Sunday, July 23, 2017

Heat and Humidity in Hawthorne

After relatively mild temperatures and humidity last weekend in southern Pennsylvania, the Neshanock encountered Gettysburg like conditions much closer to home in Hawthorne, New Jersey, on the outskirts of Paterson.  Making their second New Jersey appearance in three weeks were the New York Mutuals who joined Flemington for what turned out to be a seven inning opening contest, followed by the full nine innings for the second.  The Neshanock got off quickly in the first match, scoring twice in their initial time at the striker's line, but didn't tally in the next two innings and had an uncomfortable 2-1 lead heading to the bottom of the fourth.  Fortunately the Neshanock tallied three times in the fourth and added three more over the course of the game while allowing the Mutuals only one more run for an 8-2 Neshanock win.  While Flemington didn't put up much offense, Rene "Mango" Marrero had three hits, followed by Tom"Thumbs" Hoepfner with two and Chris "Low Ball" Lowry had a clear score, albeit of the "Tumblesque" variety - on base more via errors than hits.

Limited to just eight tallies in the first match, Flemington topped that total in the very first inning of the second game, scoring nine times before the Mutual even got up to bat.  Another six tallies in the top of the fifth gave Flemington a commanding lead on the way to a 20-8 win.  Brian "Spoons" LoPinto contributed five hits from the lead off position, a figure matched by "Thumbs."  Contributing three hits apiece to the Neshanock attack were Dave "Illinois" Harris, Gregg "Burner" Wiseburn, Scott "Snuffy" Hengst and newcomer, Danny "Lefty" Gallagher (welcome "Lefty").  Thanks also to the hot dog vendor who filled in when Flemington was a man short for late stages of the second game, although it did unleash the worst possible combinations of puns and figures of speech.  Notice should also be taken, or so he tells me, of Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw's pitching performance going the distance in both games.  With the wins, Flemington is now 18-7 on the season headed into a match with the Elizabeth Resolutes next Saturday in Washington Valley, New Jersey.

I want to acknowledge a glaring omission in the account of the Neshanock's visit to Gettysburg when in describing the victory over the Monitor Club of Chelsea, Michigan, I failed to mention "Illinois'" clear score.  I understand that "Illinois" fans, who are legion, have appointed a monitor to insure a higher level of future accuracy in the score keeping department.

Exactly when Hawthorne had its first base ball club isn't clear, but unless it flew below the radar of the 19th century media, which is very possible, it wasn't until some time after 1870.  Neighboring Paterson, of course, had clubs far earlier, but the New York game didn't establish itself in Alexander Hamilton's model industrial city as early and firmly as it did in Jersey City and Newark.  Paterson, I believe, was New Jersey's third largest city in 1860, but it had few ball clubs in the antebellum period although one group of the city's first ball players gets credit for imagination for naming their team the Flora Temple Club in honor of a famous race horse of the day.  None of these clubs seemed to have survived the beginning of the Civil War so it was with some pride, if not relief, that the Paterson Daily Register welcomed the formation of not one, but two clubs in July of 1863.  One group quickly dubbed themselves the Paterson Club while the second chose to call themselves the Excelsior Club perhaps in tribute to the numerous Paterson men serving in the Excelsior Brigade founded by the famous, or infamous, Daniel Sickles.  Both clubs were start up operations, but the paper claimed the Excelsiors had "more rugged players" than the Paterson Club who had thus far shown their "greenness." Experienced or not, the paper wished both teams well so long as they didn't play on the Sabbath.

Paterson Daily Register - August 12, 1863

After almost a month of practice, the two clubs played each other in a contest the Daily Register felt was "well worthy of the gallant sons of the Cataract City" (think Great Falls), finding no end of things to praise especially that "Not an angry word was uttered on the grounds, and, what is more honorable, not a drunken man could be seen."  Perhaps the writer had little experience with base ball or was more interested in the deportment of the players and crowd since his claim of "really excellent" play on both sides is more than a little hard to reconcile with a game that lasted almost five hours before it was mercifully stopped by darkness.  At that time the game was in the bottom of the ninth with the Excelsior Club at bat, leading 23-17 lead so not much was lost, but it's hard to understand how a game with that score could have taken five hours to play.  As seen above, the limited box score gives no information about pitching and muffs, but the only explanation that comes to mind is strikers taking a lot of pitches before swinging, especially since this was before the introduction of called balls.

Paterson Daily Register - October 20, 1863

While the paper heaped praise on a number of the participants, one who apparently earned his accolades was one Jimmy Demarest since he moved up to play center field for the Eagle Club of New York about two months later.  Although not one of the most successful clubs on the field, the Eagle Club had a long history and in the early 1850's was, along with the Gothams and Knickerbockers, one of only three teams playing competitive matches. There are multiple New Jersey connections to the Eagle Club which at some point merits more detailed attention.  In addition to Demarest, at least three other Eagle players in the above box score got started in New Jersey, Bixby with the Pioneer Club of Jersey City, Salisbury with the Hoboken team and Shaffer from the Hamilton Club also of Jersey City.  The Hudson County pipeline to the Eagle Club makes sense, especially since the Eagles played and practiced in Hoboken, but the quick transition of a Paterson player is a little more unusual.  The movement of New Jersey players to a New York club, anticipates Paterson's most famous 19th century team, the Olympics which helped four major leaguers including Mike "King" Kelly and Edward "The Only" Nolan get started.  Another interesting thing about the Olympic Club is that 150 years ago, they visited Connecticut to take on four local teams, an experience the Neshanock will re-create in just a few weeks, although not by railroad and steamer.  A contemporary account of the Olympic trip will be posted right before the Neshanock head for the Nutmeg State.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Baseball America

Photo by Tom "Big Bat" Fesolowich

More years ago than I care to remember, the Zinn family was able to purchase tickets for the then annual major league exhibition game played at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown as part of Hall of Fame induction weekend.  The Montreal Expos were one of the two teams and the other might have been the Angels which shows the game itself didn't create any memorable moments, at least for me.  What was, however, so impressive I've never forgotten it, was the atmosphere in Cooperstown that day, the village streets overflowing with people from all walks of life and parts of the country, united by their love of baseball.  The shared passion was best exemplified by three Roman Catholic nuns in full habit, head to toe, each of them topping off their religious garb with a baseball hat and, yes, one of them was appropriately wearing an Angels cap.  The experience moved Carol Zinn, for whom baseball is an acquired taste, to comment that Cooperstown that day was "Baseball America."  It's exactly the same feeling I had this past weekend when the Flemington Neshanock were privileged to once again participate in the Gettysburg National 19th Century Base Ball Festival.  

Photo by Mark Granieri

As they have since the inaugural event back in 2010, the Elkton Eclipse Club of Maryland did their usual fine job of hosting an expanded and enhanced weekend.  This year some 22 clubs from ten different states arrived at the Schroeder's Farm, not far from Confederate Avenue in Gettyburg for two days of base ball and what has also become a vintage base ball reunion.  Just the scheduling alone, arranging for so many teams to play four games over two days on five fields while balancing team travel needs, was a challenge that have would have won a tip of the hat from Charles Ebbets, that master of major league schedule making.  The Eclipse's commitment to maximizing the number of participating teams plays an important part in making this a "Baseball America" experience.  While the Gettysburg event has a narrower focus than the Hall of Fame induction, like that day in New York state, the weekend in southern Pennsylvania also brings together people from a wide range of locations and backgrounds, united by a passion for base ball history and shared values.  Uppermost among those values, as I experienced them, were playing the game the way it should be played, playing to win while maintaining a respectful relationship with the opposition and heartfelt feelings of fellowship once the match was over.

Photo by Mark Granieri

First up for Flemington this year was the Monitor Club of Chelsea, Michigan, a team, if I remember correctly, which has been playing for about seven years and making its first visit to the festival.  After setting the Monitors down without a run in the top of the first, the Neshanock tallied three times in their half, but had a hard time getting anything going offensively in the early innings.  Flemington did add one run in the bottom of the third primarily because of the base running of Chris "Low Ball" Lowry, who after reaching base demonstrated how to advance on productive outs.  Watching "Low Ball" do this, and not for the first time, I can understand how Henry Chadwick, in the early days of competitive base ball, came to put emphasis on a base runner's responsibility to make his own away around the bases.  Fortunately, for the Neshanock, big innings in the fourth and seventh put the game out of reach and gave Flemington their first victory of the weekend.  Offensively, Dave "Illinois" Harris, Chris "Side Show" Nunn and "Low Ball," led the way with three hits apiece while Danny "Lunch Time" Shaw and the Neshanock defense held the Monitor Club at bay.

Photo by Mark Granieri

While the Monitor Club was new to the Festival, the day's second opponent, the Talbot Fair Plays of Maryland were all too well known to the Neshanock.  Just a few weeks earlier at Princeton, the teams split two games with Flemington earning their first victory over one of the country's top vintage clubs in many a year.  Saturday figured to be a tough game and that expectation was more than met.  Although Talbot scored once in the top of the first, outstanding Neshaock defense kept them off the score board for the next four innings led by sparkling plays by Rene "Mango" Marerro and "Illinois."  Flemington scored once in the second and then added two in the fourth led by some fine base running by Dan "Sledge" Hammer.  Although the Neshanock were ahead 3-1 going to the top of the sixth, Talbot finally broke through to tie the match at 3-3 before Flemington untied  it in the bottom of the seventh, taking a 4-3 lead into the eighth.  Talbot had its last four strikers heading to the line in their half of the eighth, but the Fair Plays quickly showed why they are such a good team.  After the first two strikers reached safely on what were clearly intentionally well placed hits, the next batter went to the line with one goal, move the runners up, which was exactly what he did.  With the table thus set, the last batter in the order delivered a clutch hit which put Talbot ahead to stay in what would ultimately be a 9-5 victory.  It was by no means a case of Flemington losing, but rather Talbot rising to the occasion and winning.  The Neshanock attack was led by "Sledge," "Mango," "Low Ball" and "Lunch Time" with two hits apiece.

Picture by Mark Granieri

Spared the early game on both days, the Neshanock arrived on Sunday morning for a match against the Providence Grays on another day of the nicest weather in the festival's history.  The Providence club is somewhat unique in vintage circles as they recreate a major league team of the 1880's that, of course, played the overhand game, but the gentlemen from Rhode Island adapted to the 1860's rules for the festival.  Unlike the rest of the Neshanock's games, this match turned into a hitting contest.  Flemington tallied seven times in the fourth for a 10-4 lead, but Providence quickly answered with four of their own to close within 10-8 and it was 12-9 as Flemington batted in the bottom of the sixth.  With two out, one on and none in, the chances of increasing the margin looked slim until five straight Neshanock strikers delivered two out hits, producing five runs and a 17-9 lead.  Although Providence scored three of their own in the seventh, another big Neshanock inning put the game out of reach in route to a 25-13 Flemington victory, a much closer game than the score indicated.  As might be expected a number of the Neshanock had big games with Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri, "Tumbles " and "Illinois" delivering four hits apiece, with both "Gaslight" and "Tumbles" (yes, "Tumbles") earning clear scores.  

Photo by Mark Granieri

In its fourth and final game of the festival, the Neshanock took on the Walker Tavern Wheels of Brooklyn, Michigan, another first time encounter for Flemington.  The Michigan club's reputation had preceded them and the Neshanock went into the game anticipating a hard struggle which is exactly what they got in another relatively low scoring affair.  After five innings the two clubs were tied at 5-5 in a game that featured some outstanding defense including such impressive catches by "Illinois" of the Neshanock and the Walker third base man that onlookers wondered if the two had pine tar or some other adhesive on their hands.  Flemington managed to score four times in the sixth for a 9-6 lead, but Walker scored twice in the top of the seventh before the Neshanock closed the door.  When Flemington couldn't add any tallies in its half of the seventh, the one run lead looked precarious. but the Michigan team went out in order in the eighth and the Neshanock added three more runs for a 12-8 lead.  Then to, cap off the weekend, Flemington retired the Wheelman, quickly and without incident.  Impressively, after Walker Tavern closed within two with one out in the seventh, Flemington set down the next eight strikers in order.  It was a good win, over a worthy opponent. "Thumbs," "Mango," and "Illinois" each had three hits while "Sledge," Meshack "Shack" Desane and "Gaslight" had two apiece.

Photo by Mark Granieri

After dinner on Saturday night, Carol and I went to the "Songs and Stories of a Civil War Hospital" program at Christ Lutheran Church in the heart of Gettysburg.  This was the sixth time we've attended the program and beforehand I was wondering why we needed to do it again.  Listening, however to stories, some of them no less heart rendering for being heard year after year, I realized the program was an essential part of the weekend because it reminded us what is really important about Gettysburg.  The Elkton Club does a fine job of organizing the event, but one of their most important contributions is their choice of venue.  Like Cooperstown, Gettysburg has no real base ball significance, rather Gettysburg is important because of those "who here gave their lives, that that nation might live."  Elkton has done everything and more to get us to Gettysburg, while there, I believe we all have a responsibility in some way to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice on that hallowed ground.  Attending the Christ Lutheran program is one way to do that.  Another is to visit some part of the battlefield, but perhaps most fitting would be for each club or a representative to visit the national cemetery and to spend a few moments paying their respects in the section where the men from their home state are buried.  It would give even more meaning to what is already a memorable "Baseball America" experience.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Revolution and Evolution

Blake Zimmer helping me score the game "correctly" at Howell Living History Farm - photo by Ben Zimmer

On Saturday, the Neshanock made their annual visit to River Edge, New Jersey for two games at New Bridge Landing, an historic site operated by the Bergen County Historical Society.  The society always does a nice job with this event and as per usual there was a large and enthusiastic crowd in attendance.  The site has revolutionary significance because in November of 1776, the Continental Army crossed the Hackensack River at this point, beginning their "retreat to victory" which ended on Christmas night 1776 in Trenton.  The opposition for two seven inning games was provided by the New York Mutuals and the visitors got off to a quick start scoring seven times in the first two innings to take a 7-2 lead before Flemington started chipping away while tightening up on the defensive end.  In the top of the fifth, the Neshanock finally tied the game and then added another tally for a one run lead headed to the bottom of the inning.  After that, Flemington, for once, did the things the easy way scoring four times each in the sixth and seventh innings for a 16-7 win.  

A key hit in the sixth was delivered by "Jersey" Jim Nunn who drove in two runs with a clutch two out single.  Leading the Neshanock offense was Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner who earned a clear score the hard way, five hits in five times at the striker's line including three doubles and a home run.   Also contributing three hits apiece were Meshack "Shack" Deshane, Dan "Sledge" Hammer, Rene "Mango" Marrero and Bobby "Melky" Ritter with "Melky" also achieving a clear score.  As he did at Princeton in his Neshanock debut, "Shack" also contributed some fine defense plays in both games .  Also noteworthy was Joe "Irish" Colduvell's flawless defense at second base.  The break between matches featured the usual splendiferous rendering of "Casey at the Bat," followed by Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw leading the crowd in a rousing version of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." 

 In the second game, the Neshanock emulated the Mutuals scoring, seven times in the first two innings, quickly taking charge of what would end up as a convincing 16-4 triumph.  Not resting on his laurels was "Thumbs" who earned a second clear score with four hits including another home run, going a perfect nine for nine for the day.  "Sledge" also had four hits while "Mango" and "Hound" added three apiece.  Five other Neshanocks had two hits including Steve "Cuz" Thompson who returned to the Flemington line up after far too long an absence.  After finishing the first contest at the pitcher's line, Dave "Illinois" Harris made an even earlier appearance in the second came, keeping the Mutuals off the bases and making a fine bound catch along the way.  With the two wins, Flemington is now 13-6 on the season, heading into next weekend's Gettysburg National Vintage Base Ball Festival, one of 22 participating teams in what has become one of the country's premier vintage base ball events.  

New York Clipper - January 4, 1860

A few weeks ago I wrote about an article in the January 4, 1860 issue of the New York Clipper where Henry Chadwick proclaimed the "correct" way to keep a box score.  Chadwick illustrated his format with the above example from an 1859 match between the Atlantic and Star Clubs of Brooklyn.  Chadwick continued to use this format for the next three seasons (including 1860), but was clearly willing to let the box score evolve as evidenced by the below format from an 1863 match between the Athletic Club of Philadelphia and the Eureka Club of Newark. Notice the offensive part of the box score remained unchanged and there continues to be no information about the pitcher's performance.  What does change significantly, however, is the defensive section, gone are the two multi-columned charts, replaced by a listing of defensive statistics providing much the same information in a far simpler format.   Furthermore the revised format now includes passed balls and errors, informing the reader not just what the defense did, but also what it didn't do.  While this is still very different from the modern format, this 1863 box score anticipates the structure or order used today - offensive statistics, line score and then defensive information, followed today by pitching statistics.  The difference between the 1859 and 1863 formats is another example of base ball's evolution, albeit off the field, during those early years of the organized game.

New York Clipper - June 27, 1863

Sunday, July 2, 2017

In the Footsteps of the Babe

One especially enjoyable feature of vintage base ball is the opportunity to visit and play games on fields where some of the game's greatest players have performed, fields far from the major leagues.  Back when I was score keeper for the short lived Eureka Club, we traveled all the way to Fleischmanns in the Catskills for a game on a field where the great Honus Wagner once played. And later this year the Neshanock will visit South Orange, New Jersey for the third time, to play where Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig and Monte Irvin among others have performed.   Another such opportunity occurred this past Saturday when in a late addition to the schedule, the Neshanock were invited to Delanco in south Jersey to be part of an event commemorating a July 1, 1924 game when Babe Ruth himself came to town to play in an exhibition game.  Not only did the local fans get a chance to see the Bambino in the flesh, he rewarded them with a home run - something the estimated 5,000 in attendance doubtless never forgot.

Photo by Mark Granieri

The original schedule called for two matches with the first to be played by 1864 rules and the second under 1870 regulations, the major difference being the elimination of fair bound outs.  Opposing the Neshanock was a Picked Nine, captained by Paul Salomone, captain and founder of the Elizabeth Resolutes.  Most of the Picked Nine were muffins, playing vintage base ball for the first time and they acquitted themselves admirably, especially in the field.  After retiring the Picked Nine in their first attempt at the striker's line, Flemington managed four tallies in its first at bats before suffering through another scoring drought, part of which was due to the opposition's defense.  The Neshanock managed two more tallies in the fifth, but was hardly comfortable with a 7-2 lead, heading into the bottom of the seventh.  Fortunately the Neshanock bats woke up as Flemington scored twice in the seventh and six times in the eighth in route to a 15-2 win which was no where near as dominating as the score might have indicated.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Flemington was led at the striker's line by Danny "Lunch Time" Shaw, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri and Dave "Specs" Chamalion with three hits each, including two doubles by "Gaslight."  Adding two hits apiece to the Neshanock attack were Jeff "Duke" Schneider, Joe "Mick" Murray, Bobby "Melky" Ritter and Ken "Tumbles" Mandel.  In addition to his offensive heroics, not to mention taking pictures for the blog, "Gaslight" had 10 put outs on foul tips which I believe ties a previous record.  Also noteworthy on defense was fine, leaping catch by Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner at short stop and a exceptional "dig out" of a low throw by "Specs" at first.  Since the Neshanock were playing, it's no surprise rain made an appearance as well, beginning with a steady down pour in the eighth inning.  Between games another steady rainfall began and it was agreed to call it a day.  Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw did manage to squeeze in "Casey at the Bat," to perhaps the smallest audience yet.  With the win, Flemington is now 11-6 on the season heading into next Saturday's doubleheader against the New York Mutuals at New Bridge Landing in River Edge, New Jersey, a rare north Jersey appearance by the Neshanock.

As noted many times in this blog, historical accuracy is one of the highest priorities (if not the highest) of vintage base ball, but achieving it isn't always that simple since it's not easy to know exactly how the game was played so many years ago.  This season has seen the debut of a Facebook page devoted to the subject with much of the discussion thus far focused on understanding how the umpire carried out his responsibilities.  Occasionally the discussion has gotten somewhat heated, reflecting just how much the participants care about historical accuracy.  If I didn't understand or appreciate the strength of those feelings previously I do now that I've once again witnessed the comments and observations on the anniversary of the June 19, 1846 game at Elysian Fields between the Knickerbockers and the New York Club. In spite of all the work that has been done on the early years of organized base ball and some clear supporting evidence to the contrary, far too many people still give far too much importance to this game.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Let's be clear, the June 19, 1846 game was not by any standard, the first match game, incontrovertible evidence exists that at least three games were played in October of 1845 including at least one at Elysian Fields (some of the evidence can be seen at Some would also argue the 1846 game wasn't even a true match game.  Inaccurate accounts of this game, used to claim an important part for Hoboken and/or New Jersey in base ball history are not only wrong, they obscure the important base ball firsts that did happen our state such as the first African-American club organized in Newark in 1855.  Fortunately for my frustration with all of this, I'm going to have another platform,  besides this blog, to debunk the myths and try to get the story right.  I'm honored to have been asked by the Morven Museum and Gardens in Princeton to be the guest curator for an exhibition on early New Jersey base ball (1855-1880) scheduled to open in July of 2018.  I'm also working on a companion book which will use historical evidence, not myth or legend to tell the story of our state's part in base ball history - stay tuned.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Four Games, Three Teams, Two Venues

When the first pitch of the Neshanock's long base ball weekend was thrown at 11:25 in Princeton on Saturday, Flemington was four games over .500 at 8-4.  By the time the winning tally in the last game crossed the plate in Weatherly, Pennsylvania at 3:18 on Sunday, the Neshanock were still four games over .500 at 10-6, having apparently traveled extensively and labored mightily to finish in the same place they started.  Little could be further from the truth, of course, as the weekend saw two close, dramatic endings and produced no shortage of memorable moments. On Saturday, Flemington took on the Talbot Fair Plays of Maryland, one of the country's top vintage base ball clubs.  Although the game was publicized as an Historical Society of Princeton event, the Neshanock consider our annual visit to Princeton, the Tumbles' anniversary game, this year marking the sixth anniversary of the day Ken "Tumbles" Mandel's first joined the team.  It's safe to say the Neshanock have never been the same.

After winning the coin toss, Flemington elected to bat second, sending Talbot to the striker's line where they quickly scored two tallies.  However, the Neshanock bounced right back scoring four runs of their own to lead 4-2 after one, but Flemington wouldn't score again until the eighth inning.  By that time, Talbot had 14 tallies, due to a combination of some sloppy Neshanock defense which opened the door to timely hitting by Talbot.  Flemington did rally for four tallies in the eighth, but Talbot got two back in the top of the ninth for a convincing 16-8 victory. Talbot's play was marked by solid hitting, especially with two out, and sensational defense particularly on the left side of the infield.  Jeff "Duke" Schneider led the Flemington attack with three hits and would have registered a clear score, but for being thrown out attempting to steal something that proved difficult throughout the day.  Right behind "Duke" in the hit column were Gregg "Burner" Wiseburn, Brian "Spoons" LoPinto, Chris "Low Ball" Lowry and Meshack "Shaq" Desane with two hits each.  "Shaq" was a muffin playing in his first two vintage games and in addition to his two hits, made some impressive plays in the field, hopefully he will become a regular member of the Neshanock.

After a brief break between games, with the once again obligatory "Casey at the Bat," the second contest began, this time with the Neshanock going first to the striker's line and putting two tallies across the plate.  Talbot once again played fine defense, but the Neshanock raised their defensive game several levels and a close contest developed with the score tied 5-5 going to the top of the sixth.  Interestingly, both teams had the top of their orders up in the sixth and Flemington took advantage putting one tally across the plate to lead 6-5.  Talbot's lead off batter hit a blistering bullet towards third which "Burner" grabbed in a sensational stop, followed by an equally impressive throw to retire the striker, leading the way to setting Talbot down in order.  Flemington added two more runs and led 8-6 going to the bottom of the eighth, but Talbot tied the game with the tying tally scoring on a close play at the plate.   Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner got Flemington stared with a single in the ninth and then scored the go ahead run on "Burner's" double.

No one on the Neshanock bench thought Talbot would go quietly and they put the tying run on third and the winning run on second with two out.  The next Talbot striker beat out a ground ball to third, but when the runner on third tried to score, "Tumbles" appropriately celebrated his anniversary game by throwing the Talbot runner out the plate, assisted by the block and tag by Scott "Snuffy" Hengst.   "Duke" once again got three hits and this time managed to avoid being put out for a clear score, no mean feat against the Talbot defense.  "Thumbs" and "Burner" also had three hits apiece, followed by Dave "Specs" Chamalion with two, all important offensive contributions. However "Tumbles" game saving throw was the day's most memorable moment, at least in the Mandel household.  After an exciting day at Princeton, the Neshanock headed home to prepare for the second half of this long base ball weekend, two games at the Eckley Miners Museum in Weatherly, Pennsylvania.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Located in eastern Pennsylvania, about 2 1/2 hours west of New York City, the Eckley Miners' Village provided housing and other services for coal miners beginning in 1854 through some point before World War II.  Of special note, in 1969 the village was used to film The Molly Maguires.  There wasn't time for a detailed look around, but just the general appearance of the buildings and the location confirmed how difficult life must have been for the miners and their families and that's without even seeing the coal mines themselves.  Sunday's games were the second half of a two day vintage base ball event at the museum with the Keystone Club of Harrisburg playing both days, Saturday against the Brandywine Club and Sunday against Flemington.  After setting Harrisburg down without a tally in the first inning, the Neshanock offense exploded scoring 18 tallies in the first three innings for an insurmountable 18-2 lead.  However, Flemington managed only three more tallies the rest of the game which wasn't a good omen for the second match.  Dave "Illinois" Harris led the Neshanock attack with four hits, followed by Chris "Low Ball" Lowry with three and the well rested duo of Danny "Lunch Time" Shaw and Mark "Gaslight" Granieri with two apiece.

Photo by Mark Granieri

As per usual, the intent was to take a brief break between games, allowing for some rest, food and water, and, of course, "Casey at the Bat," but on Sunday, the break lasted almost an hour because of rain that wasn't predicted or anticipated.  Rain, however, has been a good omen for the Neshanock in 2017 perhaps offsetting the dramatic drop in offensive production in the latter stages of the first game.  Such proved not to be the case, however, and two statistics dramatically illustrate the significant difference in the two games.  While in the first contest, the Keystone club made nine muffs, they played almost flawless defense in the second game with only one miscue.  On the Neshanock end, Flemington left ten men on base in the second contest compared to only five in the first game, interestingly every Neshanock was left on base at least once. Both statistics were bad news for Flemington in a game where every tally mattered.  Even with lower offensive production, however, the Neshanock still led until the sixth when the Keystones tied the match at 7-7 and then took a 9-8 lead as Flemington came to bat in the top of the ninth.

Photo by Mark Granieri

With the Neshanock down to their final out, Jeff "Duke" Schneider drove in "Tumbles" with the tying run and stole second to put himself in place to score on a Neshanock hit which was promptly delivered by "Lunch Meat."  However when "Duke" tried to score the go ahead run (unwisely urged on by the Neshanock bench, especially me), he was out by several miles.  Although Harrisburg got the winning run to third in the bottom of the inning, Flemington survived and the game headed to extra innings, something neither club, having played four games in two days, really needed.  After Flemington went down in order in the top of the tenth, the Keystone Club again got the winning run to third, this time with no one out.  The Neshanock managed to retire the next two strikers, but had no such luck with the final hitter of a long weekend who drove in the winning run, sending the teams home having divided the day's festivities.  "Lunch Time" led the Flemington attack with four hits, followed by "Duke" and "Tumbles" with three each, but it wasn't quite enough to beat the Keystones a second time.  The Harrisburg Club has a fine team who plays the game the way it should be played and it's always a pleasure to meet them on the ball field.  Now 10-6 on the season, the Neshanock will visit Delanco, New Jersey next Saturday for two games with the Elizabeth Resolutes.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Sunday, June 18, 2017

"A Correct Score of a Base Ball Match"

As the Neshanock headed south by various routes on their way to the City of Brotherly Love and a Saturday match up with the Athletic Club of Philadelphia, the rain came, a good omen for Flemington so far this season.  The presence of "Neshanock weather," notwithstanding, however, the Athletics got off to a quick start in the first match, leading 4-1 after three innings and 4-2 after five.  In their half of the sixth, however, Flemington got things going offensively, scoring four times for a 6-4 lead.  The Athletics got one back, to trail only 6-5 heading to the bottom of the eighth at which point a five run Flemington rally, put the game out of reach for a hard fought 11-5 win which was far closer than the score indicated.  The Neshanock attack was led by Dan "Sledge" Hammer, who not only had a clear score in four trips to the striker's line, but also hit a home run and a triple, falling only a double short of the cycle.  Backing up "Sledge" were Rene "Mango" Marrero and Joe "Mick" Murray with two hits each.

Photo by Jeff Schneider

After a brief break, this time without the usually obligatory "Casey at the Bat," the Neshanock got started early scoring five times in the first, adding three more in both the second and third to lead 11-2, coasting thereafter to an 15-4 win.  Flemington had a second clear score in the second game, this time from Chris "Low Ball" Lowry with four hits, followed by Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner, Danny "Lunch Time" Shaw, Scott "Snuffy" Hengst and "Mango" with three each.  Also of note was Adam "the Vic" Schneider who got his first two vintage base ball hits while also handling two chances in the field.  With the two wins, the Neshanock improve to 8-4 for the season heading into a busy weekend with two matches at Princeton on Saturday against the Talbot Fair Plays and then on Sunday at the Eckley Mine Museum Festival against the Harrisburg Club.

Photo by Jeff Schneider

If a clear score was the ultimate offensive goal of a 19th century ball player, the equivalent for a score keeper would be what the New York Clipper, (read Henry Chadwick) in its January 14, 1860 issue, somewhat immodestly claimed was "A Correct Score."  Lamenting the absence of sufficient data to analyze the prior season and anticipating expanded base ball coverage during the 1860 season, Chadwick not only proclaimed the "correct" format, but illustrated it with the details of an 1859 match.  Going even further, he expressed the hope/expectation that the National Association of Base Ball Players would would also endorse a standard system, something which doesn't appear to have happened.  Trying to cover all the bases, Chadwick also called on each club to have a "regular scorer or scorers," because it is "an onerous position" which "requires a gentleman to fill it creditably," important credentials to this very day.  Looking at this "correct" score, I thought it might be interesting to enter into Chadwick's format, the Neshanock's statistics from the June 10th nine inning match with the Picked Nine to see what it might tell us.

                                     Hands Lost      Runs
Duke 1 1
Adam 2 0
Spoons 1 2
Thumbs 2 0
Gaslight 3 1
Illinois 3 1
Mick 1 2
Melky 2 0
Tumbles 4 0
Irish 6 0
Low Ball 2 2
Total 27 9

First, came the above section, almost identical to the first 1845 box scores, listing the batting order, hands lost (outs) and runs scored.  Based on this information, it appears the major offensive contributions came from "Spoons," "Mick" and "Low Ball" each of whom tallied twice, no reference or credit is given to those who made the hits (or outs) that allowed them to score.  According to Peter Morris' go to work, A Game of Inches, runs received more emphasis than hits because early base ball box scores were derived from cricket where almost every hit produces a run.  Since runs were the name of the game there was little reason to be concerned with hits.  According to other entries in Peter's book, batting averages as we know them today weren't a part of base ball until 1874 while RBI's became part of the game even later in 1879-80. To the early box score format was appended the below line score, a clear improvement which shows how the game developed.  Without this someone hearing the 17-9 score might think the Picked Nine dominated contest when, in fact, the Neshanock led most of the way.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Flemington 0 1 0 2 3 0 1 1 1   9
Picked Nine 1 0 0 0 0 2 5 9   x  17

Next up is the below table of defensive statistics showing how while in the field, Flemington recorded the 24 outs for the eight innings that the picked nine was at the striker's line.  The two highest totals, eight for "Gaslight" and four for "Illinois," reflect their respective positions at catcher and first base.  In "Gaslight's" case, however the put outs have nothing to do with strike outs which apparently weren't counted as put outs at the time.  Rather, they reflect the bound rule which retires a batter on any foul ball caught on a bounce and catchers will likely have higher put out totals under those rules. I recall other matches where "Gaslight" had nine to ten put outs, meaning that a third of the opposing batters were retired with out putting the ball in play.  Missing from the format or at least, Chadwick's example is any record of muffs or errors, so we know the number of plays made correctly, but have no sense of the errors.  Without going into the gory details, errors opened or at least help open the door to the Picked Nine's offensive outbursts in their last two times at the striker's line.

How Put Out            Fly      Bound        Base        Total
Duke 1 1
Spoons 0
Thumbs 1 1 1 3
Gaslight 2 6 8
Illinois 4 4
Mick 3 3
Melky 1 1
Tumbles 1 1
Low Ball 3 3
Total 3 13 8 24
Finally comes the below chart showing how the Neshanock striker's were retired.  Note that strike outs and run outs (tagging a runner in a run down) are not treated as put outs, but merit a separate category.  Since only four Flemington batters were retired on fouls, compared to eight for their opponents, the Neshanock did a better job of putting the ball in play.  Otherwise there doesn't seem to be a huge amount that can be gleaned from this chart.  What's missing from all of this, of course, is any information about pitching reflecting perhaps Chadwick's belief that pitching was of secondary importance to hitting and fielding.  The other thing to note is that this format reflects his views before the 1860 season which doubtless evolved even more by the end of 1864 (the rules by which this match was played).  In a future post, I'll plug these results into an 1864 box score format to look at how box scores continued to evolve along with the rest of the game.  

How Put Out  Fly Bound 1st 2nd 3rd        Foul
Duke 1
Adam 1
Spoons 1
Thumbs 2
Gaslight 2 1
Illinois 1 2
Mick 1
Melky 1 1
Tumbles 1 2 1
Irish 2 3 1
Low Ball 1 1
Run Out
Struck Out - Adam - 1

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hot Day at the Farm

Saturday marked Flemington's annual visit to the picturesque (and mown hay ridden) Howell Living History Farm near Lambertville, New Jersey in very un-Neshanock like weather (it wasn't cold and rainy).  All too often, Flemington has difficulty defeating its opponent, today's problem began with just finding one.  Originally the match was to feature a new New Jersey vintage base ball club, but the prospective club failed to materialize leaving the Neshanock scrambling for an opponent.  Fortunately the vintage base ball community is wonderfully supportive so a picked nine representing primarily the Diamond State Club of Delaware, one member of the Athletic Club of Philadelphia, a couple of "muffins" and vintage base ball revolver extraordinaire,  Charles "Bugs" Klasman, filled in admirably, a little too admirably in the first contest.  Thanks to all those gentlemen for helping out and the good folks at Howell for providing a beautiful venue, albeit with a tree taking up most of right center field.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Striking first, Flemington got off to an early lead and even though the Neshanock didn't maximize their opportunities, still led 6-1 after five frames.  The picked nine started to scramble back in the sixth, however, closing to 6-3 and then took the lead at 8-7 after seven innings.  Flemington managed to tie the game in the top of the eighth, but the visitors were not to be denied in their half, scoring nine runs for a 17-9 victory.  After the door was opened by some untimely Neshanock muffs, the picked nine did some excellent work at the striker's line and deserved their come from behind win. Flemington's attack was led by Brian "Spoons" LoPinto and Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner with three hits apiece followed by a half-dozen Neshanock with two hits each.  Another item of note in the first game was a successful pick off play by Flemington pitcher Bobby "Melky" Ritter.

Photo by Mark Granieri

After a break for free food (thanks Howell Living History Farm), the obligatory performance of "Casey at the Bat," a seven inning second game got underway with the Neshanock in the field.  After keeping the picked nine off the score board in their first time at the striker's line, the Neshanock erupted for four runs in their first at bat which they matched and then some with five runs in both the second and third innings.  Ahead 9-3 after three, Flemington coasted home to a 16-6 victory behind the pitching of "Melky" followed by a solid relief effort from Dave "Illinois" Harris who also had four hits in as many times at bat.  Unfortunately "Illinois" missed out on a clear score because Ken "Tumbles" Mandel, once again in the wrong place at the wrong time, forced "Illinois" out at third after one of his base hits.  Right behind "Illinois" in offensive production was "Thumbs" with three hits, followed by "Spoons" and Joe "Mick" Murray with two apiece.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Base ball rules, including the 19th century variety, seem to have a way of producing statistical oddities.  In today's first game, for example, how did the Joe "Irish" Colduvell have more times at bat than the nine players ahead of him in the batting order in a game with no walks?  This statistical fluke was produced by a 19th century rule mixed with the aforementioned "Tumbles" unusual (to say the least sense) sense of timing.  Three different times in the first game, "Tumbles," batting before "Irish" managed to make the last out on the bases, not all  his fault, but he was there.  Under the 19th century rules that existed until 1879, when the last out was made on the bases, the batter who led off the next inning, was the player following the base runner in the batting order, not the player after the one at the plate when the last out was made (got that?).  "Tumbles," with his flair for the unusual enabled "Irish," not just to be the last batter in one inning, but the first batter in the next inning on three different occasions - not something you see every day even in the 19th century.  In any event, with the split on the day's proceedings, the Neshanock are 6-4 on the season heading into a double header next Saturday, June 17th against the Athletic Club of Philadelphia in the City of Brotherly Love.