Thursday, February 21, 2013

New Jersey vs. Brooklyn in 1861 - Round 3

Our final 1861 New Jersey-Brooklyn match features one of the early game's pre-eminent clubs, the Brooklyn Atlantics, and the far less well known, Liberty Club of New Brunswick.  On the surface it seemed like a clear mismatch, but every member of the Atlantics had good reason to know better.  Founded in 1857, the Liberty began match play the following season with two victories over local New Jersey clubs, followed by two matches with the Atlantic.  Why the central Jersey club took such a quantum leap in class is unknown, but the results couldn't have been a surprise as the Brooklynites took both contests by a combined 85-22 score.

New Brunswick, NJ - Site of the September 27, 1860 Liberty-Atlantic Match

Things changed, however, two years later on September 27, 1860, when the two clubs met again in New Brunswick.  Taking an early lead, the Liberty led 7-4 after five innings only to see the Atlantics rally to go up 11-8 as the match went to the bottom of the seventh.  If the Brooklyn club thought they were back in control, they were very much mistaken as the local club scored four times in both the seventh and eighth to lead 16-11 as Brooklyn came to bat in the top of the ninth.  Looking down the barrel of perhaps the biggest upset of the ante bellum period, the Atlantics rallied to tie the game, but couldn't take the lead.  Fortunately for the Brooklyn club and the base ball status quo, the Liberty also failed to score and the game ended as a 16-16 tie.  Although the Atlantics were missing Pete O'Brien, they otherwise seemed to be at full strength, but the Brooklyn Daily Eagle seemed to attribute the near upset to the absence of O'Brien who the Eagle dubbed "a host to himself."

New Brunswick Daily Fredonian - September 28, 1860

For the rematch, less than a week later, O'Brien was on hand and the Atlantics had their full complement of players including Polkert Boerum, playing for the first time in 1860 due to a sojourn in Europe.  The game was a back and forth affair with the Brooklyn club leading 7-6 going to the bottom of the fifth.  At this point the Atlantics scored five times, led 12-6, and went on to win 15-10.  The Sunday Mercury praised the Liberty's play in defeat, calling it "a very creditable performance against superior playing."

Brooklyn Daily Eagle - October 9, 1860

 The Eagle, on the other hand, seemed more interested in the post game dinner at the Montauk Restaurant near the Fulton Ferry, devoting four times as many print lines to the festivities as to the match itself.  During the evening Murray Van Nuise of the Liberty made the formal presentation o f the ball to the Atlantics.  In response, Mr. Tasse of the Atlantics praised the play of the Liberty and commented that "if you go on mending your play in this way, it will be hard to say who will take the ball next year."

Brooklyn Daily Eagle - October 9, 1860

According to the Eagle account, the dinner broke up in time for the participants to see "the grand democratic procession on their way to the Cooper Institute."  This was, of course, part of the 1860 presidential election, the results of which made the first question for 1861 not "who will take the ball," but would the two teams even play each other.  As noted in earlier posts, the Atlantics played a reduced 1861 schedule of only eight matches, while the Liberty were inactive for most of the season.  Finally at the end of September, the New Brunswick nine defeated the Star Junior Club also of New Brunswick.  It wasn't until almost a month later that a Liberty-Atlantics match was arranged for October 28th at a neutral site in Newark.

Liberty Shortstop, Jarvis Wanser - some some 55 years after the 1861 match

Perhaps because the match was played so late in the season (the latest 1861 match for any of the prominent New York area clubs), it received little media coverage.  The Atlantics did have "some of their fine players" including Pete O'Brien, Dicky Pearce and Charles Smith, but were without pitcher, Mattie O'Brien, and some other regulars.  In the top of the first, it didn't seem like the absences would matter as the Brooklynites scored four times.  That lead lasted all of a 1/2 inning, however, as the Liberty scored five times in the bottom of the inning.  Although the Brooklyn club tied matters in the top of the second, it was all down hill from there as the Liberty scored 13 times over the next five innings and led 18-7 going to the top of the seventh.  A four run Atlantic seventh may have re-kindled some Brooklyn optimism, but the central Jersey club more than matched it with a seven run seventh.  The rout continued in the eighth as the Liberty outscored the Atlantics 5-1 for a 30-12 lead and, mercifully, from the Brooklyn point of view, the match ended there.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle - October 31, 1861

Recognizing a rout when they saw one, the Eagle termed it a "thrashing" and a "total defeat" for the Atlantics against a "so called country club."  The Brooklyn paper praised the Liberty for playing the game "in a careful and handsome manner" and "acquitting themselves with credit" both on offense and defense.  The Sunday Mercury which apparently wasn't represented at the match put the upset down to the fact that "base ball is very uncertain" and the absence of the Atlantics' "regular pitcher."  Whatever the explanation it ended a very satisfactory season for New Jersey clubs in matches with the top Brooklyn clubs.  The Newark Club split two matches with the Eckfords and while the Eckfords did defeat the Eureka, the second year Newark team more than held their own in what was really a one-run defeat.  Although the Atlantics did defeat the Newark Club twice, the thrashing administered by the Liberty more than made up for those losses.

The Eagle article about the latter contest mentioned a rematch would take place "in a short time."  In fact, the Liberty didn't play the Atlantics or any other club for the next five years as the Liberty shut down operations for the duration of the war.  Perhaps somewhat ironically the post war Liberty never came close to the performance of the 1860-61 club.  This raises the fascinating, but unanswerable question of what would have happened to the Liberty if the war hadn't intervened.  Perhaps they, and not the Eureka, would have been the premier New Jersey club of the 1860's.

No comments:

Post a Comment