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. 

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