Thursday, June 21, 2012

Predecessor Games - First Thoughts

As promised, the four posts about other versions of base ball played in New Jersey laid out information without drawing any conclusions.  Having done that I want to offer the following very tentative thoughts on the subject:

1. References to a different version of base ball being played in Paterson, Newark and New Brunswick suggest that the play of some other kind or kinds of a game called base ball was at least somewhat wide spread.  While these references covers only three not terribly distant locations, the three cities/towns are not contiguous and represent both northern and central New Jersey.  Since the Jersey City post also indicates at least familiarity with other forms of base ball, evidence has been found in every location examined in detail with the exception of Trenton.  As more parts of the state are studied it will be interesting to see whether the above situations are unique or representative of the state as a whole.

On Saturday, June 23rd, the Flemington Neshanock will play the Essex Base Ball Club (and perhaps others) at
Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusets

2. There is no evidence to suggest that any of these earlier forms were played within a formal structure.  The article about New Brunswick reports informal play, the Paterson articles make no reference to formal clubs and the Jersey City articles state repeatedly that the Pioneer and Excelsior Clubs did not exist before 1855.  In addition the pre-Civil War references to the Antiquarian Knickerbockers don't describe any activity pre-1857 and nothing has been found thus far about them in Newark newspapers from 1854-1856.

3. The Newark, Jersey City and Paterson accounts all include at least some games played with 11 on a side so that this would appear to be at least one common rule.  Both the Newark and Paterson articles mention no foul territory and outs being recorded by hitting a runner with a thrown ball so these two rules may also have been a common feature.  Unfortunately only one Paterson article gives any sense of the layout of the field.

As stated earlier these comments are both tentative and preliminary, but I think there is at least enough information to support the first conclusion - at least until further research is done.

    Sunday, June 24th will see the Neshanock take the ferry to Georges Island in Boston Harbor
                                            for matches with the Melrose Pondfeilders
The Flemington Neshanock are off to Massachusetts this weekend for games on Saturday and Sunday.  The plan is to do a post on the trip, but I'm not sure exactly when as there is an important anniversary that I want to commemorate on or before June 27th.

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