Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Manly Hiatus

A Manly Pastime is going to take a break so that I can finish my work on "Ebbets Field: Essays and Memories of Brooklyn's Historic Ballpark, 1913-1960" which should take about 2-3 weeks.  Thanks to everyone who has been reading the blog and I hope you will keep reading when it resumes most likely around the middle of November.  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Coming Up A Tumble Short

                                                  Picture by Joe Gallo

Today a remnant of the Flemington Neshanock traveled to Elkton, Maryland to take on the Elkton Eclipse in a season ending doubleheader.  In fact only six players made the trip, but thanks to the help of old friend Paul Salomone of the Elizabeth Resolutes, Joe "Mick" Murray's brother, Mike and a member of the Chesapeake City Cecils, we were able to field a team on a cool windy day at the Terrapin Station Winery.  Everyone on the Neshanock played hard, but it was not enough as we came up just short in both games by the scores of 11-10 and 8-6.

Flemington finishes the season, therefore, one game under .500, but it was still another successful and enjoyable season.  Thanks to everyone who was involved in making the season so much fun especially Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw for all his hard work and my photographer, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri for the pictures that have appeared in this blog.  Thanks also to all the spouses, girl friends and significant others who attended close to 50 games over almost six months, beginning on the far reaches of Eastern Long Island and ending today in northern Maryland.  Here's to another successful season in 2013.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Marking Time in Allentown

                                                  Photo by Mark Granieri

This past Saturday, the Flemington Neshanock were in Allentown, New Jersey for two games with the Hoboken Nine, New Jersey's newest vintage base ball team.  The games were staged simultaneously with a Civil War re-enactment, all part of Allentown Fall's Festival.  As advertised, I wasn't able to be there, but once again Mark "Gaslight" Granieri with some help from Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw supplied me with the results.

                                                     Photo by Mark Granieri

After the Neshanock played the Hoboken Club in Jersey City a few weeks ago, I wrote that even if the club was new, it was no muffin team.  The results in Allentown proved the validity of that statement as again the two clubs split the two games.  In the first, played by 1864 rules, the Flemington Club prevailed by a 14-5 count.  In the second contest, 1870 rules were used and the "boys" from Hudson County won by 11-4.  This was the direct opposite of the Jersey City results where Hoboken won the 1864 game while Flemington took the 1870 contest.

                                                      Photo by Mark Granieri

Since the Neshanock went into the day with a 23-22 record, the net result was to just mark time in the quest for a winning season.  Now at 24-23 everything depends upon the results of the final matches this coming weekend (assuming these are the final matches).  The schedule for this weekend is yet to be determined so once again, I ask our international following to stay tuned.

                                                        Photo by Mark Granieri

Allentown, New Jersey, which is less well known than its Pennsylvania counterpart, is only about 10 miles from Trenton, the state capital.  Trenton also appears to have an interesting place in the spread of the New York game into New Jersey.  Research thus far shows that Trenton was one of the first communities outside of Essex and Hudson Counties to have a base ball club with the Trenton Base Ball Club seeing some action in 1856.  There appears to have been at least one other club in Trenton before the Civil War, but as far as I can tell, they played very few match games with each other and only one against an outside team - a visit from the Pastime Club of Brooklyn.  Base ball activity in Trenton in 1856 is interesting because it seems like the game got there before clubs were formed in a number of communities closer to Newark such as Elizabeth and New Brunswick.  Another subject for further research!

                                                         Photo by Mark Granieri

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Long Branch Base Ball Club - Outlier or Tip of the Iceberg?

As noted in an earlier post, I went to the New York Public Library a few weeks ago to look in the New York Sunday Mercury for evidence of early base ball in Paterson, New Jersey and found some information about the Flora Temple Club, named after a famous race horse of the day.  This past week I went back to look at the photo copies from that visit and, as often happens, I noticed something else of relevance to antebellum New Jersey base ball.

The August 26, 1860 edition of the Mercury contained the following:

"Herculean vs. Long Branch - A closely played match was played on Tuesday, 15th inst between two clubs named the Herculean and Long Branch, on the ground between the Mansion and United States hotels at Long Branch."

                                        New York Sunday Mercury - August 26, 1860

There was also the above box score which is difficult to read (actually the above is easier to read than the original).  Unfortunately this is true of almost all of the New York Sunday Mercury microfilm I have seen for the 1859-1860 period.

This was more than a little of a surprise to me since prior research had not unearthed any evidence of base ball at the Jersey shore before the Civil War.  Long Branch is part of Monmouth County and neither the Monmouth Democrat or the Monmouth Herald and Inquirer for 1860 have accounts of base ball games. I could, of course, have missed something so I will check again.  I couldn't identify any of the players on the 1860 census (assuming I read their names correctly), but Entertaining a Nation: The Career of Long Branch by the WPA writers project confirms that both the Mansion House and US Hotel were located on Ocean Avenue in that shore community.  As is well known Long Branch was a famous 19th century resort where U.S. Presidents and their families escaped the summer heat of Washington, D.C.  The Mansion House was reportedly Long Branch's "finest hotel," hosting many famous guests including Mary Todd Lincoln in the summer of 1861.

                                                         Mary Todd Lincoln

All of this is all very well, but the immediate question for my research is whether this is an exception or outlier to what I have found so far or is it the tip of the iceberg, evidence of more extensive base ball than was reported in the limited local newspapers.  I still have about a 1/2 dozen of south Jersey papers to check, but research so far indicates that base ball's spread outside of Essex and Hudson Counties was limited to less than 10 communities, primarily in central New Jersey.

For young men to develop an interest in forming a base ball club, they had to see the game, hear about it or read about it.  Each possibility could happen in multiple ways and possible exposure to the game became more likely as the 1850's drew to a close.  Certainly in a place like Long Branch, which drew visitors from New York City and Philadelphia, not to mention other New Jersey locations (probably including Newark), there was a relatively high likelihood that visitors played base ball and/or talked about base ball while in Long Branch, thereby inspiring local youths to start their own clubs.

                                                         Long Branch Hotels

So at the moment this seems like an outlier to me - an exception which can be explained by Long Branch's more cosmopolitan nature.  However, I'm certainly not dismissing the possibility that there was more base ball activity than ever made it into the space challenged, weekly newspapers of the period.  One of the next steps in my research is to look more closely at the communities where base ball was played in search of common denominators which can explain how and why the game spread as it did.  Long Branch is now on that list.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Flemington Neshanock - The World's Team

Occasionally sports team's claim a fan base well beyond their local area - the Dallas Cowboy's calling themselves "America's Team" is only one example.  A review of the audience statistics for this blog suggests that the Flemington Neshanock have an even broader appeal.  While most of the views understandably come from the United States, today's statistics show 11 views in France, eight in Great Britain, three in Germany and one apiece in China, South Korea, and the Ukraine.  Eat your heart out Jerry Jones!

                                    Photo by Mark Granieri

Given that kind of following it seemed only fair to make an extra effort to report on this past weekend's games and the Neshanock's quest to finish above .500.  Since I wasn't able to be present, I once again called on Mark of all trades, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri, who in addition to his important contributions at the bat and behind the plate, also provides the match photos and leads the Neshanock in cookie consumption.  

                                  Photo by Mark Granieri

"Gaslight" was, of course, up to the challenge and through his efforts I am pleased inform our fans from the Ukraine to South Korea that the Neshanock swept both matches this past Saturday from the dreaded Elizabeth Resolutes.  The Flemington club was in control for the entire first game winning by a 9-3 count.  As in Monroe a week ago, the second contest was much more competitive, the Neshanock even trailing by five in the first inning.  The Neshanock narrowed the gap in the middle three innings and then pulled away in the last three frames for a 20-15 triumph.

                                   Photo by Mark Granieri 

The wins put the Neshanock one game over .500 with two weekends to go in the season.  This coming Saturday, Flemington will take on the Hoboken "Nine" in a doubleheader in Allentown, New Jersey and the sun will then set on the season the following Sunday, with a visit to Elkton, Maryland to take on the Elkton Eclipse.  

Given the international interest in how this season comes out, there will be reports on the action the next two weeks - next week "Gaslight" will again pinch hit, but I'll be there for the finale.  So stay tuned in France, China and Germany!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The 1865 Newark Eureka - the Rest of the Story

When we left the Eureka on August 31, 1865, they had just suffered their second heartbreaking loss to the undefeated, and still champion, Brooklyn Atlantics.  As they gathered up their equipment in the growing darkness at Brooklyn's Capitoline Grounds and headed for what must have seemed like an interminable trip back to Newark, their collective frustration must have close to the breaking point.  Twice they had taken on the best team in the country and both times fallen short by just one run.  They had played hard and played well, but as summer began to turn to fall they were still a losing team with a 3-5 record.

It's not hard to imagine a scenario where the Eureka consciously or sub consciously decided they had given it their best shot, 1865 was not going to be their year and to go through the motions in their remaining matches.  After all these were busy young men with other claims on their time and it would have easy and perhaps understandable for any of them to turn their attention to their jobs and "real" lives.  To their credit, however, the Eureka did exactly the opposite.  Their next match on September 7th saw them soundly thrash the Union Club of Morrisania by a 30-10 count.  This was followed by the return match with the New York Mutuals at the Mutuals' "home" grounds in Hoboken.  The Mutuals had easily won the first match in Newark, 27-12, but the Eureka were out for revenge and this time they got it, taking the lead and holding on for a 20-19 victory over a club that would lose only three other games all season (the Atlantics twice and the Eckford once).

At this point there was no stopping the Eureka.  The Newarkers won their last five matches, finishing the season with a seven game winning streak and a 10-5 record, the best record in the club's 10 year history.  Their accomplishments were even more impressive in light of the fact that their five losses were to three clubs which had an overall 1865 record of 45-7.

During the game's pioneer period, base ball was praised by the media and others as a good way for young men to get the benefits of exercise and wholesome fellowship with their peers.  Most likely competitive match play was too new for anyone to focus on sport's potential for teaching life skills, yet the 1865 Eureka shared an experience that hopefully taught them "no end of a lesson."  Like athletes and teams ever since, they encountered adversity, but the more important issue was how they responded to that adversity.  We can only hope that winning seven straight games after two heart breaking losses taught them something about how to deal with adversity for the rest of their lives.