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.

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