Friday, December 20, 2013

Year End Reflections

Year end  is typically a time for reflection, an opportunity to simultaneously look both backward and forward.  In that spirit, this post will reflect on A Manlys Pastime's forty-nine 2013 posts and consider where the blog might be going in the new year.  For the record, A Manly Pastime began in February of 2012 so we are closing in on the second anniversary.

Photo by Ann Colduvell

As in 2012, close to seven months of this year's posts combined a report on a Flemington Neshanock vintage base ball match and a historical connection or reflection.  I've discussed before why I'm involved in vintage base ball (six years all told), but in addition to the personal benefits, it also facilitates my thinking and writing about the 19th century game.  For example, while making the trip to Easton, Maryland for Sunday matches with the Talbot Fair Plays last April, I realized there was no similar 19th century experience as anyone foolish enough to play base ball on the Sabbath, risked jail time, fines and sometimes both.  The result was a post that reported on the day's matches and took a brief look at the history of Sunday base ball.

It's important, however, to be careful in using vintage base ball to understand, write and talk about 19th century base ball.  Just as Civil War re-enactors can't use real bullets, compromises on historical accuracy are part of vintage base ball such as using modern spikes for safety concerns.  Even with those compromises, however, I think vintage base ball contributes to historical research, perhaps in a similar way that reminiscences and memory can enrich and bring color to contemporary documents and data.

Richard Hershberger (in civilian clothes) and the Neshanock at Gettysburg - photo by Mark Granieri

One thing I am sure of is that there's value in vintage players and historians working together.  Last year Richard Hershberger was kind enough to attend a Neshanock match at the Gettysburg vintage base ball festival.  There was so much conversation and inter-action on the side lines about base ball history that it sometimes diverted attention from the match itself.  In fact, at one point the umpire came over not to discuss a call, but to be sure he had heard an historical point correctly.  Richard has also provided Brad Shaw with contemporary evidence on how umpires called games, part of the continual effort to achieve the highest possible level of historical accuracy in the vintage game.

The Gettysburg festival was the subject of a post entitled "Weekend at Gettysburg" which discussed the vintage base ball festival, New Jersey's Civil War Sesquicentennial ceremonies at Gettysburg and the story of the 11th New Jersey's sacrifices in that historic battle.  To my surprise the post got over 100 views within 24 hours, matched only by a recent post commemorating the 150th anniversary of the 33rd New Jersey's service during the battles for Chattanooga.  There are no plans to turn A Manly Pastime into a Civil War blog, but there will be similar digressions in 2014 around other Sesquicentennial events, probably beginning in May.  It's also likely that my research into the 1919 World Series will pop up at some point.

11th New Jersey monument at Gettysburg

Looking back at other 2013 blog topics, I realize that unintentionally, I wrote a fair amount about 19th century base ball in Newark.  Among the subjects were Newark's first base ball grounds, early black base ball and the ever fascinating Antiquarian Knickerbockers.  Currently I'm going through Newark newspapers from 1861 to 1870 (trust me, it's a lot of microfilm) as part of analyzing base ball's growth in New Jersey throughout the pioneer period (1855-1870).  While any conclusions are premature, what I've seen reinforces Newark's importance in base ball's growth in New Jersey and beyond.  Apparently close enough to Manhattan and Elysian Fields to attract Newark's young men to the "new" game, the city's role as a railroad hub seems to have been a major factor in the game's expansion in antebellum New Jersey.  Indeed almost without exception, every community that had a base ball club before the Civil War also had a direct railroad connection to Newark.

1855 Newark Daily Advertiser account of Newark's first base ball clubs

All of this will get a lot of my research attention in 2014, some of which will undoubtedly find its way into the blog.  One of the blog's major benefits for me is as vehicle to "think out loud" before anything gets cast in any more concrete form.  As important as Newark base ball is, however, the rest of the state won't be neglected as the plan is to cover all of New Jersey.  It will be especially interesting to look at the experience in southern new Jersey where there is no evidence of any base ball clubs through 1860 with the exception of Camden.  And the Camden Club actually played Philadelphia town ball and didn't convert to the New York game until about 1864.  Most suburban/rural communities in northern New Jersey seem to have gotten their first clubs in 1865 and 1866, will it be the same in south Jersey?  Stay tuned.

The current plan is to begin the new year with a look at the original Flemington Neshanock which was short lived and had limited on-the-field success, but it's probably not a bad way to begin 2014 in a blog that moves back and forth between the past and the present.  Barring something unforeseen that will begin the week of January 6th.  Until then best wishes for the holidays and all of 2014.  Thanks for taking the time to visit A Manly Pastime.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Update to Remembering with Advantages

Thanks to Peter Morris for letting me know that Anna Clark was the mother of a major league base ball player, although he played in only one major league game.  The Cincinnati Post article referenced in "Remembering with advantages," mentions that her son played for the "old Muldoons and later in the Southern League."  Peter wrote about his efforts to research Ed Clark in his book Cracking Baseball's Cold Cases.   According to the entry about Clark, he pitched in one major league game on July 4, 1886 for Philadelphia of the American Association.  Post base ball, he served two tours in the army including one during the Spanish American War.  Clark died in 1927 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Remembering with Advantages

In an end note to his book, Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, Allen Guelzo describes the debate among Lincoln scholars about the appropriate use of reminiscences about the 16th President, reminiscences many years after the actual events.  The concern, of course, is that there are often significant differences between memories of long ago events and contemporary source material about those same events.  Not surprisingly the differences tend to improve the role or position of the one doing the remembering.

Denver Post - 10-2-1919

As with so many things, Shakespeare best described the human tendency to exaggerate one's own role when he had Henry V tell his badly outnumbered army moments before the battle of Agincourt:

"Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot
But he'll remember, with advantages, 
What feats he did that day."

It's not hard to understand how remembering with self-serving advantages hurts efforts to write history accurately.  There are, however, advantages to remembering - advantages such as remembering that contributes to a more inclusive historical record, remembering which adds color and detail to the story and remembering that highlights a specific act.  This all came to mind while going through contemporary newspapers to research the infamous 1919 World Series for SABR's Deadball Committee's World Series project.  While reading about that controversial 20th century event, I found memories of not just one, but two great 19th century baseball clubs, remembering with "advantages" for the historical record.

Cal McVey of the 1869 Red Stockings celebrating the 1919 Reds victory in game four of the World Series

Cincinnati Post 10-7-1919

One of the connections to a great 19th century club isn't a surprise as 1919 was the 50th anniversary of the legendary Cincinnati Red Stockings' 1869 transcontinental tour and 57-0 record.  While there is no direct relationship between the two Cincinnati clubs, the modern (1919 modern) team took time in their World Series preparations, to remember their city's first great professional team.  While the organizers first thought Cal McVey and Hall of Famer George Wright were the only surviving Red Stockings, they were contacted by Oakely "Oak" or "Oke" Taylor, a reserve player who was then included in the event (thanks to John Thorn for the information about Taylor).  As a result, this effort to remember the 1869 Red Stockings some 50 years later had the "advantage" of including someone who otherwise might have been forgotten.  Of course, none of this would have happened had Taylor not had the good fortune to be alive in 1919.

Cincinnati Post - 10-4-1919

Although not as significant as the surviving Red Stockings, the Cincinnati Post wrote about one of their surviving fans, 79 year old Anna Clark, who had transferred her affections to the "modern" Reds.  In honor of the National League champions, she had knitted "small red stockings" similar to those "the girls of 69 wore in corsages as tributes" to the undefeated 1869 club.  Mrs. Clark would have been 29 in 1869 so she easily could have seen base ball in Cincinnati throughout the 1860s' including the first Cincinnati baseball clubs. Assuming the newspaper account is accurate, the "advantage" of this reminiscence is a picture (albeit years afterwards) of an early female baseball fan and at least one way the distaff side supported their team.

Like the Cincinnati newspaper, legendary sportswriter Damon Runyan paid attention to the historical connections of the 1919 Series and wrote about Reds business manager, Frank C. Bancroft, who "away, way back in the long ago piloted the Providence club to a championship."  The reference is to the 1884 Providence Grays, led on the field by Hall of Fame pitcher, Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn who won 59 games that year while pitching 678 plus innings, a story well documented in Ed Achorn's fine book Fifty-Nine in '84.

This was certainly noteworthy, but what was especially interesting was a further comment by Runyan that Bancroft  was "a good old scout," even though "he did invent the doubleheader."  That claim seemed too fantastic to believe, but I went to Peter Morris's invaluable A Game of Inches and found it is accurate, at least in a manner of speaking.  According to the entry, much of which is based on Charlie Bevis' research, in the 1880s' major league clubs began playing two games on holidays as morning and afternoon games with separate admissions.  As business manager of the Reds, Bancroft reportedly introduced the idea of playing two games for one admission on weekdays and coined the name "doubleheader," or at least popularized the name if he didn't invent it.  Unlike Anna Clark, Frank Bancroft was in no danger of dropping off of the historical radar, but Runyan's remembering him, in a nationally syndicated column, no less, highlights his story for a larger audience.

Frank Bancroft (in civilian clothes) with the Reds on a trip to Cuba

Reminiscences can never take the place of contemporary, eyewitness accounts of historic events.  And, as Shakespeare pointed out, they can also exaggerate or distort what actually happened.  But as these three examples show, remembering has a place in the historical process - it can contribute to a more inclusive story and be the seasoning that adds invaluable color and richness.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Civil War Digression

Posts  about 19th century base ball will resume the week of December 1st, but this is a special post in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the battle of Chattanooga which began on November 23, 1863 and lasted until the 25th.  I especially want to honor the service of the 33rd New Jersey, a regiment that "saw the elephant" (experienced combat for the first time) in that battle.  The 33rd New Jersey was formed in Newark during the summer of 1863 and got off to an inauspicious start when about 25% of the men deserted before the regiment left Newark.  Initially the regiment was sent to Virginia where they were attached to the XI Corps which earlier that year had disgraced itself by running away at Chancellorsville and hadn't done much better at Gettysburg.

These young men from New Jersey probably thought that like most of the state's soldiers, they would serve in the East, but it didn't work out that way.  After the Union defeat at Chickamauga at the end of September of 1863 and the equally disastrous retreat back to Chattanooga, it was decided to send reinforcements to an army now commanded by U. S. Grant.  Probably thinking they could solve two problems at the same time, the government chose to sent the XI Corps as well as the XII Corps (another under performing unit) to Chattanooga under the overall command of Joseph Hooker, who had also failed at Chancellorsville.

Captain Samuel Waldron - Killed in Action at Chattanooga on November 23, 1863

The 33rd arrived in early October and spent most of the next seven weeks guarding a portion of the supply line into Chattanooga.  Eventually however, the regiment was ordered to Lookout Valley near Chattanooga where as Captain Samuel Waldron of the 33rd put it, "Certain it is one hundred and twenty thousand men are not massed here for nothing."  Waldron may not have had the correct total of the Union forces, but he was right that the Union forces were gathering in Chattanooga and nearby Lookout Valley for an assault on the Confederate positions on Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain.

Colonel George Washington Mindil - 19 year old commanding officer of the 33rd New Jersey

The decisive struggle for Chattanooga began on the beautiful afternoon of November 23rd under "crystal blue autumn skies," when Grant ordered a reconnaissance in force towards Orchard Knob, a "steep, craggy knoll" between the Union lines and Missionary Ridge.  For some unaccountable reason, the Confederates thought the Union troops were forming up for some kind of drill or parade.  The ensuing attack quickly disabused them of that notion and the Union troops took Orchard Knob which today is home to battlefield monuments including that of New Jersey.

Captain William Boggs - mortally wounded at Chattanooga on November 23, 1863

The 33rd was to the left of the main attack and were ordered to advance in support at about 3:30.  They went no more than ten yards before coming under Confederate fire for the first time.  Almost immediately Captain William Boggs was shot through the left arm.  The 33rd's regimental commander, 19 year old Colonel George Washington Mindil ordered Lieutenant John Toffey to take Boggs' place.  Advancing through bullets that "flew like hailstones," Toffey arrived and had barely begun giving orders when he too was wounded in his thigh.  Also hit by Confederate fire was the aforementioned Captain Waldron who died instantly from a bullet through the heart.  Ultimately the 33rd's advance reached Citico Creek and the regiment held the near side of Citico Creek until relieved about 8:00 that night.

Contemporary view of Lookout Mountain

The struggle for Chattanooga would go on for two more days, with the 33rd only marginally engaged on the third day.  The second day was highlighted by the Federal assault on Lookout Mountain (the battle above the clouds), by that point the 33rd was on the far left of the Union line about as far away from the fighting as possible.  It's likely however that the Jerseymen joined the cheers that went up and down the Union lines the next morning when the fog cleared and the Stars and Stripes were seen atop Lookout Mountain.

Lieutenant John Toffey - wounded and permanently disabled on November 23, 1863

 The third day was, of course, the Union attack on Missionary Ridge, the Thirty-third was still on the far left and suffered some casualties from Confederate artillery.  The end of the battle brought no respite for the 33rd as on the following day they were part of a force sent off towards Knoxville to relieve the siege of that city.  The regiment were without their knapsacks so they spent the entire almost three week march with no tents and blankets, marching and sleeping in rain and mud, an experience that would be repeated frequently in their two years of service.

New Jersey monument on Orchard Knob at Chattanooga - photo by Wayne Hsieh

While the 33rd did not see heavy fighting at Chattanooga, their baptism of fire was not without cost, human cost.  In addition to Captain Waldron and Thomas Marsh who were killed on the battlefield, four other members of the regiment lost their lives at Chattanooga.  Captain Boggs died of his wounds as did William Post, Samuel Seering and Lewis Mangold.  John Toffey would survive his wound, but was disabled for the rest of his life.  In 1897 he received the Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry that day in Chattanooga. In spite of his disability, Toffey served in the Veterans Reserve Corps in Washington D.C. where he was an eyewitness to Abraham Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theater.

Thirty-third New Jersey's Battle Flag

After Chattanooga, the 33rd took part in all of William Tecumseh Sherman's great campaigns in the west, beginning with the Atlanta Campaign, followed by the March to the Sea and the Carolinas Campaign.  Effectively they walked from Chattanooga to Atlanta to Savannah to Washington D.C. before taking the train back to Newark in July of 1865.  The 150th anniversary of all those events will take place in 2014 and 2015 so there may very well be further Civil War digressions like this one.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Brief Break

With the end of the vintage base ball season, A Manly Pastime is going to take a relatively brief break so I can finish another writing project and get organized about future 19th century base ball topics.  I expect to be back no later than December 1st.  Thanks to everyone who takes the time to read the blog and especially those who provide feedback.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Season's End

For the second consecutive year, the Neshanock's quest for a winning season came down to the final weekend of the season.  To make things even more challenging, a successful outcome meant winning both ends of a doubleheader from the Hoboken Nine at Waterloo Village in rural Sussex County.  Unfortunately, I wasn't there, but once again Mark "Gaslight" Granieri not only hit, caught and took photos, but also gave me a summary of the two matches.

Photo by Mark Granieri

The opening match got off to a less than stellar start when Hoboken tallied three times in the top of the first inning, but the Neshanock battled back, tallying five times in the bottom of the frame.  The match turned into a back and forth offensive affair, unlike the low scoring matches of the past two weeks.  Hoboken tied it at 8-8 in the top of the fourth, but Flemington answered with four runs in the bottom of the inning to go ahead 12-8.  The Neshanock added two more in the bottom of the fifth and although Hoboken kept nibbling away at the lead, Flemington held on for a 17-13 victory.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Now back at .500, everything came down to the second game, a seven inning affair, like the first, played under 1864 rules.  With a winning season in sight, the Neshanock were not to be denied and combined heavy hitting with outstanding defense to win going away by a 15-4 count.   According to "Gaslight's" account, Chris "Lowball" Lowry,  Ken "Tumbles" Mandel, Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner, Dan "Sledge" Hammer, Jack "Doc" Kitson and Joe "Mick" Murray all made defensive plays of note.  I'm sure "Gaslight" was his usual steady self behind the plate, he's just too modest to say so.

Photo by Mark Granieri

With the sweep, the Neshanock did indeed record an winning campaign in 2013 finishing at 24-23, reportedly the first winning season in about eight years.  As important as the final record is, it also needs to be said that it was, once again, an enjoyable season - this was my fourth year as Neshanock scorekeeper and I've enjoyed the experience a great deal.  Thanks to all of the Neshanock players, wives, girl friends and significant others who make each match so much fun. Special thanks also to Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw for his tireless efforts as club president, Chris "Low Ball" Lowry as captain and to Mark "Gaslight" Granieri for taking so many pictures over the course of the season.  Thanks also to Sam "It aint' nothing until I say it is" Bernstein for working so hard to re-create the role of a 19th century umpire.

Photo by Mark Granieri

The last game of the 2013 vintage season marks the 158th consecutive year of  New Jersey clubs playing base ball, or at least the New York game.  The end of the vintage season led me to think a little about 1855 when two teams in Jersey City, five in Newark plus a few others in Hudson and Essex Counties introduced the "new" game to our state.  My guess is these new clubs didn't think of it so much in terms of a season especially in Newark where each club played only a few games.  Most likely it was a case of forming a club, playing some games until it was too cold to play more and/or other activities especially work intervened.

Photo by Mark Granieri

At some point, of course, they had to decide what they were going to do when warmer weather came around again.  The most important decision was not so much whether they were going to play base ball, they could do that in a number of informal ways without making any major commitments.  Rather the important decision was more about whether they wanted to continue to be part of a base ball club which involved more work than just getting together for an afternoon of hitting and fielding.  Things like securing a ground, getting uniforms, arranging matches including transportation to away matches, not to mention the potentially controversial decisions about who made the first nine.

Photo by Mark Granieri

In the case of the Pioneer and Excelsior Clubs of Jersey City, it appears they had every intention of continuing as newspaper articles in the spring of 1856 reported that both clubs had began practicing.  However, difficulties in finding grounds plus each team losing presumably three of their best players to the Eagle Club of New York were too much of an obstacle to overcome and both clubs went out of existence.  In Newark, the Newark Club, the Newark Juniors and the Empire Club all made it back on to the field in 1856, less fortunate or less committed was the membership of the Olympic Club which went out of existence after one season.  Nothing is known of the St. John's African-American Club beyond the one brief mention in the Newark Daily Mercury.

Photo by Mark Granieri

In one of those uncanny connections between today and the 1855 charter clubs, the issue of having enough players has faced a number of vintage clubs this year including the Neshanock.  Saturday's opponent, the Hoboken Nine, only had six at the match, one of the fill-ins was from the New York Gothams which has had similar challenges.  There's also been more than one occasion when Flemington was hard pressed to field a full nine.  It's not a question of a lack of commitment, but rather issues of life changes, injuries, aging and other responsibilities that made fielding a full team more of a challenge this season.  As a non-playing score keeper, my presence or absence doesn't impact having enough players, but I missed more matches this year than in the past and already know of a number of potential conflicts for 2014.

Photo by Ann Colduevill

While finding playing fields and losing players to other clubs was clearly a challenge to those 1855 clubs, my guess is that the clubs which continued in 1856 simply wanted to do it badly enough that they found ways to do so.   We can't underestimate the importance of continual play by New Jersey clubs, especially the Newark and Newark Junior Clubs which stayed on until the Civil War years.  If every New Jersey club had gone out of existence after one "season," it wouldn't say much about the popularity of the new game  and couldn't have done anything to facilitate the game's growth.  Fortunately that first group of New Jersey players worked things out.  In a different way, it would be equally disappointing and sad, if any of today's vintage clubs went out of existence.  My hope is that the Neshanock and other clubs facing similar challenges will follow the example of those first clubs so 2014 can be another fun year of vintage base ball.

Monday, October 21, 2013

In and Out of the News

Photo by Mark Granieri

On the season's next to last weekend, the Neshanock traveled to the Terrapin Station Winery in Elkton, Maryland on Sunday to take on one of the East Coast's better vintage clubs, the Elkton Eclipse.  Both games were well played and relatively low scoring, but unfortunately it wasn't Flemington's day.  The Neshanock trailed the opening match by only one run at 3-2 after five innings, but Elkton tallied four times each in both the sixth and seventh innings for an 11- 4 triumph.  Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner and Joe "Mick" Murray led the Flemington attack with three and two hits respectively, but a five inning scoreless drought doomed the Neshanock's chances.

Photo by Mark Granieri

The first match was well played defensively and the second was even better leading to a closer game and one of the lowest scoring matches of the year.  Elkton led 3-1 going to the bottom of the sixth, but the Neshanock rallied to tied it at 3-3 after six and then took a 4-3 lead heading to the eighth.  Unfortunately Elkton is a good offensive club and they scored twice in both the top of the eighth and the ninth for a 7-4 lead heading to the bottom of the inning.  Flemington managed to score once and, as has happened too many times this season, put the tying runs on base, but couldn't get them home, losing a close 7-5 decision.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Flemington actually hit relatively well in the second game, but couldn't capitalize, leaving eight runners on base in a two run loss.  Chris "Low Ball" Lowry led the offense in the second match with three hits while three other Neshanock had two apiece.  It was also solid defensive effort in defeat, keyed by the pitching of Dan "Sledge" Hammer who also fielded his position very efficiently.  Special mention also should be made of Chris Nunn who played center field in both games recording six put outs in the first match and seven along with an assist in the second contest without a single muff.  With the two losses, the Neshanock drop below .500 at 22-23 heading to next Saturday's season finale against the Hoboken Nine at Waterloo Village in Sussex County.

Photo by Mark Granieri

While the Neshanock's season is almost over, my quest to review all surviving New Jersey newspapers for base ball activity from 1855 to 1870 remains in its early innings.  As promised (threatened), having worked my way through Sussex and Warren County newspapers, I moved on to neighboring Hunterdon County, a place where I have multiple research interests.  First, as with the other 20 counties, is the basic search for any and all base ball clubs.  Hunterdon, however, was also home to the original Flemington Neshanock and therefore a place of special focus.  The two main newspapers in the county were the well known Hunterdon County Democrat, which still exists today, and its opposition counterpart, the Hunterdon Republican.

Account of what to date is the first match between Hunterdon County Base Ball clubs - a year later, the Raritan Club would become the Flemington Neshanock
Hunterdon Republican - November 24, 1865

I've gone through both papers (some almost illegible) for 1865-1870 and found what feels like less base ball activity than the other two counties or, at least, less coverage in the newspaper.  The number of articles I found in both papers is as follows:

                                        Democrat                               Republican

1865                                      0                                             1
1866                                      5                                             5
1867                                      0                                             3
1868                                      0                                             0
1869                                      0                                             1
1870                                      0                                             0

Total                                       5                                           10

While clearly, neither paper devoted a lot of space to base ball, what leaps out is the Democrat taking notice in only one of the six years, a period when the game's reach was expanding throughout New Jersey.  Part of the explanation for a lack of base ball reporting, or any news for that matter, is due to 19th century newspaper's role as party political organs.  However, the Democrat apparently took that role to a new level, reflective to some degree of the Democratic dominance of Hunterdon County.

Brief account of a visit by the Athletics of Philadelphia to Lambertville, why they would play 12 innings is hard to fathom
Hunterdon Republican - September 7, 1866

In her book, Affairs of Party: The Political Culture of Democrats in the Mid-Nineteenth Century, historian Jean Baker cites Hunterdon County of all U. S. communities as a prime example of a solid one- party Democratic community.  The party's control was so solid that from 1828 to 1900, Hunterdon County went for the Democratic Presidential candidate every time except in 1840.  This dominance extended to local elections where Democratic candidates typically won 60-80% of the vote and enjoyed victory margins of 20% compared to a more standard 4%.  In 1860, eight of the counties' fourteen townships had Democratic newspapers with the Democrat leading the way.  Both "tightly controlled and partially financed," by the Democratic County committee, the Democrat had three editors between 1860-1870 who closely hewed the party line.  Serving this master, it's understandable how an editor, even if so inclined, wouldn't have paid much attention to young men playing games with a bat and ball especially when notices of local Democratic meetings were used to fill the already sparse news columns.

Editorial Comment suggesting base ball wasn't universally approved of by the media
Hunterdon Republican - May 31, 1867

While the Republican also didn't have that many articles, the ones that were published had more detail, identifying the members of at least six different clubs.  All told, the two papers documented 10 clubs which existed from 1865-1870.  Still to be looked at are the "war" seasons of 1861-1864, but I'll be surprised, if I find much of any thing.  Also to be sought out are any other contemporary papers where copies still exist today.  The only other ones I'm aware of are a paper in Lambertville and the Clinton Democrat.  If there were eight Democratic papers alone in 1860, few of which survive, there may be other Hunterdon County base ball clubs whose existence is gone forever.

Letter to the editor giving more details of the Neshanock's 1867 win over the Que Quas of Milford
Hunterdon Republican  - September 13, 1867

That leads to one of the major potential limitations to researching clubs during this period - how many were there which for whatever reason were never noticed by the admittedly limited newspaper coverage.  If 10 clubs (half of which were in Flemington and Lambertville) were documented in Hunterdon County, how many others were there of which no record survives.  I've just started to think about this and there's a lot more work to be done before drawing any conclusions.  One thought is to see  what, if any, relationship exists between population and having a base ball club and then looking at how many other towns had at least the same population, but there is no record of a base ball club.  That along with other factors such as proximity to a town with a club, might lead to some method of estimating the potential number of unreported clubs.  Such communities might also be places to look for other contemporary sources besides newspapers which might provide evidence of a club.  Just a few random thoughts along the way on the research journey.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Brooklyn State of Mind

When traveling it's not unusual to forget something, but it's not helpful when that "something" is essential to the success of the trip.  Such was the case on Saturday with the Neshanock's visit to south Brooklyn to take on the New York Gothams near the Old Stone House.  What Flemington left behind was the club's offense which makes it hard to win under the best of circumstances.

Old Stone House - Photo by Mark Granieri

In the first game, the Gothams got off to an early an early 6-1 lead which basically became insurmountable when the Neshanock failed to score over the next five innings.  Some late offense made the final score 14-5 in a match that wasn't that close.  While runs were hard to come by both Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner and Scott "Snuffy" Hengst recorded three hit games.  By far the most impressive performance in the opener came on defense when Danny "Batman" Shaw flawlessly handled seven chances in  left field.

Danny "Batman" Shaw 

The second game started out like the first with the Gothams scoring three tallies in their first at bat, but this time the Neshanock didn't score an early run.  In fact, not only didn't Flemington score an early run, the club didn't score any runs in an 8-0 shutout lost, reportedly only the second shut out in the club's history.  All told the Neshanock managed only three hits, two by "Jersey" Jim Nunn who missed a clear score when he was retired in his final at bat.  The two losses left Flemington at 22-21 for the season with scheduled doubleheaders left at Elkton, Maryland on October 20th and at Waterloo Village (against the Hoboken "Nine"), the following Saturday, October 26th.

1912 Opening Day at Washington Park, the Dodgers last pre-Ebbets Field home opener

Today's venue was both interesting and challenging as a site for a vintage game.  The matches were played on a small, emphasis on the small, park (appropriately named Washington Park) located adjacent to the Old Stone House.  There's no lack of base ball history in the area as the four incarnations of the Washington Park base ball grounds (home to the Dodgers - pre Ebbets Field and the Brooklyn Federal League Tip Tops) were in located in the area,  part of it on the field where we played today.  The problem is that the park is small with a rectangular shape effectively making it impossible to have a right field.  That was difficult enough, but it became more harder because of the number of people who wanted to use or sit on the field for some other purpose and were unwilling to leave.  I suppose there's a level of historical accuracy in that because crowd control probably became an issue at 19th century games, but there are some aspects of the old game that don't need to be re-created.

Searching for offense - photo by Mark Granieri

The Neshanock's visit to Brooklyn would most likely have made me think about the 19th century inter action between New Jersey clubs and those from the City of Churches, but the seed had already been planted from another direction.  Work is underway on a November 2014 symposium on 19th century base ball in the Greater New York area and I was pleased to be asked to serve on the planning committee.  As part of starting to think about that I sought some parameters for what areas in New Jersey were to be considered part of Greater New York.  In his response, Peter Mancuso, chair of SABR's 19th century committee reminded me of a Brooklyn - New Jersey connection I should have remembered on my own especially since I wrote the book or at least that part of the book.

Photo by Mark Granieri 

I'm referring to my essay in Baseball Founders about the Nassau Club of Princeton, effectively Princeton University's first base ball team.  As I've written before in this blog, the Nassau Club was started in large part by Lewis Mudge and two other young men from Brooklyn who brought their bats and balls as well as their love of the game with them when they enrolled at the College of New Jersey in the fall of 1858.  But Brooklyn and New Jersey's base ball connections go back even further than that.  In fact, the first New Jersey club matches with out of state clubs were three games between the Pioneer Club of Jersey City and the Columbia Club of Brooklyn.  Not playing any favorites between New Jersey's two largest cities, the Brooklyn club also played two 1855 matches with the Olympic Club of Newark.  As also noted previously the Pioneer - Columbia matches also marked the first time a New Jersey club traveled out of state.

Current research indicates that by 1860 there were base ball clubs in Essex, Hudson, Morris, Mercer, Somerset, Union and Middlesex Counties 

These inaugural season (for New Jersey base ball) matches were also no one time thing as Brooklyn and New Jersey clubs played at least once in every season through 1860.  What's especially interesting is the broad range of locations encompassed by this competition.  Research to date indicates that antebellum base ball clubs existed in seven of New Jersey's twenty-one counties.  Matches between Brooklyn and New Jersey clubs took place in six of the seven counties with Morris appearing to be the only exception.  Of special note is an 1858 visit of Brooklyn's Pastime Club to Trenton, New Jersey's state capital.  Although Trenton had a base ball club as early as 1856, the only match game with a club outside of Trenton, was the 1858 contest between the Pastimes and a picked nine of the Trenton and Mercer Clubs.   The Brooklyn team apparently made the round trip from the East River to the Delaware in one day even forgoing a "collation" at Dr. Joline's American Hotel and settling for lesser fare at Whitecar's in order to catch their return train.

Daily True American - September 23, 1858

Until 1860 New Jersey clubs played more matches each year against Brooklyn clubs than with New York foes, even though the leading New York clubs actually played their matches in New Jersey.  Part of this has to be attributable to the fact that New York teams like the Knickerbockers, Eagles and Gothams didn't play a lot of match games during the pre-war years.  Given the social nature of the Manhattan clubs, it's also probably fair to say they preferred to play against fellow New Yorkers they knew on a regular basis and had competed against since the beginning of the decade.  At the same time they also accepted the ability of New Jersey players as evidenced by the half-dozen or so Jersey City players who joined the Eagle Club for the 1856 season.

In 1860, however, the situation was reversed as the New Jersey - New York matches significantly out numbered the Brooklyn - New Jersey encounters.  While some of the old time clubs participated, more are less well known names.  I don't know much about the development of less "prominent" clubs in New York City, but possibly growth in the number of clubs as well as the desire to play additional matches led to more competition between city and state.  By this point, however, base ball or more specifically the New York game had taken firm root in the Garden State.  Thanks for that to some degree belongs to Brooklyn's base ball clubs who were not only willing to compete with their New Jersey counterparts, but also made road trips to do so.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

"What's in a name?" - the Dolly Varden Base Ball Club of Jersey City

In June of 1872 some young men in Jersey City decided to form a base ball club.  To do so they needed to establish by-laws, elect officers, buy uniforms, find a field and, of course, choose a club name.  The last task should have been the easiest and they had almost 20 years of prior examples to draw on.  The possibilities included patriotic names like National, Union or Pioneer, sporting names like Olympic or Athletic and a wide range of other popular names such as Excelsior or Eureka.  None of these, apparently appealed to them since they resolved to call themselves the Dolly Varden Base Ball Club.

Jersey Journal - August 3, 1872

When I first saw the name in the New York Clipper, my first reaction was that like the Elizabeth Resolutes and their pink stockings, these were young men comfortable with their masculinity.  But even so why pick a woman's name for a base ball club?.  The only similar situation I could remember was the Flora Temple club of Paterson, but that female was a famous race horse so the athletic connection was clear.  Yet the name also rang a vague bell and a quick Internet search revealed why.  Dolly Varden was a character in a Charles Dickens novel, Barnaby Rudge, which I read easily 10 years ago.

Scene from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens 

Barnaby Rudge was an early work by the great British novelists, one of his two historical novels, set during the 1780 anti-Catholic riots in England.  One of the book's main characters is a locksmith named Gabriel Varden, one of the few voices of reason and restraint in the story (the novel originally bore his name) and Dolly is his "mad cap" daughter.  Restraint is not a word associated with Dolly who flirts with many, but cares for few, if any.  Interesting, but no clear connection to the United States, much less base ball.  Furthermore, Barnaby Rudge was published in 1841, what possibly could be the base ball connection? But surprisingly there is one.  According to something else I found on the Internet, the first professional women's base ball team was an 1867 African-American team in Philadelphia called the Dolly Vardens.  But even so, why would a Jersey City club model itself on a women's team and African-American one at that?

Dolly Varden dances and dresses

Most likely they didn't, rather it appears the Philadelphia women's choice of the name anticipated a fashion craze that reached its height in 1872.  The starting point appears to have been the Dolly Varden dress which featured bright, colorful patterns, usually with some kind of floral design.  But it didn't stop at dresses as the style also extended to hats, parasols, paper dolls and even Dolly Varden dances.  The craze even brought on a revival of Dickens work, adapted as a stage play focused on the heroine and named, of course, "Dolly Varden."  A sense of the scope and rapid growth of the fad can be seen in the number of hits produced by searching for Dolly Varden on all of the newspapers on the Genealogy Bank web site -  just 15 in 1871 compared to almost 3000 only a year later.

British stage listing indicating popularity of the novel adaptation into a play called "Dolly Varden"

Jersey City was certainly not immune as evidenced by 93 hits in the 1872 Jersey Journal up from zero the year before.  Many of the listings were ads for different Dolly Varden products, enough saturation to provoke one Jersey City man to claim (tongue in cheek, one hopes) that he was the proud owner of a Dolly Varden whip!  Within this context, it's probably not as surprising someone got the bright idea to name a base ball club in Dolly's "honor."

Jersey Journal Ad, April 1, 1872 promoting Dolly Varden fashions

 But what was their real intent?  Possibilities range from suggesting they deserved an equal level of popularity to making fun of the whole "nine days wonder."  Certainly the name wasn't always used in a complimentary manner.  In September of 1872 a Republican speaker in Jersey City lambasted the Democrats as the Dolly Varden party.  Unfortunately I couldn't find out much about the Dolly Varden players.  (It would also be interesting to find out what their uniforms were like). While at least two box scores survive, the common nature of the names has prevented specific identifications.  There was a man named Carrick on the club and two of the three Carrick's in the 1872 Jersey City Directory were in the dry goods business which could be the connection.

The Dolly Vardens pack it in - Jersey Journal, May 5, 1872

Dolly Varden's stay at the top of the fashion world lasted about as long as the fictional character's attention to her latest beau.  A search of the following year revealed only seven hits in the Jersey Journal, almost half of which were houses of ill repute called Dolly Varden homes.  The base ball club didn't waste time in jumping off the band wagon either as less than a year after their formation, the Dolly Varden Club became the Independent Club, reverting to one of the old patriotic names.  How much on the field success they achieved under their new name (or the old one for that matter) remains to be discovered.  But no matter what, they certainly earned a place on the list of most creative team names!

Monday, September 30, 2013

It Must Be the Socks!

Photo by Mark Granieri 

In the course of a seven month season, the Neshanock visit a lot of different venues, the majority of which are repeat visits from prior years.  Such was the case on Saturday when Flemington traveled to the historic Dey farm in Monroe Township located off of exit 8A on the New Jersey Turnpike for the fourth annual match with the Athletic Club of Philadelphia.  While there are a  range of opinions on the club about favorite and least favorite venues, everyone seems to like this event.  It's probably no more than an hour travel for anyone, the hosts do a great job and there is usually a good sized audience which always appreciates the match.

Photo by Mark Granieri contrasting long pants and knickers uniforms

Today was no exception, the weather was perfect and there were 50-75 in attendance for at least part of one of the two games.  The opener was played under 1864 rules and the Athletics got off to a quick 3-0 lead in the top of the first, pretty much without getting the ball out of the infield.  The Neshanock responded quickly in their half of the inning with two tallies and the game was a repeat of last week's low scoring affair with the Neshanock head by only one run at 4-3 after four full innings.  Gradually, however, Flemington pulled ahead with  three in the fifth, one in the sixth, two in the seventh and four in the eighth and won going away by a 14-3 count.

New York Clipper - July 9, 1870 showing actual Philadelphia Athletic uniform 

If you are scoring at home, you'll note that the Athletics didn't tally a run after the top of the first as fine pitching by Bob "Melky" Ritter and solid Neshanock defense blanked the Philadelphia club for the remainder of the match.  So dominant were the Neshanock, that the Athletics only managed two hits over the last eight frames and only five for the entire match.  Flemington's offense was keyed by Dan "Sledge" Hammer who had a triple and a home run while eight other Neshanocks scored at least once.  Of special interest was a clear score by new member, James "Ducky" Stives which consisted of one hit and three Athletic muffs.

Photo by Mark Granieri 

Flemington's late game offensive flurry carried over into the second match, played by 1873 rules as the Neshanock had by far their highest offensive output of the season.  Once again "Sledge" was in the middle of the action achieving a clear score in eight at bats in a seven inning game which included his second home run of the day as part of hitting for the cycle.  "Sledge" was not the only Neshanock to hit for the cycle as Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner matched his teammate's feat  including a grand slam home run in the fifth inning.  Every Flemington player got a hit en route to a 31-3 victory to bring the overall team record to 22-19.  With at most six matches left in the 2013 season, the Neshanock will be shooting for an above .500 season beginning in two weeks at Washington Park in south Brooklyn against the Gotham Club of New York City.

Dan "Sledge" Hammer scoring on one of his two home runs - photo by Mark Granieri

What caused this offensive explosion?  It may have been better hitting fundamentals, but base ball is a game full of superstitions so we can't discount the new socks the Neshanock began wearing last weekend.  As noted previously, the new socks have three grey stripes instead of the old solid red ones.  While colored socks are certainly historic, they were not part of the first formal base ball uniforms.  As noted in Peter Morris' A Game of Inches, the early clubs favored "white duck trousers, full length" and reportedly players had to deal with the risk of tripping on the ends of their long pants to the extent that some players rolled up their cuffs for game action.  Whether it was to find a permanent solution to that problem or some kind of fashion statement by the mid to late 1860's base ball clubs were stealing a page from cricket uniforms by wearing shorter pants called "knickers."  Based on the name we might expect the path finding Knickerbockers to have set any new fashion trends, but apparently the credit goes primarily to the great Cincinnati Red Stockings Club who were supposedly the first full team to wear knickers with colored (obviously red) socks.

1868 Cincinnati Redstockings wearing long red (what else) socks

 From that moment on colored socks have almost always been part of the game which sometimes had its challenges.  When I was playing the equivalent of Little League in Wayne, New Jersey in the mid 1950's, our uniforms were very much like major league uniforms, heavy wool with long colored stirrup socks.  Unfortunately unlike today's socks, there was no elastic at the top of the socks to keep them in place so it wasn't long before player's socks were around their ankles, probably creating problems not unlike those presented by the "full length" pants of the game's early days.  My father solved that problem with elastic garters which held my socks in place so that even if I wasn't a ball player, at least I looked like one!

Photo by Mark Granieri

Embarrassing as falling socks may have been for 10 year olds in the 1950's, colored socks almost had far more lethal consequences.  On at least two occasions (Nap Lajoie in 1906 and Fred Merkle in 1910), players who were spiked suffered blood poisoning at least partially attributable to the colored dye in their socks.  Supposedly this was the origin of what became known as sanitary hose, white socks worn under the colored base ball socks.  This was, however, only a partial solution as wearing two pairs of socks often created problems with shoe sizes, a problem that was resolved with the stirrup sock so that only the white sanitary hose went into the shoe itself.

Modern day stirrup socks

By adding stripes to their socks, the Neshanock have gone a step past the basic plain vanilla, or in this case, plain red approach, but they have a long way to go to compete with some of the more risque approaches of earlier days.  For example, the Elizabeth Resolutes, who wear solid dark blue or black socks today, in 1870 impressed a New York Times reporter by "donning pink stockings."  The Elizabeth boys were plainly comfortable with their masculinity which they demonstrated in an easy victory over the Neptune Club of Easton, Pennsylvania.

New York Clipper - July 9, 1870

Socks are, of course, only one piece of a uniform, but they can be an important part of cutting edge fashions as witnessed by the above uniform worn by the Union Club of Morrisania in 1870 which has to be a contender for the most hideous base ball uniform of all time.  It would take a real effort to get a vintage team to wear something like that today, historical accuracy be damned!