Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Jersey vs. Brooklyn in 1861 - Round 2

In between their two matches with the Newark Club, the Eckford made another trip to New Jersey's largest city, this time on September 13, 1861 to take on the Eureka, a relatively new club.  Founded in the winter of 1860, and drawn primarily from the Washington Junior Club, the Eureka were a perfect 5-0 thus far in 1861.  Among their victories were triumphs over the Newark Club, the Harlem Club of New York and another Brooklyn team, the Enterprise.  So although a new club, they were hardly unknown.  In fact, the Sunday Mercury claimed the Eureka had already made a name for themselves in their inaugural season by virtue of an decisive defeat of the Harlem Club.

Like the Newark Club, the members of the Eureka came from different backgrounds than their visitors from Brooklyn.  Not only were the Eureka players primarily in white collar jobs, but two members, Edward Pennington and Steven Plum were descended from Newark's founding families.  Beyond base ball, Plum would amass such a large fortune that by 1900, his occupation was simply listed as capitalist while Pennington would become a lawyer and prominent Republican politician.

All of that was, however, in the future on this September day where "the largest assemblage of spectators" ever "in the good old city of Newark," came together to see what promised to be an enjoyable afternoon of base ball.  They would not be disappointed as even the more experienced eyes of the Sunday Mercury would conclude that the afternoon's work was "the best contested match of the season."  It was from beginning to end a defensive battle with "few misplays," but not much in the way of hitting.

Charles Thomas - Eureka Shortstop and Club Secretary

Although they were the visitors, the Eckford batted second and scored three times in each of the first two innings to take a 6-2 lead.  While the Eureka got a run back in the top of the third, they only scored once over the next three innings which the Brooklyn boys matched for a 7-4 lead heading to the top of the seventh.  The Eureka were not done, however, and in a relative offensive flurry they scored three times to tie the match at seven apiece and then blanked the Eckford in the bottom of the frame.

After the Eckford went out without scoring in the 7th, according to the Mercury, a "tremendous cheering went up from young Newark."  If so, it must have gotten even louder when the Eureka broke the tie  by scoring once in the top of the eighth to take their first lead at 8-7.  Unfortunately for the young Newarkers both on and off the field, the Eureka left two men on when James Linen foul tipped out for the third hand of the inning.  The Eckford made them pay in the bottom of the inning, putting two on, who scored on Josh Snyder's triple.  When Snyder himself scored on a wild pitch, the Brooklynites were hanging on to a 10-8 lead after 8 innings.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle - September 14, 1861

When Albert Littlewood led off the ninth with a foul bound out to third, the Eckford may have gotten their hopes up that the Eureka would go quickly and quietly.  They were quickly disabused of that notion as Fred Callaway and Henry Northrop both singled putting the tying runs on first and third with only one out.  Both runners then advanced on a "pass ball" so the Eureka were down only one run with the tying tally on second.  Thinking he saw an opening Northrop tried to steal third and slid around Eckford third baseman, John Grum's tag.  However before Grum returned the ball to the pitcher, Northrop raised his foot from the base "by accident" and was quickly tagged by Grum and called out by umpire Pete O'Brien of the Brooklyn Atlantics.

While the Mercury felt the decision "manifestly just," the crowd responded with "a general hiss."  Now with none on and two out, the last Eureka made out, preserving the Eckford's 10-9 win which became 11-9 when the Brooklyn boys batted in the bottom of the inning and scored an unnecessary run.  In case anyone had missed the point from the beginning of his account, the Mercury writer closed by reminding his readers that the contest was "one of the quickest [one hour, 50 minutes], prettiest and most interesting games of the season."  It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say the game account paid as many compliments to the defeated Eureka than to the victorious Eckfords.

New York Sunday Mercury - September 22, 1861

There was, however, at least one Mercury reader and, presumably, a "hisser" at the match who was not mollified by the kind words.  Calling himself (herself - ?) "fair play," the writer took exception with the characterization of the call on Northrop at third being "manifestly just,"claiming the only way the Eureka runner's foot came off the base was if it was pushed by Grum.  Not in any way satisfied with the officiating of "the invincible Peter" (Mercury's description), "fair play" went on to suggest darkly that gambling might have influenced or even pre-determined the outcome.

New York Sunday Mercury - September 29, 1861

A week later, the Mercury made it clear that it, like Queen Victoria on another occasion, was "not amused." Although the paper had received a "lengthy communication" from the Eckford Club in response to "fair play," the paper felt no response from the club was necessary because they had won the game "fairly."  In the paper's view a response by the Eureka might be "well and good," and Eureka Club secretary Charles Thomas obliged, disclaiming any "knowledge or consent" of the letter and expressing satisfaction with the umpire's decisions.  While "fair play's" actions may have been unmanly, he, no doubt, enjoyed the Newark Club's defeat of the Eckford a few days later and, perhaps, took even more satisfaction with our next and final 1861 New Jersey - Brooklyn match.

No comments:

Post a Comment