Tuesday, July 10, 2012

1850's All Star Games - New Jersey Style

As John Thorn rightly mentions in a blog post yesterday about the first all star game (ourgame.mlbblogs.com) 19th century base ball aficionados immediately think of the 1858 Fashion Course games - a best of three series between select (all star) teams from Brooklyn and New York.  There is an excellent in depth article about these historic games in the Fall 2005 issue of "NINE" written by Robert Schafer.   My own much more modest essay will appear in "Inventing Baseball," to be published later this year by SABR's 19th century base ball committee - it's a series of essays about the 100 most important games of the 19th century.

The two clubs split the first two matches, but New York scored seven times in the first inning of the deciding contest and went on to a 29-18 victory.  The above picture is of the game ball from the second match (won by Brooklyn) which was ultimately presented to Henry Chadwick in 1906 in honor of his 50th anniversary as a sportswriter.  It was sold at auction for almost $500,000.

Interestingly the New York Daily Tribune (7/21/1858) account of the first game refers to it as a match between a Brooklyn nine and "a chosen side from New York and Hoboken," no doubt a reference to the New Jersey home of New York clubs by someone with an eye for geographic correctness.

Contemporary newspaper accounts refer to large crowds and apparently some of those in attendance were from New Jersey.  On the day of the deciding third game, the Daily Courier and Advertiser (9/10/1858) in Jersey City mentioned local residents who were on their way to the match.

But even earlier, New Jersey base ball players were well aware of the matches and were thinking about replicating them on a local level.  The Newark Daily Advertiser (9/3/1858) reported on a meeting of Newark base ball players called to determine a process to pick an "All Newark Nine." 

The referenced match with an all New Brunswick nine never came off and, if it had, it would have  been little more than an all star team playing the Liberty Club of New Brunswick as there wasn't much else of the way of organized base ball activity in that locality.
The Newarkers were much more fortunate, however, in arranging a similar match with their neighbors in Bloomfield township.  Bloomfield (which then included Montclair and much of Nutley) had three to four clubs in 1858 and the below box score shows players from at least two - the Watsessing and Union Clubs.

Played in Bloomfield, the match was apparently a close one with the Newarkers prevailing by only three runs.  Mention was made of J. L. Conklin's home run - as noted in an earlier post Conklin would make the ultimate sacrifice at the battle of Gaines Mill in 1862.

New Jersey interest in the Fashion Course games doesn't surprise me, nor does the desire of New Jersey ball players to replicate it in New Jersey.  I was somewhat surprised by the mention of a group from Jersey City making the trip to see the deciding game.  I'm not sure how the train connections worked, but at the least it had to be a long journey with a late return home.  Perhaps on some kind of symbolic level it shows how the New York game was taking root not just in New Jersey, but among New Jerseyans.

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