Thursday, April 23, 2015

Knoxville Reds photo - mid 1880s

The Knoxville Sunday Journal - April 26, 1936
     The Knoxville Reds, more than 50 years ago, was one of the most famous baseball teams ever to play in the South, at that time.  Standing, left to right: Link Houk, James Waters, Dave Thomas, Lon Fiske, Please McClung.  Seated: Deadrick McClung, Guy McCaffry, Dutch Roth, Joe Wilson, Hugh Rogers.
     Joe Wilson, who recently retired as chief of traffic police, tells with pride of their trips and victories over the state and through the south.  The members of the team paid their own expenses, the uniforms were made at home and that shield so proudly displayed was hand-embroidered by a fond mother or sweetheart.
     One of the big games was played at Cleveland, Tenn., for a grand prize of $75 and Knoxville won.  "That was a mountain in those days," says Captain Wilson, "and we thought we were mighty lucky."  The greatest victory was the defeat of the Cincinnati Shamrocks.  Admission was charged for that game, a custom which not usual.  Captain Wilson would not divulge anything about the heart secrets of this handsome group, except to admit that his wife did come to see him play, but the girls never followed the team out of town, as is the custom for the football games of today.

    Charles Pleasant "Pleas" McClung was born ca. 1864.  Deadrick McClung was born ca. 1867.  If these men were about 21 years old in the photo, it would have been taken roughly in 1885-1889, which matches up with the line in the newspaper article, "The Knoxville Reds, more than 50 years ago...".

    Steve Cotham, the McClung Collection Manager, has graciously given me permission to reproduce some baseball images from their digital site on this blog.

    image N-0401 "Unidentified baseball team.  'R' on uniforms."
    from The Thompson Photograph Collection
    part of the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection

    Just to make things a bit easier, I've added names to the photo.

    So, this victory over the Shamrocks of Cincinnati?  They came to town in early August.

    Knoxville Daily Journal - August 8, 1890
    It could have been the game of August 8, 1890 to which Captain Wilson was referring.

    Knoxville Daily Journal - August 9, 1890

    From the tabulated score, it would appear that only Deadrick McClung, Pease McClung, and Guy McCaffry from the photo were involved in the game against the Shamrocks.

    But a bit more research reveals that the Reds beat the Shamrocks on the 6th of August as well, 4-1 in six innings.  Rain stopped the continuation of that game.

    The unusual custom of charging admission for the game?  Well, they did it just the month before when the Louisville Deppens came to town.

    Curious to see what the Shamrocks looked like?  Here's a photo of them from a few years before they came to Knoxville.

    1886 Cincinnati Shamrocks
    image from Lelands' November 2009 Auction Catalog

    1936 newspaper clipping from the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection
    clear image of the Knoxville Reds from the Calvin M. McClung Digital Collection
    1890 newspaper clippings from
    Shamrocks photo from

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