitted on the grounds." Betting and boisterousness also undermined the game's respectability in other parts of the country, and similar attempts to attract women to the games were made: ". . . Experience has shown that nothing tends so much to elevate the game, to rid it of evil influences, to lead to proper decorum and to gentlemanly contests than the countenance and patronage of the ladies." Campaigns to woo women to the contests were sometimes successful, but there is no indication that the presence of the "fair sex" made crowds less boisterous or hindered betting.

Some prominent Salt Lake businessmen supported the baseball teams, and the newspapers were quick to point this out. In addition, the management of the ball park announced that "Disreputable characters will not be permitted on the grounds." Although the Tribune and the Herald regularly reported odds that bettors were making on the game, neither paper approved of betting on "manly sports." Both papers also urged spectators to be polite. Though loud cheering might be condoned, offensive yelling would not.

By July 1877 an out-of-town team had been signed to visit Salt Lake City. The Cheyenne Red Stockings were coming, and the series between the Deserets and the Cheyennes was one of the chief topics of conversation in the city. It was reported that the Cheyenne team was the champion of Wyoming and further that it had beaten the best Denver team. Tickets for reserved seats were sold prior to the game at twenty-five cents for general admission and fifty cents for seats in the grandstand. By the time of the first game with Cheyenne seats were available for as many as two thousand.

The Cheyennes came into town for three games to be played over the Pioneer Day holiday. The initial game on July 23 was the first contest between a Salt Lake team and an out-of-territory club. Three thousand spectators were present, which meant that many were forced to stand around the periphery of the playing field. The final score of 3-2 for the Deserets indicated the improvement in play from earlier days when both teams might score close to a hundred runs in a single game. Never had there been such a low-scoring game in Utah. The Tribune proudly reported: "The very small score of two to three has never been equalled before by any club west of Omaha." Again, the newspapers were attempting to attract local interest by showing the Salt Lake players were as good as any in the West. Both the Tribune and the Herald published full reports of the game and included extensive box scores similar to those used now. The box scores recorded at-bats, outs, runs, total bases, put-outs, assists, errors, doubles, triples, runners left on base, called balls, strikes, strikeouts, out on flies, and flies missed for each team. This represents Salt Lake's growing sophistication in understanding baseball and also the newspaper readers' growing interest in the statistical data of the game.

More people than ever before in Utah turned out for the game on July 24. The Tribune reported that five thousand spectators were present, while the Herald estimated the attendance at between five and six thousand. These figures, if correct, were equalled several times later in 1877 and 1878 but were only rarely approached again until the twentieth century. Salt Lake City at the time had approximately twenty thousand residents so that the equivalent of 25 percent of the local population attended the game. The game was long and finally had to be called for darkness. The score stood at 18-18, and the Deserets kept their two-year unbeaten string of victories alive. Five thousand spectators also showed up for the third and final game on July 25, won by the Deserets 17-11. The series excited a great deal of talk in town:

Nothing since the exposure of the stealings of the City Hall ring by that immortal Grand Jury, has caused so much talk among all the classes. Judges, lawyers, Grand Jurors, Federal officials, merchants, ministers, tradesmen, and everybody else deserted the business part of town to go and witness the three successive matches, and still base ball is the chief topic of conversation.

Having a local team made up of local players beat clubs from other Intermountain cities was a major source of pride. Residents now spoke of players on the Deseret club "As 'our pitcher, our catcher, our fielders,' etc."

Shortly after the Cheyenne series, two occurrences rocked the Deseret organization and undermined its unified support. The first of these was a charge made by the Cheyenne team that their pitcher had been paid by the Deserets to throw the games. This brought an immediate denial from the Deserets, who told the Herald that their club was organized to foster the national game in the territory and "to afford its members a means for physical culture,. . . and not as a medium for trickery and fraud." Charges of bribing opposing players were fairly common in the early days of baseball. Many believed the charges and objected to the game as a result.

Although this charge made the Deserets uneasy and forced them to defend themselves to the city, the second accusation had a more divisive effect. In a letter to the editor of the Tribune, "Consideration" (as the writer signed the August 3 letter) objected to the name of the local team because of the strong overtones of Mormonism included in the word "deseret," especially now that the team was predominantly non-Mormon. Many of the writer's friends believed the club to be largely Mormon because of the name and were reluctant to support the team for that reason. "Consideration" had no objection to Mormon baseball players, nor even to a team composed primarily of Mormons. Such a team, however, "would have to look for sympathy and assistance in a different direction to that from which the Deserets club receive the sinews of war." The writer believed that one might as well have "an apostle for a pitcher, 'Holiness to the Lord' on the bat and an 'All seeing eye' on the ball," as be called the Deserets. He concluded his epistle by stating that he would not personally withhold his "sympathy or support from the Deserets on account of their objectionable name," but felt that many others might.

The directors of the club admitted that their support came largely from the Gentile portion of Salt Lake City (and therein told an important story), but they felt that it was only because "the Mormon classes are mainly foreign to the sport, and must be in a measure educated to it." Of the starting nine of the Deserets, four were Mormons, and they were good players who were respected by the club. To the directors, "The question of religion is a subject which in social life should have no bearing." With respect to the name of the team, "The word 'Deseret' is the motto of the territory of Utah, and we certainly see no reason for changing the name."

The controversy did not end there; it had hardly begun. Two responses in the next day's Tribune came from Deseret players. G. W. Snow and W. George wrote that they were two of the four classed as Mormons in the first nine of the team by the directors and they objected "to any such classification. Please state that we belong to the non-Mormon element, and that the proportion of Gentiles to Mormons is seven to two, and not five to four." The other letter came from Charles P. Huey, one of the directors of the club. He protested the letter signed jointly by the directors of the club and objected strenuously to the statement that religion should have no bearing in social life. He highly regarded the Mormon players on the team but could not support so sweeping a social statement.

These controversies caused the four players classified initially in the Herald as Mormons to leave the team and necessitated a reorganization of the Deserets. Three of the four players — William George, Richard P. Morris, and Joe Barlow —joined the new Red Stocking club which had recently been organized out of the best players of the Deserets' two major rivals: the Metropolitans and the Rough and Readys. With the addition of the three former Deserets to the team, the Red Stockings were almost as strong as the Deserets. What might have been disastrous for baseball in Salt Lake — the forced reorganization of the Deseret club — actually turned out to be a very healthy development. The Deserets were marginally weakened and the newly formed Red Stockings were strong enough to challenge the territorial champions.

A series of games was arranged between the two teams. Soon people were talking about the upcoming August 25 game as "the sporting match of the season," and it was "the principal topic on the streets and in the parlor." The Deserets were entirely Gentile after the reorganization, and the Red Stocking club was almost completely Mormon. The Gentile Tribune and the Mormon Herald favored the team each would be expected to, though both papers were generally pro-baseball.

Three thousand enthusiastic spectators turned out for the game. It is probable that more were not there only because the pride of the city was not directly at stake and because many still felt that the Deserets were invincible and believed the game would be one-sided. The Deserets lost, however, by a score of 22-14 — their first loss in several years. No longer did Salt Lake have only one "crack" (to use the then-popular term) team; it now had two clubs that would contest for the territorial championship.

The second game was played on September 8 before a crowd estimated at four thousand by the Herald and twenty-five hundred by the Tribune. The Deserets returned to their winning ways by scoring a 6-3 victory in a closely contested game. The Herald's reporter would have been happier with this score than with the first game's total, despite the outcome, because he had earlier written that he hoped the games would be low scoring so that local spectators could see "that Utah is not behind other states and territories in turning out good players of the national game." The stage was set for the third and concluding game of the first real contest for the territorial championship in several years.

Both teams had practiced daily in preparation for the first two games, and now they redoubled their efforts. Community interest was running higher than ever. Five thousand turned out for the third game. "Considerable sums of money" were wagered, and one Reds supporter put up $250 in bets. The more experienced Deserets won decisively by a score of 12-4, making some bettors very happy while others "seriously meditated upon the fleetness of riches and the mutability of human affairs." The Tribune regretted the gambling but felt that "In all out-door sports betting is a propensity that will ever be apparent, and it would be an exceedingly difficult matter to wean men from indulging in these occasional."

The 1877 season was to have ended with this series, but both teams agreed to play once more during the Mormon conference in October to give their "country cousins" a chance to see a good game of baseball. The teams were consciously trying to introduce the game to the hinterlands of Utah and thereby expand its appeal. The Deserets again won, 11-4.

A number of new developments in baseball had been seen in Salt Lake during this season. Scores were lowered, indicating improved skills on the part of the teams. Alston, the catcher for the Deserets, who rarely completed a game without being knocked senseless by a foul ball or dislocating fingers or splitting thumbs, tried out a new wire mask like the one introduced the same year in the East. Alston's numerous injuries and his use of the mask provide further clues to why scores were going down: changes in pitching. Pitchers in Salt Lake introduced the fast ball into the local game in 1876, and in 1877 the best local pitchers added curve balls to their repertoire (though they were still throwing underhand). These new and faster pitches made the catcher's job more hazardous but also lowered the scores. Both the fast ball and the curve came to Utah within a comparatively short time after these pitches gained wide usage in the East.

Community interest was high in 1877 because early in the season the Deserets had defeated a club from a rival Intermountain city. Salt Lake was still cohesive enough to feel community pride in such an accomplishment. Thecity was, however, growing rapidly, and much of the population may have been losing its interest in making Salt Lake appear up-to-date. As cities grow such broad community interest diminishes, but as it does residents begin identifying with smaller groups within the city. According to the subcultural theory of urban sociologists, the gathering of large numbers of people in a city produces new groups or subcultures that are not possible in areas with smaller populations. Sheer numbers increase the chances of finding enough people with similar interests in the city. Thus, many subcultures found in a city are not found in the country. Residents of cities tend to identify with these subgroups rather than with the city itself as the city grows. Most people, of course, are affiliated with a number of subcultures in the city, and there is much overlapping of groups.

It is evident that the series between the Deserets and Red Stockings attracted the support of several subcultures in the city: the baseball community, those interested in betting, and groups of Mormons and Gentiles who supported the two clubs and felt vindication at the victory of the "Mormon" team or "Gentile" team.

At the end of the 1877 season, the Tribune published the Deserets' record for the year (13 wins, 1 loss, 1 tie) and announced that the team hoped to secure their own playing field and be reorganized on a "corporate basis" — apparently meaning that there would be professional players.

The 1878 season opened, as the previous season had, with much public interest. There were now two "crack" teams in Salt Lake City, and many people wanted to see the Red Stockings and Deserets play. The Deserets had evidently been unsuccessful in obtaining their own park, for they once again petitioned the city council to lease the Washington Square field to them. However, a counter petition stated that a public area such as Washington Square should be used "for the public good, and not granted for private speculation." Later, another petition from cricket players and other baseball players also asked that the Deseret petition not be granted. These opposing players did not want one team to have a monopoly on the field as in the previous year. This apparently struck a resonant chord with the city council, because it denied the Deseret petition. That the council's opposition was due to reluctance to giving only one team control over the field and not opposition to "private speculation" (in the form of charging admission for games) soon became clear when the Deserets joined with other baseball and cricket clubs to form the Salt Lake Base Ball and Cricket Association and again submitted a petition. This time the petition was granted, and the grounds were leased to the new association. The terms of the lease included the right to charge for match games (twenty-five cents was to be the normal charge, but it could be raised to fifty cents for games involving out-of-town teams) and some control over the field in order to protect the improvements to the park.

In May the association improved the ball park by resodding the field, extending the bleachers, and constructing a new grandstand. In June another grandstand was built, enlarging the seating capacity of the ball park. Both the Deseret and Red Stocking clubs began playing teams in preparation for the inevitable championship series between them. After one such contest between the Red Stockings and the Mill Creek team, the Salt Lake Herald wrote that "The increasing interest in base ball is evident from the size and nature of the crowd that witnessed the game, many prominent citizens being among the most interested spectators."

The first game of the Reds-Deserets series took place on the first holiday of the summer — Decoration Day (May 30). Interest was high in the game, and precautions were taken so that no one could enter the game without paying admission. Two policemen patrolled the fences and the grandstands to guarantee an orderly game. Fully five thousand people watched the game from the bleachers, grandstands, and grass around the diamond and from buggies and treetops outside the park. The Red Stockings gave the Deserets their second loss in as many years, 11-3. TheHerald noted that the crowd's "sympathy was by large odds with the Reds." It is unclear if this was due to the fact that the Reds received their support from the Mormon population, which was numerically dominant in Salt Lake, or because the Reds were the underdogs. (The Reds had a new second baseman in 1878, future Mormon apostle and president Heber J. Grant. 34 ) Some suspected the Deserets of throwing the game to create greater interest in subsequent games, something that was denied emphatically by the Deserets. 35 The second match game, played almost two weeks later, also drew an "immense crowd" and again resulted in a win for the Red Stockings by a score of 9 to 6. The Herald was disappointed with one of the Reds who wasted "fully fifteen minutes over a call by the umpire."

The Deserets played the third game on June 29 with an "imported first baseman" who was probably the first professional player in Salt Lake, but he did not do well and made no difference in the game. A "tremendous crowd" had assembled at "the square" to witness what many had thought would be the last of the three-of-five games series, but the Deserets won by a big margin — 22-6.

Now the two local teams were ready for outside competition and the Denver Browns arrived for a series of games against both the Deserets and the Red Stockings. These games attracted a "great deal of attention throughout the territory, and the railroad companies have made arrangements to run excursion trains, tickets for which will give general admission at the ball grounds." Not only were Salt Lakers proud of their two "crack" teams, many in the territory also were, and they all looked forward to matches with "outside" teams to see how good their local clubs really were.

Although Otero, the Denver pitcher, was the best hurler yet to play in Salt Lake with a "very swift ball" and "all the curves," the Deserets won the first game 13-6. They beat the Browns again on July 4 before another "immense" crowd, and the Reds beat them on July 5. The Browns finally won a game against the Deserets on July 6 but were again defeated by the Reds on July 7. This was the first time Salt Lake had seen a number of match games on successive days, and it taxed local interest. One man who wanted to form a quoits league found that "the continual cry" for baseball "is becoming confoundedly monitorious." The Herald was relieved to see the series finished. Fewer spectators had shown up at the park each day because "five consecutive games on consecutive days are rather more than the admirers of this amusement can endure."

The following Saturday the fourth game of the series between the Reds and Deserets was played, with the Deserets winning 13-3 before the noisiest crowd yet seen in Salt Lake City. Not only was the normally noisy east side loud, the west was "not at all backward in giving evidence of its loyalty by vociferous applause and not infrequent yelling," which was, however, "devoid of these idiodic and extremely insulting remarks which characterize the utterances from those on the sunny side." The local spectators were becoming what would now be known as "fans" and what were called "cranks" in nineteenth-century America.

The arrival of another out-of-town team, this time from Cheyenne, was greeted with some fanfare because the Wyoming club reportedly had added several professional players from the East to its roster. The two Salt Lake teams made quick work of the Cheyenne Reds, however. The Deserets won by large margins in successive games, and then the Salt Lake Reds beat them by a score of 14-12, which appears quite close until it is realized that several Deserets played for the Cheyenne club.

Finally the highlight of the season approached — the deciding game in the territorial championship series. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the games between the Deserets and Red Stockings were far more interesting than the match games with teams from without the territory. Betting was light; there were few takers at three-to-one odds for the Deserets to once again take the territorial pennant. However, the Reds won 11-10 before "a tremendous and excited crowd." This game, when added to all the others of the year, had "broken the back of base ball for the season," according to the Herald. There had been enough baseball for one summer. After the game both teams had their pictures taken by pioneer photographer C R. Savage. At least the photo of the Red Stockings survives.

The 1878 season was probably the most successful year for baseball in nineteenth-century Salt Lake City. The city had two excellent teams that were well matched and that could beat other teams in the Intermountain West. Financial support was strong enough that both the Deserets and Red Stockings probably played on a semi-professional basis. The two teams apparently derived much of their support from different subcultures in Salt Lake and so provided not only a source of pride in the town and territory but also created a spirited rivalry in the city. This type of rivalry between Mormons and non-Mormons may have had a healthy effect on the everyday relations of the two groups by allowing them to take out some of their frustration with each other on the playing field.

Baseball expanded a great deal on a more informal level in 1878. Teams made up of co-workers in stores and crafts played against each other on numerous occasions, and even such groups as the local yacht club split into two teams to play. It is likely that one could see a baseball practice or game on Washington Square every day during the summer except Sundays. Such informal baseball also provided an avenue for would-be Deserets and Red Stockings to develop skills and display their talents.

The newspapers, which had played an important role in the popularization of baseball before, played an even more significant role in 1878. Upcoming games were heavily publicized and informal histories of the game in Utah were included in the papers. Extensive reports of games were published, indicating an increasingly sophisticated reading audience educated in part by the local newspapers. Detailed box scores showed a growing interest in the statistics of the game, further evidenced by the offer of a prize for the best batting average.

By April 6, 1879, negotiations had been entered into by the Base Ball Association to have teams from Denver, Laramie, San Francisco, and Chicagovisit Salt Lake. The Chicago White Stockings had just two years earlier been champion of the National League in the league's first year of existence. For once (and the unusual nature of this must be emphasized), teams from each of these cities actually did play in Salt Lake City.

The outside teams were being courted because "The manifest intentionof the interested parties is to produce this season a better grade of playing than has ever been seen in this city." In addition, the Herald noted "a more friendly feeling between the local rivals . . . Every endeavor will be made to secure harmony between them, and the result will probably be more interesting games and better order." The Salt Lake baseball fraternity was doing everything it could to make the 1879 season even better than the previous season.

The Deserets and Red Stockings resumed their rivalry on April 12. A parade was staged before the game to advertise it and to give it a little more "pomp." The Deserets won 9-5 in a game shortened to five innings because of inclement weather. After the game it was announced that the 1879 territorial championship would consist of a five-of-nine game series to be begun in two weeks.

After the first Deserets-Reds game the Herald reported that "The outlook is such as would indicate a revival of last year's base ball fever." The Deserets won the first game of the championship series 12-8. It was clear that both teams had firm financial backing. The reorganized Red Stockings had new uniforms, the game was played for stakes of $250, and the Deserets once again fielded a paid player, this time a genuine professional. R. E. McKelvey, the Deserets' new captain, catcher, and sometime pitcher, was only the first of several "imported" players the Deserets brought to Salt Lake in 1879. McKelvey had the year before played sixty games for the National League team in Indianapolis and was thus a genuine major leaguer.

In spite of the Deserets' new professional player (and possibly players, even this early in the season), the Red Stockings won the next game 11-9 in extra innings, once again before a large crowd. For some reason dissatisfaction was manifested with the Reds, because soon there was talk of getting the previous year's full team together to play the Deserets. This is difficult to explain in light of the fact that only three games had apparently been played between the two teams and the Red Stockings had won one of them. Perhaps other games had been played that went unreported because the Herald noted that "The failure of the Red Stockings of this year has brought their friends out, and they propose to see the best nine put forward." Much of the city was undoubtedly interested in seeing local players beat a team partly composed of imported professionals.

Soon a game was arranged between the Deserets and the Red Stockings of 1878. "Barker, Morris, Grant, Watson, Barlow, Mc­ Lain, George, Dunbar, and Bess" were all set to play the Deserets. The Tribune reported that "Friday's game continues to attract attention and in sporting circles it is the only thing of comment, in fact, a season of ball sport is now at hand that really promises well." The Deserets won 17 to 15 before a crowd that approached the size and enthusiasm of those of the previous year, but they had to rely on luck.

The old Red Stockings had gotten together for only one game and had been defeated. The new Reds were apparently never to play as a team again. The Deserets were once again viewed as invincible. The Tribune hoped that "We of Salt Lake" would take pride in the Deserets as the city's representative in the baseball world and provide the support they needed to do well against other teams in the West. No longer would religious rivalry play a role in local baseball. Now the support would have to come largely from a sense of community pride. To maintain its support the local club would have to be very successful against outside teams.

In early June the team from Laramie arrived. Actually the team was made up of players from Laramie, Cheyenne, Green River, and Evanston and reportedly had once again a number of players from the East. An arrangement had been worked out among the Denver, Laramie, and Salt Lake teams to crown a Rocky Mountain champion based on games the three clubs would play against each other. On the day of the first game with the Wyoming team the grounds were filled "quite a while before the hour of commencement in anticipation of the finest base ball game ever witnessed here." Instead, the team was the poorest that had ever visited Salt Lake and lost 16-2. The Herald believed that at least six teams in Salt Lake could defeat the Laramie club. The Deserets won the second game by a score of 24-2, and the Herald reported "when we see a game we like to see it played by persons slightly acquainted with the game at least." Baseball observers in Salt Lake were no longer content to watch second-rate play.

The next important development of the season came in late June when the San Francisco Athletics, the first fully professional team to play in Salt Lake, arrived. Hopes were high that the local championship club could beat a professional nine. The Deserets brought in two more "imported" players: Funkhouser, who had probably played with the St. Louis National League team the previous year, and C L. McKelvey, probably the captain's brother. The California team was alternately identified by Salt Lake papers as the California League champion and as the "best and most successful team in the West." Betting was heavy, and local gamblers had become sophisticated enough that they spent time watching the two clubs practice. The upcoming games were the talk of the territory: "Everything is base ball, and parties here are expecting friends from all parts of the Territory to visit them and spend a week, which will be one of pleasure indeed, unless something unforeseen happens to mar it."

On June 28, the day of the first game, the ball grounds at Washington Square saw the biggest crowd ever. The San Francisco club won a very close game 13-12. The Herald, always desirous of gentlemanly conduct on the diamond, objected to the Athletics' "kicking" at the umpire and the crowd's subsequent hissing of the San Francisco players.

Another large crowd was on handfor the second game in which the Deserets led until the ninth inning when the Athletics scored several runs and won 20-19. The Deserets had played with sore hands, one of the liabilities of playing without gloves in the 1870s. In addition, the Herald reporter found the game — exciting and close as it was — "tiresomely long."

But on July 2 the Deserets won 23-15, on the 4th they won by the low score of 5-3 before an "immense concourse of people," and on the 5th they won 18-7, thus taking three of five games from the professional Athletics. The Herald immediately proclaimed the Salt Lake club to be the champion of the West.

When the San Francisco club left, they took with them the former Red Stockings' pitcher, Allie Barker. Barker, who was to return to Salt Lake and remain prominent in baseball circles throughout most of the 1880s, was only the first of many home-town boys to be lured away from Salt Lake City by teams that could offer salaries and a chance to see more of the world. Barker was soon lauded by the Alta California for his fine pitching.

The next team to visit Salt Lake was the Omaha club, professionals in the Northwestern League. After Omaha won the first two games by close margins, it was decided that a championship series would be established among the California League teams, Omaha, and Salt Lake. Each team would play each of the others five games to determine the champion of the West. This fell through when Salt Lake beat Omaha in the third game. According to the Salt Lake papers, Omaha feared that they might actually lose to the Deserets and therefore left before playing all five scheduled games. Salt Lake's hopes of a grand league and a championship series were dashed. This was only one of many attempts by a Salt Lake club to form a league. Even when leagues were later established, few lasted through a season.

Denver suddenly got the urge to contest the Deserets in their claim for the supremacy of baseball in the Intermountain West:

The Salt Lake Deseret club occupies too high a position in base ball circles to remain unmolested, they have scooped everything of a local nature there this year, bounced Laramie from the track, corraled the pets of San Francisco, scared out the Omahas, and made arrangements to tackle the champion Chicagos in October.

Then the Denver paper asserted that their local team was the best ever, "and if Denver cannot capture the laurels from the Deserets this season, she may as well give it up forever."

For the Denver series the Deserets signed Allie Barker, who had recently returned from San Francisco, and Bob Addy, who was an old professional. Addy was probably the third sometime major leaguer on the 1879 Deserets and the one with the most impressive credentials. He had played in the old National Association from 1871 to 1875, was a member of the champion Chicago White Stockings in 1876, and was player-manager of the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1877. The Deserets beat the Denver team four out of the five games.

The Rochester Hop Bitters arrived in September and were the first genuine eastern professional team to play in Salt Lake City. The Herald wrongly believed that the club was a member of the National League, but the team was very good nonetheless. Crowds of over one thousand turned out to watch the Deserets lose to the Hop Bitters 17-5 and 28-3. The Tribune expressed surprise at the skill of the Rochester team: "It was simply bewildering the way the Empire State club sailed in and sent the leather shooting to all points of the compass."

The Deserets then went to Denver for a return series with the Browns. A complaint that was to become common emerged during this first road trip and indicates once again the increasing sophistication of baseball observers. The Deserets were losing to the Denver team they had so recently beaten, and "no one is surprised because they left many of their best players." Time and again this same complaint was repeated against future Salt Lake teams that traveled elsewhere to play. The papers were apparently trying to salvage respectability and support for the local team by in essence saying the Deserets were better than Denver but were losing only because of poor management. The Herald reported the score of the first game as 10-6 in favor of the Denver club, and none of the Salt Lake papers reported the scores of the other games. Although the team lost every game in Denver, they received a warm greeting when they returned to Salt Lake City.

Finally, the Chicago White Stockings of the National League arrived in town for three games with the Deserets. Chicago won 24-4 in the first game and 14-0 in the second (although McKelvey, who pitched for the Deserets in the second game, allowed only one earned run — indicating the lack of defensive support a club might be expected to give). For the third contest the two teams split up, and the game ended 14-9 with neither club being able to claim victory or defeat.

The summer of 1879 had brought several new developments to the local game. For the first time clubs had visited that were entirely professional. Salt Lake had enlisted several "imported" players, who were being paid under the table if not openly, enabling the Deserets to play on equal terms with all but the professional teams from the East. Another first was also seen during 1879. Although Salt Lake teams had earlier planned road trips, they had never been able to take such trips. Their first road trip (to Denver) had been unsuccessful, but it was significant that a Salt Lake team had ventured out to play.

Other developments would soon undermine baseball in Salt Lake City. No longer was there a brisk local rivalry to stimulate support. Thus, "subcultural" support for the game was weakened. Salt Lakers were now called upon to support a team made up increasingly of outsiders. "Cranks" had no close relationships with these outside professionals, and thus support for the team had to be derived largely from a sense of community pride. The club had to be successful to insure such support.

The 1879 season ended on an ambivalent note for baseball in Salt Lake City. The period of 1877-79 had seen a flowering of baseball in the city. Fan interest was often intense and baseball filled an important recreational need for players and spectators alike. Players' skills improved considerably to meet intense intracity and intercity rivalries. Salt Lake was proud of its "crack" teams, especially those made up of local players. Spectator interest soared during part of 1877, all of 1878, and part of 1879 for games between the Deserets and Red Stockings, which had strong religious overtones. The subcultural interest in the game was added to community interest to create the greatest support of baseball nineteenth-century Salt Lake City saw.

Commercially, the sport was successful enough to enable the Deserets and Red Stockings to play on a semi-professional basis in 1878 and to enable the Deserets to attract genuine professional players in 1879. The addition of these new professionals led, however, to the dissolution of the Red Stockings, who found it impossible to compete. Support continued for the new Deserets as long as they were winning, but local spectators found it difficult to support players they did not really know when they represented Salt Lake and lost.

Other aspects of the game weakened support for baseball in Salt Lake City. Widespread gambling was criticized in some quarters. Rumors of "thrown" games were often circulated. Loud, boisterous crowds worsened the reputation of the sport and did not endear baseball to those who lived close to Washington Square. Because of these problems the city council refused to relet Washington Square to the Deserets in 1880, and no high caliber baseball was played in the city for several years afterward.

The period of 1877-79 was the golden age of nineteenthcentury Salt Lake baseball. Though some developments encouraged local supporters of the game who looked forward to the 1880 season, other developments presaged the end of this golden age and a dim period ahead for baseball in Utah's capital city.

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