Belle Memphis Base Ball Club

In late October, 1866, according to the October 25 edition of the Public Ledger, the Belle Memphis Ball Club organized. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85033673/1866-10-25/ed-1/seq-3/

“The Belle Memphis Base Ball Club have organized by the election of the following officers: Felix Leclare, president; Geo. App, vice-president; James Gatti, secretary; Adolph Maire, treasurer; Wm. J. Haire, marshal.”

According to the 1860 census, “Felix Leclere” was a 38 year-old native Frenchman who listed his occupation as “saloon keeper.” In reality, his name was probably Felix Leclerc.* If so, by 1866, he would have been 44 years old, far out of his athletic prime, and an odd choice for the founder of a base ball club.

But Leclerc had a son, also named Felix, who would have been 14 in 1866. Again, not the obvious choice for this seemingly mature announcement. But further research in the 1860 census shows an eight year old “George App” (the only one by that name), a six year old “James Gatti” (again, the only one in Memphis), and a “W.J. Haire.” All four boys lived in the 5th ward of Memphis, Gatti and Leclerc within just a few houses of one another. I did not find “Adolph Maire” in any census searches, but down the street from Haire lived a seven year-old boy named “Adolph Mariar(?).” So the evidence seems to show that the Belle Memphis club–one of the earliest official base ball clubs in Memphis–was of the juvenile variety.

Another interesting sidenote is that all five boys were sons of immigrants. Leclerc’s father was French, Gatti’s parents Italian, App’s German (Baden), Haire’s Scottish and Irish, and Mariar(?)’s also from Baden.

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*Leclerq is better known to historical footnotes as the recipient of the “Cass letter.” Gen. Lewis Cass, James Buchanan’s Secretary of State, wrote a letter to Mr. Leclerc (a naturalized American citizen) informing him that the US would not be able to protect him from military service if he were to return to French soil. The letter caused an uproar. See books.google.com/books?id=EyQzAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA269

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