Thursday, May 31, 2012

Vintage Base Ball - 1867 Style

Base ball apparently enjoyed a banner year in Paterson in 1867.  Not only did the city's best team, the Olympics knock off the Irvington Club, the best New Jersey team of the late 1860's, but there was also a revival of what the Paterson Daily Press called the "old fashioned game."  On August 2, 1867, the paper reported on "the great match" played by "selected elevens who had never played the modern game."  Down 28-20 after five innings to John Walden's "Unknowns," the "Never Sweats" led by John Garrabrant scored 24 times in the sixth and final inning for a 44-28 triumph.

                                            Paterson Daily Press, August 2, 1867

Only two rules are mentioned in the game account, part of which is shown above, base runners "must be put out by being hit with the ball when . . . more than a pace off the base" and there was no foul territory.  Unlike articles about Antiquarian Knickerbocker games, however, some information was provided about the field of play.  Apparently assuming readers had some familiarity with "the old game," the writer noted that "it will be remembered that there is a first base about a rod [16.5 feet] to the right and a little to the front of where the batter stands."  "About 20 rods [ 330 feet] in front of the batter" was the "second base" located in the centre of the field."  Only one other base is mentioned - "the home base" which was "about ten feet to the left of the batter."  Unfortunately no further information was provided.

Over the next two months, the Daily Press reported on four more old fashioned base ball games, but none of these accounts provide any information about the rules or the layout of the field.  All but one of these contests lasted six innings (the other was the more modern nine) and all of them were played between two teams with 11 on a side.  One match, described below, was between a select team from Paterson (apparently a mixture of the "Unknowns" and "Neversweats") and a team from the neighboring town of Little Falls, won by the latter 63-57.  Other Paterson teams were made up of men from different Paterson manufacturing companies and a "club" known as the "Michael Erles."

Paterson Daily Press, August 8, 1867

To date the earliest documented base ball game in Paterson is a November 26, 1857 (Thanksgiving Day) contest between two teams of seven.  It's not clear whether the contest was the New York game or some other version of base ball, but two players in that game (Cadmus and Garrabrant) appear to have played in some of the 1867 matches. No further accounts have been found of what could be called the first vintage base ball league.  As with the Antiquarian Knickerbockers much work needs to be done on these teams and the game they played - I have a feeling I'm going to write that about a lot of things! 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Playing Holidays"

                                                        Photo by Mark Granieri

When I first got interested in baseball in the mid 1950's, I started reading every book I could find on the subject.  One that particularly impressed me was My Greatest Day in Baseball.  As the name suggests it was a collection of brief accounts by baseball greats ranging from Ty Cobb to Mickey Mantle about their most memorable moments.

Included in the many stories were accounts of Memorial Day morning-afternoon doubleheaders at Shibe Park (later Connie Mack Stadium) in Philadelphia between the great Philadelphia Athletic teams and other American League clubs.  Although the concept of separate admission, morning-afternoon games was foreign to me, I was certainly aware of holiday games, especially doubleheaders.  During the 1950's and 1960's, New York National League and American League teams would typically play two games (one admission) on the three major holidays of the summer season - Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day.

In researching early 19th century base ball, I've realized that holiday games have always been part of the game, but in New Jersey, at least, the first holiday associated with base ball is not one we would expect.  Of course, two of the summer season holidays didn't exist before the Civil War and I have seen few accounts of New Jersey teams playing matches on July 4th.  In fact, the holiday that first encompassed base ball games on any regular basis was Thanksgiving.

As noted in previous posts, match play didn't get started until June and then went on as long as the weather permitted.  There are multiple accounts of New Jersey clubs taking time on Thanksgiving Day for a match or to play a few "practice" innings probably as a sort of formal way to close out the season.

                                                         Photo by Mark Granieri

While historical accuracy is a prime value of the Flemington Neshanock, it hasn't extended to Thanksgiving Day matches.  Our contribution to holiday base ball was yesterday's third annual Memorial Day match with the Newtown Strakes of Newtown, Pennsylvania.  Technically a muffin team because they only play one game a year, in reality the Strakes are formidable opponents.  Like the prior two contests, the match was tightly contested, but the Neshanock prevailed 13-9 to take a 2-1 lead in the series.  Having played 13 matches in the season's first two months, the Neshanock will now take a well deserved break until a June 16th match at one of base ball's most sacred sites - Hoboken, New Jersey.  There will, of course, be other posts in the interim, beginning with a look at vintage base ball 1867 style later this week.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Gentlemanly Behavior - Then and Now

Since early base ball in New Jersey and elsewhere was a gentleman's game, it was accompanied by practices that have either long gone by the wayside or have changed dramatically.  Among the social niceties of the period were welcoming committees that met the visiting club at the railroad or stage depot and escorted them to the grounds.  Afterwards it was also customary for the host club to provide some kind of meal that was frequently accompanied by speeches and sometimes entertainment.

The often contentious and financially challenged Hamilton Club of Jersey City sometimes debated and voted on what kind of hospitality to provide including a June 28, 1860 meeting where they voted to provide dinner for the visiting Liberty Club of New Brunwsick, but the hosts were "ordered to provide not more than 10 or 12 dinners."  It would be interesting to know how they would have handled the arrival of a larger contingent on the day of the match.

Perhaps not surprisingly the premier New Jersey club of the 1860's, the Eurekas of Newark did things on a much grander scale.  After playing and defeating the Charter Oak Club of Hartford, Connecticut in the summer of 1867, the Eurkea Club took their guests on a tour of the Clark Spool Thread Manufactory followed by a visit to Schalk's Brewery where the refreshing and famous "Schalk's Lager" took the edge off the heat of the day.  But that was just the beginning as the clubs moved on to the Park House where what appears to be a four-five course dinner was served to 50-60.  Dessert alone offered Jelly Cakes, Sponge Cake, Banana Ice Cream, Wine Jelly, Charlotte de Ruse, Vanilla Ice Cream and Pine Apple Cheese.  This was supplemented with at least a dozen different kinds of pastry and fruit. 

Another popular practice of the day was for both teams to give formal cheers for their opponents at the end of the match.  At the end of the conquering match of the famous Fashion Course games in 1858 between select (all-star) teams from Brooklyn and New York, the New York Times reported that such "cheers were given on both sides." 

                                                             Photo by Mark Granieri

While today's vintage teams can't offer sumptuous post game meals like the Eureka did in1867, the practice of exchanging cheers continues today as witness yesterday's post match exchange after the Flemington Neshanock - New York Mutual matches in Belmar, New Jersey.  The outcome of the matches was pretty much of a train wreck for the Neshanock, but there was one especially nice feature to the cheers.  Under the leadership of Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw, both clubs took time out to offer three cheers and a tiger for one Sophie Ann Zinn, all of two days old.  I was very surprised and am very grateful to both clubs for this thoughtful gesture.  It's something I will never forget and perhaps in some way illustrates how these gentlemanly customs of days gone by offer some clue as to the real meaning and value of team sports. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Antiquarian Knickerbockers

            In spite of a lack of contemporary evidence, there is ample reason to believe that other versions of base ball were played in New Jersey before 1855.  An important case in point is the Antiquarian Knickerbocker Club of Newark.  Nothing is known of the formation of this club, although Tom Melville, in Early Baseball and the Rise of the National League, speculates the club "may have even been organized specifically in protest” against the rules formalized by the Knickerbocker Club of New York City.  In 1865, the Newark Evening Journal (10/14/1865) referred to the Antiquarians as the “oldest base ball organization in this city,” but no evidence has been found thus far that would put their formation before other Newark clubs founded in 1855.     

            The earliest known Knickerbocker match took place on November 4, 1857 (Porters Spirit of the Times, 11/14/1857, Newark Daily Advertiser, 11/6/1857).  Unfortunately accounts of this match and another on August 27, 1858 (Newark Daily Mercury, 8/28/1858) provide box scores, but few details other than they were played in “the old style.”  The 1857 match where Whittemore’s side defeated Trawin’s side, 86-69 featured 11 on a side, but the 1858 contest, won by Trawin’s side, 36-25, had only nine on a side in a game of two innings.  However a Newark Daily Mercury article of August 24, 1858 previewing the match said it would be a single-married match with 11 on a side so the lower number may simply reflect fewer participants than expected. 

            Of the almost 30 men who participated in 1857-58 Knickerbocker games, there does not appear to be much overlap with the lineups of Newark clubs playing the New York game from 1855 to 1860.  Interestingly though as I look at the box scores of the post Civil War games like the one from the 1872 game below names like Isaac Munn and Tichenor look familiar as names I saw in pre-war box scores for teams from other communities especially Orange.  I need to look into that in more detail.
         After 1858 there are frequent gaps in articles about the Knickerbockers until the late 1860’s.  At that point annual games began receiving lengthy coverage in the Newark newspapers at least partially because of the prominent Newarkers who played in the games.  Much space is devoted to chronicling the physical exertions of out of shape and over weight middle aged (and older) men.  There is, however, some information about “the old style,” which has to be treated with caution as it is not contemporary, but based on remembrances at least 10-15 years after the fact.  That said, the following are descriptions of “old-fashioned” base ball with the source.

1. The “old-time ‘stinging’ game” – runners could be put out between bases by being hit with a thrown ball. (Newark Evening Journal, 5/30/1873, Newark Evening Courier, 5/25/1869, Newark Morning Register, 5/26/1871).

2. Bats – described as “long and square,” “miniature bread shovels,” "exaggerated exercise clubs” and “pudding sticks.” Newark Evening Journal, 5/30/1873, Newark Evening Courier, 5/25/1869.

3. “Every striker had to be put out to end the inning” – apparently this is an “all out – all out” game that lasted two innings.  References to the number on a side include 11, 12 and as many as wanted to play.  One box score has 19 on a side, but that is most likely allowing every one to bat as typically happens in vintage base ball games today.  (Newark Evening Journal, 5/20/1873, Newark Evening Courier, 5/25/1869, Newark Morning Register, 5/25/1869, Newark Morning Register, 5/26/1871.

Newark Evening Journal, May 24, 1872

4. Bases – 15” inch high wooden stakes. (Newark Evening Courier, 5/25/1869).

5. No foul territory – Newark Morning Register, 5/25/1869).

Interestingly none of the articles describe the layout of the bases and the field.  The Knickerbockers and the game they played will be focal point for future research.  Any thoughts or suggestion about how to research the subject are welcome.  Next up is what could be called the first vintage base ball league – an 1867 flurry of "old fashioned" base ball activity in Paterson. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A New Generation Cometh

Welcome to the newest baseball fan in the Zinn family - Sophie Ann born this morning in Massachusetts

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The More Things Change . . .

Most early references to base ball in New Jersey newspapers praise it as being beneficial to the municipality or community's young men.  However, as the below August 20, 1855 letter to the editor of the Jersey City Daily Telegraph indicates, there was at least one resident and tax payer who took exception to at least the timing of some ball playing. 

The references to the Recorder and Chief of Police are apparently to George E. Cutter, Justice of the Peace and Recorder and Charles J. Farley who was the Chief of Police.  Since both men were members of the Excelsior Club, the young men may have been practicing for their upcoming return match with the Pioneer Club which was most likely the first base ball game played in Jersey City between Jersey City clubs.

In the next day's paper, the Chief of Police (most likely Farley) not only "shot" back at Erie, but took advantage of a lobbying opportunity as well.

"Erie" may have thought he prevailed when the Excelsior and Pioneer Clubs went out of existence in 1856 and no new clubs took filled the vacuum, but it was a short lived triumph as a number of new clubs were formed in the late 1850's, some of which continued to play in the disgruntled taxpayer's neighborhood.

Monday, May 14, 2012

History Repeats Itself

This year's annual Chester Day activities took place on a beautiful spring day under sunny, blue skies.  On the field it was an afternoon of frustration as the Neshanock lost twice to the Brooklyn Atlantics (pictured below) by scores of 11-1 and 11-3.  As much as I hate to admit it, neither game was close so that once again Flemington came up well short against the Brooklyn club.  There is nothing unique about the Neshanock's experience in this regard.  Over the last three years the Atlantics (who call Smithtown, Long Island home) have an overall record of 138-23-1.  I haven't seen every vintage team in the country, but I have seen a fair sampling of both east and mid west and the Atlantics are arguably the best club in the country. 

Photo by Mark Granieri

The Atlantics prowess on the field is also interesting from a historical perspective as the original Brooklyn Atlantics (pictured below) were one of the best, if not the best, base ball club of the 1860's.  As noted on the Atlantics web site the original club was national champions in both 1864 and 1865 going undefeated each season.  The Atlantics are also justly famous for being the team that finally defeated the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1870 ending that club's long winning streak.  There's no relationship between the success of the Atlantics of the 1860's and today's vintage team, but it's interesting to see history repeating itself.

Just as today's New Jersey vintage clubs play against Atlantics, a number of New Jersey teams took on the original incarnation of the Atlantics with some surprising results.  One of the first New Jersey clubs to play the Atlantics was the Liberty Base Ball Club of New Brunswick, founded in 1857 and the first New Jersey team to join the National Association of Base Ball Players.  The Liberty Club played the Atlantics twice in 1858 and twice in 1860, resulting in three losses and a tie.  In 1861, however, the Liberty played only one game - a 30-12 thrashing of the Atlantics, a win so convincing that even the Brooklyn Daily Eagle had to admit the Liberty were the dominant club that day.

After the 1861 season the Liberty shut down operations for the duration of the Civil War resuming match play in 1866.  The New Brunswick club never came close to matching their 1861 performance and the war may have cost them the chance of being the premier New Jersey team of the 1860's.  Instead that distinction went to the Eureka Base Ball Club of Newark, formed in the winter of 1860 primarily from members of the Washington Junior Club.  The Eureka were formed to compete at the highest levels and they took on the best clubs of the period including the Atlantics.  The Eureka's best season was in 1865 which included two heart breaking losses to the Atlantics.  First in Newark, before a crowd estimated at 5000 people (probably inflated), a last ditch ninth inning rally fell one run short at the Atlantic held on 21-20.  A few weeks later the teams played again in Brooklyn and this time the Eureka carried a three run lead into the ninth, but the Atlantics fought back to win 38-37.

Although 1865 was the Eureka's most successful season, the following year they lost their place as New Jersey's best team to the upstart Irvington Club.  Founded around 1860 as a junior club, by 1866 the Irvingtons were ready to take on the "big boys" and there was no one bigger than the Atlantics.  As recounted in the New York Clipper of June 23, 1866, the Irvingtons lured the Atlantics to Irvington under false pretenses of being "a mere country club" and then handed the champions their first defeat in three years, 23-17, probably the greatest upset of the 1860's.  The Irvington win wasn't entirely a fluke as two members of the New Jersey club, Charles Sweasy and Andy Leonard, would go on to be part of that famous Cincinnati Red Stocking Club.

As noted earlier, the dominant performance of the original Atlantics has nothing to do with the success of today's vintage club - it's an interesting historical co-incidence, but a co-incidence none the less.  There is a historical lesson here, however, upsets do happen so the only thing for the Neshanock to do is forget the most recent match and try again next time which will be some time in 2013.  For the rest of this year, however, the Neshanock have the Atlantics right where we want them - off the schedule!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Clear Scores and Statistics

Late last summer while waiting for a Neshanock game to begin, I overheard members of two other vintage teams discussing how their clubs maintained statistical records.  I forget the exact details, but both teams used modern categories like batting averages and runs batted in. 

When I started keeping score for the Neshanock in 2010, Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw encouraged me to learn and use Henry Chadwick's 19th century system.  Brad also provided me with a replica of a 19th century base ball guide which included Chadwick's description of his system.  I supplemented that information with other research including multiple trips to the New York Public Library to look at Chadwick's original score books.  Not surprisingly Chadwick's system evolved over the years beginning with little more than runs and outs to a full blown system to record many details which Chadwick, no doubt, relied on for writing about games for multiple newspapers.  I started using the system midway through the 2010 season including recreating (with the help of my friend Henry F. Ballone) the score book itself.

Up until that day last summer, however, I hadn't thought much about how to use the data accumulating in the score book.  After further discussion with Brad, we agreed, that as in everything we do in vintage base ball, historical accuracy is the highest priority.  So I did further research into how Chadwick reported statistics and found that in the late 1850's and early 1860's this consisted almost entirely of runs and outs.  One confusing statistic was something called clear scores which didn't seem to be defined anywhere in the contemporary sources.  The definition I came up with (I think from the 19th century SABR e-mail list) was that a striker or batter achieved a clear score when he scored a run every time, he got up regardless of how he got on base - hit, walk, muff (error) etc. 

However earlier this year in e-mail communications with Bob Tholkes, I learned that he favored another definition - a clear score means the batter had no hands lost (outs) during a game.  At the same time Bob also hadn't been able to find any source where Chadwick defined the term.  I had the opportunity to hear Bob's informative talk on Chadwick's statistical systems in Cooperstown last month which he illustrated with the below pages from the 1861 Dime Base Ball Player.  The chart shows the offensive records for the Brooklyn Atlantic during the 1860 season including clear scores.

With this information I thought it might be possible to look at the original Chadwick score books and resolve the question.  So last Saturday I made the short trip to the NYPL to look at both Chadwick's score book for 1860 and the Atlantic Base Ball Club's game books which are also part of the Spalding collection.  While it's hard to see on the above copy, four different Atlantics achieved clear scores in 1860 including one by a player named Smith. 

Unfortunately Chadwick didn't score every Atlantic game in 1860, but I did find an October 8, 1860 match where the Atlantic defeated the Liberty Club of New Brunswick, NJ by a score of 15-10.  In the Atlantic lineup was a player named Smith (E.J. Smith according to the Atlantic game book for 1860).  In the box score Smith is listed with 0 hands lost and 3 runs scored.  An examination of the inning by inning details shows that Smith batted five times and reached base each time with four doubles and a single.  He scored in the second, fifth and seventh innings, but did not score in the third and eighth.  Furthermore in the third and eighth innings, he was not retired on the bases.  The Atlantic game book confirms this information so that it seems the definition Bob Tholkes is working with is correct - a clear score means the player did not make any outs during the game, either at bat or on the bases.  It is, of course, possible that there was another game where in addition to not making outs Smith scored every time he got on base, but I think that unlikely. 

All of this, of course, raised my consciousness of clear scores so as I looked through the game books and later that afternoon at multiple issues of Porter's Spirit of the Times, I took more notice of the hands lost column in box scores and was somewhat surprised to see few, if any, zeros. 

I was going through PSOT as part of my research on the spread of base ball in New Jersey.  The most interesting find was an account in the 12/5/1857 issue of the paper of a Thanksgiving Day game between the Friendship and Independent Ex-Volunteer Clubs of Paterson, New Jersey.  It's the earliest account of base ball in Paterson that I have seen thus far. There were only seven on a side which probably doesn't have any special significance, but I was interested in one of the names in the box score - Garabrant.  For some reason there was a revival in Paterson in 1867 of what they called "old fashioned base ball" by players who had supposedly never played the "modern game" (Paterson Daily Press, 8/2/1867) with a Garabrant one of the team captains.    

After finding this and the different possible interpretations of the 1855 Washington Club of Orange, I've decided to do a series of posts on what I have found thus far in New Jersey regarding clubs that played something other than the New York game.  The idea will be to post the information I have found rather than trying to draw many conclusions.  I hope to do the first about the Antiquarian Knickerbocker Club of Newark towards the end of next week.  First, however, there will most likely be a post on Saturday's Neshanock match with the Brooklyn Atlantics in Chester, New Jersey.  As in the picture below, I'll be looking for clear scores, but this time with a better sense of what they are.

                                                      Photo by Mark Granieri

Monday, May 7, 2012

Grounds and Ground Rules

It's probably hard to imagine two places with less in common than Washington Park in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn and Ringwood State Park in Ringwood, New Jersey.  The former is surrounded by all of the sights and sounds of the city, accessible by subway, bus and car while the latter is very rural accessible by a road that makes unintentional visits to places like the town recycling center all too common.  Yet both sites present the same challenge for playing a base ball game, 19th century or otherwise - the difficulty in laying out anything resembling a standard field.

The picture below of Sunday's Neshanock - Resolutes game illustrates only part of the problem - a left field line intersecting almost directly with the rest rooms.  Even more challenging is right field which was dramatically shortened by first trees and then a stream - it led to multiple ground rules, probably more than were needed in the 1860's.

Photo by Mark Granieri

However if right field in Ringwood was challenging, its counterpart at Washington Park was almost bizarre.  Since the park's foot print is basically a rectangle there actually was no right field with a high fence cutting just beyond what would be the dirt of a major league field today.  Instead of a second baseman and right fielder, the Neshanock played two second basemen, one close and one deep.  Under the ground rules, fair balls hit over the fence between the right field line and almost to center field were outs!  Among other things this led to the question of how to enter such plays in the score book.  I have no idea how Henry Chadwick would have handled the situation, but I opted to credit the put out to the nearest player which led to Neshanock "deep" second base man, Ken "Tumbles" Mandel, getting credit for two put outs on balls he never even touched!

Neshashanock President and founder, Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw (pictured below educating the crowd on 19th century base ball) had no end of frustration in laying out the field in Ringwood.  I finally commented to him that it was probably similar problems that led Manhattan teams to opt to play at Elysian Fields in Hoboken and thus helping to facilitate the introduction of the New York game into New Jersey.

Photo by Mark Granieri

In my talk on early New Jersey base ball, I mention that watching, reading about and hearing about Manhattan clubs playing at Elysian Fields has to have been a major factor in young men in New Jersey deciding to start their own base ball clubs.  Not infrequently that leads to the question of why were the Manhattan clubs playing in New Jersey. 

In his book, "Baseball and Cricket: The Creation of American Team Sports, 1838-72," George Kirsch mentions that land in Manhattan was either being "lost" to commercial and residential development and/or becoming prohibitively expensive.  For example, faced with an obstinate landlord demanding $200 in annual rent, the Gotham Club of New York decided the 3 cent cost of a ferry ride to Hoboken made a lot more sense especially since there were four ferries per hour (Jersey City Daily Sentinel and Advertiser, May 16, 1855).  It also wasn't long before space became a problem in New Jersey as well.  At least part of the demise of Jersey City's first two clubs (the Pioneer and Excelsior Clubs) was due to the inability to find a regular site and the Hamilton Club was having similar problems before the onset of the Civil War apparently sealed the club's fate.

Today the Nesahanock avoid such problems by not having a regular home field although there is still the challenge of sites like the club has encountered the past two weeks.  All told the problems didn't effect the end result as the Resolutes rallied from an early 9-4 deficit and went on to a commanding 24-13 victory.  Unlike the past two weeks no one on the Neshanock had a clear score, the meaning of which has now, I think, been determined.  More about this in the next post.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Was this NJ's First Base Ball Team?

My primary research goal is to study and analyze how the New York game spread and developed throughout New Jersey.  I've decided to take a more systematic approach and work on a county by county basis beginning with Hudson and Essex counties.  These two counties had the highest population at the time and are also the closest to Manhattan and Brooklyn.  I've already worked through almost all of the Newark newspapers for the period so on Monday I made the short trip to the Orange Public Library to look at The Orange Journal.

                                                           Orange Public Library

The Journal was a weekly paper so I didn't expect to find much in the way of game accounts and, in fact, I only found two - 1858 box scores of games between the Pioneer Club of Orange and the 2nd nine of the Empire Club of Newark.  Only one of the two was new so, as I kind of expected, it seemed like the trip was just part of due diligence.  I didn't go through the newspaper in chronological order so the last year left was 1855, the first year that New Jersey teams started playing the New York game.  Although the Newark Daily Advertiser (8/6/1855) had made reference to an unnamed Orange club, I still was not expecting very much.  Then the May 26, 1855 issue had the following:

"In your Journal of May 12th you undertook to enumerate the Societies of this thriving town; but I must say you entirely over looked one; viz the "Washington Base Ball Club," consisting of (20) young men; they held their semi-annual election on Friday evening, last May 18, at the Park house; where also a collation was served them, of which nothing need be said as the popularity of its host in that line needs no comment, by inserting this you will confer a favor on the W.B.B.C."

I had actually missed this the first time through, but went back after I saw the following letter to the editor in the June 9, 1855 issue:

“In your Journal a short time since, a communication appeared speaking of the “Washington Base Ball Club” of Orange.  From its being noted publicly, I should infer they were somewhat anxious to gain notoriety, or else wish to play a match with some other Club.  If the latter are the facts of the case there are eight men over the mountain who will play their best eight men.  The time and place to be agreed upon after the challenge has been excepted (sic).  By noticing this you will confer a favor on


Of course the Washington Club wasn't going to let that go without a response so the the following appeared in the June 16, 1855 issue:

"In your journal last week, a notice appeared purporting to come from some one who signed himself “mountain,” stating there were  eight (8) men over the mountain who would play the 8 picked men of the “Washington Base Ball Club.”  We have merely to say in reply, although not quite so desirous of obtaining notoriety as “mountain” says we are, we stand ready at any time to play them or any other 8 men over the mountain, address WBBC, Orange, P.O."

Unfortunately nothing further appeared in the paper about the two teams or whether the game actually took place.  I also went back to the Journal's first issue in June of 1854 and worked forward, but found no further mention of the Washington Club or any other base ball club.

The possible significance of this find lies in the date.  Up until now the earliest documented New Jersey base ball club was the Newark Club which played a match on June 13, 1855 and according to the Newark Daily Advertiser of August 11, 1855 had only been in existence for “a few weeks.”  While this is speculation, the first Washington Club letter seems to suggest that their club is older than the Newark Club.  The Washington Club met on May 18 for what is referred to as a “their semi annual election” which doesn’t sound like a description of a first or initial meeting.  Rather it suggests at the very least a second meeting which if the semi annual reference is accurate would mean an earlier meeting no later than the fall of 1854.

Also of interest is the identity of the eight men from "over the mountain" who are more than willing to take on the Washington Club.  At the time Orange was more properly known as Orange Township and covered a much larger geographic area including today's East, West and South Orange and most likely Maplewood.  Mountain refers to what used to be known as "first mountain" (first mountain west of Newark).  Today's Orange is on the eastern side of the mountain as are South and East Orange so the eight men are most probably from what is now West Orange.  The letter could be interpreted to mean that they have or about to form a club and, if so, that would add another to the growing list of 1855 New Jersey base ball teams.

Although the correspondence refers to a game of eight on a side, I believe this is the New York game and not a predecessor game (which would be even more significant).  My understanding is that nine on a side was not formalized for the New York game until 1857 and we know that in 1855 other New Jersey clubs played the New York game with, for example, eleven on a side.  I'm not at all sure how to pursue this further as I've exhausted the only Orange newspaper and doubt I would have missed any references in the Newark newspapers.  But for the moment it seems there is a real possibility that New Jersey's first base ball club was not from Newark, but from its much smaller western neighbor.  Stay tuned.