In the early 1860's, base ball was introduced to Cincinnati. The participation and enthusiasm for the game languished while the nation was transfixed with the American Civil War. However, at the conclusion of hostilities in 1865, two amateur base ball clubs had been established; the Live Oak Base Ball Club and the Cincinnati Buckeyes. The best known of Cincinnati clubs, the Red Stockings were not formed until July 23, 1866. As an organized team, the Buckeyes and Live Oaks both predated the Red Stockings.

In 1866, in the Red Stockings first year of existence, the team played a total of four games, three of which were against the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes defeated the Red Stocking on two of the three occasions to claim bragging rights for the first year that the teams competed. The Buckeyes home field was the so called "Iron Slag" grounds, located just north of the Union Grounds, home field of the Red Stockings, and near present day Union Terminal.

Records from the early era of base ball are scanty at best. While not much is known about the 1867 season, in 1868, the Red Stockings again faced the Buckeyes and this time reversed their fortunes. The Buckeyes fell to their inter-city rivals of scores of 28-10 and later 20-12. It was noted that after the first Buckeye loss to the Red Stockings, the team recruited three players from a Washington team to bolster their roster. In the end, it made no difference. At the time, the Buckeyes had developed something of a sinister reputation with a local paper, The Spirit. It noted that the Buckeyes were known for, "...ignoring all the rules...and even went so to drug some of the players of the Cincinnati Club and to bribe others."

In 1869, the Red Stockings became the first all professional team in base ball. However, the idea of paying some players was not new. Many teams of the time paid (often discretely) their best players. The decision to turn an entire team professional did not sit well with the Buckeye club. In a story that ran in the Philadelphia Sunday Mercury, shortly before the beginning of the 1869 season, Buckeye club officials stated that other clubs would be, "...taxed for those whose only interest in the club was their weekly salary" and added, " may rest assured that the Buckeyes will not be troubled with 'revolvers' who carry their pockets filled with offers from clubs, thereby keeping a club in a 'stew' from the beginning to the end of a season."

The railing against professionals entering the game in the press, however, did not mention that the Buckeyes too considered "turning pro". Over the winter of 1868-69, this topic was hotly debated by the officials of the Buckeye club. The fear of losing a competitive edge to their rivals, the Red Stockings, and worry over a decline in attendance as fans went to see the new (and perhaps better) club across town was of primary concern. In the end, the decision turned on simple economics; the Buckeyes could not afford to pay what the Red Stockings were offering to players. In the end, the best Buckeye players, Charlie Gould, Charlie Sweasy, Dick Hurley, and Andy Leonard did leave the Buckeye club to play for the Red Stockings.

1869, the year the Red Stockings had stormed across the country, in base balls' only undefeated season, the Red Stockings and Buckeyes were to meet yet again. On July 22, 1869, the Queen City was a buzz with talk of the days' showdown between the rivals. Given their record, the Red Stockings were clearly the favorite. However, many in the city believed that the time had come for the Red Stocking to face their comeuppance, and the underdog Buckeyes would prevail. At the Union Grounds, home field for the Red Stockings, a capacity crowd was on hand. In the first inning, the Red Stockings plated seven tallies, while the Buckeyes responded with five of their own. In the second inning, the Red Stockings pounded out 11 runs, while the Buckeyes responded with four of their own. However, with each passing inning, the Red Stockings poured on the offensive assault, while the Buckeyes lost their ability to respond. The final score, 71-15.

While the two Cincinnati teams competed fiercely on the field, there was a spirit of cooperation between the two clubs. In August, 1869, the Red Stockings played a benefit game with the Buckeyes to aid the amateur team's treasury. The game was no contest, with the Red Stockings prevailing 103-8.

Sources: The First Boys of Summer, Rhodes and Erardi,
The Red Stockings of Cincinnati, Guschov, and The Cincinnati Game, Wheeler and Baskin. Photos: The First Boys of Summer, Rhodes and Erardi


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