Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Importance of Showing Up

Eric Miklich - not always right, but never in doubt!

Saturday, the Flemington Neshanock made their third and final 2012 visit to Long Island, traveling once more to Old Bethpage Village, a restored historical village and the birthplace of vintage base ball.  The opposition was the Brooklyn Eckfords, a second year club under the leadership of Eric Miklich, one of the pioneers and great characters (said with much respect) of the vintage game.  Although a second year club, the Eckford have a combination of veterans from other clubs and new talent so they were not in any sense of the word "muffins."  Amidst the high heat and humidity, the Eckfords took both games by scores of 12-3 and 7-3.

There is no evidence to suggest that the "original" Neshanock and Eckfords ever met on the base ball field, but if they had, not only would the end result have been the same, but the scores wouldn't have been any where near as close.  Little is known of the original Neshanock, but as noted on the club's web site, they were known to lose local matches while giving up over 70 runs a game!  The Eckfords on the other hand are one of the storied clubs of early base ball reigning as national champions in both 1862 and 1863.

The thought of such a possible historic mismatch brings me back to a topic that was mentioned in the post about the Neshanock's visit to Hoboken in June.  New Jersey clubs had a very unique situation because of their close proximity to New York City and Brooklyn, even more so with so many New York clubs actually playing in New Jersey at Elysian Fields.  This proximity had advantages and disadvantage and also raised issues such as whether these early New Jersey clubs should compete with the superior New York and Brooklyn teams. 

My research so far on Hudson and Essex Counties suggests that New Jersey base ball clubs of this period fell into three categories - local/junior, competitive and highly competitive.  Local and/or junior clubs typically played only other local teams perhaps venturing into the adjoining community.  Competitive clubs played teams in New Jersey beyond their adjoining communities and also played some Brooklyn or New York clubs, but not the top clubs.  An example of this second group is our old friends, the Hamilton Base Ball Club of Jersey City.

A highly competitive club on the other hand either played one of the top clubs multiple times or played a number of the top Brooklyn and New York clubs.  The Liberty Club of New Brunswick is an example of the former group - the Liberty played the Brooklyn Atlantics numerous times before the Civil War and even beat them in 1861. Based on my research so far the only other New Jersey team in this category prior to 1861 is the Hoboken Club.

It's been hard to track down information about the Hoboken Club which apparently only existed during the 1859 season.  There was no daily newspaper in Hoboken and thus far I have only found limited issues of the weekly paper.  During their one season, the Hoboken Club did not play any matches with New Jersey clubs, instead taking on some of the best clubs from Brooklyn and New York such as the New York Mutuals, the Star Club of Brooklyn and, of course, the Eckfords.  In eight matches, the Hoboken team won only once against clubs which were 31-15 for the season.  The above box score of an 40-16 August 17th drubbing at the hands of the Eckford is only one example.

It would have been hard to have been less successful, but at some level the Hoboken Club deserves some credit for just showing up.  Many years ago someone gave me a button that said "70% of life is showing up."  By doing just that the Hoboken club demonstrated that there was at least one New Jersey team that was willing to take on the best, no matter the result.  Almost ten years later, the Newark Eureka and Irvington Clubs would follow in the Hobokens footsteps with much better results.  It's impossible to know if either club even knew about the Hoboken's efforts, but in any event, they set an example of not being afraid to compete not matter how long the odds or bad the result.  It was, in other words,very manly behavior.

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