Saturday, December 29, 2012
Thursday, December 20, 2012
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Some of the major differences between town ball and the New York version of base ball include:
Monday, December 10, 2012
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
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:
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Sunday, October 21, 2012
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
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 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
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
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
Monday, September 24, 2012
Thursday, September 20, 2012
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.
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.
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.
|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|
Monday, September 17, 2012
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
Thanks again to the Athletic Club and everyone who made the weekend possible.