Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Brooklyn Dodgers - New Jersey's Team

Aficionados of the "Boys of Summer" or "Dem Bums" reading the above headline will immediately remember that the Dodgers, at the end of the their tenure in Brooklyn, played seven or so games a year at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City.  But the Brooklyn club's connections to the Garden State date back much further, to the franchise's earliest days.  During the club's charter season in 1883, the team that would become known to history as the Brooklyn Dodgers played in the Inter-State Association, a minor league that included not one, but two New Jersey clubs.  In fact, the initial game the Brooklyn team played at the first incarnation of Washington Park was a victory over the Trenton team of that league.  The other New Jersey team was the Camden Merritts, a talented team whose failures at the box office forced them to disband in mid season.  Stealing a march on the other club owners, Brooklyn president Charles Byrne quickly snatched up the best Camden players who led Brooklyn to the league championship, a tactic Byrne would repeat as he gradually built his club into American Association (1889) and then National League (1890) champions.

After some ill-advised decisions during the 1890-91 merger with the Brooklyn team of the Player's League, the Dodgers (or Bridegrooms as they were then known) fell on some hard times themselves so that at Byrne's death in early 1898, the team was doing poorly both on the field and at the box office.  Taking over was 39 year old Charles Ebbets who, among other issues, had to decide where his club would prepare for the upcoming season.  Unconvinced, as were other club owners at the time, of the benefits of a southern trip, Ebbets decided to compromise by heading south, but only as far as Allaire on the Jersey shore, a venture that was previously described at  Brooklyn was joined at New Jersey shore points by the Giants (Lakewood) and Phillies (Cape May), but bad weather quickly convinced the clubs that March in the Garden State was not a conducive atmosphere for getting ready for the long National League season.

First page of the Articles of Incorporation of the Brooklyn Baseball Club - courtesy New Jersey State Archives

Almost a decade earlier, however, the Dodgers formed a far more lasting New Jersey connection as part of the aforementioned merger.  In 1890 fed up with their treatment by the owners, major league players formed a new league popularly known as the Players League which included a team in Brooklyn.  Hurt by financial losses and intimidated by the National League magnates, the non-playing owners of the Player League teams threw in the metaphorical towel after one season, basically leaving the competing clubs in each city to work out their own settlement arrangements.  In Brooklyn this took the form of the merger of the two teams into a new club where the Dodger owners would have the controlling interest.  The merger necessitated the formation of a new corporation and given the favorable (read minimal government oversight) corporate laws in New Jersey, the Brooklyn Dodgers became a New Jersey corporation supposedly operating out of a headquarters in Jersey City.  Learning this while researching my biography of Charles Ebbets, it occurred to me that no matter how small the degree of state control, there were probably some reporting requirements.  Checking with the New Jersey State Archives confirmed that the incorporation documents as well as close to 20 years of annual reports were still on file in Trenton.

Ned Hanlon about 1887

On the surface the documents appear to be little more than a dry record of club officers, directors and general corporate policies, but they also illustrate some important periods in the club's history especially the 1906-1907 fight for control between Ebbets and Ned Hanlon, the team's former manager.  After Ebbets' disastrous inaugural 1898 season, the owners of the Brooklyn and Baltimore clubs came together to form a syndicate where the same people would own two major league clubs, allowing them to concentrate the best players on one team, in this case in Brooklyn which appeared to be the better market.  Unthinkable today, syndicate ball in one form or another was popular at the end of the 19th century, but in this case while it proved initially successful on the field, it was only marginally so at the box office.  To make matters worse, teams in the new American League began "stealing" Brooklyn players, shredding the Dodger roster and producing a losing club with a highly paid manager - Hanlon who was also, unfortunately for Ebbets, a stockholder.  Ebbets drastically cut Hanlon's salary at the beginning of the 1905 season when the Dodger manager had few alternatives forcing him to grudgingly accept Ebbets demands.  Although Ebbets supposedly told Hanlon that he too was taking a cut, it appears Ebbets actually increased his own salary understandably infuriating Hanlon.

1906 Annual Report of the Brooklyn Baseball Club - courtesy New Jersey State Archives

To no one's surprise, Hanlon left Brooklyn for Cincinnati for the 1906 season, but he was far from finished with Ebbets.  When it came time for the club's annual meeting that fall, required by New Jersey law, Ebbets, his son and Henry Medicus were all re-elected to the team's board of directors.  Hanlon and majority owner Ferdinand Abell immediately insisted the three men were not eligible to serve on the team's board because they had failed to submit the required report of the 1905 annual meeting to the Secretary of State's office in Trenton.   A review of the reports on file in the state archives did not turn up the 1905 report suggesting that the claim, although a technicality, was accurate.  Hanlon and Abell also argued that Ebbets $10,000 annual salary was far in excess of the $4,000 limit mandated in the governing documents and confirmed by the above image.  Ebbet's never denied this, instead offering the absurd explanation that in addition to being club president, he was also the manager and, as also stated in the by-laws, was entitled to the higher amount.  While that may have been technically correct, it's wasn't right since the club had a manager, one Patsy Donovan.  Ebbets claim led the Chicago Sunday Times to wonder whether Donovan was manager or "bat boy or a water cooler."

Charles Ebbets in his prime

Again to no one's surprise, the two recalcitrant owners quickly followed up their claims with a series of lawsuits.  While the salary dispute was a problem, the real threat came from the board eligibility issue since if that claim was upheld, Hanlon and Abell could take over the club and move it to Baltimore.  It was not a good time for Ebbets especially considering that, as per usual, he didn't have access to a lot of money.  But the Brooklyn owner was nothing if not resourceful.  Recognizing that Abell would be the more receptive of the two to a settlement, he somehow got the majority owner to accept $20,000 for his interest, shockingly in the form of $500 down and the rest to be paid over a period of years.  With Abell satisfied, Hanlon was in a far weaker position, leading the future Hall of Fame manager to accept $10,000, apparently in cash, a good portion of which Ebbets financed from back salary once he could again draw the higher $10,000 salary.  The 1906-07 crisis was just one of several times that Ebbets with his back to the wall was able to negotiate his way out of a tight place until finally in 1919 with the advent of Sunday baseball, the Dodgers became a highly profitable franchise.  A few years before that when Ebbets, again in financial trouble, took on the McKeever brothers as partners, the club was re-incorporated in New York.  But the team's long connection to the Garden State is preserved for history in the New Jersey State Archives.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Making Up For Lost Matches

Having managed to play just one match in April, the Neshanock made up for lost time (or at least lost matches) by playing three games the first weekend in May, beginning with a single contest in Nutley, followed by the season's first doubleheader at Ringwood Manor State Park in northwest New Jersey.  Saturday's single game was the fourth annual meeting between Flemington and the Nutley or Kingsland Colonels, an event held at Yanticaw Boys Park in Nutley for the benefit of the Kingsland Manor, an historic home in that community.  Sunday was another regular annual event on the Neshanock schedule, this time played against the Ringwood Miners, a local team formed to provide the opposition for this year's match at the historic state park.  In order not to wear out the patience of those kind enough to spend time reading this blog, this post will cover the Saturday game in some detail (again attempting to use the Chadwick/Cauldwell point of view) before summarizing Saturday's twin bill.

Like the team in Ringwood, the Nutley Colonels were also formed just for one match, but many, if not most, of its members  had played previously against the Neshanock in the earlier renewals of this rivalry so they were by no means muffins.  The local team had a full lineup while the Neshanock had just enough players to field a team with a little help from a local player or two.  The Flemington lineup ran the full age range of the Neshanock roster beginning with Dan "Lefty" Gallagher in his late teens to some Neshanock, who will remain nameless, in their early 60's.  Needless to say defensive positioning was something of a challenge.  Play was called at 1:10 with the Colonels at the strikers line and they quickly put runners on first and third due to untimely and, doubtless age related, muffs.  Fortunately Neshanock newcomer, Adam "Beast" Leffler picked the runner off third with the hidden ball trick and the side was then retired on a fine throw by Scott "Snuffy" Hengst at shortstop to Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw at first.  Once again the Colonels were reminded that while 1860's base ball was a gentleman's game, the Neshanock are not always gentlemen.

If Flemington had any illusions this was going be to an easy match, they were dispelled in the bottom of the first when two fine plays on foul balls by the Colonels' catcher and another in the field kept the Neshanock from capitalizing on Dan "Sledge" Hammer's double.  Nutley then scored in the top of the second and had two on and just one out, only to be denied any further tallies by the Neshanock's first, but not last, double play of the day.  Clearly seeing they had a hard task ahead of them, the Neshanock tallied four runs in their half of the second, keyed by aggressive base running by "Beast" as well as Dave "Illinois" Harris and Chris "Lowball" Lowry.  Nutley added one run in the top of the third, but was shut out in the fourth due to a fine play on a foul tip by "Snuffy" at catcher and another double play this one started by "Beast" at third.  Flemington, however, couldn't add to their total in the third or fourth innings, failing to capitalize on runners at second and third and one out in the fourth.  Nutley tallied again in the fifth, closing the gap to only a single run, but Flemington's third double play of the day, limited the damage, this time by means of another trick play.  Having been victimized twice on trick plays, the local team returned the favor in the bottom of the fifth, using the hidden ball play to their own advantage limiting the Neshanock to one run and a 5-3 lead after five innings.

Both teams added a run in the sixth, the Colonels by means of two extremely well struck balls, while Flemington again used aggressive base running, this time courtesy of "Lefty" to maintain the Neshanock lead at two as the game headed to the seventh.  Nutley broke through in their turn at bat, however, scoring four times, twice due to some very well struck balls and twice due to Flemington muffs, to take an 8-6 lead.  The lead was short lived, however, as Flemington quickly scored three times again due to aggressive base running this time on the legs of "Lefty" and "Sledge," with the latter walking and then circling the bases without Flemington putting the ball in play.  The Neshanock now led 9-8 going to the top of the 8th, but Flemington's lead proved equally short lived as Nutley tied the match on two well struck balls and then retired the Neshanock in order in the bottom of the inning.  Heading to the ninth with the advantage of the last at bat, Flemington didn't waste the opportunity, limiting Nutley to a harmless single by making the routine plays so often taken for granted.  "Lowball" led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and advanced to second on a balk, setting the stage for "Lefty" who promptly delivered a long hit over the left fielder's head, giving Flemington a very hard earned victory.  In addition to a solid pitching effort, Bobby "Melky" Ritter led the Flemington attack with three hits.  It was a very entertaining match and reflected a great deal of credit on the local team.

The following day, amidst threatening skies, that fortunately only threatened, the Neshanock traveled to Ringwood Manor State Park for two games with the Ringwood Miners, trying their hand at 19th century base ball for the first time.  Two seven inning games were played and the Neshanock broke quickly from the gate in the first contest, tallying 10 times before the Minors even had their first chance at the striker's line.  The local team was not intimidated however and played Flemington basically even after that losing, 16-5 while making a number of good plays in the field.  The Flemington attack was led by local man, Dave "Specs" Chamalian with four hits, followed closely by "Lefty," Joe "Mick" Murray and Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner with three apiece.  After the obligatory break for "Casey at the Bat," the Miners followed Flemington's example by scoring four times in the top of the first.  Flemington tied it in the second, took the lead in the third and then broke the game open in the bottom of the fourth with a seven run inning in route to a 17-6 win.  "Thumbs," "Specs," "Illinois" and "Melky" each had three hits while, "Jersey" Jim Nunn, "Brooklyn" and "Lefty" added two apiece.  With the three wins, the Neshanock are now 3-1 on the season with a weekend off before journeying to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the Athletic Club on May 19th, a game I will miss due to Sophie Zinn's sixth birthday because in this man's army, grandchildren outrank pretty much everyone!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Worth Waiting For

Back in 1864, Henry Chadwick and William Cauldwell typically began their accounts of base ball matches by commenting on the turnout of players from the two clubs.  Sometimes it was good, sometimes bad, but I don't recall either of them ever saying a team didn't have a sufficient number of players to play the match.  Such unfortunately was the Neshanock's experience this past Saturday which combined with the absence of the Monmouth Furnace, the other New Jersey club forced the cancellation of the 2018 New York-New Jersey Cup.  Flemington returns to the field this Saturday, April 28th with a match at Rahway River Park against long time rivals, the Elizabeth Resolutes.  Both teams will be looking for their first win in a match played under 1870 rules beginning at 11:00 a.m.  While the outcome of the match is uncertain, it can be said with 100% certainty that this score keeper/reporter will not be in attendance.  The match conflicts with the Rutgers Class of 1968's 50th reunion and since my attendance at the 75th is problematic at best, I think I better be there.

As I would think is the case with most universities, the 50th is the most significant of all Rutgers reunions including induction into the "Old Guard" on Friday night, a milestone event.  During the evening the glee club will perform school songs, one of which proclaims Rutgers to be "Ever changing, yet eternally the same."  Considering almost anything as eternal is more than a little bit of a reach, but it's not a totally inappropriate way to look at this reunion.  Fifty years ago when my class graduated, wondering what impact the Vietnam War would have on us, the Class of 1918 was celebrating their 50th reunion.  That class of just 42 men graduated a century ago, harboring even greater concerns about World War I, not knowing the war was almost over.  And when the 1918 class bid farewell to Old Queens, the Class of 1868, all 36 of them, experienced the 50th anniversary of their graduation which took place in a country still recovering from the Civil War.  I'm not sure about how early reunions started, but in 1868, the Class of 1818 could have held their 50th reunion in a phone booth (if phones and phone booths had been invented) since there were only two of them.  While 200 years isn't eternal, on a relative basis it's not bad.

While there isn't any news this week from the vintage base ball field, there is some very satisfying news on the book front.  Earlier this week I received an email from noted baseball historian Steve Steinberg that The World Series in the Deadball Era will be published on April 30th.  Steve has done more than yeoman's service in bringing this project to fruition and I'm very much looking forward to the finished product to which I've contributed two chapters, one with Paul Zinn.  The key word here is contributed since other than providing context, neither Paul nor I wrote a word of either chapter.  The inspired idea behind this book was to follow the model of G. H. Fleming's classic work - The Unforgettable Season.  Originally published in 1981, Fleming told the story of the epic 1908 National League pennant race through the words of the contemporary sportswriters who saw that historic season unfold before their very eyes.  Three clubs, the Giants, Cubs and Pirates battled for the pennant not only down to, but past the end of the regular season.  Any close, winner take all pennant race is fascinating, but the story of the 1908 race hinges on the controversial Merkle play, a base running blunder by rookie Fred Merkle of the Giants that forced the Cubs and Giants to play a make up game after the regular season had ended. It was Mordecai "Three Finger" Brown's account of how Chicago won the game and the pennant that got me permanently hooked on baseball history some 60 years ago.

Mordecai Brown - left 1909, right 1916

The idea in this case is to tell the story of each of the World Series (or World's Series as it was called at the time) of the Deadball Era (1903-1919) in the same fashion.  Since Paul Zinn and I literally wrote the book about the 1916 pennant races, it was only natural for us to take that year's fall classic which we completed without any major obstacles.  Some time after that I learned that two or three other series were available including the last one of the period, the 1919 series, famous, or more accurately infamous for what is known to history as the Black Sox scandal.  I took advantage of that opportunity which involved a lot more research than just reading the contemporary game accounts.  My motivation was curiosity about whether the sports writers of the day had any sense something untoward was going on.  Probably not surprisingly the game accounts don't give a clear cut answer so anyone who shares my curiosity needs to read the book and draw their own conclusions.  The book is expensive, but these eyewitness accounts of the birth of the modern World Series along with some 250 pictures make it well worth the price. Among other things it's a very appropriate Father's Day present for any baseball fan.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

A New Season from an Old Point of View

After a winter of discontent (with the weather at least), New Jersey's vintage base ball clubs got the season underway with a vengeance on Saturday with four teams in action.  Down the shore, the Monmouth Furnace Club took on some Monmouth University students while in central New Jersey, not ten miles apart, the Liberty Club and the Flemington Neshanock got their seasons underway with matches against the New York Mutuals and the Eckford Club of Brooklyn respectively.  Completing the day's action was the Hoboken Nine who paid a visit to the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn at Smithtown, Long Island.  With the Elizabeth Resolutes, the state's senior club, set to play their first match next Saturday, New Jersey has five vintage clubs, probably an all time high - a tribute to those who do the behind the scenes work necessary to make it all happen.  The Neshanock's match at the Somerset Patriots home ball park was once again part of that organization's fan fest, played in July like temperatures before a good crowd including families, some getting their first exposure to the 19th century game.

As per usual for this popular match, the Neshanock had a full complement of players while the Eckford were somewhat shorthanded missing their leader, Al "Rocky" Belbol and the one and only (thank goodness) Eric Miklich.  "Rocky" was reportedly busy with family activities and there so many possible explanations for Eric's absence that it's probably better not to go down that road.  Being shorthanded, however, didn't mean the Eckford were necessarily at a disadvantage.  Play was called at 12:32 with the Neshanock in the field having won the toss and electing to strike second.  The Brooklyn club quickly got off to a strong start with the first three strikers securing their base and ultimately making their runs largely due to well struck balls by the second and third batters.  Fortunately, for Flemington, the damage was stopped by Brian "Spoons" LoPinto who charged in from center field to take a well struck ball on the bound for the third out.  In the bottom of the first, it appeared the Neshanock would replicate the Eckford's performance as Jeff "Duke" Schneider, Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner and Rene "Mango" Marrero each got on, loading the bases with Neshanock.  However the rally was cut short when Daniel "Lassie" Loscalzo, the Eckford catcher, made a fine diving/sliding catch of a foul ball on the bound and when the next batter went out, Flemington was retired without scoring.

After the Eckford's three run first, the Neshanock defense improved over the next four innings, holding the visitors to just two runs due to the pitching of Danny "Lunch Time" Shaw and Bobby "Melky" Ritter plus some solid defense behind them.  Scott "Snuffy" Hengst at catcher, made a fine sliding catch of a foul ball in his own right while also making a difficult catch of a foul fly.  Another defensive contribution came from "Duke" who caught a fly ball on the bounce while running with his back to the plate.  The Eckford broke through with three tallies in the sixth largely due to hits that were either well struck or well placed.  Once again, however, the bleeding was stopped by a fine defensive  play this time at first by Dave "Illinois" Harris who dug out at errant throw to end the inning.  After a three run seventh for the visitors, Ken "Tumbles" Mandel contributed a defensive gem to end the eighth.  Shuffling across the greensward, the Neshanock second base man eschewed the bound catch, manfully sticking out his hand to pluck the ball from the air like an apple from an imaginary tree.  All told, Flemington made only three errors on the day,  not bad at all for the first game.

Unfortunately, Flemington's defensive efforts were more than matched by the visitors.  Demonstrating masterful control while changing speeds regularly and effectively, Eckford pitcher, Steve "Trousers" Krauss made the Neshanock's visits to the striker's line largely fruitless.   "Lassie" followed his defensive gem in the first with some other fine plays while the rest of the Eckford contributed solid defensive especially the routine plays too often taken for granted, but essential to success. In the end, the Eckford did even better than the Neshanock making only two muffs and shutting the home team out for the first eight innings.  Down, 11-0 headed to their final visit to the striker's line, the Neshanock broke through with their first tallies of the 2018 season.  "Thumbs," "Illinois," and Lunch Time" all made their runs before the Eckford restored order ending the match with an 11-3 win.  So strong was the visitor's pitching and defense that Flemington only managed eight hits, led by "Mango" with three and "Thumbs" with two. Making his Neshanock debut in right field was Matt Ayres, welcome to the club, Matt.

Photo by Eve Mandel

In my last post, I mentioned my plan to experiment this season by attempting to report Neshanock games from the perspective of nineteenth century sportswriters like Henry Chadwick and William Cauldwell.  As noted in that post, these pioneering writers and their peers emphasized defense more than offense which I realized today requires paying even more attention than is necessary to just record numbers and symbols in the score book.  Unlike a home run, an exceptional defensive play like those of "Snuffy" and "Lassie" in today's game doesn't look any different in the score book than the routine foul bound out.  Additional notes of some kind are necessary to record such defensive gems, failing to do so means plays that could have had a major impact on the outcome may not appear in a game account.  This was especially important from the beginning of competitive base ball until the introduction of radio and then television.  For all those decades, far more people learned about games from written accounts rather than actually seeing the game or hearing it described on the radio.   For today at least, trying to replicate the 1864 perspective was an interesting experience to be renewed next weekend during the New Jersey/New York Cup at Old Bethpage Village on Long Island.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Numbers into Words

Back in January I visited the New York Public Library for some research in the Spalding Collection, a treasure trove of original material from the early days of base ball.  It was far from my first visit, but this time I had a different mission, seeking artifacts for the New Jersey base ball exhibit at the Morven Museum in Princeton now planned for June of 2019.  Of special interest were the score books of the 1860's, especially Henry Chadwick's which I had previously used to make a replica of his 1868 score book for use by the Flemington Neshanock vintage team.  We're now on our fifth volume which I will use in 2018 to score games by a system Chadwick evolved from a very basic approach to a much more sophisticated version.  On prior visits to the library, I had also studied the game book of the Atlantic Base Ball Club of Brooklyn, one of the era's top teams.  It was from the latter book that I was able to confirm that a "clear score," the highest offensive goal of the time, was achieved by not being put out even once while at bat or on the bases rather than tallying a run every time at the striker's line.

Spalding baseball collection. Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

Although I was already familiar with both Chadwick's score books and those of the Atlantics, this was the first time that I looked at them not only on the same visit, but also for the same game.  Above, courtesy of the NYPL library, is a picture of the Eureka Club of Newark's at bats for an August 18, 1865 match with the Atlantics from Chadwick's book while below is the same page from the Brooklyn club's score book.  The game was played in Newark before a large crowd which saw their hopes for a major upset dashed when the home team's desperate ninth inning rally fell one heartbreaking run short. For obvious reasons, the two books reflect very different approaches to score keeping.  Looking at the Eureka's first at bat in the Atlantic club book below (click on pictures to enlarge), we see only the basic details of the inning, three runs for the Newark team, scored by Callaway, Thomas and Pennington while Littlewood, Rogers and Brientnall were all put out at first base.  Only the outs and runs were recorded because that was all the information the Atlantics needed.  Statistics like batting averages, runs batted in, etc hadn't been developed yet and there was little need for more detailed offensive numbers.

Spalding baseball collection.  Manuscripts and Archives Division.  The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations  

The same half inning in Chadwick's book, enlarged below, gives far more detail, most of which has little meaning without understanding Chadwick's system and even after years of trying to replicate that system, there are still things I don't understand.  Take Fred Callaway, the first Eureka striker, as an example.  The vertical line in the upper left hand corner is the symbol for a hit with the horizontal lines indicating the number of bases, two in this case.  To the right of the lines appears a one connected to a three with a dot over the line.  The dot over the line stands for a throwing error by player number one while trying to throw out the striker out at a base.  The natural assumption that the number one symbolizes a throwing error by the pitcher is incorrect because of the major difference between Chadwick's system and the modern approach.  Instead of today's symbols of 1 for a pitcher, 2 for a catcher, etc., Chadwick based the numbers for fielders by their place in the batting order.  By coincidence in this case, Joe Start, the Atlantic's first baseman was the third hitter so he keeps the number three, but the first batter was catcher Dickey Pearce and it was his throwing error, not that of the pitcher.  The dot in the lower left hand corner means Callaway scored a run, but I don't understand the 2 over the dot, nor the 4 over the Thomas' run or the 8 over Pennington's - obviously more research is in order.  The three outs in the inning all represent put outs at first, but as with the error, the assist (a term not used at the time) is based on the fielder's place in the batting order, the letter "A" is Chadwick's symbol for first base.

Spalding baseball collection.  Manuscripts and Archives Division.  The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.

Obviously, Chadwick recorded far more information because his responsibilities went beyond keeping track of runs and outs while the game was in progress.  His task was to tell the story of the match in a newspaper article read by far more people than actually saw the game in person. Or to put it another way, he had to convert those numbers and symbols into words.   Below is his description of the Eureka's first at bat as it appeared in the New York Clipper on August 26, 1865.   What's interesting to me is that Chadwick provided more information than appears in the score book such as descriptions of hits as "good," a defensive play as having "stopped a hot one well," and a player's"failure to return the ball."    It would be natural to think that Chadwick made notes somewhere in the score book, but there is nothing in the book itself beyond the page as shown above.  Unless he had a computer like memory, Chadwick must have used a notebook of some kind, probably one small enough to easily fit in his pocket, to record details he needed to write his newspaper accounts.

New York Clipper - August 26, 1865

My reason for exploring how Chadwick used numbers and symbols to tell a story is that I've decided to try something different this year in my blog posts about Neshanock games.  My plan is to write game accounts in the same manner matches were described in the New York Sunday Mercury and the New York Clipper, two leading sports weeklies of the day.  Chadwick, who is, of course, a household name in baseball history circles,wrote for the Clipper while the Mercury reporter and also the publisher was William Cauldwell. Although nowhere near as well known as Chadwick, Cauldwell was actually the pioneer in writing and promoting newspaper coverage of base ball and at one time hired Chadwick as a writer.  My goal is not to try to literally recreate their writing style, but their point of view.  I've gone through both papers for the 1864 season (the Neshanock most frequently plays games by 1864 rules) and there is definitely a pattern to how they wrote about games especially their emphasis on defense over offense.  My goal is to try to see games how they saw them and then describe matches to blog readers in the same manner these sports writing pioneers used over 150 years ago.  It's an experiment and we'll see how it goes, but I'm excited about trying to recreate another aspect of 19th century base ball.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Talking Charles Ebbets

Very grateful to the hosts of "Beyond the Game," from radio station WHPC (90.3) at Nassau Community College for an opportunity to talk about Charles Ebbets.  The link to the interview is below. It begins about 29 minutes into the program and lasts about 15 minutes. 

According to Amazon, the release date for the book is July 14th.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Email - 1867 Style

In about three weeks, Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw, esteemed president of the Flemington Neshanock, will reach for his trusty iPad and prepare a message informing the Neshanock players of the date, time and location of the club's first 2018 match along other sundry information.  Then with just a touch of his finger, the message will effortlessly take flight traveling over at least two states to every team member who will equally effortlessly retrieve it and, hopefully, not quite as effortlessly, read it.  Brad will repeat this action probably 25 times over the course of the season as will other vintage club leaders ranging from Maine to Florida and New Jersey to California .  Since the Neshanock were founded in 2002, my guess is that Brad has always been able to take advantage of this sophisticated, but highly user friendly means of communication.  Any vintage clubs that existed before email had to rely on such old fashioned communication tools as the telephone, still convenient, but not without effort.  Trust me, I know, since as a college basketball manager, I once had to phone an entire basketball team reminding them of the first practice of the new semester.

Probably like everyone who is reading this, I had never given a thought to how 19th century clubs communicated with their members, but one day last fall I unexpectedly received very tangible evidence of how it worked.  The information came to me by means of an email (again with the email) from Jean Walton, the secretary of the New Jersey Postal History Society, asking for help with an article for their quarterly journal about some items Don Bowe, one of their members, had purchased.  Included was the above postal cover (envelope) addressed to J. Winner, Jr., at 150 West Street in New York City.  Inside the cover were three identical slips of paper like the one below announcing that the Bergen Base Ball Club would have its opening game on May 27, 1867 at 3:00 with the first nine playing the field (whoever else shows up).  On the reverse side of one of the slips was a note asking John (obviously J. Winner Jr.) to deliver the enclosed notices.  Like the three game announcements, the note was signed by JHW, corresponding secretary.  Jean was looking for help explaining what this was all about and I was fortunately well positioned to provide some assistance.

At the time, Bergen was an independent Hudson County municipality which was incorporated into Jersey City in 1870.   Winner, it turned out was a Jersey City resident, apparently working at 150 West Street in New York, probably as an accountant, his occupation on the 1870 census.  The other two copies were intended for S. Mills and James Hill, but searches for the two men proved fruitless probably because of the very common last names.  JHW, however, was a far simpler proposition because contemporary newspaper articles identified one J. H. Westervelt as the corresponding secretary of the Bergen Club.  J.H. Westervelt is most likely, John H. Westervelt, a retail cash merchant who a year later would be elected treasurer of the State Base Ball Association.  Box scores for three Bergen Club games in 1867 list both Westervelt and Mills in lineup, but it looks like Hill either didn't make the first nine or dropped out for some other reason. 

Again, I had never considered how club leaders communicated with their players in that technologically limited age.  Perhaps its symbolic of how little thought is given to the behind the scenes work that was involved in operating these 19th century base ball clubs.  Not only did the corresponding secretary have to communicate with players and others, a recording secretary had to keep minutes and presumably club membership records while the treasurer had to do all the financial work regardless of the relatively small amounts of money.  Someone also had to handle potentially complicated issues such as finding a place for practice and matches, ordering uniforms and other equipment, not to mention arranging transportation for away games.  Having spent most of the past 40 years working with not-for-profits as both a volunteer and staff, I know full well the work involved and how the inability to find volunteers willing and able to take on these jobs can put the whole organization at risk.  That may help explain why some clubs were short lived and demonstrate the importance of the unknown and unsung figures who helped keep these early club alive so base ball could grow into the national pastime.