While there were distinct on the field differences between the
game and earlier versions of base ball there was an equally important difference off the field. The New York version was far more organized since its development was interconnected with the formalized structure of the base ball club. Organizing a base ball club meant establishing procedures for what the participants both wanted to do and had to do. In addition clubs needed a process to deal with anything not envisioned in their rules and regulations. New York
Like other early clubs the Hamilton Club of Jersey City, approved and printed by-laws and a constitution. As we saw in the last post, this included a specific process for accepting, and sometimes rejecting, new members. Since their first priority was “field exercise” or practice (what we would call inter-squad games), they also took the time to establish written guidelines for how practice days would work.
For example, they knew they would need an umpire and probably also knew it would not be a popular job. So they included a provision in the by-laws that everyone had to take a turn and the responsibility would rotate in alphabetical order. By doing so they established a requirement and a specific, objective means for meeting that requirement. Similarly the by-laws also lay out how the day’s captains would be chosen, sides will be picked, which side will be “first in hand” (first at bat) , and a series of prohibited behaviors including expressing an opinion on a “doubtful play” before the umpire made a call. This and other inappropriate behavior would carry pecuniary penalties ranging from 10 to 25 cents (more on this in the next post).
While detailed guidelines were established for “field exercise,” the subject of match play is not even mentioned in the by-laws. This may seem surprising, but as Richard Hershberger commented on a prior post, “field exercise” or “practice,” not match play was the first priority of early base ball clubs. Since match play was not covered in the by-laws, all related issues had to be resolved on a case by case basis by majority vote. As a result the minute books reflect votes on – whether to make or accept a challenge, how to a pick a “nine” for a match, whether to accept or offer a post match dinner, and even to appoint a score keeper (thank God the Flemington Neshanock don’t follow that practice).
Reading the minute book indicates the Hamilton Club members were seldom of one mind on anything. Some motions to accept or offer a challenge were either defeated or tied forcing the club president to cast the deciding vote. The members also appeared to lack confidence in the club president, defeating a motion authorizing him to pick the nine for one match, opting instead to have a committee make the decisions. While the
may have considered themselves to be gentlemen, they had more than their share of disagreements. The club couldn’t even agree on using club funds to buy two bottles of brandy. Perhaps a positive outcome on that one might have made them less contentious – at least for one meeting! Hamiltons