Thursday, January 31, 2013

New Jersey vs. Brooklyn in 1861 - Round 1

Both the Newark Base Ball Club and the much better known Eckford Club of Brooklyn were pioneer clubs made up of young men with somewhat different backgrounds.  Each club was founded in 1855, the early days of the 1850's growth spurt of the New York game and were among the earliest clubs in their home communities.  While Eckford Club was one of Brooklyn's four charter clubs, the Newark Club was not only one of Newark's first five teams, but appears to have played in the first all New Jersey match game in June of 1855.

While both clubs were made up of young men who took an early interest in the New York game, they did not come from identical social backgrounds.  The Eckfords were a working class club made up primarily of shipwrights and skilled mechanics.  Although the Newark Club had skilled workers among its members, it had an almost equal number of white collar workers including clerks, bookkeepers and small businessmen.

Perhaps anticipation of a similar feast helped motivate the Newark Club for their 1861 matches with the Eckford Club - Newark Daily Advertiser, September 22, 1855

Another difference between the two clubs is the approach they took to the game.  The Newarkers played fewer matches, against lesser competition and enjoyed less success.  From 1855 to 1860, the Newark Club played only 16 matches with well below .500 results at 5-11.  Over roughly the same period, their Brooklyn counterparts played almost three times as many matches, finishing with a resounding 35-11 record against much better competition.  During that period, the Eckfords played four matches against New Jersey clubs winning all of them by a combined score of 173-54.  How the 1861 Newark-Eckford games came about is unknown, but certainly they could not have been viewed as big challenges for the Brooklyn club.

Al Reach played for the Eckford in 1861 before going on to become a sporting goods magnate

By the time the August 28th match at the Newark Club's grounds at the corner of High and Mercer Street came around, each club had only played four matches, testimony to how the war was limiting game action, even if the club rosters remained relatively intact.  The Eckfords were 3-1 with a win over the Mutuals and a loss to the Eagle Club, while the Newark team was 2-2, with wins over two New Jersey clubs and two losses to the 1860 champion Atlantics by a combined 57-29 score.

Perhaps taking advantage of being at home, the Newark Club struck first and actually led 4-3 after two innings.  The Eckford then took the lead at 5-4, but couldn't put away the pesky Newark team which only trailed 9-7 after six innings.  At that point, however, the Brooklynites took charge, scoring three times in each of the last three innings, winning by six runs, 18-12.  Perhaps surprised by the close margin, the Clipper praised both teams, calling it "a very creditable victory" for the Eckford since the Newark Club had "a good team on hand" that played well.

Portion of the Eckford game ball trophy case, ball on lower left is from 8/28/61 Eckford - Newark match
The trophy case is on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame
Photo courtesy of David Dyte

When the rematch came almost three weeks later, the Eckfords had won two more matches for a 6-1 record while Newark had won an inter-city rivalry game with the Adriatic Club to get back to .500.  This time it was the New Jersey club's turn to travel and by the time they arrived at the Eckford's grounds in Williamsburg the match was an hour late in starting.  Waiting for them besides the Eckfords was a crowd, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle estimated at 2-3000.  By the end of the match, the paper said the crowd also became "demonstrative and enthusiastic," but they were apparently quiet for the first six innings because the game was "quite uninteresting."  However, the relative silence was not because, as many probably expected, the Eckford were far ahead.

R. Heber Breintnall of the Eureka Club was the umpire for the 9/16/61 Eckford - Newark match

Although the Eckfords were the home team, the visitors from across the river must have won the coin or bat toss as they batted second.  After shutting out the Eckford in the top of the first, the Newarkers tallied three times for a 3-0 lead which they still held going go the top of the third.  The Eckford scored twice in that inning, closing to within one and there probably many who thought it was just a matter of time before the Brooklyn team took charge.  No one, however, not even the most optimistic Newark fan, was prepared for what came next as the New Jersey club erupted for an 11 run inning and a 14-2 lead after only three.  It was still 14-3 going to the top of the fifth when the Brooklyn boys staged their own rally, scoring eight times to pull within 14-11.  Each team added two runs in their next at bat so Newark still held a three run (16-13) lead after 5 1/2 innings.  Newark's bats came alive again in the bottom of the fifth as they added five tallies and how had an apparently comfortable 21-13 lead as the match headed to the seventh inning.

Portion of Sunday Mercury September 22, 1861 game account and box score with total runs added incorrectly making it appear the Eckford won 24-5

It was at this point, however, that the home crowd had reason to become "demonstrative and enthusiastic."Apparently the Eckfords decided their opponents weren't the only ones who could pull off a big rally and the Brooklynites tied the score at 21 at which point, "the air was rent with cheers" and then "thick with the hats and caps" of some Brooklyn fans.   The Eckford weren't done, however, scoring three more times to take their first lead of the game at 24-21 as Newark came up to bat in the bottom of the seventh.

By this point with the late 3:00 start and all the scoring, it was beginning to get dark.  Ford led off for Newark and flew out to left, but Osborne singled and went to third on Stout's double to center.  Mills then followed with a "fine ball" to left good for both a double and scoring both runners, cutting the deficit to one.  It didn't stay that way for long as Conway followed with another double, tying the game and putting the go ahead run on second.   Garthwait, Newark's next striker, also came through, lacing a single to left giving Newark back the lead.  Terrell, the eighth batter of the inning, doubled Garthwait to third, but the next two batters went out ending the inning and, it turned out, the game since it was apparently too dark to continue.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle (9/17/61) Box Score with correct line score

None of the surviving media accounts indicate any disagreement or controversy about ending the game after only seven innings, but the Sunday Mercury had plenty of good things to say about the Newark Club's triumph, calling it "a glorious victory," which it certainly was.  The paper went on to attribute their success to having "a more efficient nine than it ever had before." On the other side of the ledger, the paper criticized the Eckford's fielding calling it "crooked in a good many places."  One thing was for sure, the loss was not due to player absences because of military service or any other reason.  Seven of the nine players in the Eckford lineup took part in at least eight of the club's 12, 1861 games and, as was noted in the prior post, the Brooklyn club suffered few, if any, losses from its 1860 roster.

Relatively low key Newark Daily Advertiser account of the Newark Club's "glorious victory."
Newark Daily Advertiser - September 17, 1861

The two clubs were headed towards two very different futures.  After finishing 8-4 in 1861, the Eckford went on to win the 1862 and 1863 championships including revenge wins over the Newarkers in 1862.  The Newark Club, on the other hand, would never have better than a .500 record before dying out after the war.  But no matter what, they could always look back fondly on this day in 1861 and their "glorious victory."

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