Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Cornish Town Races (With apologies to Stephen Foster)

Some 20 years before the opening of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, National League club owners were approached by two gentlemen from that beautiful village on Otsego Lake who wanted to sell them the baseball history equivalent of the Brooklyn Bridge - the land where Abner Doubleday supposedly laid out the first baseball diamond.  Secure in the "definitive" conclusions of the relatively recent Mills Commission, the baseball magnates took the idea seriously enough to authorize league president John Heydler to look into the matter.  The idea of a farmer's field in Cooperstown being baseball's birthplace or the existence of any such sacred site has by now, of course, been thoroughly discredited. Anyone with an interest in honoring the location of an historical baseball first, might better use their time on the site of the first organized match (a game played between two competing clubs) which, let it be said one more time, didn't take place on June 19, 1846 at Elysian Fields in Hoboken.  Rather, based on current research, that honor belongs to the grounds of the Union Star Cricket Club at the corner of Myrtle and Portland Streets in Brooklyn where on October 10, 1845, a team of eight (no shortstop) from Brooklyn defeated a like number from New York.



There's always the possibility, some enterprising researcher (please Lord, let it be me) will find an earlier match at a different location so it's impossible to be certain the claim for Brooklyn will never be challenged.  Certain beyond any doubt, however, is another base ball field first, the location of the first game played on an enclosed ground, a game played on July 20, 1858 at the Fashion Race Course near the village of Flushing in Queens County, New York, the first of a best of three match series between select or all-star teams from Brooklyn and New York. Anticipating the future heart break of Brooklyn teams playing their New York counterparts, the Manhattan team took the series by winning the third and decisive game.  With a total capacity of 50,000 including 10,000 seats, the race course was not only capable of accommodating the anticipated large throngs, but also facilitated charging admission, another first for these historic matches.  The story of what are known to history as the Fashion Course games, is well chronicled in Robert Shaefer's essay in the Fall 2005  issue of Nine: A Journal of Baseball History and Culture.  In typical baseball irony, the race track was built on land purchased from one Samuel Willets, who probably had little interest in base ball, but will always be associated with it since the subway stop for Shea Stadium and now Citi Field bears his name.


New York Clipper - July 24, 1858

What brought all  of this to mind was the Neshanock's visit to Maine this past weekend to take part in the 2016 New England Vintage Base Ball Festival held on the race track at the historic fairgrounds in Cornish, Maine.  Owned by the town of Cornish since 1994, the fairgrounds hosted regional fairs going back into the 19th century with the racetrack and the grandstand apparently built around 1900.  Although no longer used for competitive racing, harness horses are still trained at the facility, continuing one of the community's oldest traditions.  The vintage base ball event featured five out of state clubs, three from Massachusetts, one from Rhode Island and the Neshanock.  The sixth club and host team was the Dirigo Club of Maine which got assistance on the base ball side from the Essex Base Ball Organization.  The event itself was sponsored by the Cornish Historical Society as well as the Cornish Fairgrounds Committee which along with the two base ball organizations did a great job.



While I've been to racetracks before, this was the first time  on the "infield" itself which was large enough to host two games simultaneously with more than enough room to spare for parking and other amenities.  Flemington's first match on Saturday morning was against the Mechanics Club of North Andover, Massachusetts, the newest of the six club sponsored by the aforementioned Essex Base Ball Organization (https://essexbaseball.wordpress.com/).  After winning the coin toss (as it would in each of its four matches), the Neshanock took the field only to lapse once more into the unfortunate pattern of giving the opposition extra outs (three in this case) early in the game.  In spite of the three first inning muffs however, the damage was limited to two Mechanics' runs which Flemington more than matched, putting five tallies across in its half of the first. After the three errors in the initial inning, the Neshanock defense clamped down, making only four more over the next eight innings and holding the North Andover club to only three more runs.  Flemington erupted for 10 runs in its half of the third, to break the game open, but in spite of the final 22-5 score, the lead never felt quite secure.  The Neshanock were led at the plate by Dan "Sledge" Hammer and Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner, both with four hits while "Jersey" Jim Nunn and Ryan "Express" Pendergist added three each.



With one game in the books, the Neshanock had a break, allowing ample time not only to get out of the hot sun, but also to restore the "inner man" at the concessions thoughtfully provided by the hosts.  Rested and refreshed, Flemington's second match was against the Mudville Club from Holliston, Massachusetts, with the Mudville name providing all the incentive Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw needed to honor them with a special recitation of "Casey at the Bat."  The Neshanock's offensive production fell off dramatically during the second match with only nine tallies, less than half of the 22 tallied in the first contest.  One Neshanock who experienced no drop off was "Sledge," who had another four hit performance, this time earning a clear score.  "Express" had another three hit game, joined in that category by Chris "Sideshow" Nunn while "Thumbs" and Dave "Illinois" Harris added two apiece.  Much more impressive, however, was the Neshanock's defensive performance, not only playing without a muff for eight innings, but limiting Mudville to three batters in six innings and four in the other two.  Some sloppiness in the top of the ninth plus a few Mudville hits put two tallies across the plate, for a 9-2 Flemington triumph.


Photo by Jonmikel Berry Pardo

With the first day behind them, the Neshanock dispersed for the evening, preparatory to an early 9:30 first pitch on Sunday morning against the Essex Club.  The Essex Club is the travel team for the Essex Base Ball Organization and, in my opinion, one of the best vintage teams in the country.  Games against that level of competition are both challenges and opportunities and what happened on Sunday morning was more than worthy of the occasion.  Flemington had another strong defensive performance with only two muffs, which as impressive at was, was bettered by Essex with only one miscue.  That kind of defense usually means a tight low scoring game and this contest was no exception.  Essex used some aggressive base running to score one run in the top of the first which Flemington matched in their half and then added another in the second for a 2-1 lead.  The lead proved short lived when the Massachusetts club tied the game in the third and added one more in the fifth for a 3-2 lead going to the bottom of the sixth.  Now, however, it was the Neshanock's turn and Flemington scored twice in the sixth and added four more in the seventh for what against almost any other opponent would have been an insurmountable 8-3 lead.  No one, however, expected Essex to go quietly and the Bay State contingent scored once in the eighth, added another in the ninth and had runners on base on when Flemington closed out a hard earned 8-5 win.  As noted the Neshanock defense was stellar behind the pitching of Danny "Batman" Shaw with the offense keyed by the hitting of "Sideshow," "Illinois," Doug "Pops" Pendergist, "Thumbs" and Joe "Mick" Murray.



As intense as the Neshanock - Essex game was, and it was plenty intense, the match lasted just a little over an hour so that Flemington had some time to catch their collective breath before the final game against the host Dirigo Club.  It's risky to draw conclusions about a club from just one match, but the local team seems to be ideally built to play the 1864 or bound game which favors strikers who can hit the ball into the gaps between the fielders which the Dirigo players to a man did with great consistency.  In addition, the Maine team played strong defense making only two muffs over the course of the game, all of which suggested another close game, much more so than anyone on the Neshanock bench wanted.  Flemington took leads of 6-3, 9-6 and 11-8, but Dirigo kept chipping away.  Finally in the top of the ninth, the Maine men scored twice and put the tying run on third with two out.  The striker then hit a ball that was deflected by Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw, the Neshnock pitcher, to "Thumbs" at short, whose strong throw into the sure hands of "Illinois'" at first was just in time to secure the Neshanock's fourth win of the festival, insuring a happy, albeit long, ride home.


Photo by New England Base Ball Festival 

In my seven years with the Neshanock, I've had enough experience at festivals and tournaments to know the New England event was a great success by any standard.  Playing on such an historic venue, of a type connected to the game's early history, was great, and the hosts did a wonderful job on both the base ball and non base ball aspects of the event.  All of those involved should be very proud of their efforts.  The Neshanock especially thank Doug "Pops" Pendergist and Ryan "Express" Pindergist who played with us during the four games and were an important part in the Neshanock's hard earned success.  With the four wins, Flemington now stands 12-3 on the season, probably the club's best start ever.  Things don't get any easier, however.  After a well earned weekend off for the July 4th holiday, Flemington visits New Bridge Landing near Hackensack, New Jersey on July 9th to take on the Eckford Club and then its off to Gettysburg for some very challenging match ups.  If you are anywhere near either venue, do yourself a favor and stop by, you won't regret it.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Mustaches, Firemen and Hard Luck in the World's Series

On Saturday, the Neshanock made their third annual visit to South Bound Brook to take part in an event organized by Flemington's own Harry "Cappy" Roberts in support of the local fire company of which "Cappy" is a proud member.  This year Flemington took on a team made up of members of the fire company who worked hard at picking up the differences between today's game and the 1864 version.  The locals played well in the field, but not surprisingly Flemington was in charge throughout on the way to a 15-3 victory.  One of the highlights for the Neshanock (or at least for one member) came before the game even started, during the inaugural "Mr. Mustache" competition which was won by our own Dave "Illinois" Harris.  The accomplishment, which "Illinois" assured me came amidst very heavy competition, led to a number of suggestions for a new nickname for the veteran Neshanock first baseman, but it sounds like there will be no change in that department.  The match was also graced with the presence of Marjorie Adams, great granddaughter of the legendary, "Doc" Adams of the Knickerbockers who played such an important part in the early development of organized competition.



Sherry Smith in the 1916 Brooklyn Superba uniform

In the match itself, Flemington was led offensively by Danny "Batman" Shaw, Dan "Sledge" Hammer and newcomer Brian "Spoons" LoPinto.  Going into his last time at the striker's line, "Batman" was flirting with his second consecutive clear score only to be turned away on a fly ball to left field, one of his longest hits of the day.  "Sledge" had another multi-hit game and was never retired by the opposition successfully earning his second clear score of the season, after just missing last weekend in the second Elkton match.  "Spoons" playing for the second time with Flemington had three hits and scored all three times.  Flemington again played solid defense behind the combined pitching of "Batman" and Bobby "Melky" Ritter.  Next weekend the Neshanock will head far north for the New England Vintage Base Ball Festival in Cornish, Maine.  A good turnout is expected and everyone is looking forward to the trip with matches on both Saturday and Sunday.  Pictures and details of the matches will be available right here no later than the following Tuesday.


Dave "Illinois" Harris 

In addition to working on the Ebbets biography, I have been finalizing my contributions to some other projects.  For one of them, I've been looking at contemporary newspaper accounts of the 1919 World's Series, (that's how it was spelled in those days) looking specifically at how sportswriters who didn't know the fix was in, accounted for the questionable play of the White Sox.  One interesting pattern was how some writers claimed that two of Chicago's pitchers and co-conspirators, Ed Cicotte and Claude Williams were hard luck losers.  In Cicotte's case it was due to losing a game where all the Red's runs were scored in one inning while for Williams it was because he allowed only four hits in each of his first two starts and still lost both times.  Of course, after almost a century of 20-20 hindsight, we know hard luck had nothing to do with it, but it was interesting that some writers actually considered the two to be among the hardest luck pitchers in the first two decades of the World's Series.  Thinking about that while working on the 1920 fall classic for the Ebbets biography made me think of a far better candidate for the pitcher with that dubious distinction, both before and since, one Sherrod "Sherry" Smith of the Brooklyn Dodgers, a player probably unknown to most.  This opinion is based not on a scientific study, in fact it's not based on any study at all, but just knowing about Smith's misfortunes in the 1916 and 1920 fall classic makes it hard to believe anyone got less support from his teammates.



After pitching briefly for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1911 and 1912, the left handed Smith joined Brooklyn for the 1915 season winning 14 games both in his initial season and in the pennant winning 1916 campaign.  Winning the pennant in 1916 brought Brooklyn into the World's Series against the defending champion and heavy favorite Boston Red Sox.  After losing a tough 6-5 decision to Boston in the first game, the two teams took a mandatory Sabbath break before the second game on October 9th.  On the mound for Boston was a young left handed pitcher named Babe Ruth, making his first World's Series start.  Most writers thought Brooklyn manager Wilbert Robinson would counter with Larry Cheney or Jack Coombs, but supposedly because of the cloudy, overcast weather, the Brooklyn manager opted for Smith believing or hoping his fast ball would be more effective in the almost twilight like conditions.


Hi Myers of Brooklyn homering off of Babe Ruth in Game 2 of the 1916 World's Series

After Ruth retired the first two batters in the first, Brooklyn center fielder Hi Myers hit one that got in between Harry Hooper and Tilly Walker rolling all the way to the wall in spacious Braves Field, allowing Myers to circle the basis and give Smith a 1-0 lead.  The Red Sox's home games during the series were played at Braves Field because of the greater seating capacity.  Interestingly, the supposedly money obsessed Charles Ebbets was urged to make a similar arrangement for the Polo Grounds, but declined.  The 1-0 lead lasted until the third when Boston matched the Brooklyn tally aided and abetted by some sloppy fielding by the Superbas second baseman George Cutshaw.   That was all the scoring in regulation although Boston threatened in the ninth, putting 1st and 3rd with none out, only to be denied when Myers again played the hero, throwing out Hugh Janvrin at the plate attempting to score on a sacrifice fly.


Hi Myers throws out Hugh Janvrin at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning to save the game, for the moment.

As a result the game headed to extra innings with neither team able to score as the game went into the bottom of the 14th.  By this point even though the game had taken less than three hours, it was getting dark and this would clearly be the last inning.  Since a tie game would be replayed the next day, all those who had checked out of their hotels preparatory to an overnight train trip to New York were getting more than a little nervous.  Fortunately for them, but not for Smith and Brooklyn, Boston pushed across the winning run in what is still tied for the longest series games in terms of innings played, but took only 2 hours and 32 minutes.  All Smith had to show for his day's work was a loss even though he pitched 14 innings against the best team in baseball, allowing only seven hits and two runs while striking out Babe Ruth twice.  It has to be one of the hard luck losses of all time, but Smith was just getting warmed up in that regard.


Brooklyn Daily Eagle - October 10, 1916

Fast forward to 1920 when Brooklyn again won the National League pennant with Smith winning 11 games with an ERA of 1.85.  1920 was the second of three consecutive World's Series which were best of nine affairs.  After the teams split the first two games in Brooklyn, Smith took the mound for the third contest at Ebbets Field.  After his 1916 experience, Smith probably felt he had to pitch a shut out to win, a feeling strengthened earlier that season when he pitched 19 innings against Boston and lost 2-1.  Smith didn't quite get a shut out against the opposing Indians, but he did limit the American League champion to three hits and one unearned run, just good enough to win when his teammates produced two runs, both in the very first inning.  At that point, Cleveland manager Tris Speaker pulled his starting pitcher, Ray Caldwell, replacing him with Duster Mails who held Brooklyn scoreless for the next 6 2/3 innings which should have been a warning to Smith and his teammates.  At least, however, the Brooklyn left hander had one series win to his credit.


A crucial double play in Smith's only World's Series victory - Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 8, 1920 

The scene then shifted to Cleveland where the Indians won the next two games to take a 3-2 series lead.  The second of those two Brooklyn losses, the fifth game, is the one game of the 1920 series that most people know about since it saw two World's Series firsts, the first grand slam home run and the first, and thus far only, unassisted triple play by Cleveland second baseman, Bill Wambsganess.  However, Cleveland still needed two more wins and a Brooklyn win in game six would have tied the series and insured a return to Brooklyn.  So in this crucial spot, Sherry Smith more than rose to the occasion, allowing only one run even though according to Tom Rice of the Eagle, Smith's "fadaway was not dropping properly."  Smith was opposed by Duster Mails who in spite of a good year in 1920 had a remarkably mediocre major league career, but on this day shut Brooklyn out only three hits, thereby allowing Brooklyn no runs in 15 2/3's World's Series innings.   To make things even more frustrating for Charles Ebbets and Wilbert Robinson, they had released Mails after two ineffective seasons with Brooklyn.  But that was nothing compared to the frustration that Smith must have felt when he looked back on his three World's Series appearances.  The Brooklyn left pitcher had pitched 31 innings in the fall classic, allowing three earned runs for a .87 ERA, but had only one win to show for it because his teammates only scored three times..  Bad enough that once was against baseball's greatest player in Babe Ruth, but Duster Mails?  Talk about hard luck!


Sunday, June 12, 2016

History Repeats Itself, Except When It Doesn't


Photo by Mark Granieri

In a post a few weeks ago, I mentioned one of the ways that history repeats itself, at least in terms of vintage base ball compared to the original.  The issue was the importance then, and now, of who shows up for a match.  In discussing the 19th century, I used the example of how when the Eureka Base Ball Club of Newark finally defeated the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn, four of their best players didn't make it because of work commitments.  This week the Eureka feature in another example of historical repetition, in this case as the 19th century example of how some teams have opponents they just can't seem to defeat no matter how hard they try (or perhaps because of how hard they try.  For the Eureka that was the self-same Atlantics, a club, the premier New Jersey team of the 1860's managed to defeat just once suffering some especially heart breaking losses along the way.  In 1865 for example, the Eureka suffered two one run losses to the defending champion Atlantics, first when a ninth inning rally fell one run short and another where they couldn't hold a five run lead against the Brooklyn club.


Eureka Base Ball Club of Newark - Collections of the New Jersey Historical Society

The Neshanock, who no one would or should confuse with the Eureka, have more than one opponent in that category, but the Elkton Eclipse, Saturday's foe at the Howell Living History Farm near Lambertville, New Jersey, is right up at the top of the list.  This is my seventh season scoring for the Neshanock and never once has Flemington prevailed over the Maryland team, one of the country's consistently best vintage clubs.  Initially the losses were seldom close, but in recent years its gotten even more frustrating because of close games that always seem to come out the wrong way, at least from the Neshanock's point of view.  A 12 inning loss in the Philadelphia Navy Yard Classic a few years ago, after Flemington led going to the bottom of the ninth is just one example.  Hope springs eternal, of course, and the Neshanock had a strong line up for today's two games, a nine inning affair followed by a seven inning game both under 1864 rules.



Tom "Schoolboy" Duffy (left) and Scott "Snuffy" Hengst - photo by Mark Granieri

Elkton struck quickly in the top of the first, tallying twice, but the Neshanock quickly countered with three in their half and after four innings, it was a close game with Elkton up 4-3.   In the top of the fifth, however, came one of those innings that always seems to doom Flemington against Elkton, when Neshanock muffs, effectively gave the Eclipse six outs opening the door for four runs for the Maryland club and an 8-3 lead.   Flemington also did nothing to help its own cause when on two separate occasions, the Neshanock had men on second and third, but failed to score.  The Neshanock did have one rally left in them, however, scoring four times in the bottom of the eighth to trail by only one heading into the last inning.  Considering how things have gone in these games, it shouldn't have been surprising that with two out, Elkton broke the game open scoring nine times for an 18-8 victory, much closer than it looked and, therefore, no less frustrating for Flemington.  The Elkton attack was led by Steve "Smiles" Pogue and Erik "Dubs" Myers, each with three hits and as per usual the Eclipse played solid defense behind the always entertaining pitching of Tom "Schoolboy" Duffy.  Flemington was led on offense by Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner with three hits and Rene "Mango" Marerro and Jack "Doc" Kitson with two apiece.


Photo by Mark Granieri 

After a break for "Casey at the Bat," sustenance for the inner man and other necessities, the two clubs went at it again, this time with the Neshanock first at the striker's line.  Flemington wasted no time taking charge as consecutive hits by Danny "Batman" Shaw, Dan "Sledge" Hammer, "Thumbs," and "Mango," followed by a two out hit by Joe "Mick" Murray gave the Neshanock four tallies, all the offense, the Neshanock would need.  Flemington added two more in the third on back-to-back doubles by "Batman," "Sledge" and a single by "Thumbs."  Elkton rallied for two in their half of the third, but it was the only time the Eclipse crossed the plate for the match.  Flemington broke the game open with four more in the fifth and shut Elkton out the rest of the way behind the pitching of "Batman" and Bob "Melky" Ritter who added two hits of his own.  "Batman" had a clear score for the match, with "Sledge" only a put out on the bases away from a clear score of his own.  "Thumbs" chipped in four hits while "Mick" and "Jersey" Jim Nunn added two each.  Elkton only managed eight hits in the match, three by "Smiles."  Late in the match,"Schoolboy" was struck by a hard line drive off the bat of "Mango" and everyone on the Neshanock wishes him a speedy recovery.


Photo by Mark Granieri

Why didn't history repeat itself on this occasion. On reflection, there have been common threads in the multiple frustrating losses to Elkton, patterns that were repeated in the first game, such as giving a very good team far too many outs or chances.  That changed in the second game and so did the result, perhaps there is a lesson there about how to avoid the frustrations of the past.  It's perhaps just one instance of how we can learn from history by going deeper inside the result to understand what needs to change so the result itself can be changed.  Perhaps, I'm more conscious of that at the moment, because of thinking about how returning to some better practices of the past, can lead to better results in the present.  This came to mind a few weeks ago, when the New York Mets were in the process of tying a very dubious record for baseball futility.  Over the course of 13 innings, the Mets were the beneficiary of 13 walks, yet managed to score only one run in a 2-1 loss to the White Sox.  This matched only the equally inept offense of the Brooklyn Dodgers who on May 19, 1953, could score only one run in 10 innings again with the benefit of 13 walks, of this more later.


Photo by Mark Granieri

By coincidence, Carol and I were listening to the game on the car radio when the Mets came up in the bottom of the 12th with their 2-3-4 hitters, Ashdrubal Cabrera, Michael Conforto and Neil Walker coming to the plate.  Probably to no one's surprise, Cabrera walked, bringing up Conforto, whose five fruitless appearances at the plate featured four strike outs.  Immediately the conversation between the announcers, Josh Lewin and Howie Rose turned to the possibility of Conforto bunting.  They checked and unsurprisingly found that in over 200 minor and major league games (admittedly a small sample), Conforto had never attempted a bunt even once.  Lewin then went on to speculate that it was probably unlikely that the Met outfielder had ever been asked to bunt in either high school or college.   Naturally, of course, no one was going to go against history in that situation so, equally naturally, Conforto hit into a double play and the Mets went on to lose the game in the 13th.




I was more than a little surprised to find that any Brooklyn team from the 1950's shared that dubious mark and even more so that it was the 1953 team.  Although that club gets less attention than the other three of Brooklyn's 1950's pennant winning squads, Dave Anderson, the long time New York Times writer told me in an interview for our Ebbets Field book, that the 1953 team was the best of the bunch and that the players felt the same way.  I also had a long interview with Dodger pitcher Carl Erskine and as I recall (there's that memory thing again), he said the same thing.  The 1953 team won 105 games, hit 208 home runs with a team batting average of .285, but on that May night in 1953, could manage only run in spite of the wildness of Bud Podbielan, the Reds pitcher.   Cincinnati finally won the game in the 10th inning on a Ted Kluszewski home run off of Preacher Roe.  Looking at the play-by-play I found three opportunities where a lead off walk set up a possible bunt scenario.  Only once did a Dodger try to bunt and, ironically, it turned into a double play.



Somehow Bud Podbielan walked 13 Brooklyn Dodgers, but held them to one run in 10 innings

There was, however, another situation, with far more at stake that the Dodgers took a very different approached and it's the one of the reasons, I find what happened or what wasn't tried in the Mets game so frustrating.  On October 4, 1955, the Dodgers and the Yankees played the 7th game of the World Series at Yankee Stadium and after five innings, Brooklyn was clinging to a 1-0 lead as hope built throughout the Dodger faithful that this might finally be next year.  In the top of the sixth, Pee Wee Reese singled bringing up Brooklyn' s number three hitter, Duke Snider, the same Duke Snider who in 1955 hit .309 with 42 home runs and 136 RBI's, the same Duke Snider who had already hit four home runs in the World Series.  Did Snider try to hit one over the short right field fence at Yankee Stadium?  He did not, instead he bunted and when Yankee first baseman made an error, Snider was safe and Brooklyn had first and second with no one out.  That brought up Dodger cleanup hitter, Roy Campanella who was the 1955 National League MVP with a .318, 32 and 107 in the relevant categories.  Did Campy go for the big inning?  He did not, like Snider he bunted, moving both runners up and and a few minutes later, Brooklyn got the badly needed insurance run on Gil Hodges's sacrifice fly.


October 4, 1955 - Next Year arrives in Brooklyn

Think about it, two famous players who earned their way to Cooperstown, in large measure because of their power hitting were not only directed to bunt in the biggest game of their lives, but did so successfully.  What this piece of history suggests to me is that Michael Conforto and countless other players have been ill served throughout their baseball careers by not being expected to learn how to bunt.  And that's not to excuse the players themselves, for all the time they spend playing baseball on their way to the major leagues, why can't they use some that time to develop a skill that can be the difference between winning and defeat.  Some will say that I am advocating "small ball," but frankly I hate that term because it seems to denigrate one part of baseball as being unworthy or to suggest one must choose one strategy over another.  What happened in the climatic game of the 1955 World Series, on baseball's biggest stage reminds us, I believe, that one of the many great things about baseball is the multiple paths to success.  It seems a shame, therefore, to discard one that has made the difference between failure and success before and can do so again.

Monday, May 30, 2016

"His Widow and His Orphan"

The Neshanock's annual Memorial Day visit to Pickering Field in Newtowon, Pennsylvania was rained out, Flemington returns to action on Saturday, June 11th at the Howell Living History Farm in Lambertville, New Jersey against the Elkton Eclipse. 

Back in early April, I was asked to speak about 19th century base ball at the New Jersey State Library in Trenton.  As per usual, I tried to find a few local references in addition to the broader topics of the early game and more specifically its development in New Jersey.  In the process, I remembered some thing I had seen regarding what may have been one of the first enclosed base ball grounds in the state.  The facility was constructed in Trenton, but what was interesting was the reference to its location near the Soldier's Children's Home at Hamilton and Chestnut Avenues.  I was well aware of several soldier's homes in New Jersey built for the aging, ill and impoverished Civil War veterans, but had never seen anything regarding the children (or more properly the orphans) of Union soldiers.  Not surprisingly some Internet searching revealed more information including the finding aid for the facility's records which are housed in the State archives.  Even more detailed information was available in an 1872 report of an investigation of alleged abuses at the facility.


Soldier's Children's Home of New Jersey

Coincidentally and simultaneously with learning about the Soldier's Children's Home, I'm reading Brian Jordan's book, Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War which along with this weekend's observation of Memorial Day, started in 1868 to honor the Union dead, made the home, a timely topic for a blog post.  Jordan's book, based on what seems to be exhaustive research, details the many problems and issues Union soldiers faced when they tried to adjust to living in a civilian society that wanted to put the war behind them.    As it difficult it was for the veterans, and it was difficult, at least they had their own voices and those of others, including some prominent politicians to speak up for them.  The dead, of course, had no voice nor the ability to help those who Lincoln in his second inaugural so eloquently (and concisely) described as "his widow and his orphan."


New Jersey Governor - Joel Parker 

Apparently even before Lincoln spoke those deathless words in early March of 1865, some people in New Jersey were trying to do something for the orphan children of Union soldiers.  According to the historical section of the investigatory report mentioned earlier, in January of 1865, a group of "benevolent ladies," who sadly, with one exception, were unnamed, were in the process of opening a home for these unfortunate children.  While it reportedly worked well, the demand so exceeded the capacity that on March 23, 1865, the Soldier's Children's Home was incorporated to provide a home, support and education for the destitute children of Union soldiers living or dead.  The decision was made to move the home to Trenton and a few weeks later, the state legislature authorized $5,000 for the project.  The group rented a home near Trenton which also was inadequate to meet the need so in July of that year Governor Joel Parker arranged for almost $11,000 donated by the Camden and Amboy Railroad to promote military enlistments be re-directed to this purpose.


Portion of a letter from the Trenton State Gazette, February 20, 1866 urging the establishment of the Soldier's Children's Home

One of the sad things about this story is how little information survives (at least that which is available through the Internet) about these "benevolent ladies," without whom the idea would most likely never have come to fruition.  The original president was a Mrs. A. O. Zabriskie from Jersey City who resigned in November of 1865 and was succeeded by Margaret Dayton of Trenton, who continued as president throughout the home's existence.  Mrs. Dayton was the widow of William Dayton, Republican vice presidential candidate in 1856 and U. S. Ambassador to France, who died in Paris in 1864, according to at least one historian, under somewhat mysterious circumstances.  Internet searches for information about Mrs. Dayton and her three major helpers Mary A. Hall, Mary F. Johnston and Mary G. Abbot, produced almost nothing.  In fact, Mrs. Dayton's 1892 obituary makes no mention of her eleven year long leadership of the home.  Mary Hall, served as treasurer, like Mrs. Dayton for over a decade, while Mary Johnston and Mary Abbott split the secretarial duties.  This tells us little or nothing about them,but their names are included here so that their efforts (mostly without pay) are at least in a small way, not completely forgotten.


General Gershom Mott

Continuing to limp along in a rented house, the organization was home for 40 children at the end of 1865 when a study determined there were almost 1600 orphans and half orphans of Union soldiers in New Jersey under the age of 12, about 300 of whom needed the residential programs offered by the home.  Parker continued to appeal to the legislature in the belief that "New Jersey will never, never repudiate her debt of gratitude to our noble soldiers."  At least on this occasion, the legislature listened, ultimately appropriating $69,000 for the land and buildings as well as providing operating funds for each child.  After an expansion of the original facility, the home could accommodate 300 children, although occupancy never exceeded 250 at one time,  Since the total population was limited and the children would ultimately become adults, operating funds were provide for a ten year program.  When the funding ran out in March of 1876, there were still 75 children in the home, but the managers were able to place all of them in a "suitable situation."  All told, the home providing housing and care for some 300 children and when the home closed, the building reverted to the state and in 1882 became the "New Jersey Institute for the Deaf and Dumb."



William McDaniels Grave - Cold Harbor National Cemetery, Virginia 

The exact origin of the complains of abuse, neglect and mismanagement wasn't clear from what I found, but when they learned of them, Mrs. Dayton and her associates wisely asked Governor Parker to appoint an independent committee to investigate.  He did so and named three men with impeccable credentials, Civil War General Gershom Mott, newspaper editor, Charles Deshler and Charles Elmer, a highly respected lawyer.  During the war Deshler served as New Jersey's state agent in the west, traveling to Union hospitals to visit some 275 hospitalized soldiers in Tennessee and Kentucky over a two month period.  The committee's report, which is available online, probably not surprisingly,  found some things which needed correction, but rejected the allegations while offering high praise for the institution and the women who made it possible.


Abraham Snyder's Grave - Andersonville National Cemetery

As valuable as all of this information may be, it's impossible to get a full sense of the story without trying to put a human face on the people involved.  The finding aid in the state archives included about 15 or so names of both the child and the veteran and from that small sample, three stories were available in pension files.  At least one child of Abraham Snyder from Hainesburg in Warren County lived in the home after his/her father, a member of the 35th New Jersey died of disease in Andersonville Prison.  Snyder's death in the service of his country, left his widow, Susan with five children under the age of ten and it's not surprising she needed help with at least one of them.  Less clear is the story of Peter Dorus, an African-American man from Hillsborough in Somerset County, who also with five children, enlisted in the 127th Regiment of U.S. Colored Troops and died of disease in route to a hospital in Virginia.  Little information about the family could be found, but it appears his widow, Martha, couldn't keep the family together and placed one child, Frances in the home.  Leaving only one child was William McDaniels from Bordentown (12th New Jersey), but one who was especially vulnerable since it appears his mother known as "Railroad Mag," used her pension money to support a scandalous life style, while abandoning her son, William to the home.


Peter Dorus's grave - Fort Harrison National Cemetery, Virginia

There are doubtless far more stories in the records in the state archives that would make a worthy project for a Civil War researcher or New Jersey historian.  But on Memorial Day 2016, I hope this post helps us to remember the story of  a time when elected officials and dedicated volunteers came together to honor in a very real way those who "gave their lives that that nation might live." As the investigating committee noted, "It is impossible, not to look with profound sympathy upon the two hundred fatherless and motherless children."  Thanks to Margaret Dayton and the three Marys, plus countless unnamed others, the people of that time backed up their sympathy in a real and tangible manner.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Neshanock Get Stopped and Edward "The Only" Nolan Keeps Going


Morning Call - May 19, 1913

Throughout its almost decade long existence, the Eureka Base Ball Club of Newark played some tough, competitive matches with the Brooklyn Atlantics, but on only one occasion, in 1866, did New Jersey's premier pre-professional club emerge triumphant.  For that one game, at least, the Eureka were clearly the better team, routing the Atlantics 36-10, most likely taking out some of the frustration from two heart breaking one run losses a year earlier.  Surprisingly, although the game was very one sided, reportedly three members of the Newark team's first nine were absent because they were "detained by business."  That illustrates one of the realities of the period, even at the higher levels of competition - who showed up was both important and uncertain.  As I've noted before, it's at least one aspect of 19th century base ball that is repeated in the vintage game, player attendance can vary from game to game and makes a huge difference.  The Flemington Neshanock gave that reality a new twist on Sunday when six of the eight players who made their way to Goffle Brook Park in Hawthorne were over 50 years of age.  It's safe to say that never happened in the 1860's.


Photo by Mark Granieri

Age brings certain benefits in experience (or at least I hope it does), but speed, athleticism and a half a dozen or so other things tend to suffer.   Such was the case today when the Neshanock took on the Gotham Club of New York City, far too good a team to play at such a disadvantage.  To their credit, Flemington kept both games close, but the Gothams ultimately broke both contests open for relatively easy wins.  In the first match, the Neshanock were down only 7-5 after six innings, but the Gothams tallied three times in both the eighth and nine innings for a a 14-5 victory.  One of the bright spots for Flemington was the return of Bob "Melky" Ritter  who after working four innings last weekend, pitched both games today just about a year or so after a double hip replacement.  "Melky" also contributed three hits, leading the offense along with Dave "Illinois" Harris also with three and Ken "Tumbles" Mandel with two.  Unfortunately Flemington left 12 men on base including runners on third with less than two out in two consecutive innings, hardly the way to beat a team like the Gothams.  The second contest was basically a mirror of the first with the Gotham prevailing by a 10-4 count in a game shortened by mutual agreement to seven innings.  Flemington had fewer opportunities to score in the second contest, but did get two hits apiece from "Melky," Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner and Mark "Gaslight" Granieri.  With the twin losses, Flemington is now 6-2 on the season, heading into its annual Memorial Day visit to Newtown, Pennsylvania to take on the Newtown Strakes.



Driving to the matches in Hawthorne takes one through Paterson, which looks even more different today than one might expect from the city depicted on the above map.  Most of 19th century Paterson was destroyed by the great fire of 1902, one of the worst urban conflagrations in American history, with property damage reported at $6 million including City Hall, the library and its 37,000 volumes and most of the business district.  Working as a policeman at the time of the fire, was former major league pitcher, Edward "The Only" Nolan who played for the Olympic Club of Paterson before turning professional.  As noted in an earlier post, the re-creation of the Olympic Club in 1874 coincided with Nolan's emergence as a more than above average base ball talent. An injury to the club's original pitcher, gave the young player an opening and he never looked back, working as the club's primary pitcher for almost every other game that season.  It was also Nolan's first experience with  public scrutiny including an unexplained story of temporarily leaving the club and then returning.


Photo by Mark Granieri

Nolan's ability was such that it was only a question of time before he moved on to a bigger stage, but the fortuitous timing of being part of the Olympic team just as that club again became prominent in New Jersey base ball circles, at the very least, facilitated his progress.  If Nolan thought his 1874 performances had been forgotten, he was quickly disabused of that notion on April 30, 1875 when a crowd reported at 500 gathered to watch not the season opener, but merely a practice game featuring his pitching.  The crowd apparently got what they wanted as the Paterson Daily Press reported the crowd "manifested considerable enthusiasm" at Nolan's superb pitching, especially now that he had "adopted the underhanded style declared to be indispensable."  Not surprisingly considering the club's record the prior year, the 1875 version of the Olympics got off to a quick start winning their first six games in May behind Nolan's pitching.


Photo by Mark Granieri

However, the Olympics didn't fare quite so well on the scoreboard over the next six weeks, but that was due in large measure to a significant upgrade in the quality of their opponents.  Paterson's proximity to New York City also aided Nolan's development as it gave him the opportunity to pitch against professional clubs, specifically three teams from the National Association.  Then in its fifth and final season, the National Association was the country's first "national" professional league although its records are not recognized by Major League Baseball.  Since it was a relatively short trip from New York to Paterson, three different Association clubs visited the city for exhibition games against the Olympics.  None of the three were anywhere near the top of the lopsided National Association with two, the Atlantics of Brooklyn and the New Haven Elm City's failing to finish the season.  The Atlantics were such a shadow of their formal selves that the club could manage only two wins in their league schedule against a mind boggling 42 losses with the New Haven Club not a whole lot better at 7-40.


Long time major league pitcher, Patersonian Jim McCormick

In spite of the abysmal records,however, these were still professional clubs, who played at a much higher level than anything Nolan had ever experienced.  It was probably a surprise, therefore, to the Brooklyn club when they managed only three hits and one unearned run against the young Paterson pitcher which proved to be enough since the Olympics were unable to score.   About a month later on July 2nd, the third Association club, the New York Mutuals arrived in Paterson reportedly short handed especially with the absence of first baseman Joe Start.  Although not a first division Association club, the Mutuals had a far better overall record than the other two, admittedly something not that difficult to achieve.  The Mutuals were apparently accompanied by a reporter from the New York Clipper, most likely not Henry Chadwick since he described Paterson as being "noted for locomotives, silk and factory girls," (if it was the Father of Base Ball, then for shame).   Once again the professionals won, but were limited to five runs by Nolan, only one of which was earned.  The writer did criticize Nolan for copying Bobby Matthews, the Mutuals pitcher in "wasting the first ball by throwing it over the striker's head,"  which shows the teenage pitcher was paying attention.  In the end the Mutuals supposedly "congratulated themselves on winning by a score of 5 to 2."


Bobby Matthews - pitched for the New York Mutuals against Nolan, July 2, 1875

The loss was actually the second in two days as the prior day had seen the Olympics fall to the Trenton Club by an 8-2 count where the Paterson Daily Guardian, claimed the game would have been a rout were not for "Nolan's swift pitching."  If they didn't already know it, the game introduced Nolan and his teammates to the reality that there were some fine amateur clubs in New Jersey.   A decision by the club's leaders to play a state wide schedule also introduced Nolan and his teammates to the challenges of playing on the road.  Previously away matches had been close enough to be made in one day, albeit long days, but in August the club ventured to the state capital in Trenton as well as far south as Burlington.  On August 7th, in a game against Trenton, Nolan learned something about adversity.  For the first six innings, the young pitcher had shut out what was supposedly a strong Trenton team with the Olympics leading 3-0 going to the top of the seventh.  With one out, two dropped third strikes prolonged the inning and according to the Daily Press Nolan "suddenly seemed to be affected by the heat and to give out" allowing 17 runs over the next three innings (abetted by four errors) for an embarrassing 17-3 defeat.


Hall of Famer and one time Olympic of Paterson - Mike "King" Kelly" 

While the club and Nolan rebounded from the loss, it wasn't his only painful experience of the season as in late September, the Olympic pitcher received his first significant media criticism.  Apparently Nolan didn't pitch in a match because of some kind of  hand injury, but did play second base, leading the Daily Guardian to question why "Nolan should be able to play second base and handle hot grounders, after pretending to be too severely injured to pitch."  Speaking probably as someone with limited playing experience, the writer felt that it was "more damaging to play at second than merely pitch the ball."  Nolan had not, however, lost his popularity with the female set since at an early September match, he was "resplendent" in a blue silk base ball suit "suitably adorned and inscribed at the belt with word "Olympic,'" reportedly a "gift of the popular pitcher's admiring lady friends."


New York Herald - October 5, 1875 - appears to show Nolan, "King" Kelly and Jim McCormick, all future major leaguers playing in the same game for the Olympic Club of Paterson 

Certainly in the end, no one in Paterson, even a cranky newspaper reporter had any reason to complain about the Olympic's 1875 performance.  According to the New York Clipper, the New Jersey State Amateur Athletic Association named the Paterson club the amateur champion of the state.  While the overall 26-15 record might not have seemed that impressive, after subtracting the games with professionals, the team finished with an overall 26-10 mark.  The last game for which I've seen a box score with Nolan pitching for the Olympics was from a 13-5 October 4th win over the Reliance Club of Brooklyn.  The account in the next day's New York Herald noted that both clubs were short three regulars so that "the play was not up to the standards of either club."  However, two of the substitutes for the Olympics were Kelley and McCormac, most likely Mike "King" Kelly and Jim McCormick who would go on to even more distinguished major league careers than Nolan.  Like the precocious pitcher, their play for the Olympics would help prepare them for the bigger and better days ahead.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Familiar Faces at the Fair

On Saturday, the Neshanock participated in the Spirit of the Jerseys State History Fair at Monmouth Battlefield State Park.  Since I was unable to attend, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri not only played and took his usual fine photos, but kindly filled in as guest blogger.  Thanks to "Gaslight" for making sure the Neshanock's international fan base can stay current with the club's latest exploits.



Fair Demonstration

This weekend the Neshanock along with the Hoboken Nine Vintage BBC and Monmouth Furnace BBC (formerly known as the Bog Iron Boys) appeared at the “Spirit of the Jerseys” NJ State History Fair held at Monmouth Battlefield State Park in Manalapan NJ. Visitors were able to experience NJ history from over 140 organizations which included military drills, historical characters, war era music, vintage automobiles (including the Trenton produced Mercer) and of course 19th Century Base Ball.



Flemington Neshanock

In the first game, Flemington faced Hoboken who has been troublesome to the Neshanock in the recent past. The first familiar face of the day was from Bob “Melky” Ritter who returned to the mound as starter after a lengthily absence. “Melky “showed some initial rust by giving up 2 runs in the first inning but blanked Hoboken over the next three while Flemington built a 14-2 lead. “Melky” was followed by a parade of pitchers which included Rene “Mango” Marrero, Joe “Mick” Murray and Dave “Illinois” Harris as the Neshanock won their 6th of the year without a loss by a final tally of 19-7.



Bob “Melky” Ritter

On the offensive end, the Neshanock were led by Dan “Sledge” Hammer, Chris “Lowball” Lowry and “Illinois” each totaling 4 hits apiece. Defensively the quick thinking of 2nd basemen Ken “Tumbles” Mandel helped to produce a triple play and stop a rally cold in the 2nd inning. The Hoboken striker popped to “Tumbles” with runners on first and second. To start the odyssey, “Tumbles” instinctively dropped the ball which was followed by a quick flip to shortstop Tom “Thumbs” Hoepfner . “Thumbs” tagged the runner at 2nd for the first out, then stepped on 2nd base for the second out and relayed the sphere to 1st base for the final out. This play is possible by the absence of an infield fly rule in 1864. However when executed, it always seems to creates confusion and consternation for your opponent.



Flemington vs Hoboken

The 2nd match saw Hoboken take on the Monmouth while the Neshanock watched the game or roamed through the Fair. Hoboken took the contest by a score of 23-4.The 3rd and final match was cancelled as the lure of the homestead proved too strong for a majority of the ballists. Both games were ably officiated by Sam "It ain't nothin' 'til I say" Bernstein whose objective calls were complimented by all clubs in attendance.



Monmouth Furnace Base Ball Club

A second familiar face spotted at the Fair was Neshanock alumni Ron “Bones” Colgona who is now part of the NJ Frontier Guard. “Bones” held to his guard duties and did not play with the Neshanock so he was not able to build upon his impressive lifetime statistics. “Bones” will always be a team and crowd favorite and someday soon we hope he considers a return to the Manly Pastime.




Ron “Bones” Cologna

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Neshanock Keep Going and Edward "The Only" Nolan Gets Started

Saturday, the Flemington Neshanock visited Nutley, New Jersey for their fifth match of the young season still undefeated due to both manly play along with helpful assistance in the form of some strategic rain outs.  The match in Nutley, played at a very attractive venue in Yanticaw Park, was the second annual base ball classic hosted by the Kingsland Manor, an historic site in that north Jersey community.  The opposition was once again provided by the Nutley Colonels, a local club put together for the event.  A year ago, the Colonels proved that all muffins aren't created equal, playing excellent defense while dropping a low scoring 5-2 match to the Neshanock.  This year's event proved to be very different due primarily to the presence of almost all of Flemington's heavy hitters.  Vintage base ball doesn't always accurately recreate the 19th century game, but one definite similarity is the importance of who shows up.


Photo by Mark Granieri

Striking first, the Neshanock scored four tallies and proceeded to hold off the local club to lead 5-1 after three innings in what looked like something of a repeat from a year ago.  In the next two innings, however, Flemington tallied 11 times to break the game open on the way to a 19-8 win.  Although the Colonels didn't come as close as in 2015, they again made some good defensive plays and clearly work hard at understanding and playing the 19th century game.  Flemington was led on offense by Dan "Sledge" Hammer with five hits (one at bat short of a clear score) followed close behind by Danny "Batman" Shaw and Gregg "Burner" Wiseburn with four apiece.  Not far after this trio of Neshanock, were Rene "Mango" Marrerro, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri and Joe "Mick" Murray each with three hits.  Other than two walks, which Henry Chadwick considered errors on the pitcher, the Neshanock made only one muff over the course of the match. All told it was another solid effort for Flemington which goes into next Saturday's New Jersey history fair at 5-0, the club's best start in roughly 150 years.


Photo by Mark Granieri


Last week before the Neshanock's annual visit to Ringwood State Park was rained out, I tried looking in more detail at the Hewitt Club, an early Ringwood base ball team which was playing by at least 1874.  The club is mentioned in two articles in the Paterson Daily Press that amazingly lists the players' full names which should, at least theoretically, have made it easier to identify them.  However, searching the 1870 and 1880 census led to only two positive identifications so there wasn't much to go on.  Looking at the article a little closer, however, I realized something more interesting, the Hewitts played against one of New Jersey's most important 19th century teams, the Olympic Club of Paterson, a team I wrote about in Baseball Founders.  The Olympics were organized in 1864 and quickly became very competitive with an especially notable September 1866 upset of the Irvington Club, the same year that upstart team from the outskirts of Newark defeated the defending champion Atlantic Club of Brooklyn.  The Olympic win gave the Paterson men more than a little revenge since earlier in the season they had been embarrassed and then some in a 77-6 humiliation by the Irvingtons.


Edward "The Only" Nolan

As in most of New Jersey, the immediate post Civil War period saw base ball activity grow in Paterson, including what might be termed the 19th century equivalent of vintage base ball when a number of teams were organized to play a form of the "old-fashioned" game.  This burst of activity came to an abrupt halt, however, as in 1869 the Daily Press noted that both base ball and cricket had been played to such a degree of excess that it caused "a heavy loss to our industries by the negligence of their employees," which led, among other things, to the Olympic Club playing very sporadically, if at all.  Many New Jersey clubs during the 1860's proved short lived and there would be nothing unique about the Olympics, were it not for what happened when the team was revived in 1874.  Not only did this new incarnation prove to be even more competitive than the earlier version, but it also provided important competitive base ball experience for four future major league players including Hall of Famer, Mike "King" Kelly.


Photo by Mark Granieri

The Olympics' 57-18 victory over the Hewitt Club in June of 1874 was actually a prelude to the effort to revive the club with the players reportedly willing "provided they receive pecuniary support to compensate for the time they lose in practicing."  Interest was such that on July 10th, some 50 fans of the "national game" gathered to reorganize the club, hoping to "emulate the glory of its former days."  Less than a week later, the newly reconstituted Olympics played a match with the Franklin Club of Paterson that included a Wally Pippesque moment.  According to the paper, the Olympic pitcher (who was unnamed) "was not present, and Nolan took his place."  The seventeen year old Mr. Nolan ultimately reached the major leagues and took or was given, one of the game's most memorable nicknames - "The Only." While Nolan didn't enjoy tremendous on the field success in the majors, his career certainly had its moments.   Much more about Nolan's post Paterson playing days and his distinctive nickname can be found at John Thorn's Our Game blog at http://ourgame.mlblogs.com/2015/05/18/the-only-nolan/.


Paterson about 1870 - note the offices of the Daily Press

While I haven't yet looked at Nolan's pre-1874 base ball activities , the young pitcher certainly got off to an impressive start with the Olympics, holding the Franklin Club to just five runs while forcing or inducing 11 strikers to go out on foul tips.  After that game Nolan became part of the Olympic's regular starting lineup, although until August it isn't not clear if he was the pitcher.  However on August 6th, the Olympics traveled to Newark to take on the Marion Club at their grounds at the intersection of Orange and 7th Street in the Roseville section of Newark.  It was another dominating performance for the precocious pitcher,  as he allowed only four runs in the Olympic's 24-4 victory, this time getting 16 outs on ground balls to shortstop.  Nolan's success continued later in the month against the Irvings when he also apparently added some theatrics to his repertoire as the Press reported the Olympics pitcher's "antics frequently amused the spectators."  Nolan's "antics," may have been due in part to having to overcome what the Press described as "eleven errors in succession," by second base man Art Fitzgerald.  In spite of his failings on the field, Fitzgerald apparently knew something about the business side of the game since according to his obituary, both "King" Kelly and longtime major league pitcher, Jim McCormick consulted with Fitzgerald early in their careers before signing their contracts.


Photo by Mark Granieri 

Although the team was enjoying a lot of on the field success in 1874, the situation on the Olympics was apparently something less than Camelot as on September 3rd, the paper reported that "Nolan has returned to the Olympics as pitcher," although why he left has not yet been determined.  Apparently his return was just in time for a important inter-city series with the Channel Club.  Doubtless to everyone's surprise, perhaps Nolan most of all, the opposition hit his offerings early and often in a 19-6 drubbing.  While some of this was attributed to the presence of two ringers in the Channel line up, the Press also noted that the other Paterson club had seen Nolan pitch so many times, they had "no difficulty in batting his balls," which went "whizzing every time."  The rematch came in early October with both teams apparently loading up as the Olympics supposedly had three "foreign players," with the Channel Club going one better.  Probably because of the outcome of the first game, Nolan was not the starting pitcher, but it made little difference as the Channels led 10-1 after only four innings.  Things turned around quickly, however, when the young phenom went back to "his old place as pitcher," shutting out the opposition the rest of the way as the Olympics came back for an 11-10 win forcing a decisive third game.


Paterson Daily Press, October 27, 1874


Having dodged what appeared to be sure defeat, the Olympics were not about to fall short of the mark and they won the deciding game by a 17-11 count.   While Nolan was the winning pitcher, it was another part of his game that reportedly most impressed the fans as he "astonished the crowd most by his mode of catching some of those "hot liners," that were sent from the bat at a rate of swiftness almost invisible to the naked eye."  Apparently giving the young ball player, the highest praise he could think of  the writer said his fielding exploits "would have reflected honor on a Japanese juggler."  All of this was impressive enough, but Nolan had apparently so captured the popular imagination in the city that school boys began emulating his pitching motion "by which swift balls are sent in a direct line with that sudden and peculiar underhanded jerk," putting Paterson pedestrians at risk.  It was certainly a very successful season for young Mr. Nolan and another post will take a look at Nolan's second and final season with the Olympics before he moved on to a far bigger stage.