Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reconstructing early New Jersey base ball

Newark Daily Advertiser - November 6, 1857

Witnessing part of a Philadelphia town ball match renewed my interest in the game or games played in New Jersey before 1855, especially what it would have been like to play in such a game.  Town ball was the name for the Philadelphia game and other non-New York games, but there's no evidence the name was used in New Jersey.  Many years later, "old style," "old fashioned," and even "antiquarian" were the popular descriptive adjectives for bat and ball games the participants claimed were different from "modern" base ball.  Since, however there are no contemporary sources of information about those games, there is no way to know for certain whether they were called town ball , base ball or something else.  More importantly, the lack of contemporary accounts forces any attempt at reconstruction to rely on newspaper descriptions, years later, of re-creations of early games, not unlike trying to understand the New York game solely by watching vintage base ball.

Newark Morning Register - May 25, 1869

While these accounts are helpful, depending on such sources carries risks, not the least of which is that the reporter writing the story was probably trying to describe a game he had never seen before based on the imperfect memories of multiple participants.  How, for example, when outlining these early games, did the reporter reconcile inconsistencies or gaps in what he heard and saw?  Furthermore, as with the very name of the game, how did the reporter know that what he experienced wasn't at least partially the incorrect inclusion of "modern" rules and practices instead of what actually happened.  Newspaper accounts of the old-fashioned base ball craze which swept through Paterson in 1867 included box scores depicting a game with three outs per side per inning.  Since variations of the pre-New York game frequently featured one out or all out, was this how the game was actually played in Paterson or is it an historically inaccurate application of "modern rules?" It's impossible to know for sure, so drawing conclusions from these accounts is not unlike building a house on quicksand.

 Yet these accounts are all the information we have so keeping the risks in plain view, let's look at  the Newark and Paterson "styles" by means of a chart laying out some the features described in the retrospective accounts. 

Category                                   Newark                             Paterson

Number of Players                      Varies                              11

Bats                                          Many sizes and                Not stated
                                                 shapes including

Inning ends                                All out                              Three out

Outs made by                            Fly catch                          Fly catch
                                                Bound catch                      Bound catch
                                                Three strikes                      Not stated
                                                Hit with thrown ball             Hit with thrown ball

Foul territory                              None                                 None

Game ends                               Not stated                          Six innings.

At bat outcomes                        Base hits/outs                    Base hits/outs

One area of clear agreement is the absence of foul territory, a feature shared with Philadelphia town ball.  Both Newark and Paterson accounts emphasize this point and it's so different from the New York game, it's unlikely anyone who played or saw the earlier versions would have forgotten it.  Close to a complete match are the means for making outs with the Paterson game missing only strikeouts, but the issue isn't covered in the Paterson accounts which are fewer in number and far briefer so it is probably not unreasonable to believe strikeouts were also part of the Paterson game.  Perhaps more important is the shared rule that outs could be recorded by "plugging" or "soaking" with the ball, again a common feature with Philadelphia town ball.  As noted earlier, there is major divergence on the all out/three out rule.

Newark Daily Journal - October 14, 1865

There also appears to be a difference in the number of players with the Paterson version clearly fixed at 11, but with much variation in the Newark matches.  However, eleven on a side seems to be a fairly common feature of these early games and the far larger numbers playing in the Newark games in the 1870's suggests accommodating everyone who turned out.  Further support for 11 on a side as the norm in New Jersey is seen in the experience of the state's first base ball clubs as in 1855 Jersey City's charter teams played 11 on a side before changing to 9 over the course of the season.  Although equipment was at a minimum there also appears to be a difference in the type of bats used in these contests.  The Newark newspapers give detailed descriptions of bats of varying sizes and shapes including some flat rather than round, the articles even seem to suggest the bats were originals brought out of "storage."  The Paterson accounts, on the other hand, are silent on the bats most likely indicating they were round as anything different most likely would have attracted attention.

Newark Daily Journal - May 30, 1873

Not surprisingly a major difference between both New Jersey games and Philadelphia town ball is the absence of the all or nothing, home run or out aspect of the latter game as both the Newark and Paterson accounts refer to runners stopping at bases.  It appears to me that to some degree, the all or nothing aspect of the Philadelphia game was driven by the very short distance between the bases.  The only mention of the field in the Newark accounts is of stakes rather than bases, but the Paterson paper describes a field measured by the distance from the batter to second base, much like the Knickerbocker rules, although the description is of a far larger field.  The dimensions may very well be in error, but seem clearly to describe a field that permitted multiple outcomes of at bats.

Paterson Daily Press - August 2, 1867

Based on this information, what could a young man in Newark before 1855 expect to experience on the ball field?  Since, as far as we know, there were no organized clubs, our ball player headed not for his or the other team's home grounds, but to a nearby vacant lot.  Bases had to be laid out, but without foul territory not a lot of field preparation was required.  The informality probably extended to the choosing of sides, batting order and positions in the field, although then, as now, some players were singled out for their hitting and fielding.  If our imaginary player wasn't a great hitter, success in his first at bat was important or he would spend a lot of time on the bench (assuming the existence of the same).  On the other hand, if he did get on base, he was vulnerable to being hit with a thrown ball especially if he turned his back to the ball while running.  While our player may have been bored waiting for his teammates to make out, it was preferable to standing in the field on a hot, humid August day waiting for all 11 players on the opposite team to be retired.  It's no wonder then that when someone suggested playing by a new set of rules with regular structured at bats, shorter periods in the field and no risk of being hit by a thrown ball, there was no shortage of volunteers.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Weekend at the Yard

Photo by Mark Granieri

This past weekend the Neshanock visited Philadelphia to participate in the Navy Yard vintage base ball festival sponsored by the Athletic Club of Philadelphia.  Still a relatively new club, the Athletics deserve a great deal of credit for sponsoring this event which is held on the parade grounds of the former Navy Yard, allowing three games to be played simultaneously.  Since I wasn't able to attend Mark "Gaslight" Granieri kindly provided pictures and a game summary for Saturday while Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw filled me in on Sunday's match.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Flemington began play on Saturday morning with a match against the Keystone Club of Harrisburg, the same team the Neshanock played and defeated in a well played match in Cooperstown back in May.  The weather was hot and humid so playing in heavy uniforms was more than the usual sacrifice to historical accuracy as the Neshanock took an apparently safe 13-6 lead into the ninth.  The Pennsylvania club wasn't done, however, and scored five times and had the bases loaded with only one out.  Fortunately Flemington held on for a hard fought 13-11 victory.  After a brief respite the second match was against the Capital City All Stars, a club representing a number of clubs from Maryland and the Washington, D.C. area.  Thirteen was apparently the Neshanock's lucky number as Flemington was in control all the way for a 13-5 victory.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Although the Navy Yard event has always been held over two days, this was the first time Flemington played both days.  The difference in the conditions was dramatic as Sunday was a pleasant day with much more comfortable temperatures and lower humidity.  The Neshanock played only one match taking on one of New Jersey's newest vintage teams, the Minerva Club of Bridgeton for the first time.  I read some place that the original Minerva Club played its first match in the fall of 1863 against the Athletics of Philadelphia and, sure enough, Marshall Wright's The National Association of Base Ball Players, 1857-1870 has an 1863 match between the Athletics and the Bridgeton Club.  I'm guessing this is the Minerva under a different name and the 1863 match makes sense as a member of the Bridgeton Club played in the May 1864 "all star" match for the benefit of the U.S. Sanitary Commission.  Based on what I've seen so far, the original Minerva appear to be the earliest club in southern New Jersey other than the Camden Club which started playing Philadelphia town ball.

Photo by Mark Granieri 

The match itself concluded a perfect weekend for Flemington as the Neshanock won by a 26-2 score, one of the heaviest offensive outputs of the season.  The offense was led by Ken "Tumbles" Mandel, Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner and Dave "Illinois" Harris, all of whom reached base six times.  Not far behind were Joe "Mick" Murray and "Brooklyn" himself who made their base five times apiece.  I understand the Athletics put on another demonstration of Philadelphia town ball which I'm sure was well received.   All in all it sounds like another good event and a fine start to the fall portion of the Neshanock's schedule.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Casey Stengel's Greatest Day in Baseball - Revisited

Stengel early in his Brooklyn career

While there is no comparison between Casey Stengel's playing career and that of Ty Cobb, the two had at least one thing in common.  When queried about their greatest day in baseball, both chose games early in lengthy careers.  In fact, this was one area where Casey was way ahead of, not only, Cobb, but every other player in "My Greatest Day in Baseball" because Stengel chose his very first game, a game played on September 17, 1912.  That Stengel's most memorable moment was as a player, not a manager, isn't surprising since the account was written around 1942 when he had managed just over 1200 major league games with only one winning season to show for it.  On the playing side of the equation, however, Stengel's almost 1300 games don't lack for moments of distinction.  At a crucial point late in the 1916 season, he belted an unlikely home run off Grover Cleveland Alexander sparking a Brooklyn win that put them in first place to stay.  If that wasn't a big enough success on a big enough stage, near the end of his playing career, Stengel hit a 9th inning inside the park home run for the Giants to win the first game of the 1923 World Series against the Yankees.

Claude Hendrix - the pitcher Stengel faced in his first game

Memorable as those moments must have been, however, as far as Stengel was concerned, they couldn't top his late season 1912 debut in a basically meaningless game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and his new team, the Brooklyn Superbas.  Known to history as the Dodgers, the Brooklyn team were nicknamed Superbas after a vaudeville act called Hanlon's Superbas when Hall of Fame manager Ned Hanlon took over the team in 1899.  The name stuck well after Hanlon's departure, especially in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle game accounts of long time beat writer, Tom Rice.  Rice was there on September 17, 1912 to chronicle Stengel's debut at old Washington Park and, not surprisingly, his account differs to some degree from Stengel's reminiscences three decades later.

Washington Park with a much larger crowd than saw Stengel's debut - the apartment building in right center is where fans watched from the fire escape without paying admission

According to Stengel's account, he arrived in New York City by train from Montgomery, Alabama too late to go to Washington Park so based on a cab driver's recommendation, he booked a room at the Longacre Hotel in Manhattan.  With time on his hands, and more than a little intimidated by the big city, Stengel walked one block from the hotel, found his way back and then repeated the process until he reached 42nd Street, after which he called it a night.  Rice, however, reported that Stengel, not only arrived early enough to come to the park on September 16th, but actually got there just before game time.  He presented himself to the somewhat surprised Charles Ebbets Jr., son of the Dodgers owner, as "Stengel from Montgomery of the Southern League."  Offered a chance to dress and meet his new teammates, Casey allowed as he was "dead tired," would "look the big fellows over" from the stands and "break in tomorrow."  Regardless of whether the country boy scared of the big city or the self-assured young man declining to get right into uniform is historically accurate, both suggest a colorful personality.

Bill Dahlen - Stengel's first major league manager

Regardless of whether Stengel saw Washington Park for the first or second time on September 17th, his account of his first day in a major league uniform is a picture of a "busher" breaking into the big leagues.  Upon arrival at the ball park, the new Superba found himself pretty much ignored by his teammates with the exception of Zack Wheat.  In an attempt to become one of the guys, Stengel bet $20 in a dice game which he quickly lost on the first throw.  Fortunately for both his bank account and his future, manager Bill Dahlen pulled Stengel out of the dice game, asking gruffly if he was "a crap shooter or a ball player?"  Smart enough to know the right answer, Stengel put down the dice and put on a uniform.  When he went out on the field Casey headed straight to the bench as he had been forewarned as to what happened to rookies foolish enough to try to take a turn at batting practice.

 Zack Wheat and Hub Northern, the man Stengel replaced in the lineup when he made his debut, it was the last season of Northern's short major league career

To his surprise, Stengel was put in the starting lineup, batting second and playing center field.  Casey came to the plate in the bottom of the first with a man on first, got the bunt sign, but the pitch was too low.  Following, perhaps instinctively, Southern League practice, Stengel thought he was now on his own, swung away for a single that helped score the first Dodger run.  Manager Dahlen was not impressed, however, by either the hit or the explanation for not bunting, informing Stengel with major league sarcasm that he [Dahlen] didn't want a rookie to have "too much responsibility" so he [Dahlen] would "run the team" so that all Stengel had "to worry about is fielding and hitting."

Honus Wagner of whom Stengel mistakenly thought - "I can grab anything he can hit."

That wasn't the end of Casey's education about life in the big leagues as he ignored Wheat's warning to play deeper on the legendary Honus Wagner who promptly tripled over the rookie's head.  Casey's confidence that he knew better was probably due to the exceptional day he was having at the plate with four straight singles and two stolen bases.  And the performance was certainly noteworthy as most of his success was against Claude Hendrix, who Stengel claimed was the best pitcher in the National League that year.  Best is a relative term, but the Pirate pitcher was 24-9 with a 2.59 ERA so Stengel's certainly wasn't hitting against inferior opposition.  Casey even claimed that in his 5th at bat, he responded to a challenge from Pirates manager Fred Clarke by batting right handed and earning a walk.  No mention of this appeared in four contemporary newspapers and it sounds like revisionist history.  Casey was probably also feeling good because of the favorable reviews from a group of men watching the game for free from an apartment building fire escape, much, no doubt, to the chagrin of Brooklyn owner, Charles Ebbets.

Stengel as a more established member of the Brooklyn Superbas

In spite of the lessons about how the game was different at this level, Stengel had a memorable debut, going 4 for 4 with two stolen bases as Brooklyn won easily 7-3.  Tom Rice was impressed, following the Stengel quote of "I'll break in tomorrow," by commenting that the rookie broke in "with a loud resounding crash, such as been made by few minor leaguers."  What strikes me on re-reading this memoir 50 or so years after my initial reading, is the tension between the lessons Stengel had to learn about the big leagues (gambling, following orders, taking direction from veterans) and his belief in himself, buoyed by a performance that he could play at this level.  The Eagle headlined Stengel's first game as "a record breaker" and I believe four hits in a major league debut is still a record, one shared with Willie McCovey and perhaps others.   It understandably filled Stengel with confidence about his future, sufficient reason to declare it his greatest day in baseball no matter what came later. 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle - September 18, 1912

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Brief Hiatus

A Manly Pastime will be taking a brief hiatus for the next two weeks.  Barring something unforeseen, the next post, Casey Stengel's greatest day in baseball - revisited, will be up on or about September 6th.  Thanks to everyone who has been reading the blog and also for sharing it with others.  The most recent post, Keeping Score Before Henry, has had almost 300 page views in less than a week.  I hope everyone has an enjoyable and safe end to summer and Labor Day weekend.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Keeping score before Henry

Eric Miklich in his old pants

Base ball games can have many turning points.  The turning point in Saturday's Neshanock-Eckford match was when the visitors from Long Island managed to overcome the traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway and actually get to Washington Township, New Jersey.  Once on the field, the Eckford retired Flemington without a run in the top of the first and then proceeded to record seven tallies, all  with two out, in the bottom of the inning en route to an 18-2 victory.  Although the Neshanock struggled offensively, both Dave "Illinois" Harris and Mark "Gaslight" Granieri (in spite of just hitting the big 50) contributed three hits apiece.  Unfortunately the rest of the lineup could only manage a combined total of five base hits.  Even though the Eckford scored 18 runs, "Illinois" pitched well in several innings as did Ken "Tumbles" Mandel who didn't walk anyone and even picked a runner off first.  Regardless of the outcome, playing the Eckford is always enjoyable because it's a chance to spend time with Eric "Express" Miklich, a legend in vintage base ball circles.  As promised Eric broke in a new pair of base ball pants which he claimed were responsible for the three outs he made at the plate and an error in the field.  On the other hand the pants apparently had nothing to do with the two hits Eric made in his last two at bats.  Flemington is now off until the Philadelphia Navy Yard Festival on the weekend of September 6-7th. 

Score sheet for the initial October 6, 1845 Knickerbocker game - note William Wheaton was the umpire

In historical research, it's not uncommon to find one thing while looking for another.  A lot more unusual, at least for me, is to find both questions and answers while looking for something else.  A week or so ago, I was at the New York Public Library looking at microfilmed copies of the Knickerbocker Club game books as part of researching the 1851 "Short Boy" or "Dutch" riot in Hoboken.   This wasn't my first experience with the game books since they were a source for my essay on the Knickerbockers' June 3, 1851 match with the Washington Club which appeared in the SABR publication, Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the Nineteenth Century.  This time, however, while examining Knickerbocker activity at Elysian Fields both before and after the 1851 riot, I noticed some things which prompted the following questions:

1. The Knickerbockers approved their rules on September 23, 1845 and played a game using those rules less than two weeks later on October 6th.  In spite of such a short time span, the club already had pre-printed score sheets with the club name.  Since the Knickerbockers were a pioneering club, it seemed to me that they would more likely have started out with something far less structured and gradually realized the need for a more formal score book.

2. It's been noted many places that the Knickerbockers' first priority was exercise not competition.  If so, why did they use game books to keep records of lineups and individual results instead of just tracking runs, outs and innings?

3. Why in addition to tracking runs and outs in their game book, did the Knickerbockers also include a column to record fines?

The New York club page from the famous June 19, 1846 game, note that even though it was a 23-1 rout, Davis of the New York Club managed to incur a fine for swearing

As interesting as this was, I was still focused on the 1851 riot so my next step in that research was re-reading portions of John Thorn's, Baseball in the Garden of Eden, where to my surprise I found the answers to all of the above questions.  Included in the book are excerpts from a November 27, 1887 San Francisco Examiner story entitled "How Baseball Began: A Member of the Gotham Club of Fifty Years Ago Tells About It."  The article was "discovered" or recovered by Randall Brown and has also been reprinted in full by John Thorn in his "Our Game" blog at  The article is basically an interview with William Wheaton, then an 73 year old resident of San Francisco, but who was originally from New York City and a member not just of the Knickerbockers, but also the even earlier Gotham/New York Club.  Among his memories of organized base ball's earliest days, Wheaton noted that:

"The scorer kept the game in a book we had made for that purpose, (emphasis mine), and it was he who decided all disputed points.  The modern umpire and his tribulations were unknown to us."

William Wheaton

That one sentence basically answers all of the above questions.  Since a number of the Knickerbockers were originally members of the Gotham/New York Club, they must have known about pre-printed score books and their importance for efficient game management so having one of their own made up would have been an essential part of getting organized for field practice.  Furthermore, if the score keeper was the ultimate authority, he needed a systematic way to maintain accurate records of runs and outs.  Keeping track of individual results provided sufficient backup detail to resolve any discrepancies and/or disagreements.  Lastly noting fines in the game book preserved all of the relevant information for submission to the club secretary or whoever was charged with collecting payment.

Full game book for the June 19, 1846 match

So it would seem game books or score books were first introduced not for the compilation of team and individual statistics, but for game management.  It's somewhat similar to the function of the official score book in a basketball game (as a former college basketball student manager, this should have occurred to me sooner) where the on-the-court officials give information to the official scorer who maintains a score book that is the final record both during and after a game.   My understanding from Richard Hershberger is that when base ball match play became more regular, each team had an "umpire" who kept score with the two men also responsible for working out any disagreements about plays in the field.  As Richard observed this, predictably, didn't work out well in practice so a referee was needed to provide a deciding vote to break deadlocks.  At some point, in some way, it was decided to give all of the authority to one umpire, leaving the score keepers to maintain records for their team's benefit and sometimes to help the umpire on issues such as outs, runs, batting orders.  

June 1850 score sheet showing adapted use of the fine column

The Knickerbockers and the Gothams before them may well have believed their pre-printed forms had all the necessary categories and recorded all the necessary information.  Yet it wasn't terribly long afterwards, and certainly before match play became the norm, that other information was recorded on these "original" score sheets.  As the above picture of an 1850 game sheet illustrates, an enterprising score keeper, began using the fine column to record fielding positions.  Just one more small piece of evidence that base ball is game of evolution, not invention.

Eric Miklich in his new pants

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Battling in Parisppany and a Base Ball Battery (Civil War Style)

Photo by Mark Granieri

Last Saturday the Neshanock were scheduled to play in the Old Time Base Ball Festival at Old Bethpage Village on Long Island, but the weather interceded giving Flemington a badly needed day off.  Next up was yesterday's date with the Hoboken Nine, matches scheduled for a venue that fell through for some reason.  Fortunately Parsippany, New Jersey was more than willing to host the matches on relatively short notice.  Thanks to Mayor James R. Barberio, the Morristown Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution and the North Jersey Civil War Round Table for making both clubs feel welcome and providing everything we needed.  It was an good venue and those in attendance were certainly interested in learning about 19th century base ball.  On a personal note, I was grateful for the help of my friend, Rich Rosenthal, chair of the NJCWRT and it was a pleasure to meet Fran Becker, a reader of this blog.  

Photo by Mark Granieri

Both matches were seven inning contests played under 1864 rules with Hoboken striking first in the initial match which proved to be a low scoring affair.  Flemington led 4-3 after five innings, but Hoboken tallied twice in the sixth for a 5-4 advantage which the Neshanock were never able to overcome falling by an 8-5 count.  Flemington mounted little offense in the contest with just seven hits as only Rene "Mango" Marrero and Ken "Tumbles" Mandel got two hits apiece.  After a brief break featuring Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw's rendition of "Casey at the Bat" (once again the slugger failed to come through), the second game got underway, this time with Flemington striking first.  After not generating much offense in the first match, the Neshanock struck quickly in the first  tallying six times, but Hoboken responded with five of their own in what was clearly going to be a higher scoring affair.  In addition to scoring six times in the first, the Neshanock tallied five times in the seventh, but could only manage four runs in the other five innings while Hoboken scored in all, but one inning and held on for an 18-15 win.  "Mango" continued his hot hitting with four hits, joined by Mark "Gaslight" Granieri, also with four and Chris "Sideshow" Nunn who had three.

Monument to Clark's Battery at Gettysburg

During the long weekend at the Gettysburg Vintage Base Ball Festival, I took part of the Neshanock party on a relatively brief tour of the battlefield.  The goal was to provide an overall sense of the battle and to visit some of the places where New Jersey troops were engaged, incorporating three base ball references along the way.  The first base ball connection was literally at the first stop, the site where General John Reynolds, commander of the Union I Corps, was killed almost immediately upon arriving on the scene.  The base ball connection is the identity of Reynolds replacement, none other than Abner Doubleday himself, who while he deserves no spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, earned a monument at Gettysburg for his performance as interim Corps commander.  The second base ball reference was something I wrote about after the Neshanock's 2013 visit to Gettysburg, a base ball match played by the officers of the 11th New Jersey in the spring of 1863.   During the tour we stopped at the monument to the 11th's role in the battle, fighting so fierce that every officer over the rank of lieutenant was either killed or wounded including five of the base ball players (three killed, two wounded).

Print of Clark's battery in camp in November of 1863 as shown on the eBay web site, the base ball match is in the lower right hand corner

While the 11th New Jersey base ball match took place prior to Gettysburg, the third reference involved a game played several months after the battle, not long before Abraham Lincoln gave his historic speech at the new Gettysburg National Cemetery.  Playing in the match were members of Battery B of the 1st New Jersey artillery, more popularly known as Clark's battery which served with distinction on both the second and third days at Gettysburg.  The base ball connection came to my attention when my friend, Joe Bilby sent me a picture of a print of Clark's battery in camp at Brandy Wine Station,Virginia in November of 1863.  The print shows members of the battery engaged in various camp activities including a group in the lower right hand corner playing base ball.  Joe cautioned me that the picture was not in the public domain so I set out try to locate the original.  My search took me to the Baseball Hall of Fame library which only has a copy and so couldn't give permission to use it.  The library also passed on a link to an recent sale of a copy on eBay for about $425.  The above picture is from the eBay web site.

Some of the members of Clark's battery from Michael Hanifen's History of Battery B, First New Jersey Artillery

Based on the eBay description it appears the print is a lithograph of the original drawing.  I read somewhere that the drawing was made after the war for an 1870 reunion of the battery which was formed in the fall of 1861 primarily from Newark and Essex County.  According to the eBay web site, the print was produced by Merinsky's Litho and Printing of New York City from a drawing made by E. Stutzen, "a member of the battery."  One thing you learn quickly in historical research is to check everything so it wasn't totally a surprise to find that neither Michael Hanifen's 1905 history of the battery nor the New Jersey State Archives data base has any record of a Stutzen serving in Clark's battery.  There is, however, an 1890 Civil War widow's pension application from a Barbara A. Stutzen for her late husband, Charles E. Stutzen which states he served in the 4th New Jersey infantry, but, here again, no confirmation of his service has been found.  The next step is to order a copy of the pension file from the National Archives which hopefully will shed some light on the subject.

Stutzen Civil War Pension Application

Regardless of the outcome of further research on the artist, it's no surprise men from Clark's battery played base ball in camp, especially if they came from Essex County.  By 1860 there easily 30-40 active base ball clubs in Newark and the surrounding communities.  Many were junior clubs made up of local neighborhood boys, but the important thing is that there was a lot of base ball being played and it's not surprising that in their spare time, volunteer soldiers reverted to a favorite peace time activity.  What is somewhat surprising is the post Gettysburg date of the match since, with only a few exceptions, all of the base ball matches played by New Jersey troops took place no later than May of 1863.  It is to be hoped the base ball players in Clark's battery enjoyed their late 1863 game, as the spring of 1864 brought constant campaigning with little respite for base ball or any other leisure activity until war's end almost a year later.  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Keeping score with Henry

Photo by Dennis R. Tuttle

In this age of smart phones and social media, it's no surprise that some participants in the Gettysburg Vintage Base Ball Festival, including myself, posted pictures on Facebook.  Some of these photos were subsequently shared on the Festival's page including an excellent set by Dennis R. Tuttle.  Since I'm in the above picture from that collection, my characterizing them as excellent may seem self-serving, but considering the only part of my body showing is my right hand, this can probably be overlooked.  The attraction, of course, is not an almost seven decades old hand, but the score book which is probably unique in vintage base ball circles.  While I wasn't aware this picture was being taken, it happens fairly frequently, sometimes by a professional photographer for local media, but also by spectators who see me with a large ledger type book and decide to investigate further.  It's also not uncommon to hear the book described as "cool".  That his handiwork could be considered "cool" or whatever was the 19th century equivalent, probably never occurred to Henry Chadwick when he designed it almost 150 years ago, as the Neshanock's score book is a replica of the "Father of Base Ball's" 1868 version.

Recreating this aspect of 19th century base ball got its start early in my tenure as Neshanock score keeper when Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw, club president, suggested I use Chadwick's scoring system and that we try to replicate the score book itself.  Fortunately, unlike many areas of 19th century base ball, there was no lack of original source material.  Chadwick described his system in a number of contemporary guide books (Andrew Schiff's biography of Chadwick was also helpful) and even more fortunately some of the original score books survive in the Albert Spalding collection at the New York Public Library.  On the first of numerous visits to study the originals, I realized that Chadwick had gradually upgraded his score book from the late 1850's versions which basically only provided sufficient space for runs and outs.  While the early clubs probably didn't need much more data than runs and outs, Chadwick's responsibility was to provide newspaper accounts for an audience, few of whom, if any, had actually seen the match.  This was also long before the days of press boxes with typewriters, not to mention laptops, so Chadwick needed a handwritten record he could draw on to write his account so he developed both a scoring system and a score book for that system.

Henry Chadwick

Recreating a 19th century score book began, therefore, with choosing from the different versions and the 1868 model seemed a good choice because of the detail it provided both on the game and on the scoring system itself.  With that decision made, the major challenge was replicating the score book page when photo-copying was out of the question and taking photos was initially prohibited.  The solution on a subsequent visit was to use a ruler to measure, not just the size of the page, but also the grid of horizontal and vertical lines.  As each measurement was taken, I used pencil and ruler to draw the same lines, matching the length, width, etc on a blank piece of paper as best I could while also recording the various column and row headings.  That was pressing against the limits of my artistic ability, but fortunately, my friend, Henry F. Ballone, is an expert on page layout (among other things) and with my work plus some pictures I was eventually permitted to take, he was able to design and reproduce high quality reproductions of the original pages.  The final step was having the pages bound by a bookbinder with a final cost of about $180 for a book with the capacity of 100 games or two Neshanock seasons.  While the cost may seem high, it is the result of binding the book and the amount of color on the pages.

My crude rendering of the original 1868 score book

The research and production of the score book came after I learned how to use Chadwick's scoring system which is dramatically different from modern score keeping.  Supposedly the only vestige of Chadwick's system still in use is "K" (the last letter in the word "struck") as the symbol for a strikeout.  Probably the most fundamental difference is the numbering system used for players in the field.  As probably everyone who reads this knows, the current, longstanding approach is the somewhat arbitrary assignment of numbers to the nine positions where the pitcher is "1," the catcher, "2" through the right fielder "9."  Chadwick instead gave each fielder the same number he had in the batting order, so, for example, when the Neshanock pitcher in last Saturday's game batted 6th, his defensive number was "6," not "1."  I read somewhere (not sure where) that Chadwick did this because contemporary players (1868 or earlier) played multiple positions in one game so using batting order places allowed Chadwick to record a player's defensive performance regardless of what position he played.  Perhaps somewhat ironically, playing multiple positions in one match also happens frequently in vintage base ball so this "old" system actually helps score vintage games.

The final product

It appears the numbering system also drove the layout of the score book pages and to some degree the size of the book.  In modern scoring each page typically includes the batting order, fielding positions, nine plus innings and game totals.  Since all pitchers are "1" and so on, no information is needed about the defensive team to score an inning.  However, when the defensive numbers are based on the batting order, the scorer, unless he or she has a photographic memory, has to continuously flip to the defensive team's page which can become fairly tiresome, fairly quickly.  To remedy this, I believe, Chadwick added a column after the 10th inning which listed the defense's batting order so the scorer has all the necessary information on one page.  I know from practical experience how helpful this is, as prior to recreating Chadwick's book, I used another version of a vintage score book that required the aforementioned page flipping which was indeed tiresome.

Some of the other features in the book (along with the fact it was "copyrighted") suggest that by 1868 Chadwick was marketing the score book in some fashion.  The best example of the broader intended use of the book is the listing at the bottom of the page of the abbreviations used for the different bases and plays.  Recording a typical ground out to shortstop requires noting both the base and the players involved so today's 6-3, shortstop to first out, would have been 3-5A if the shortstop were batting third and the first base man, fifth.  Hits are recorded with a vertical line crossed by horizontal lines for the number of bases, while errors or muffs are noted by the player's batting order number followed by a "0."  From four plus years of using this system, there's only one play I've found that Chadwick seems to have omitted, a fielder's choice.  That is, Chadwick had a way to record the force out at second, but no method of recording the batter's safe arrival at first.

There are also some other quirks to Chadwick's score book.  Although it's hardly a major issue, there is no allowance for a morning game (probably infrequent at the time) with the starting and ending time carved in stone (or at least black ink) as being in the p.m.  Slightly more significant is Chadwick's apparent lack of interest in recording the date of the match, since no space is provided for this information.  These quirks not withstanding, Chadwick developed and gradually enhanced a means and method for gathering and recording detailed data about almost every aspect of a match.  His efforts to protect his score book from the torrential downpour at the 1865 Atlantics-Mutals match at Elysian Fields shows how much he valued both the book and its contents.  And well he might, for it was the detailed game records that enabled Chadwick to write comprehensive accounts for an audience, many of whom never attended games, thereby contributing in his own way to base ball's increased popularity.