Tuesday, October 29, 2019

"Here's to Charlie!"

Ninety years ago this very evening "as the shadows began to cover the bleak facades of old mansions on Brooklyn Heights," a group of men, mostly of mature years, began wending their way to the Brooklyn Club at 131 Remsen Street.  Once inside, they headed downstairs to a room, lovingly referred to as the "Coal Hole," a name borrowed or appropriated from a famous London pub.  They gathered to celebrate a birthday, but it was an unusual kind of birthday party.  Instead of the more traditional approach of friends throwing a party for someone, in this case all of the expenses had already been taken care of by the honoree.  And not just for this one time, but for as long as any of them should live.  Even more unusual, however, was the absence of the honoree himself, one Charles Ebbets, unavailable because of his death over four years ago.  Ebbets was not, however, about to let the small matter like his death get in the way of his friends enjoying an evening of food and fellowship on his birthday.


Standard Union - October 29, 1931

Founded in 1865, the Brooklyn Club, made up of the Borough's "wealthiest and most influential men," was for many years one of the Dodgers owner's favorite gathering places.  Supposedly his cronies began to "saunter in" to the club around 3:00 and make idle conversation until Ebbets arrived from the ballpark that bore his name.  Then "the conversation would take a serious turn" to the Dodgers and Ebbets would discuss the day's game, the team and the problems and challenges that faced him as club owner.  As the years went by "through a blue-gray haze of tobacco they looked [back into the past] at the team they used to know and watch . . . and somewhere in the outfield of memory, Wheat and Myers and Stengel [still] patrolled their grassy posts."  So close was the group that eventually it became the custom for them to gather on October 29th for a dinner to celebrate the Brooklyn owner's birthday.


Brooklyn Club building today

It's probably no surprise that there is more than one explanation of why the dinners continued after Ebbets death on April 18, 1925, but it is somewhat unusual that the same person gave two different explanations a year apart.  Judge Joseph Aspinall, one of Ebbets longtime friends, was one of three trustees in charge of the annual event.  In 1934, the Judge told the New York Herald Tribune that at one birthday dinner, Ebbets served cheap liquor, leading to queries of why he was "such a tightwad."  Ebbets not only denied the charge, but promised he would continue to pay for the dinner even after his death.  A year later, however, Aspinall told the Brooklyn Daily Times that about 1920 Ebbets told the group "he would like us to dine on his natal day after he died."  Regardless of the explanation, Ebbets didn't forget his promise, leaving $5,000 in a trust with the income at 5 1/2% to pay for the annual dinners as long as any member of the group was still alive.  Ebbets' estate was more than a little complicated with his 50% interest in the Dodgers divided into 15 parts for the benefit of about 25 heirs so remembering that promise was clearly important to him.  The story of the estate is reminiscent of the court case in Bleak House, but in 1927, Ebbets widow asked that the $5,000 be released and for many years it was the only part of the estate to be finalized.


Brooklyn Times Union - October 30, 1934

It apparently took a while to get the first dinner organized, but on October 29, 1929, 25 members of the original group gathered around a "candlelit" table for the initial event.  Ebbets left the details of the affair to Aspinall and the other two trustees of the fund.  Typically a vacant chair was left for the Brooklyn owner and before the first course there was "a silent toast to the departed" while the glass at Ebbets' place remained untouched.  Formal speeches were not on the agenda, but anyone could speak which as a rule "consisted primarily of fond reminiscences" in an atmosphere that was "gay with laughter."  No menus seem to survived, but in 1936, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that "the best was none too good" from "diamond back terrapin to champagne."  The dinners were to continue until the  last member died with the funds then to go to the Brooklyn club.  It's not clear when the final dinner took place, the last media account was in 1942 when a dozen remained.  Perhaps the final dinner got lost in concern about World War II.


Coal Hole - London 

One feature of every dinner was a toast to Ebbets where members "spoke well of his loyalty and generosity."  The Dodgers owner was far from perfect, but while his "generosity" or cheapness has been debated ever since, there is no questioning his loyalty.  Certainly to his friends, but also to his ball club and above all to Brooklyn his adopted hometown.  The team, the ballpark that bore his name, the dinner and the Brooklyn Club itself are no more, but almost a century later, it's still appropriate on this day, the 160th anniversary of his birth to say, along with all those shades from the past - "Here's to Charlie!"

Monday, October 14, 2019

Sunset

Back in June, the Flemington Neshanock and their good friends, the Diamond State Club of Delaware, had the opportunity to play two games of base ball on a pristine spring afternoon in Princeton, New Jersey.  It was a reminder of how much fun base ball can be.  Today the two teams met again, this time in Paper Mill Park in Newark, Delaware to close out the 2019 vintage base ball season.  The final game of any season always prompts a range of emotions - a sense of completion that another long season (April to October) is in the books as well as a feeling of loss because it will be more than five months before we get to do this again.  Today offered a venue, weather and opponents truly worthy of the occasion. Having lost the toss, the Neshanock went to the striker's line first.  With two out, Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner and Rene "Mango" Marrero singled, but Flemington failed to score an indication that tallies were going to be at the premium.  Such was indeed the case and the game entered the bottom of the fourth 0-0 when Diamond State got their offense going.


Diamond State wrapped two singles around a Matt "Black Bart" Bartnicki triple for two runs, but Flemington had a chance to get out of the inning with no further damage with runners on second and third and two out.  At that point, however, Greg "Memphis" Boulden, the Diamond State pitcher, took matters into his own hands (or bat) delivering a well placed single to put the home team ahead 4-0.  Flemington finally scored in the top of the sixth when Dan "Sledge" Hammer tripled and went home on an overthrow.  Flemington continued to keep the game competitive, shutting out Diamond State for the next three innings and adding a run in the top of the eighth when "Sledge" singled in Chris "Low Ball" Lowry who had worked out a walk.  Unfortunately, for Flemington however, in Diamond State's half of the eighth, seven hits along with two Neshanock muffs led to seven runs and an 11-2 victory for the Delaware team.  The Neshanock were limited to eight hits by the pitching of "Memphis" and the defense behind him. Leading the way for Flemington was "Thumbs" with three, while "Sledge" and "Mango" had two apiece. 


After a brief break, the two teams returned to the field for a seven inning contest, this time with Flemington striking second.  Diamond State tallied once in their first at bat, but the Neshanock quickly answered that and then erupted for five tallies in the second.  Flemington had a 9-4 lead heading to the bottom of the sixth when the New Jersey team replicated Diamond State's last at bat in the first game, putting the game out of reach.  After Chris "Sideshow" Nunn parleyed a single and some aggressive base running into a tally, "Sledge" hit a home run, leaving him only a single short of hitting for the cycle.  When the inning was over, Flemington had tallied five times and closed out the game for a 14-5 season ending win.  Four Neshanock, the aforementioned "Sideshow," Joe "Mick" Murray, Scott "Snuffy" Hengst and Ken "Tumbles" Mandel contributed two hits apiece.  Especially noteworthy was the hitting of the newest Neshanock, Dan Mahony, who closed out his muffin season with a four hit day and his first clear score.  Welcome to the club Mr Mahony - next step is an appropriate nickname.  Also important was the steady defensive play of "Jersey" Jim Nunn who handled some challenging bound hits in the outfield and his son "Sideshow" who handled one particular tricky hop like it was a three cornered pool shot.


By dividing the two games, the Neshanock finished the year with an overall 16-6 mark. Season's end means its time to say thank you and I want to start with those outside the Neshanock family that make all of this possible beginning with our opponents.  One thing we can never take for granted is the need for other teams like Diamond State willing and able to put in the time and travel necessary to play a full schedule.  By my count, Flemington played nine different vintage teams over the course of the season and five "town" teams, local squads put together for just one game.  We couldn't do it without you and thank you for your participation.  While all opponents are important, we especially value our New Jersey partners - the Elizabeth Resolutes (the state's senior club), the Hoboken Nine, Monmouth Furnace and the New Brunswick Liberty.  Also essential and sometimes taken for granted are the umpires.  The Neshanock are more mindful of their importance of umpires since we have lost Sam Bernstein who worked so many Neshanock games for so many years.  So thanks to the umpires especially John Medkeff who worked today's games so ably.


Within the Neshanock community, the first thank you goes to our founder Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw who got all this started and kept it going for so many years.  We missed you this season and hope you'll join us next year, even if it is just to visit.   While he wasn't there today, much appreciation to Mark "Gaslight" Granieri both for serving as official blog photographer and sometimes writer. Thanks also to the parents, spouses, girl friends, fiancees, significant others and increasingly children who attend games in all kinds of weather and most importantly let us be part of a game we haven't yet, and never will, get enough off.  Finally, thanks are due to the Neshanock players for many reasons, but above all for just showing up on a regular basis.  One thing I've learned this year is that just fielding a team is no simple matter and it's a tribute to the players that only once did we fall short and only by one player which was easily managed.  2019 was my 13th season of vintage base ball and going back to the very beginning my 63rd season of baseball either as a fan or in some other capacity.  That's a long time, but it pales in comparison to the fact that competitive base ball began in New Jersey in 1855 some 164 years ago.  Those base ball pioneers could never have visualized what has happened since, but I would like to think they would appreciate what the state's vintage base ball teams and players have done to continue what they so nobly began.



Wednesday, October 2, 2019

October Speaking Schedule

Thursday, October 10, 6:30, Morven Museum and Garden, 55 Stockton Street, Princeton, New Jersey: "History, Tragedy and Comedy: The Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets Field. Admission includes access to the New Jersey baseball exhibit which will close the end of this month.

Thursday, October 17, 7:00, Bernards Township Public Library, 32 South Maple Street, Basking Ridge, New Jersey. "A Cradle of the National Pastime: New Jersey Baseball 1855 to 1880."

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Tale of Two "All-Star" Games

Although they weren't called all-star games, matches between "picked" or "select" nines became popular relatively quickly in the early days of organized base ball.  Especially noteworthy were the so-called Fashion Course games.  Matches played in 1858 at the racetrack of the same name located not far from today's Citi Field where a team made up of players from New York clubs defeated their Brooklyn counterparts in a best of three series.  The games were so popular that a group of Jersey City fans took ferries, horse cars and probably the railroad to witness the third and decisive game.   Needless to say, New Jersey players quickly took up the idea which seems to have reached its peak with two games played three years apart, the first in Philadelphia in May of 1864 and the second in November of 1867 at the Waverly fair grounds between Newark and Elizabeth.  In each case, the New Jersey lineup reflects both the early history of organized base ball in the state and how the game was changing in the Civil War period.


1858 Fashion Course Games

The 1864 game was played as part of the Great Central Fair in Philadelphia between picked teams from New Jersey and Pennsylvania and has been the subject of prior blog posts.  In anticipating the game, the New York Sunday Mercury observed that the contest was "not a real trial of [base ball] strength" between the two states - if it was, the New Jersey team would have been drawn entirely from Newark clubs.  Instead the organizers, who weren't named, opted to choose a broader representation consisting of players from five different teams including two from Newark.  Even so, there was no lack of talent and the New Jersey team prevailed 18-10 in no small part to the pitching of Fred Henry from the Nassau Club of Princeton.   As talented as they doubtless were, however, what also stands out is how the team represented different aspects of the almost ten year old story of organized base ball in New Jersey beginning with the representatives of the two teams from the state's largest city, the Newark and Eureka Clubs.


Brooklyn Daily Eagle - May 26, 1864

While the Newark Club may not have been New Jersey's first base ball team they were without question the first with any real staying power evidenced by the fact that 1864 was their tenth season, no small accomplishment at a time some clubs lasted only a single season.  If the Newark team represented the earliest days of New Jersey base ball, the Eureka Club symbolized the top amateur clubs, combining proficient play with gentlemanly behavior.  No one symbolized this better than left-handed shortstop Charles Thomas whose play was compared to some of the best in the game while at the same time being "ever gentlemanly in word and action."  The aforementioned Henry and another member of the Nassau Club of Princeton University came from one of not just New Jersey's, but also the country's earliest college base ball teams, The collegians were on the scene so early that it wasn't until later that same year that they could find college teams to compete against.



While the Camden Club was probably selected to some degree to help attract local fans, their representatives took a back seat to no one especially Weston Fisler who would go on to star for the Athletic Club of Philadelphia and play in the first National League game in 1876.  More importantly, in this context, however, the Camden Club is part of the story of New Jersey base ball because they are the only known team in the state to have played another bat and ball game, Philadelphia town ball, before converting to the New York game right around the time of the Great Central Fair.  Finally, the Bridgeton Club is historically significant because other than the Camden Club, they are the earliest known base ball club south of Trenton and represent the game's spread throughout the rest of the state in the second half of the 1860's.  Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, there were no African-Americans or women on the team, but otherwise most of the story of early New Jersey base ball can be found in the team's lineup although that was surely not part of the selection criteria.


Charles Thomas - Frank Leslie's Weekly Newspaper - November 3, 1866

Although I'm very familiar with the May 1864 game, that was not the case with the November 6, 1867 game between teams selected from teams from New York City (excluding Brooklyn) and New Jersey.  I had heard of the game, but it was old friend Eric Miklich who pointed out that it was not just any game between "picked" nines because there was filthy lucre involved some $500, no small amount at the time.  The various game accounts differ as to whether it was a winner take all contest or each team received $250.  Either way the very idea of playing for money found plenty of disfavor with the Sunday Mercury which wanted "to see this playing for greenbacks repudiated by clubs belonging to the Association."  By this point, approval by the National Association of Base Ball Players of playing for pay was only about a year away, but old ideas die hard.  Here again, however, the makeup of the New Jersey lineup which came primarily from two teams the Irvington Club and the aforementioned mentioned Eureka is interesting in its own right.


Brooklyn Daily Eagle - November 7, 1867 - the box score erroneously omits the New Jersey team's nine run second inning

The Eureka were the only New Jersey club represented in both games, but there is no comparison between the types of players involved, especially Patsy Dockney of the Eureka.  While professionalism was illegal in 1867, players were clearly being paid and the Eureka in spite of their gentlemanly background dabbed their collective feet in those waters that season.  Dockney had a well deserved reputation for playing baseball all day and then drinking and fighting all night which couldn't have been a worse fit with the Eureka and it's no surprise he lasted only one season with the Newark team.  Also representing the Eureka was Everett Mills who although he was no Dockney was playing his final season with the Newark team before moving on to the Irvington Club as a brief step on his climb up the base ball ladder that would end in the National League when he played for Hartford in the league's inaugural season.


Everett Mills

Back in 1864, the Irvington Club was one of New Jersey's many mid-level teams, but in 1866 and 1867 they wreaked havoc in the base ball world with a line up that was highly proficient, but far from gentlemanly.  Two of the participants in the 1867 game, Charles Sweasy and Andy Jackson Leonard, were playing their last game representing the Irvington team as they were on their way west where in 1869 they would become part of the legendary Cincinnati Red Stockings historic 57-0 season.  Joining them on that team would be a member of the New York "picked" team, Fred Waterman then a member of the Mutual Club of New York.  And yes, the Ebbets on the Manhattan team was a relative of Charles Ebbets. The financial incentives offered for the November game were apparently provided by the managers of the fair grounds in attempt to attract paying customers.  While a "cold, raw wind," did them no favors, the New York Clipper claimed a crowd of 3-4,000 took in the game which in spite of the unfavorable conditions was "by no means tedious."


After the New York team took a 2-0 lead, the Jersey boys tallied nine times in the second, largely due to some shoddy New York defense, but the visitors then regained the lead by scoring eight times in their half of the inning.  The game went back and forth, but three consecutive three run innings by the team from Manhattan were too much to overcome although the New Jersey team never quit finally dropping a 24-23 decision.  This time whoever organized the New Jersey team drew more heavily on the state's best teams - the Eureka and Irvington teams, but with very different kinds of players.  Players much more interested in getting paid for their labors, a far from unreasonable request.  And those who enjoyed some real success in doing so, like Sweasy and Leonard would have to move beyond their home state to do so.  Like almost everything else in base ball, the shift from amateur play to professionalism evolved gradually, but the makeup of the 1867 team especially compared to the 1864 version shows very clearly where the game was headed both in New Jersey and nationwide.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

In the Footsteps of "Mule" Haas


Joe "Mick" Murray winning the pre-game bat toss

After a seven-week break between games, probably the longest in team history (the modern version at least), the Neshanock returned to the field on Saturday and not just any field.  It was the Neshanock's annual visit to Cameron Field in South Orange, New Jersey which has seen more than its share of baseball.  Although one Neshanock seemed confused by the requirement to remain on first base after arriving there safely, not too much re-training was required.  Saturday's game marked the fifth time Flemington has come to this Essex County community to take on the home standing Villagers - a local team that comes together for just this one game.  It's hard for such teams to compete successfully against vintage teams that play 20-30 games a year, but the South Orange club always played hard and on one memorable occasion (for them) defeated Flemington.  In the early innings of today's game it looked like another upset might be in the offing.  South Orange took an early 1-0 lead and after Flemington had tallied four times in its first two trips to the striker's line, the Villagers rallied for two runs, cutting the gap to 4-3.  The Neshanock however responded with four tallies of their own and added three more in both the fourth and fifth innings for a commanding 14-4 lead, ultimately prevailing 19-8.


Historic Cameron Field

While the Neshanock did tally 19 times, the offense seemed somewhat spotty at some points.  Leading the way was Chris "Sideshow" Nunn who not only managed three hits, but had Flemington's one clear score of the day.  Joe "Mick" Murray and Danny "Lefty" Gallagher also had three hits apiece and missed a clear score by only one at bat.  The balance of the Flemington attack came from Jeff "Duke" Schneider, Rene "Mango" Marrero, Scott "Snuffy" Hengst, and Matt "Fly" Nunn all of whom contributed two hits. "Duke" recorded the sole Flemington extra base hit of the day with one of his perfectly placed hits down the right field line.  Also of note, or at least so he says, was the play of Ken "Tumbles" Mandel who contributed his third successful hidden ball trick of the season and manfully caught a hard throw from "Mango" at first base.  Bobby "Melky" Ritter and "Snuffy" handled the pitching chores until the ninth when "Duke" came on to close things out.  Mark "Gaslight" Granieri caught most of the contest and also made his first ever appearance in center field while also contributing all of the photographs for this post.


Sam Bernstein calling his last game of nineteenth century base ball

Speaking both for myself, and I know, the rest of the Neshanock, I want recognize the many years of umpiring provided by Sam "It ain't nothing' 'till I say" Bernstein.   After 18 years of distinguished service, Sam called his last game of nineteenth century base ball on Saturday.  Well done sir, it has been a pleasure to have you with us lo these many years.


The always attentive Neshanock bench

The story of Cameron Field's place in baseball history understandably begins with the game that Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth played there on October 27, 1929.  Interestingly, however, another game a week earlier attracted an even larger crowd who watched Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane, Howard Ehmke and George "Mule" Haas, members of the newly crowned world champion Philadelphia Athletics, play in an exhibition game.  What was both surprising and interesting to me was learning that Haas was a New Jersey native, born in nearby Montclair and began his baseball career there.  Haas played in the majors from 1925 to 1938 including being a starting outfielder on Connie Mack's three consecutive American League championship teams beginning with the 1929 squad which had just finished its championship season, knocking off the Cubs in the World Series.  Not only was Haas a member of that team, he also played a key part in the last two games of the Series, one of which was, depending on your point of view, one of the greatest games in the history of the fall classic.


George "Mule" Haas

Philadelphia had won two of the first three games, so the Cubs had their backs to the wall for the fourth game, played at Shibe Park (later Connie Mack Stadium).  It looked like the Cubs had risen to the occasion as they led 8-0 heading to the bottom of the seventh at which point Mack was supposedly going to give his regulars one at bat and then let his reserves play in a World Series game.  Al Simmons led off the inning with a home run and the Athletics kept it going, closing to within four when Haas came to plate with runners on first and third.  The Jersey boy hit a vicious line drive to center field that Hack Wilson misjudged in the sun and when the dust cleared, Haas had a three run inside the park home run and the Athletics were down by only one run.  Philadelphia still wasn't finished, scoring three more times for a 10-8 lead.  Knowing a turning point when he saw one, Mack brought in his ace Lefty Grove who shut down the Cubs and the Athletics had a commanding 3 games to 1 lead.  That story is relatively well known in baseball history circles, I first read about it probably 60 years ago in John Carmichael's My Greatest Day in Baseball.  I was not aware, however, of what happened the next day in the fifth game.


Ken "Tumbles" Mandel who has never once been confused with "Mule" Haas

As understandably down as the Cubs may have been, they shook off the disappointment and led 2-0 heading to the bottom of the ninth when who should come to plate with one on, but Mr. Haas  This time he didn't need the aid of the sun, homering over the right field fence, tying the game and setting for the stage for the Athletics to win the game and the series in the bottom of the tenth.  Quite a few days for the former Jersey player and he must have been on top of the world when he made his appearance in South Orange, a few weeks later.  It was a performance reminiscent of another Athletic player, Frank "Home Run" Baker who hit two dramatic home runs in the 1911 World Series to lead the Philadelphia to a victory over John McGraw's New York Giants.  Perhaps Haas would have earned a nickname for his heroics, if he wasn't already known as "Mule."  It seems a strange nickname for someone brought up in suburban New Jersey, but apparently he acquired it while playing in the minors for Birmingham where a reporter wrote that his "bat packed the kick of a mule."  Regardless of how he got the name, it's nice to see another example of how New Jersey has been and continues to be a cradle for major league baseball talent.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

How I Spent My Vacation From Base Ball

How does a vintage base ball team occupy its time during a seven week gap between games?  Ideally, it is an opportunity to catch up on yard work, but in my case there are no shortage of week days for those tasks, leaving a definite void on the weekends.  Some of the time has been devoted to a new non-book research project (more on that in a later post), but there has also been time to finally try to get my New Jersey base ball files in some kind of order.  Since they represent over ten years of research, it is no small task, but in addition to at least having some sense of where things are, the process has also unearthed some interesting things including the below article from the August 4, 1862 edition of the New York Times about a match between the Newark Club and the Union Club of Morrisania.  

I share the entire article for a number of reasons, but primarily because of the form used by the reporter where instead of giving a linear inning-by-inning account, he devotes a lot of space to listing the ten "more noticeable points of the game," a form, I've never encountered before.

Also interesting, at least to me, are the following:

1. The Union and Newark Clubs are referred to as "Provincial" teams.  I have no idea what Morrisania was like in 1862, but since Newark was one of the 12 largest cities in the country, located only a few miles from Manhattan, the "Provincial" label seems a bit much.

2. The length of the game, four hours to play ten innings, anticipating the length of modern games, but long before the practices that make so many of today's games interminable.  A partial explanation was provided by the New York Sunday Mercury which claimed that with the score tied, Newark batters in the tenth "were very fastidious in their choice of a ball to bat" so that the half inning took "nearly a half an hour."  If so, it did the Newarkers little good.

3. The praise for a play by William Lewis of the Newark Club when he "splendidly caught" a ball in the outfield earning a comparison to some of the top players of the day or at least those so viewed by the writer.  Lewis was also praised by the Mercury  which said his "splendid fielding was quite a feature of the game" and that "We never saw fly-balls taken in such style before," five in total.  By 1864, Lewis was being regularly praised by the media for his outfield play, especially eschewing the bound catch even before it was outlawed in 1865.  He would go on to play for the Irvington Club during its hey-day and, perhaps, also for the Elizabeth Resolutes.

4. Newark Club president Henry Dusenbery's reference to the lack of the progress of the Army of the Potomac under the far from effective leadership of its field general, one George McClellan.

5. While extensive post game festivities were still the order of the day in 1862, the references to toasts to the umpire, the "Press," and others unnamed probably makes it a good thing that the only possible post game driving was behind a horse.

6.  The reference to the Union Club's pitching as "bowling," an image which while understandable is one I don't recall seeing very often.  

7. The "manliness" of Terrill of the Newark Club who suffered a dislocated finger, had it snapped back into place and remained in the game, albeit moving to center field from second base.  

Hopefully, at least some of this is of interest to readers of this blog.  But either way, the good news is that the Neshanock return to action on September 14th for their annual visit to historic Cameron Field in South Orange.  


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Transitioning


Unless otherwise noted all photos are by Mark Granieri

2019 has been a year of transition for the Flemington Neshanock as Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw, team founder and club president has been taking a less active role.  One characteristic of transitions is the realization of how much work was done, but never spoken about, something I've become very well aware of this season.  It's also a time for to reflect on and honor the past something which began last weekend in Gettysburg when Tom "Schoolboy" Duffy of the Eclipse spoke about how much "Brooklyn's" help had meant in founding their club, something most of us were not aware of.  The tributes continued today in Rahway River Park when Paul Solomone, team captain of the Elizabeth Resolutes talked about Brooklyn's contributions in a heartfelt and moving manner.  Paul is the founder of nineteenth-century base ball in New Jersey and both his words and thoughtfulness were much appreciated.  He also suggested that we must be missing the weekly recitation of "Casey at the Bat," but some Neshanock are not ready to go that far, or at least not yet.


It was great to see longtime Neshanock fan, Blake Zimmer along with his parents and cousins, left to right, Aiden Jasul, Jasmin Jasul, the humble author, and Blake.  Photo by Ben Zimmer 


The two teams then began a game played by 1870 rules which are somewhat different from the 1864 version which Flemington typically uses.  The major and most obvious difference is that fair balls must be caught on a fly, but there are others including the rule that base runners advance on a walk only when forced, something the Neshanock learned or re-learned to its cost.  Having lost the toss, Flemington went to the striker's line first and tallied twice before keeping Elizabeth off the scoreboard in the bottom of the first.  The Neshanock then had a big inning in their half of the second when hits by Matt "Fly" Nunn, Jeff "Duke" Schneider, Joe "Mick" Murray, and Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner along with a walk by Chris "Low Ball" Lowry led to four Flemington tallies.  Elizabeth got one back in their half of the inning, but after a scoreless third, the Neshanock had another big inning in the fourth tallying five times.  The Resolutes, however, had no intention of going quietly and combined a single and a double to score twice in their half of the inning.


In keeping with recent history, Flemington's offense then basically shut down for the game other than scoring three times in the top of the sixth with the key blow a double by Dan Mahony, the Neshanock's only extra-base hit of the day.  Elizabeth battled back in their half of the inning combining two hits and some Neshanock muffs to tally three times.  The Resolutes staged one more rally in the bottom of the eighth, scoring two times, but it wasn't enough against a relatively solid Neshanock defensive effort and Flemington held on for a 15-8 victory.  While Flemington has won this year's games between the two clubs, the rebuilding Resolutes are rapidly improving and it is only a question of time before Elizabeth will win more than their share of matches in this longstanding, friendly rivalry. 


Photo by Lawrence Major 

Flemington's offense was led by "Mick" and "Thumbs" both of whom had four hits, each of them missing a clear score by only one time at the striker's line.  Three other Neshanock had multiple-hit games, Dan with three and "Fly" and "Duke" with two apiece.  Flemington's defense was led by its pitching tandem of Bobby "Melky" Ritter and Scott "Snuffy" Hengst.  Also noteworthy was "Jersey" Jim Nunn's almost flawless performance at first base - an unfamiliar position for him.  Once Mark "Gaslight" Granieri found the field, he turned in another strong performance at catcher, not only "gunning" down two would-be base stealers, but also making a diving catch of a bound foul to help seal the victory for Flemington.  With the win, the Neshanock are now 14-5 on the season, having played nine of the last ten weekends.  Unfortunately, Flemington doesn't play again until September 14th leaving plenty of time to catch up on yard work and other assorted chores, none of which are remotely enjoyable as playing base ball in any form.