Monday, June 17, 2019

Flemington Finally Plays Two



Liberty Club's Grounds 

Flemington played its first doubleheader of the year against the New Brunswick Liberty on the Liberty’s home field located in East Jersey Olde Town Village which is part of Johnson Park in Piscataway, NJ. While Ernie Banks’ would say "Let’s Play Two" with much enthusiasm, the Neshanock had a tough time as they dropped two to the excellent play of the Liberty.  The game also saw an appearance of Somerset Patriots’ mascot, “Sparkee”, who provided support to both the Liberty and Neshanock.



"Sparkee" gives batting tips to Scott “Snuffy” Hengst


The first game was played using 1858 rules which is the norm for the New Brunswick club. One difference with this year is that the base runner is never in danger of being put out with a fly out as play is suspended and the runner is given a free pass back to his base of origin. The Neshanock held a 4-2 lead after three but the Liberty’s steady attack resulted in a 10-5 win for the home team. Ken “Tumbles” Mandel led the Neshanock with 2 hits while eight other Neshanock had just 1 hit each.



Liberty Pitcher

The second game was played under the Neshanock’s rules of 1864. The game was close through 8 innings with New Brunswick holding a 13-12 advantage. However, in the top of the ninth, the Liberty’s bats exploded as they plated 11 while the Neshanock only answered with 1 of their own resulting in a 24-13 loss. The following Neshanock each had a 3 hit game, Ken “Tumbles” Mandel, Mark “Gaslight” Granieri, and Joe “Mick” Murray. 


"Jersey" Jim Nunn

Perhaps the brightest spot of the day for the Neshanock was the return of Chris “Sideshow” Nunn to the lineup after having been lost last year to injury during the Philadelphia Navy Yard Classic. Since Saturday’s game was the day before Father’s Day, it would be timely to mention that there are many Father and Sons playing 19th Century Base Ball. The Neshanock have had many such pairings over the years including the Nunns with Jim and sons Chris and Matt.  Next weekend the Neshanock will be hosted by the Historical Society of Princeton and Morven Museum & Garden in Princeton, NJ.


Chris "Sideshow" Nunn

All photos and verbiage courtesy of Mark "Gaslight" Granieri 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

If the Story's Not Complete, It's Not Correct

On Saturday, the Flemington Neshanock and the Elizabeth Resolutes renewed the longest running rivalry in New Jersey vintage base ball, this time at the Howell Living History Farm near Lambertville.  Like all such rivalries, there have been close games, dramatic comebacks, and a few very one-sided outcomes.  Saturday was one of the latter, this time in the Neshanock's favor, sometimes it's just the way the game works out.  As always, the Resolutes played hard and there are better days ahead for the state's senior vintage club. Today's game was all about big innings as Flemington tallied seven times in the third and 12 in the fifth, putting the game out of reach on the way to a 26-1 victory. 



The Neshanock offense was led by Danny "Lefty" Gallagher, back in the clear score column, with five hits in as many visits to the striker's line.  Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner also had five hits and missed a clear score only because he was retired on the bases by a force play.  Gregg "Burner" Wiseburn and Jeff "Duke" Schneider also flirted with a clear score, both coming up short in their final at-bat.  Ken "Tumbles" Mandel, Joe "Mick" Murray, and Dave "Illinois" Harris also contributed multi-hit games, "Tumbles" with three and "Mick" and "Illinois" with two apiece.  Two other noteworthy achievements were a well-executed fair-foul hit by Bobby "Melky" Ritter and a thrown out stealing with "Burner" on the throwing end and "Thumbs" making the tag.  With the win, Flemington is 5-1 on the season heading into a visit next week to Piscataway to take on the Liberty Base Ball Club of New Brunswick.


Vintage baseball is, of course, a form of living history and like every kind of history, accuracy has to be one of the highest priorities.  However, even with the correct facts, a historian's work isn't finished, if the story is incomplete.  That isn't as simple as it may seem, because the larger the story, the more difficult it is to include everything especially when some parts have been kept on the margins, intentionally or otherwise. All too frequently in such cases, the challenge is even greater because limited information survives.  Not surprisingly, a case in point is African-American baseball, but in the Morven exhibit, a special effort has been made to tell that part of the story of New Jersey baseball both the good and the bad.  One item of historic note that visitors to the exhibit will see is a very brief article in the October 25, 1855 edition of the Newark Daily Mercury which documents the earliest known baseball game in the United States between two African-American clubs, at least one of which was a New Jersey team.



Another interesting aspect of this part of the exhibit is three incidents in New Jersey in 1886-1887 that symbolize how civil rights in baseball, and in the country for that matter, were at a crossroads.  The first is the story of the Cuban Giants, who noted baseball historian, Larry Hogan has called "black baseball's first great professional team." Among other things, the Giants were the first black team to receive regular salaries instead of a portion of erratic and sometimes non-existent gate receipts.  Founded in 1885, the team moved to Trenton in 1886 after the state capital had lost its minor league team.  Through 1889, the African-American team was the city's top club, receiving unprecedented newspaper coverage, allowing for the first detailed statistical records of black professional baseball.  Visitors to the Morven exhibit will see a Giants team picture, a season ticket and a rendering of their uniform courtesy of Craig Brown and his Threads of the Game website.


1887 Chicago White Stockings - Cap Anson is number 8, number 1 is the future evangelist - Billy Sunday

And the Cuban Giants time in Trenton was not the only positive news on the baseball racial front in New Jersey.  Further north, in 1887, the Newark "Little" Giants, of the International League signed baseball's first all-black battery, catcher, Moses Fleetwood Walker, the first black major league player, and pitcher, George Stovey, one of the top pitchers of the period.  In addition to their all-black battery, Newark had two other ethnic-based batteries and used all three to promote their club and attract customers.  In addition, the International League had seven black players that season, a possible first step towards a critical mass, facilitated by the mostly northern geographic orientation of the league.  Unfortunately, it was not to be, something symbolized by a game involving the "Little" Giants that same year in Newark.


Moses Fleetwood Walker 

On July 14, 1887, Charles "Cap" Anson brought his major league Chicago White Stocking team to Newark for an exhibition game with the Newark club.  Before the game, Anson let be known that his team would not play if either Walker or Stovey played.  To what extent, if any, Newark management objected isn't known, but neither men played.  Anson, did not, of course, establish the color line by himself, his action was more symbolic of what was going on in baseball and nationwide.  That same day, a special meeting of International League clubs, directed the league secretary not to accept any more contacts for black players.  In spite of what seemed like positive developments in Trenton and Newark, baseball was clearly following the shift of the country away from any concern about equal rights for African-Americans.  It is not a positive or attractive part of the story of New Jersey baseball but has to be included to tell the full story and so we can better understand and appreciate what it meant almost 60 years later, in April of 1946, when Jackie Robinson took the field in Jersey City for his first game in organized baseball.


Sunday, June 2, 2019

Morven Preview - Part III


All photos by Mark "Gaslight" Granieri 

This past Saturday, the Neshanock were honored to be part of the final day of Woodbridge Township's 350th-anniversary celebration (that's a Sesquarcentenial for those keeping score at home).  In honor of the occasion, the township put together its own team, the Woodbridge Claypitters.  Assisting the local players on and off the field were Danny Jurgens and Dennis Lipari of the Elizabeth Resolutes and Hank Hart, a distinguished alumnus of the Neshanock club.  Probably thanks to all that preparation, the local team got off to a quick start, tallying five times in the first two innings for a 5-1 lead going to the bottom of the second.  However, Flemington rallied for two in the second, one in the third, and then took control of the game in the bottom of the fourth with a six-run inning.  The Neshanock defense also settled down at that point holding the Claypitters to only one tally the rest of the way, for an 18-6 Flemington victory.  The local team had no reason be embarrassed, however, getting started in vintage baseball is no easy matter and the Woodbridge team played good defense throughout and the Neshanock hope to see them on the field again.


The Woodbridge Claypitters

Flemington's attack was led by Rene "Mango" Marrero, who had four hits while Dave "Illinois" Harris and Jeff "Duke" Schneider contributed three apiece.  "Duke's" first career triple was a key hit in the Neshanock's six-run fourth inning while "Illinois" demonstrated his skill at the "fair/foul play."  Both Dan "Sledge" Hammer and Ken "Tumbles" Mandel flirted with clear scores with each coming up one at-bat short.  "Sledge" preserved his clear score until his last time at the striker's line while "Tumbles" actually reached base each time up, but was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double.  Danny "Lefty" Gallagher and Scott "Snuffy" Hengst also had two hits apiece.  Flemington was pleased to welcome Don Sachau who made his Neshanock debut and we hope he will be back.  With the win, the Neshanock are now 4-1 on the season with a match next Saturday at the Howell Living History Farm in Hopewell Township against the Elizabeth Resolutes.  After that Flemington plays in Piscataway, Princeton, and Delanco - plenty of New Jersey opportunities to see the Neshanock and 1864 base ball.


Neshanock Alumnus Hank Hart (left) and Elizabeth Resolutes veteran Danny Jurgens

Anyone who has done historical research for a book, an essay or even a blog post, knows the challenges in finding adequate contemporary source material.  One thing I've learned from working on the Morven Museum baseball exhibit is that the challenges increase tenfold, if not more, for a museum exhibit, at least on baseball.  The first reality is that there really weren't a lot of objects to start out with and, secondly, the people of the time didn't realize that what did exist had historical value so they had little reason to preserve anything.  Thanks, however, to the generosity of a number of institutions and individuals, the Morven exhibit will have a good sampling of what is available.  Fortunately, these artifacts also serve as symbols for a larger part of the story.  Just two examples are the financial ledger book of the Star Club of New Brunswick (courtesy of the New Jersey Historical Society) and a series of notes from the corresponding secretary of the Bergen Base Ball Club.


Jeff "Duke" Schneider having recovered from running out his triple

The Star Club book was used by the club treasurer to keep track of dues payments while the Bergen Club's notes were notices of an upcoming practice, both fairly mundane concerns, (unless you are the treasurer or the corresponding secretary), but they symbolize an important reality of club life.  For obvious reasons, early base ball clubs are thought of primarily as teams playing a game, but they also were similar to modern not-for-profit organizations.  Such organizations require a lot of administrative tasks above and beyond the work associated with the not-for-profit's mission.  Those familiar with the not-for-profit world today know full well how important it is to have someone to keep financial records or take meeting minutes.  Many early base ball clubs proved to be short-lived and we tend to believe it was because of the difficulty in fielding a team on a regular basis which was doubtless a challenge.  But another contributing factor may have been the difficulty in finding someone willing to handle the finances, communications and other matters necessary for the club to operate.  Most likely some clubs disbanded because there was no one willing to do those jobs.


The Woodbridge bench reacts to a prodigious wallop by Ken "Tumbles" Mandel

Another interesting thing about these artifacts is how they connect to other parts of the story of early New Jersey base ball and, again, the Star Club book is an example.  Founded before the Civil War, the Star Club has the distinction of hosting what was probably the first road trip by a college team.  Although the Nassau Club of Princeton University had made a pre-war trip to play an alumni team in Orange, their first true road match was an October 1862 visit to New Brunswick to take on the Star Club.  Not only did Princeton president, John Maclean allow the team to leave campus for the game, he also permitted members of the student body to join the team for the train ride which according to one participant consisted of "songs, shouts, and visions of a jolly day."  Did the students comport themselves with the dignity expected (hoped for) by the college president?  Unsurprisingly, they did not. College students, then, as now, were, after all, college students.  After being welcomed by their hosts, the Princeton party promptly visited a "billiards saloon," before walking around the "rustic village" of New Brunswick, taking special note of "a few pretty girls with skirts fastened (enchantingly) up to avoid the wet." For shame!



How do we know such much about the Princeton students less than exemplary behavior?  They were not only foolish enough to wander off the straight and narrow, but one of them was perhaps even more foolish to write about it in the school's literary magazine.  If there were any consequences for their behavior, they weren't recorded, but the college authorities did begin to exercise greater restraint over at least the team, forbidding them, a few years later, to leave campus for a game in nearby Bordentown.  Did that stop them?  It did not.  College students, then as now, were resourceful and the Princeton players overcame that particular prohibition by playing as the Pickwick Club under assumed names.  The Star Club book and Bergen Base Ball Club notes may be inanimate objects, but they definitely have stories to tell.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Memorial Day 2019 and Morven Preview Part II


Photo by Mark Granieri 

On Memorial Day, the Neshanock once again converged on Newtown, Pennsylvania to take on the hometown Newton Strakes, a local team assembled for just this one game.  Although this year's version of the Strakes was reportedly new to vintage base ball, they were definitely well acquainted with how to play the game, combining good hitting and stout defense.  Flemington won the toss and elected to strike second, sending Newtown to the line where they promptly tallied four times.  The Neshanock got two back in their half of the inning, but Newtown added four more runs over the next six innings while holding Flemington to just one.  Leading 8-3 heading to the top of the eighth, the Strakes put together another four running inning for an insurmountable 12-3 lead, although the Neshanock added four tallies in the last two innings for a final score of 12-7.


Photo by Mark Granieri 

While Newtown did very well at the striker's line, what really stood out was their defense, playing errorless ball throughout.  Most vintage teams struggle to get through a game without an error, for a local team to do so is a major accomplishment.  Flemington was once again led on offense by Danny "Lefty" Gallagher with another clear score, reaching base all three times he was up.  Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri, Gregg "Burner" Wiseburn, Scott "Snuffy" Hengst and "Jersey" Jim Nunn all contributed two hits to the Neshanock attack.  Flemington also had some good efforts in the field with Chris "Low Ball" Lowry making a fine bound out catch at second while Matt Nunn made two good plays in right field both in the same inning.  With the loss, the Neshanock are 3-1 on the season heading into next Saturday's visit to Woodbridge, New Jersey to take on another local team.  Hopefully, they won't be as proficient as the Strakes.


Photo by Mark Granieri

We are only about a week away from the opening of "New Jersey Baseball: From the Cradle to the Major Leagues, 1855 to 1915," a new exhibit at the Morven Museum & Garden in Princeton.  Obviously, the Civil War is part of that period and while the war's influence on baseball has probably been exaggerated, one thing is certain, New Jersey troops played their share of baseball.  The only requirements for a baseball game were players, space, bats, and balls, all of which were readily available.  To tell this part of the story, the exhibit will focus on a game played in April of 1863 between the officers and senior non-commissioned officers of the 11th New Jersey regiment.  The game has special relevance to Memorial Day, a holiday that was created to honor the Union dead. Visitors to the exhibit will see a scorecard from the game as well as original photographs (carte-de-vistes) of almost all of the participants.  The scorecard comes from Thomas Marbaker's History of the 11th New Jersey Volunteers (courtesy of Longstreet House) while the pictures are available courtesy of John Kuhl, one of the great collectors of New Jersey Civil War material and a true gentleman if there ever was one.


Photo by Mark Granieri

The game was played between teams led by Captains Luther Martin and Dorastus Logan.  It isn't known how the sides were chosen, but clearly the talent was not evenly divided since Martin's team took an 18-5 lead after two innings on the way to a one-sided 40-15 win.  What is noteworthy however is not the game itself, but rather what happened to the players a few months later in a small village in southern Pennsylvania called Gettysburg.  It would have been hard for the 11th New Jersey to be in a worse place than on the Emmitsburg Road on July 2nd when the regiment came under Confederate attack from two different directions  In a matter of moments, the two senior officers were wounded and carried from the field.  Next up was Captain Martin, the regiment's senior captain, but he was quickly wounded and while limping to the rear hit a second time and killed.  At about the same time, his opposing captain in the April baseball game, Captain Logan was also fatally shot.  In the space of just about 12 minutes, the 11th New Jersey went through three commanding officers and by the time the day's fighting was over, almost every officer above the rank of lieutenant had been killed or wounded.


11th New Jersey Monument on the Emmitsburg Road at Gettysburg

Without a doubt Martin's and Logan's deaths at a young age are tragic, but the full extent of their sacrifice can be more fully understood and appreciated by looking at the impact their deaths had on their widows and the small children they left behind.  Fortunately, both the widows and their children were not without financial support because the Federal government provided a $20 per month pension to widows plus $2 a month for every child under the age of 16.  Since the average working man in Newark in 1860 made about $300 a year, the amounts are not as low as we might think.  Both widows started receiving their pensions promptly.  Logan's widow, Catharine, lived in Morristown and had two children, one of whom was over 16 and not eligible for the pension.  Little information seems to have survived about her later life, but Mrs. Logan lived until 1911, almost 50 years after her husband's death at Gettysburg.


Dorastus Logan's Grave Marker 

 Martin, who had been the publisher of the Plainfield Gazette, left a widow (Isabella) and four young children, ages six, four, three and six months living in Elizabeth.  Most likely, he never saw his youngest son William who was born in February of 1863.  Like Catharine Logan, Isabella Martin received her pension, but even with the money she apparently couldn't keep her family together since 10 years later in 1873, the three youngest were in the Soldier's Children's Home in Trenton.  These unfortunate youngsters were just three of the 1600 orphans and half orphans left by New Jersey's deceased soldiers.  Growing up without a father, who they probably scarcely remembered, in an institution, not a home, the Martin children shared more than a little in their father's sacrifice. By 1910, Isabella, who would live until 1913, was an inmate in the Baptist Home for the Aged in Newark, suggesting her life continued to be difficult long after that fateful July day in Gettysburg.


Luther Martin's Grave Marker 

Why did Thomas Marbaker include the scorecard of a relatively insignificant baseball game in his regimental history?  He never said, but it clearly was not because it was such a memorable game from a competitive standpoint.  We don't know the date or the weather, but it is reasonable to believe it was a nice day since as soldiers they had spent enough time outside in bad weather that they wouldn't choose to do so in off duty hours.  Most likely it was one of those early spring days that are full of hope and promise regardless of the circumstances.  While there was probably plenty of apprehension about the upcoming spring campaign, there was also hope that this time, they would win a decisive victory and end the war.  In the meantime, what better way to spend the day than playing this "new" game that had become increasingly popular throughout the state.  Some 25 years later when Marbaker sat down to write the regiment's story, it is understandable he wanted to remember them at a time of hope and happiness and used baseball as a means to do so. Similarly, seeing these exhibit items at Morven can help us use baseball to remember them, their families and their sacrifices. It is in Lincoln's words "altogether fitting and proper that we should do this."



Monday, May 20, 2019

Neshanock Take the Town

Many thanks to official blog photographer Mark "Gaslight" Granieri for also taking on the role of blogger to report on the Neshanock's visit to Nutley this past Saturday.


Bat Toss for Choice of Batting First or Second

After two weekends of rainouts, Flemington took the field against the Nutley Colonels at Yanticaw Park in Nutley, NJ. The Colonels are one of five “town” teams on the Neshanock schedule this year. These local clubs usually only assemble once or twice a year for a town event or a benefit. In this case, the Colonels were playing for the Kingsland Manor built in the 1700s.




Base Ball at Yanticaw Park


This is the fifth year for the event and the Colonels brought high hopes after falling to the Neshanock last year by just one run. The Nutley squad was led by “Skipper” who brought a team that included such names as “Baccala”, “Tuna”, “Little Tuna”, “Bomber” and “PopPop”. But the Neshanock were ready and came away with a 16-6 victory. Nutley did provide a scare in the 8th inning by loading the bases several times and sending 4 runs across the plate.



Nutley Colonels 


The Neshanock were led by Danny “Lefty” Gallagher and Tom “Thumbs” Hoepfner who each collected 5 hits apiece. “Lefty’s” bat was particularly explosive as he walloped two triples and a home run. The mound was handled ably by Rene “Mango” Marrero with Dave “Illinois” Harris closing out the last two innings. The Neshanock scored 5 in first, 3 in the second and never looked back.


"Batty" Returns 


One highlight of the game was the execution of a fair/foul hit by Joe “Mick” Murray. In Nineteenth Century Base Ball, a ball is fair or foul depending upon where it first strikes the field, not like the modern game where the ball has to travel fair past first or third base. Another highlight was the return of the Flemington Neshanock bat rack. “The Rack" had been rumored to be lost to the cold winter, the victim of a shortage of firewood.  Next up for the Neshanock is another town team, the Newtown Strakes, on Memorial Day in Newtown, PA.


Flemington Gives Three Cheers and a Tiger In Honor of a Worthy Opponent

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Morven Preview - Part I

After a promising start, the 2019 Neshanock season has reverted to the all too familiar pattern of last year - rain, rain, and more rain.  Not only was last week's visit to Elkton, Maryland washed out, rain canceled today's scheduled doubleheader at New Jersey's historic Ringwood Manor State Park. Flemington is off next weekend, but wind and weather permitting will get back on the field in Nutley on Saturday, May 18th.  It is not clear when Ringwood, the site of today's aborted games, had its first organized baseball club, but it was no later than 1874. In June of that year, the Hewitt Club of Ringwood took part in a historic moment in New Jersey baseball history, the rebirth of the Olympic Club of Paterson.  Founded in 1864, the Olympic Club quickly became the city's top team and enjoyed some noteworthy success including an 1866 upset win over the Irvington Club the same year that upstart club burst on to the national scene.  Playing primarily lower level amateur clubs, the Olympics enjoyed further success but disbanded in 1869 when baseball fell into disfavor in Paterson supposedly because of its supposed negative impact on business.  On that June day in 1874, however, the Olympic Club came together again to play and defeat the Hewitt Club giving added motivation to those interested in re-organizing the Olympic.


Mike "King" Kelly and Jim McCormick as members of the 1886 National League champion Chicago White Stockings 

Not long after that, a group of 50 interested supporters of baseball in Paterson met to make the rebirth a reality and they were willing to back their interest with more than good intentions.  Recognizing the players would lose time from their "shops" to practice and play, the organizers agreed to make good their lost wages.  Drawing on an informal system of junior teams for talent, the rejuvenated Olympics became a highly successful semi-pro team and gave a dramatic illustration of how New Jersey could and would develop major league players.  Four young Paterson residents, Jim McCormick, Mike Kelly, Edward Nolan, and William Purcell took full advantage of the opportunity to play for the reorganized and revitalized Olympic Club.  By 1880 all of them were on major league rosters at a time when there were only about 100 such positions.  McCormick and Kelly had the most success and will be a focal point of the new exhibit on New Jersey baseball opening at Morven Museum & Garden in Princeton on June7th. (https://morvenmuseum.squarespace.com/new-jersey-baseball).



Playing three games for the Olympic Club against the professional Columbus Buckeyes (and former Olympic teammate, Edward "The Only" Nolan) in September of 1876 gave Kelly and McCormick the kind of visibility that got them started on their journey to the major leagues.
New York Clipper September 30, 1876

McCormick, a right-handed pitcher, reached the major leagues in 1878 and was a workhorse over an 11-year career, with a 265-214 overall record and a lifetime 2.43 ERA while pitching almost 4,300 innings.  At the time pitchers, were expected to pitch almost every day and McCormick was no exception throwing over 500 innings five times including a mind-boggling 657 innings in 1880.  Visitors to the exhibit will have the opportunity to see a scorecard of a memorable game from the 1880 season, a year McCormick went 45-28 with a 1.85 ERA.  The scorecard, however, is not from one of his wins, but rather a loss.  On June 14, 1880, McCormick dropped a 1-0 decision to Lee Richmond of the Worcester Club.  Although McCormick only allowed three hits and a single run, Richmond was even better, perfect in fact, pitching the first perfect game in major league history.



Towards the end of his career, McCormick was part of two Chicago White Stocking pennant-winning teams where he rejoined former Olympic teammate, Mike Kelly, by then better known as "King" Kelly.  Whether or not he was the king of all baseball, Kelly was certainly baseball royalty, hitting .307 over a 16-year career on his way to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  But Kelly was more than just a great ball player.  Described as baseball's first matinee idol, the Paterson product received rock star adulation especially after he moved to Boston in 1887.  Some examples of that popularity will be part of the Morven exhibit including the sheet music from the song "Slide Kelly, Slide, and a picture of the same name that supposedly supplanted the famous picture of Custer's Last Stand in Irish bars throughout Boston.  These are just a few examples of the major league section of the exhibit which will also inform visitors about other great nineteenth-century New Jersey players including Mike Tiernan, Weston Fisler, and  Hardy Richardson who was known as the Babe Ruth of the 1880s.  Also part of the exhibit is the story of the state's one major league team - the 1915 Newark Peppers.  Stay tuned for more previews of an exhibit I hope visitors will find both interesting and informative.



Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Disobeying One's Mother



Considering the strict limitations society played on women in the nineteenth century, it is no surprise the idea of women playing baseball found little if any favor.  If that was not bad enough, there was an added barrier because baseball first had to be justified as a suitable activity for adult males.  Early baseball promoters had to convince the public that baseball was no longer just a boy's game, but an appropriate activity for grown-up men.  It was necessary, therefore to stress the game's manly nature, and if baseball was manly, how could it be a game for women?  Yet, as we might expect, discouraging women from playing baseball was far easier than prohibiting them from doing so.  I've written before in this blog about early women's baseball in New Jersey and will cover some of the same ground in my forthcoming book, A Cradle of the National Pastime.  However, that book stops in1880 while the upcoming Morven exhibit on New Jersey baseball will go through 1915 allowing for further coverage of that part of the story.  In trying to understand women's baseball throughout this era, I owe a major debt, as do all baseball historians, to Debra Shattuck and her groundbreaking book, Bloomer Girls: Women Baseball Pioneers, a work, I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone interested in baseball history.


Trenton Evening Times - October 12, 1883

Beginning in the 1870s, baseball's main storyline is the growth of the professional game, but women also played professionally during the same period, albeit in a different form.  Men's organized professional play really got started with the formation of the National Association in 1871, followed by the National League in 1876 as men's teams played in leagues, both major and minor, competing for championships.  Women's professional play, however, did not take place within structured leagues, but rather by barnstorming teams, sometimes playing in the same ballparks before larger crowds than the men attracted.  Played, for example, by teams of blondes and brunettes, the games were probably more theatrical than competitive.  Women's teams played at a variety of New Jersey locations including Camden, Trenton, New Brunswick, and Newark.  Unfortunately, too many of the teams were promoted by unscrupulous characters like Sylvester Wilson who took advantage of the women players in every way imaginable and some that are probably better not imagined.  In the end, Mr. Sylvester spent a fair amount of his life in prison.


Dollar Weekly News (Bridgeton, New Jersey) - July 28, 1883

Naturally, there was more than a little opposition to these games, sometimes through brief comments in the local press, but eventually in more formal ways like the song "Who Would Doubt That I'm a Man" warning women players they risked losing their femininity.  Even so, the games continued and by the 1890s sometimes took the form of women's teams playing against local men's teams.  One such barnstorming women's team took the name of the legendary Cincinnati Red Stockings, doubtless trying to claim they were following in the footsteps of the legendary 1869 men's club.  In the spring of 1893, the female version of the Red Stockings challenged the local baseball team of Bloomfield, New Jersey to a game with the admission fees to be divided between the two teams.  The young men agreed and the game was scheduled for May 6, 1893, in neighboring Glen Ridge which apparently had a more suitable ball field.  The game probably would have proceeded without incident until promoters put up handbills advertising the game, showing the female players in short skirts above the knee.


1894 Bloomfield baseball club - a year earlier four of those pictured here participated in the game with the female Cincinnati Red Stockings 

Naturally, the mothers of the Bloomfield players were infuriated and demanded their sons withdraw from the game.  Surprisingly, however, in this case, the young men refused to obey their mothers, and probably their fathers as well, and the game went on. Although "the good people [of Bloomfield and Glen Ridge] vowed that nobody who went to the show could have further title to respectability," some 1,000 people reportedly attended, about 600-700 paying the 25 cent admission charge with the rest watching from a nearby hill.  "The surprise of the day," however was the presence of "at least fifty young ladies of undoubted respectability," who were "accompanied by escorts in smart raiment."  For shame, indeed!  Nor was this the end of the scandalous behavior as "half a dozen fashionable carriages with coachmen" watched the game from their coaches without paying admission.  Although the Red Stockings had some of the country's best woman players, including Lizzie Arlington and Maud Nelson, the Bloomfield boys prevailed.  But in a very manly gesture, they gave the visitors 80% of the gate receipts.


New York Herald - May 7, 1893

Unfortunately for the mothers and other disapproving people in Bloomfield, word of the game spread far and wide, to the point the New York Herald, one of the country's leading newspapers sent a reporter to cover it.  That coverage, in turn, insured not just national, but international attention, including an article in a London newspaper which found the behavior of the players did not meet the highest standards of Victorian propriety.  Even so, the young men and the two communities seemed to have survived the experience and women's' barnstorming tours continued into the twentieth century when softball became the primary women's bat and ball game.  But women's success in playing baseball against ongoing opposition reminds us that baseball was the National Pastime because it appealed to such a broad range of people, no matter how much others tried to limit who got on the field.


The Pall Mall Gazette (London, England) - May 23, 1893 - Bloomington is clearly Bloomfield