Saturday, December 29, 2012

Holiday Hiatus

A Manly Pastime is taking a holiday break until the week of January 7th.  There is one more post to come on the Camden Club.  Then we'll take a look at some 1861 matches between New Jersey and Brooklyn clubs, where the New Jersey teams more than held their own.  After that there will most likely be some posts about two of Newark's first clubs - the Newark and Adriatic Clubs.  Thanks to everyone who has read the blog in 2012 and best wishes for 2013.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Camden Club - Town Ball to Base Ball (New York style)

After the 1860 second eleven matches with the Excelsior Club of Philadelphia, there is no record of the Camden Club playing town ball matches against other clubs.  There is a report in the West Jersey Press of the equivalent of an inter squad game, but that's not until September of 1863.  What happened to the Camden Club between 1860 and 1863?  No documented record survives, but it appears to be a combination of the coming of the Civil War and a "conversion" experience for local ball players.



New York Historical Society

One of the many questions I'm researching is the extent to which New Jersey base ball players served in the Civil War.  They were, after all, of prime military age and should also have been in good physical condition, but the extent of their service is still an open question.  Thus far I've been able to identify 15 of the 21 men who played for the Camden Club in 1858 (highest percentage of identifications for any club I have studied).  Of the 15, eight or over 1/2 served in the Union Army, a higher percentage than I've found with other clubs to this point.  Furthermore two of the eight made the ultimate sacrifice at Gaines Mill in June of 1862.  The only other two New Jersey base ball players that I know of who died in the war, James Conklin and Horace Smith, also died at Gaines Mill.  The New Jersey brigade suffered very heavy casualties in this battle and I have a sense it was after Gaines Mill that the human cost of the war became real for the people of New Jersey.


Weston Fisler

Included in those serving in the Union army early in the war was club president, Frank Knight so the loss of club leadership as well as the number on military service probably had a lot to do with the club's inactivity.  Frank Knight was probably not focused on town ball for another reason.  In 1859 and 1860, Philadelphia area clubs were switching to the New York game.  In addition a number of new base ball clubs were being formed including the Equity Club which began play in 1860 and according to Philadelphia base ball historian, John Shiffert, was most likely the best team in Philadelphia that year.  Two members of their "hard-hitting" lineup were the aforementioned Knight and another member of the Camden Club, Weston Fisler.  Fisler would go on to a long and distinguished professional base ball career including playing in the first National League game in April of 1876.  It seems likely that military service and the lure of the New York game kept the Camdens off the town ball field through 1862.



West Jersey Press - September 16, 1863

By September of 1863, however, Knight was out of the army and he, as well as Fisler, rejoined the Camden Club for at least one inter-club game.  Also present were brothers of Arthur Merry and William Evans, the two club members killed at Gaines Mill.  This game is the last recorded town ball match of any kind played by the Camden Club.  By the following spring the Camden boys had also made the conversion to the New York game and appear to have competed through the 1868 season.


Philadelphia Inquirer - August 9, 1864

The Camdens apparently didn't believe in doing things half way as their first documented games were three matches against the Athletic Club of Philadelphia (8-1 in  1864) and the undefeated Brooklyn Atlantics, who handed the Athletics their only loss.  Not surprisingly the south Jersey club lost all three by a combined score of 127-32.  This presaged the Camden Club's experience over the next four years as they had an overall record of 6-16.  By the end of 1868, the Camdens weren't even the best team in their home town, losing twice to the Union Club by an average of 20 runs per game.

Next up (after Christmas) a look at some of the members of the Camden Club.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Camden Club - a New Jersey Town Ball Team

Sometime during the summer of 1857 a group of New Jersey ball players went through the process of formally organizing a club.  This was nothing new, easily 100 New Jersey ball clubs had been been formed by this point.  However, two things were different about this group of young men.  Based on research thus far, the Camden Club was the only antebellum club formed in south Jersey (south of a line drawn from Elizabeth on the east running through New Brunswick to Trenton on the west) and they came together to play a game they called, not base ball, but town ball.


Olympic Club of Philadelphia Constitution 

Base ball today is the direct descendant of what is known as the New York game because it was formalized and popularized in New York City.  At the same time there were other bat and ball games which gradually fell out of fashion.  Unfortunately the name town ball has been broadly assigned to many of these sister games some times without firm basis.  For this and subsequent posts about the Camden Club, town ball means the version of the game as played in Philadelphia across the river from Camden.  Much of what follows about Philadelphia town ball comes from an excellent article by Richard Hershberger called "A Reconstruction of Philadelphia Town Ball" which was published in the fall 2007 edition of  "Baseball: A Journal of the Early Game."

Town ball in Philadelphia can be documented at a much earlier date than the New York game.  As early as 1831 the Olympic Club was crossing the Delaware River to play town ball in Camden much like New York City clubs would eventually cross the Hudson to play in Hoboken.  And as with the New York-Hoboken experience, young men from Camden, most likely saw their peers organizing to play ball and decided they could so the same and so they did.



West Jerseyman - June 23, 1858

Although the Olympic Club had been playing town ball since the 1830's they were primarily engaged in what we would call inter-squad matches with match play itself not really getting started until the late 1850's.  Matches were still infrequent then, but the Camden Club did play at least three 1858 matches against the Olympics (first and second eleven matches) as well as four second team matches in 1860.

What was Philadelphia town ball?

Richard Hershberger's 2007 reconstruction draws on several sources, the most contemporary of which are two 1860 box scores of second team matches between the Camdens and the Excelsior Club of Philadelphia.


New York Clipper - August 11, 1860

Some of the major differences between town ball and the New York version of base ball include:

1. Eleven on a side, although this could be reduced by mutual agreement - an October 1858 match of second "elevens" was contested by two teams of nine.

2. For the team in the field only the ball giver (pitcher) and behind (catcher) had designated positions.

3. The bases consisted of five stakes in a circle about 30 feet in diameter with only about 19 feet between the bases.

4. For the side to be retired all eleven batters had to be put out.

5. Runners could be put out by being hit with a thrown ball, called "soaking or plugging."

6. After hitting the ball safely, runners could not stop at a base so that each at bat produced either an out or a run.

Obviously these are some major differences especially the smaller field and the all or nothing at bat.  Interestingly three of these rules - 11 on a side, 11 outs per inning and the provision for "soaking" were also part of the throw-back games played by the Antiquarian Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of Newark in the 1870's.  This suggests that the game the Camden Club played or a version of it was also played in north Jersey before the New York game took over.  Initial accounts of 1855 games played by the Pioneer and Excelsior Clubs of Jersey City and the Newark Club also had 11 on a side and appear to be played by rules other than those of the New York game.  In all of these cases, the clubs switched to the New York game in that initial season, a much quicker transition than what we will see with the Camden Club.

Although the above rules favoring the offense (11 outs per inning, small field) were somewhat offset by "soaking" and all or nothing at bats, these were high scoring games.  For example, in June of 1858, the Camden first eleven twice defeated the second eleven of the Olympic club by scores of 85-76 and 81-71 with similar high scoring affairs in the Camden Club's four 1860 matches.

It might be interesting for the Flemington Neshanock to experiment with an inning of Philadelphia town ball some time in the 2013 season.  








Monday, December 10, 2012

Next up - So to Speak



Now that our Ebbets Field book has been published, the next of my projects to see the light of day should be two books where I have contributed essays about 19th century base ball topics.  Pictured above is the cover of Base Ball Founders, a collection of essays about early clubs in the Northeast which will include eight of my articles about prominent New Jersey clubs.  It will be published by McFarland & Company and should be out during the spring or summer of next year.

Also coming out some time in 2013 is a Society of American Baseball Research publication - Inventing Base Ball.  This is an anthology of articles about the 100 most important games of the 19th century.  I have four essays in the book ranging from the Knickerbocker Club of New York's second match game in June of 1851 to the first National League game in 1876.

It's not clear which will be published first, but I'm looking forward to seeing both in print before this time next year.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Meaning of Ebbets Field - Part III

When I asked Pulitzer Prize winning historian Robert Caro why Ebbets Field was so special, he said it was a home and everyone who went to the ballpark were part of a family who lived there.  Another way of describing that special place in Brooklyn would be to say it was a community and once people are part of a community, they don't forget the experience.


Charles Ebbets vision of Ebbets Field - Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 6, 1912

Based on the fan memories in our book, there are a number of aspects of community that stand out.  One is that a community welcomes young people and is preferably accessible to young people on their own without accompanying adults.  From Robert Caro taking the long subway ride from the upper West Side of Manhattan with his buddies from the Horace Mann school to the many people who remembered "sneaking" into a day game after school, there is no question young people flocked to Ebbets Field on a regular basis.  Alan Hiss told the story about how his older brother saved him from being forced to accompany his father to soccer games by telling their dad he was taking the "little guy" to the Dodgers game tonight.  Sometimes this was just a ploy on nights when the Dodgers weren't even home!



Ebbets Field site - 1912

When he chose the site for his new ballpark, Charles Ebbets counted on people like Robert Caro who would get to the park by one of the many subway and trolley lines.  If the Dodger owner was also counting on local residents walking there, it was based on faith not reality.  One of the reasons that everyone was surprised at the location was that Ebbets was probably the only person who could visualize a ballpark there.  Brooklyn Daily Eagle writer, Tom Rice, told prospective visitors to take hip boots to deal with the "mud and more mud" at a site that required an eight foot excavation on one side and an eight foot elevation on the other.




Standard Union, February 1, 1912

Those who went to Ebbets Field were also a community because the experience wasn't limited to watching the Dodgers play, as important as that was.  Recognizing that a vacant ballpark still costs money when the home team was not playing, Ebbets immediately began using the park for other revenue generating events such as boxing, football games (high school, college and pro), soccer as well as many other baseball games including Negro League clubs.  However the Dodger owner also made his park available for free for public school field days and other events.  Especially important were the literally hundreds of high school football games played at Ebbets Field in its 45 year history which gave many Brooklyn young people the opportunity to actually play sports on the same field where they watched their beloved Dodgers play.



Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 3, 1912 showing convenient subway access to Ebbets Field 

Finally any community worth its name has "characters" and Ebbets Field was never lacking in that regard both on and off the field.  Whether it was Babe Herman helping the Dodgers to put three men on third base at the same time, Hilda Chester giving orders to Leo Durocher while ringing her bell or the Brooklyn Sym-Phony band "entertaining" the crowd, there was always something going on which according to sports writer,  Dave Anderson make for an atmosphere like a country fair.




Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 13, 1915

This is, of course, hardly a new idea.  Nor is it new to suggest that Dodger fans were proud of being part of the historic breaking of the color line or that the Dodgers departure was tragic.  What's important, however, is to look at these things collectively, not individually.  It's doubtful if anyone who went to Ebbets Field disliked the experience, certainly no one Paul or I spoke to regretted having been there.  It's also doubtful anyone ever forgot their visit or visits to this historic park, which contributed to a feeling of being part of the community, the history and finally the tragedy which is why the memory of Ebbets Field remains so powerful so many years later.  It's a place which is gone forever, but will never die.


Friday, November 30, 2012

The Meaning of Ebbets Field - Part II

While wanting to be part of something historic, especially righting a wrong, is part of human nature, few of us long to be part of something tragic.  As a result, we don't typically choose to be part of a tragedy, we get caught up in them usually through no fault of our own.  There are no shortage of definitions of tragedy, but in this case I'm working with the idea that it's a tragedy when something good is lost for no valid reason.


Robert Moses

It's doubtful that anyone would debate whether Ebbets Field and the Brooklyn Dodgers were a good thing.  Even today more than 50 years after the last Dodger game at Ebbets Field, positive memories of the ballpark and the ball club come like sorrows in Hamlet, "in battalions."  For years the blame and the accompanying hostility fell pretty much exclusively on Dodgers owner, Walter O'Malley.  More recently effective arguments have been made that Robert Moses was the major cause of the Dodgers departure.  Elected officials in New York, especially New York City also bear some responsibility for allowing an un-elected, and therefore unaccountable official, like Moses to have so much power.  Our just published book about Ebbets Field doesn't devote much space to the issue as the story has been told many times and our book is about Ebbets Field which wouldn't have survived even if the Dodger had stayed in Brooklyn.  However the fan and player memories in the second half of the book don't lack for opinions and regardless of whether one comes down on one side or the other, there's plenty of blame to go around.


Walter O'Malley

For these purposes, however, the main point is that it didn't have to happen.  Robert Moses may have been correct that the Fort Greene meat market was better suited for some other use, but he could easily have worked with O'Malley and the Dodgers to find another site in Brooklyn.  Similarly O'Malley could have avoided the whole problem by taking another approach to the ball park site he already owned.  The major reasons given for the inadequacy of Ebbets Field were the lack of parking and limited seating capacity.  Yet today two of the most popular ballparks in major league baseball - Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, have little or no parking of their own and have somehow managed to solve similar seating capacity issues.  Ultimately those owners found enough value in the existing site to find a way to make it work.  O'Malley was a very successful owner, but he could have learned something from one of his predecessors, Charles Ebbets who did twice, what O'Malley couldn't do once - build a new home for the Dodgers.  And Ebbets did so working with far less money.


Charles Ebbets 

Again, regardless of how one allocates the blame, the end of the Ebbets Field and the Dodgers was (and still is) a tragedy because something good and valuable was lost when it didn't have to happen.  In 1952 there were only 16 major league teams, by 1958 almost 1/3 of them had relocated to new homes.  But in the other four cases, other than a small and devoted remnant, no one really cared, nor does anyone really care today.  The Brooklyn story is different because so many people did care and became innocent victims of this tragedy.  It's not something that anyone is likely to forget and is another reason why the memories of that historic ball park are so important and will never be forgotten.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Publication

Very pleased to announce that Ebbets Field: Essays and Memories of Brooklyn's Historic Ballpark, 1913-1960 has been published.  It's available from both Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as directly from the publisher McFarland and Co.  The paperback edition is available now and an electronic version should be available shortly.  The Amazon web page lists a several week wait for delivery, but it's available for immediate shipment from McFarland (www.mcfarlandbooks.com).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Meaning of Ebbets Field - Part 1

This is a blog about 19th century New Jersey base ball, but the unusual circumstances of finishing Ebbets Field: Essays and Memories of Brooklyn's Historic Ballpark, 1913-1960, merit a relatively brief diversion into the next century and the neighboring state.  In the last post, I noted that the final tasks on the book meant a brief hiatus from the blog.  The tasks in question were checking the final proofs and preparing the index, work I had done on two previous books.  Both assignments require attention to detail, are very important, but not necessarily enjoyable or exciting.  Still this was my third time at the rodeo so I thought I knew what to expect.



I did not, however, anticipate a natural disaster might intervene, but the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy found us without power for almost a week.  Many people had it far worse, but doing the final work on the book with limited light, made for a unique experience.  After proofreading and indexing as long as daylight permitted, I then had several hours each evening where activity was limited to sitting in the dark until it was time to go to sleep.  Daylight was spent, therefore, immersed in Ebbets Field and the Dodgers while the involuntary nocturnal inactivity facilitated or forced more intensive reflection on the subject than would have otherwise been the case.



Earlier in the project, Tom Oliphant, retired columnist for the Boston Globe, and author of Praying for Gil Hodges, asked me if I had figured out why Ebbets Field and the Dodgers were so important to so many people so long after the fact.  I avoided the question at the time, but all those hours musing in the dark led to some initial conclusions that I want to explore over the next three posts.  Simply put I believe Ebbets Field and the Brooklyn Dodgers continue to be meaningful because of a combination of history, tragedy and community.

Take history first, 45 seasons of major league baseball at Ebbets Field were full of historic moments, but the breaking of the color line in 1947 stands out because of its significance beyond baseball.  Our book includes the Ebbets Field memories of people, ranging from Pulitzer Prize winning historians to the every day baseball fan and the Jackie Robinson story is a consistent theme throughout those memories.  All of this is looking backward, of course, and I think Brooklyn Dodger fans recognize their beloved team did something that was not just historic, but right, and because the Dodgers were their team, they were part of it.




The desire to be part of something memorable is an important human longing, one captured by Shakespeare in "Henry V," when the young king inspires his badly outnumbered army to overcome overwhelming odds by a powerful vision of what they can do together, promising them:

     "This story shall the good man teach his son,
      And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by
      From this day to the ending of the world
      But we in it shall be remembered" 

Unlike Henry's army of 6000 men, the Jackie Robinson story was shared by many more Dodger fans whether they were in the ballpark that historic day, during that historic season or merely learned about it as part what was going to be the next generation of Dodger fans.  I was only one year old in 1947, but I remember even as a young boy during the mid 1950's being proud that my team had done what just seemed instinctively to be such a good thing.



Historian Allen Nevins once wrote "the irresistible tidal forces in history are moral forces."  We don't get many opportunities to be part of the turning of such a tide and when we do, it's something that becomes part of our very being, never to be forgotten.  And so it was with Ebbets Field and the Brooklyn Dodgers.




Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Manly Hiatus



A Manly Pastime is going to take a break so that I can finish my work on "Ebbets Field: Essays and Memories of Brooklyn's Historic Ballpark, 1913-1960" which should take about 2-3 weeks.  Thanks to everyone who has been reading the blog and I hope you will keep reading when it resumes most likely around the middle of November.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Coming Up A Tumble Short


                                                  Picture by Joe Gallo

Today a remnant of the Flemington Neshanock traveled to Elkton, Maryland to take on the Elkton Eclipse in a season ending doubleheader.  In fact only six players made the trip, but thanks to the help of old friend Paul Salomone of the Elizabeth Resolutes, Joe "Mick" Murray's brother, Mike and a member of the Chesapeake City Cecils, we were able to field a team on a cool windy day at the Terrapin Station Winery.  Everyone on the Neshanock played hard, but it was not enough as we came up just short in both games by the scores of 11-10 and 8-6.

Flemington finishes the season, therefore, one game under .500, but it was still another successful and enjoyable season.  Thanks to everyone who was involved in making the season so much fun especially Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw for all his hard work and my photographer, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri for the pictures that have appeared in this blog.  Thanks also to all the spouses, girl friends and significant others who attended close to 50 games over almost six months, beginning on the far reaches of Eastern Long Island and ending today in northern Maryland.  Here's to another successful season in 2013.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Marking Time in Allentown


                                                  Photo by Mark Granieri

This past Saturday, the Flemington Neshanock were in Allentown, New Jersey for two games with the Hoboken Nine, New Jersey's newest vintage base ball team.  The games were staged simultaneously with a Civil War re-enactment, all part of Allentown Fall's Festival.  As advertised, I wasn't able to be there, but once again Mark "Gaslight" Granieri with some help from Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw supplied me with the results.


 
                                                     Photo by Mark Granieri

After the Neshanock played the Hoboken Club in Jersey City a few weeks ago, I wrote that even if the club was new, it was no muffin team.  The results in Allentown proved the validity of that statement as again the two clubs split the two games.  In the first, played by 1864 rules, the Flemington Club prevailed by a 14-5 count.  In the second contest, 1870 rules were used and the "boys" from Hudson County won by 11-4.  This was the direct opposite of the Jersey City results where Hoboken won the 1864 game while Flemington took the 1870 contest.



                                                      Photo by Mark Granieri

Since the Neshanock went into the day with a 23-22 record, the net result was to just mark time in the quest for a winning season.  Now at 24-23 everything depends upon the results of the final matches this coming weekend (assuming these are the final matches).  The schedule for this weekend is yet to be determined so once again, I ask our international following to stay tuned.


                                                        Photo by Mark Granieri

Allentown, New Jersey, which is less well known than its Pennsylvania counterpart, is only about 10 miles from Trenton, the state capital.  Trenton also appears to have an interesting place in the spread of the New York game into New Jersey.  Research thus far shows that Trenton was one of the first communities outside of Essex and Hudson Counties to have a base ball club with the Trenton Base Ball Club seeing some action in 1856.  There appears to have been at least one other club in Trenton before the Civil War, but as far as I can tell, they played very few match games with each other and only one against an outside team - a visit from the Pastime Club of Brooklyn.  Base ball activity in Trenton in 1856 is interesting because it seems like the game got there before clubs were formed in a number of communities closer to Newark such as Elizabeth and New Brunswick.  Another subject for further research!



                                                         Photo by Mark Granieri

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Long Branch Base Ball Club - Outlier or Tip of the Iceberg?

As noted in an earlier post, I went to the New York Public Library a few weeks ago to look in the New York Sunday Mercury for evidence of early base ball in Paterson, New Jersey and found some information about the Flora Temple Club, named after a famous race horse of the day.  This past week I went back to look at the photo copies from that visit and, as often happens, I noticed something else of relevance to antebellum New Jersey base ball.

The August 26, 1860 edition of the Mercury contained the following:

"Herculean vs. Long Branch - A closely played match was played on Tuesday, 15th inst between two clubs named the Herculean and Long Branch, on the ground between the Mansion and United States hotels at Long Branch."


                                        New York Sunday Mercury - August 26, 1860

There was also the above box score which is difficult to read (actually the above is easier to read than the original).  Unfortunately this is true of almost all of the New York Sunday Mercury microfilm I have seen for the 1859-1860 period.

This was more than a little of a surprise to me since prior research had not unearthed any evidence of base ball at the Jersey shore before the Civil War.  Long Branch is part of Monmouth County and neither the Monmouth Democrat or the Monmouth Herald and Inquirer for 1860 have accounts of base ball games. I could, of course, have missed something so I will check again.  I couldn't identify any of the players on the 1860 census (assuming I read their names correctly), but Entertaining a Nation: The Career of Long Branch by the WPA writers project confirms that both the Mansion House and US Hotel were located on Ocean Avenue in that shore community.  As is well known Long Branch was a famous 19th century resort where U.S. Presidents and their families escaped the summer heat of Washington, D.C.  The Mansion House was reportedly Long Branch's "finest hotel," hosting many famous guests including Mary Todd Lincoln in the summer of 1861.


                                                         Mary Todd Lincoln

All of this is all very well, but the immediate question for my research is whether this is an exception or outlier to what I have found so far or is it the tip of the iceberg, evidence of more extensive base ball than was reported in the limited local newspapers.  I still have about a 1/2 dozen of south Jersey papers to check, but research so far indicates that base ball's spread outside of Essex and Hudson Counties was limited to less than 10 communities, primarily in central New Jersey.

For young men to develop an interest in forming a base ball club, they had to see the game, hear about it or read about it.  Each possibility could happen in multiple ways and possible exposure to the game became more likely as the 1850's drew to a close.  Certainly in a place like Long Branch, which drew visitors from New York City and Philadelphia, not to mention other New Jersey locations (probably including Newark), there was a relatively high likelihood that visitors played base ball and/or talked about base ball while in Long Branch, thereby inspiring local youths to start their own clubs.


                                                         Long Branch Hotels

So at the moment this seems like an outlier to me - an exception which can be explained by Long Branch's more cosmopolitan nature.  However, I'm certainly not dismissing the possibility that there was more base ball activity than ever made it into the space challenged, weekly newspapers of the period.  One of the next steps in my research is to look more closely at the communities where base ball was played in search of common denominators which can explain how and why the game spread as it did.  Long Branch is now on that list.


Monday, October 8, 2012

The Flemington Neshanock - The World's Team

Occasionally sports team's claim a fan base well beyond their local area - the Dallas Cowboy's calling themselves "America's Team" is only one example.  A review of the audience statistics for this blog suggests that the Flemington Neshanock have an even broader appeal.  While most of the views understandably come from the United States, today's statistics show 11 views in France, eight in Great Britain, three in Germany and one apiece in China, South Korea, and the Ukraine.  Eat your heart out Jerry Jones!


                                    Photo by Mark Granieri

Given that kind of following it seemed only fair to make an extra effort to report on this past weekend's games and the Neshanock's quest to finish above .500.  Since I wasn't able to be present, I once again called on Mark of all trades, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri, who in addition to his important contributions at the bat and behind the plate, also provides the match photos and leads the Neshanock in cookie consumption.  


                                  Photo by Mark Granieri

"Gaslight" was, of course, up to the challenge and through his efforts I am pleased inform our fans from the Ukraine to South Korea that the Neshanock swept both matches this past Saturday from the dreaded Elizabeth Resolutes.  The Flemington club was in control for the entire first game winning by a 9-3 count.  As in Monroe a week ago, the second contest was much more competitive, the Neshanock even trailing by five in the first inning.  The Neshanock narrowed the gap in the middle three innings and then pulled away in the last three frames for a 20-15 triumph.


                                   Photo by Mark Granieri 

The wins put the Neshanock one game over .500 with two weekends to go in the season.  This coming Saturday, Flemington will take on the Hoboken "Nine" in a doubleheader in Allentown, New Jersey and the sun will then set on the season the following Sunday, with a visit to Elkton, Maryland to take on the Elkton Eclipse.  

Given the international interest in how this season comes out, there will be reports on the action the next two weeks - next week "Gaslight" will again pinch hit, but I'll be there for the finale.  So stay tuned in France, China and Germany!




Thursday, October 4, 2012

The 1865 Newark Eureka - the Rest of the Story

When we left the Eureka on August 31, 1865, they had just suffered their second heartbreaking loss to the undefeated, and still champion, Brooklyn Atlantics.  As they gathered up their equipment in the growing darkness at Brooklyn's Capitoline Grounds and headed for what must have seemed like an interminable trip back to Newark, their collective frustration must have close to the breaking point.  Twice they had taken on the best team in the country and both times fallen short by just one run.  They had played hard and played well, but as summer began to turn to fall they were still a losing team with a 3-5 record.


It's not hard to imagine a scenario where the Eureka consciously or sub consciously decided they had given it their best shot, 1865 was not going to be their year and to go through the motions in their remaining matches.  After all these were busy young men with other claims on their time and it would have easy and perhaps understandable for any of them to turn their attention to their jobs and "real" lives.  To their credit, however, the Eureka did exactly the opposite.  Their next match on September 7th saw them soundly thrash the Union Club of Morrisania by a 30-10 count.  This was followed by the return match with the New York Mutuals at the Mutuals' "home" grounds in Hoboken.  The Mutuals had easily won the first match in Newark, 27-12, but the Eureka were out for revenge and this time they got it, taking the lead and holding on for a 20-19 victory over a club that would lose only three other games all season (the Atlantics twice and the Eckford once).

At this point there was no stopping the Eureka.  The Newarkers won their last five matches, finishing the season with a seven game winning streak and a 10-5 record, the best record in the club's 10 year history.  Their accomplishments were even more impressive in light of the fact that their five losses were to three clubs which had an overall 1865 record of 45-7.

During the game's pioneer period, base ball was praised by the media and others as a good way for young men to get the benefits of exercise and wholesome fellowship with their peers.  Most likely competitive match play was too new for anyone to focus on sport's potential for teaching life skills, yet the 1865 Eureka shared an experience that hopefully taught them "no end of a lesson."  Like athletes and teams ever since, they encountered adversity, but the more important issue was how they responded to that adversity.  We can only hope that winning seven straight games after two heart breaking losses taught them something about how to deal with adversity for the rest of their lives.  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Base Ball Battle in Monroe

After a return to the game's urban roots last weekend in Jersey City, this past Saturday saw the Neshanock in a more rural setting at the Dey Farm in Monroe, New Jersey (Exit 8A on the Turnpike).  The occasion was an event sponsored by the Monroe Historical Society and a good sized crowd attentively watched the Flemington club play two matches with the Athletics of Philadelphia.  In the first match, played by 1864 rules, the Athletics scored once in the top of the first, but the Neshanock jumped out to a 5-1 lead after two and never looked back for a 14-6 victory.  



                                                      Photo by Mark Granieri

Especially noteworthy was the pitching of Bob "Melky" Ritter who was in dominant form including four strikeouts, a rarity in vintage games.  Another interesting feature of the first match was the Neshanock scoring six of their tallies on one bounce outs to the outfield.  One of the major differences in the 1864 game is that any fair ball caught on a bounce is an out so the modern day one hop line drive to an outfielder is nothing more than an out.  Runners can, however, advance at their own risk and three separate times, two runners scored on bound outs hit by Gerard "Jacks" D'Angelo (twice) and Ken "Tumbles" Mandel.  



                                                     Photo by Mark Granieri

As in Jersey City the prior week, the second match was played by 1870 rules and once again the Neshanock got off to what seemed to be a comfortable lead.  Things go much closer, however, as the Neshanock stopped scoring while the Athletics rallied (never a good combination) to draw within 10-9 after seven.  Neither club scored in the eighth and when the Neshanock had two out and one on in the top of the ninth, there wasn't a real comfortable feeling on the club's bench.  Fortunately, however, three hits and a walk produced three tallies and a little more error room as the match headed to the bottom of the ninth.  While it was nice to have, the extra margin wasn't needed as Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw set the Philadelphia club down in order aided by two strong throws by Neshanock third baseman, Joe "Mick" Murray.  The two wins put the Neshanock within one game of .500 with three more chances to at least get to break even.

The matches marked the second time the two clubs had met, with the earlier contest taking place in Bridgeton in July when I learned exactly how far away Cumberland County is from Essex County.  My research into the spread of early base ball in New Jersey has now reached southern New Jersey as I work my way through newspapers like the West-Jersey Pioneer, which was printed in Bridgeton.  I would guess that I'm about half way through the different south Jersey papers and, thus far, I haven't found any evidence of base ball being played before the Civil War.  Given the geography of New Jersey one of the issues is the possible impact of base ball spreading from Philadelphia in the south much like it did from New York City in the north.

Last week I found the below article, "A Trip to the City," where the editor of the paper describes what is involved in a trip to Philadelphia since, as he says, not many readers of the paper had done so.  I thought I was reading it incorrectly at first, but apparently residents of the village of Bridgeton made arrangements with the stage coach company to wake them up in time to catch the 4:00 stage to Salem which would get them there in time to take the 8:00 steamboat to Philadelphia.  And we think we have tough commutes today! 

The significance of this is that if the trip was that difficult, it's doubtful (as the writer acknowledges) that many people did it, which eliminates or at least drastically limits their chance of seeing base ball being played and coming home excited about bringing the game to their local community.  I still have to look at the newspapers for Camden and Gloucester counties, the two closest to Philadelphia so I'll reserve judgement, but it certainly looks as if base ball, or at least the game played in the northern part of the state, didn't arrive in south Jersey until at least during the Civil War. 






Monday, September 24, 2012

The Hoboken Nine


                                                        Photo By Mark Granieri

               Picture of the Hoboken Nine plus Umpire, Mr. Sam "It ain't nothin till I say" Bernstein

New Jersey's Newest Vintage Base Ball Club

For over a decade now New Jersey has had two vintage base ball clubs, the Elizabeth Resolutes and the Flemington Neshanock who both strive to recreate base ball the way it was played in the 19th century.  Over that period there have been a number of efforts to start other teams and it certainly seems that a state with as rich a base ball history as New Jersey should have more than two clubs.  After several years of playing an annual game with the Neshanock, a group from Hoboken supported by the Hoboken Historical Museum, now seems well on their way to establishing New Jersey's third vintage club, the Hoboken Nine.  Although in their first year, the players are far from muffins as shown in a number of contests including winning two games in the Philadelphia Naval Yard Festival on September 15th.  



                                                           Photo by Mark Granieri 

This past Saturday, the Neshanock returned to Hudson County, this time to Pershing Field in the Heights section of Jersey City to play two games with the newcomers, one by 1864 rules and one by 1870 regulations.  In the first contest, the Hoboken Club got off to an early 2-0 lead and used outstanding defense with timely hitting to secure a 10-5 victory.  In the second match, the Neshanock bats came to life with a vengeance as the Flemington club scored eight times in the first inning and followed that with a 12 run fifth inning which was more than enough for a 21-5 triumph.  The Hoboken Club is to be commended for their fine start and it is certainly hoped that they will go on to a long history like the Flemington and Elizabeth clubs.  Personally, I hope that at least one more New Jersey club will be formed so there can be an annual New Jersey championship.



                                                             Photo by Mark Granieri 

While the Neshanock's offensive explosion in the second match was spread throughout the lineup, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri's performance at bat, in the field and on the bench merits special mention.  The Neshanock catcher had the day's only clear score with two doubles and two singles and even scored once as the designated runner for Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw.  In the field, "Gaslight" not only recorded a number of putouts including two tag plays at the plate, but also threw out a Hoboken runner trying to steal second.  The throw wasn't exactly a Mark "Peaches" Rubini laser, but it got there or at least before the runner did.   There's no truth to the rumor that the runner's nickname was "turtle."  "Gaslight" also outperformed the rest of the Neshanock in cookie consumption on the bench to the point that a new nickname might be in order.



                                                          Photo by Mark Granieri

The game was played in Jersey City because there were no available fields in Hoboken which isn't without a certain amount of irony since base ball first came to Hoboken because of the lack of space in New York City.  Pershing Park is in the Jersey City Heights area which prior to 1868 was actually a separate municipality, called Hudson City.  Hudson City was home to one of New Jersey's earliest base ball clubs, the creatively named Fear Not Club which played in 1855, the first season of documented New Jersey match play.  After losing their first match to the Excelsior Club of Jersey City (undefeated in 1855), the Fear Nots came back and defeated the Palisades Club of West Hoboken (now Union City).  At least two other teams, the Columbia and National Clubs were founded in 1859.

The Neshanock will be back in action this coming Saturday, September 29th in a double header against the Athletic Club of Philadelphia in Monroe, New Jersey.  Check www.neshanock,org for more information.







Thursday, September 20, 2012

Eureka vs. Atlantics - The Return Match

Not surprisingly the Atlantic-Eureka cliff hanger on August 18, 1865 received significant media attention.  The New York Clipper alone devoted almost two full columns and 16 paragraphs to the contest including close to a play-by-play description.  It is more than a little surprising, therefore, that the August 31st return game received very little coverage.  The Clipper, for example, summarized the rematch in one paragraph.  As we shall see, the lack of coverage wasn't because the second contest lacked drama.


                                                    Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn


A possible explanation may lie in the Atlantics activities just prior to the match at their home field, Capitoline Grounds.  Just three days earlier, the Atlantics followed an August 28th rout of the Eagle Club with a 10 hour, overnight train trip to Washington, D.C.  Over the next two days, the champions sandwiched tours of the nation's capital around a 32-19 victory over the National Club of Washington. In a somewhat sensationalistic twist the  first day's itinerary focused on the sites related to the relatively recent assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  A highlight of the second day was a meeting with President Andrew Johnson at the White House.  Accompanying the Atlantics was legendary sportswriter, Henry Chadwick, who lobbied the new President to attend a base ball game in person.
After meeting the President, the Atlantics visited other government offices before making the return trip arriving in New York City at 7:00 a.m. on the morning of the Eureka match.  Accounts apparently written by Chadwick in the Clipper and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle understandably claimed the Atlantics were “much jaded out” from a lack of sleep during the trip.  Perhaps the great sportswriter himself was also feeling the effects of the journey limiting his interest/ability in giving a full account of a match that would have required a lot of concentration to provide a detailed account.

President Andrew Johnson

While the Atlantics may have been tired, the memory of the last game had to have been fresh in their minds, since they put almost the same lineup in the field.  Unlike the first match, the Eureka had Collins and Northrop back, but they were now without Pennington.  Chadwick claimed the Atlantics were so tired that one “fell asleep while awaiting his turn at bat.”  If so it most likely didn’t happen in the bottom of the first as the Atlantics, “jaded” or not, scored 10 times for a 10-1 lead.  However the problems the Atlantics had on defense in the last game hadn’t been eliminated.  In the top of the second with the bases loaded and two out, the Atlantics left fielder dropped a fly ball which opened the flood gates.  Before order was restored the Eureka scored nine times to tie the game at 10-10.

With 20 runs scored in 1 ½ innings, this was clearly not going to be a low scoring contest and all of the scoring to come may have been too much for the exhausted Chadwick and other reporters to describe in detail.  Things did slow down somewhat over the next few innings and the Atlantics came to bat in the bottom of the fifth leading 16-13.  In that frame, however, the champions erupted for nine runs and what in normal circumstances would have been a safe 25-13 lead.  But these were far from normal circumstances as the Eureka demonstrated with an eight run rally featuring three home runs, cutting the score to a more manageable 25-21.  The Atlantics got three back in the bottom of the sixth, but the Eureka responded with two in the top of the seventh and then blanked the Brooklyn club in the bottom of the inning.



                                                             Henry Chadwick

The match now went to the top of the eighth inning with the Atlantics trying to hold on to a 28-23 advantage.  With their backs to the wall, the Newarkers responded with a vengeance scoring 10 times for a 33-28 lead, their first of the contest.  As the Atlantics came to bat in the bottom of the inning some of them had to be wondering about the wisdom of their schedule in Washington.  Tired or not, however, the Atlantics responded with a six run rally and took the field for the ninth literally clinging to a one run lead.  By this point, probably few of the Atlantic fans in the crowd estimated at 5-6000 expected the Eureka to go quietly so they were not surprised when the visitors scored four times and led by three as the Atlantics came in for their last chance.

For some reason the Eureka had been late arriving at Capitoline grounds which combined with an almost three hour game meant the sun was setting as Charlie Smith of the Atlantics was the first striker to the line.  Smith led off with a single, but the Eureka’s hopes got a boost when the dangerous Joe Start flew out to Northrop in right field.  Game accounts are not clear on what happened next, but it appears Chapman hit a two run home run, cutting the Eureka lead to one.  Crane followed this with a hit, bringing up Pratt, who hit one towards Eureka second baseman Bomeisler with disastrous results for the Eureka.  Not only was Pratt safe at first, but the throw was so wild that Crane scored with the tying run followed by Pratt with the winning tally. 

Amazingly Chadwick described the match as “uninteresting,” apparently because as a purist he was displeased with the bad play and poor judgment in the field.  He had a point about the sloppy play as the two teams combined for sixteen fly ball muffs.  But even amidst this criticism, Chadwick had to admit that when Pratt scored the winning run, “the scene was dramatic in the extreme.”  While the Atlantics and their fans celebrated in the gathering dark, the Eureka must have been bitterly disappointed as their thoughts turned to the long trip back to Newark.  Twice they had a great victory in their grasp, only to come up just short.



Eureka Outs Runs Atlantic Outs Runs
Calloway, l.f. 2 7 Pearce, ss. 3 5
Thomas, ss. 4 4 C. J. Smith, 3b. 1 7
Littlewood, c.f. 5 2 Start, 1b. 4 4
Breintnall, c. 3 4 Chapman, lf. 3 5
Collins, 3b. 1 6 Crane, 2b. 2 6
Faitoute, p. 3 4 Pratt, p. 4 3
Northrop, rf. 1 4 Sid Smith, rf. 4 3
Bomeisler, 2b. 3 4 Galvin, 3b 3 2
Mills, 1b. 5 2 P. O'Brien, cf. 3 3
Total 27 37 Total 27 38

Monday, September 17, 2012

Base Ball and Boats




It was very difficult for 19th century New Jersey base ball clubs to play matches far from home due to the limited means of transportation.  Clubs were able to travel by train, horse drawn conveyance, ferry and some clubs even made trips by steam boat, mostly after the Civil War.  In today's world of vintage base ball, the Flemington Neshanock make most of their trips by automobile, but in the past two years we seem to have gone back to one 19th century mode - the ferry.  This year, for example, the Neshanock have traversed Boston and New York harbor by means of local ferries.



                                                       
                                 Photo by Mark Granieri

Most of us, I think, have had enough boat travel for one season, so this past Saturday, it was nice to see the boats preserved at the Philadelphia Navy Yard without having to sail on them.  The occasion was the Philadelphia 19th Century Base Ball and Exhibition Fair hosted admirably the Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia on the parade ground at the Naval Yard.  It was a wonderful venue, large enough for three games to be going on simultaneously.  


                                                     
                                                 Photo by Mark Granieri

In the first match, the Neshanock took on their long time rivals, the Eclipse Base Ball Club of Eltkon, Maryland.  It was a back and forth affair that went 12 innings before Elkton emerged the victors by a 13-12 count.  It was a tough loss, but after a short respite, it was time for the second match originally against the Chesapeake and Potomac Base Ball Club.  However there were only two members of this team present so the Neshanock ended up facing a team made up of the two Chesapeake players as well as members of the Talbot Fair Plays, the Arundel Excelsiors, the host Athletics and probably another team I'm missing.

                                  
                               Photo by Mark Granieri

The Neshanock won the match 10-4, led by what are reportedly some record setting performances.  Mark "Peaches" Rubini hit not one, but two home runs, the second of which was preceded by a homer off the bat of Greg "Southwark" Stoloski.  Those present indicated these were the first back-to-back home runs in club history, the first two homer game for a Neshanock, not to mention the first three home run game by the club.  

With the second match victory, the Neshanock have won nine of their last twelve matches as they try to reach the .500 mark by season's end.  Next up is a match on Saturday, September 22nd against the Hoboken Nine, a new New Jersey club, at a yet to be announced venue.  

Thanks again to the Athletic Club and everyone who made the weekend possible.