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.  

No comments:

Post a Comment