Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Newark Junior Club - Part 2 - the Adriatic Years

Reorganized as the Adriatic Club, the pioneering teenagers and their new members joined the Newark and Empire Clubs as Newark's leading 1857 base ball clubs.  Of the Adriatic's five matches, four were against their inter-city rivals.  First up were three matches with the Newark Club.  After losing the first by an unlikely 40-35 score, the Adriatics won the next two, presumably winning a best of three series.  It marked the last Adriatic-Newark Club match for four years.  While the hiatus by itself proves nothing, it led me to another possible explanation for why a group of Newark teenagers decided to form their own base ball club.  Perhaps instead of setting out to copy the Newark Club, the original juniors wanted to join that club, but were effectively told to go home and grow up.  If so, winning two of three in 1857 would have been sweet revenge.

Horse Drawn Omnibuses

If the Adriatics 1857 season was about Newark bragging rights, they were less successful against the Empire Club, dropping their only match to the other Newark club.  Unfortunately for the Adriatics, there would be no opportunity for revenge before the Empire Club went out of existence after the 1858 season.  During 1858 and 1859, while the Newark and Empire Clubs favored inter-club, married-single matches, the Adriatic ventured outside both Newark and New Jersey, playing other New Jersey clubs as well as Brooklyn and New York teams.  The New York opposition was provided by the Union Club of Morrisania and while the New Yorkers were not yet the prominent club they became in the post war era, they were still strong enough to win all three matches with the Adriatic.  On one occasion, the Newarkers made the 20 plus mile trip to the Union Club's home grounds in what is now the South Bronx.  While that may not seem like a long trip today, it took four hours in a horse drawn omnibus.  After enjoying a "fine collation," the club returned to Newark about midnight, some 13 1/2 hours later.

New York Times - August 2, 1859

While they took on a fairly diverse group of opponents, the Adriatics were clearly not trying to compete at the highest levels.  As noted the Union Club was almost a decade away from its best years and another opponent, the Pastime Club of Brooklyn, was probably noted as much for its social side as its on the field performance.  Playing only five to six matches a year from 1857 to 1861 (about one-half of the number played by the leading antebellum clubs), fully 25% were played against two Jersey City clubs, the Lone Star and Hamilton Clubs.  The Long Star Club was technically a junior club while the Hamiltons greatest claim to fame is that their minute book survives in the Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown.

Playing relatively frequently against the two Jersey City teams meant some of the Adriatics matches were reported in the Jersey City Daily Courier and Advertiser which appears to be the first New Jersey paper to assign a reporter to cover base ball matches.  In his description of the Adriatics 42-19, September 10, 1858 triumph over the Lone Star Club, the unnamed reported lamented the layout of the Adriatics grounds where surrounding fences resulted in multiple ground rule singles.

Daily Courier and Advertiser - September 11, 1858

In addition to not playing the toughest competition, the Adriatics didn't enjoy that much success with an overall record of 9-7 through 1859.  Things got decidedly worse in 1860 as the Adriatics managed only two victories over the Hamilton Club while finishing with a dismal 2-5-1 record.  The 1860 season also marked a resumption of competition with Newark clubs, this time with the newly formed Eureka Club.  Like most clubs in 1861, the Adriatics played a limited schedule consisting of two matches with the Newark Club and a re-match with the Eureka.  As described in earlier posts, both of the other two clubs had strong teams in 1861 and its not surprising the Adriatic lost all three of their matches.

The Sunday Mercury - September 29, 1861 - the Adriatic's last match

The final 1861 match was a decisive 32-6 thumping at the hands of the Eureka. It also turned out to be the Adriatics last match as on May 29, 1862, the Newark Daily Advertiser reported that "the Adriatic Club has broken up its organization, and its members have joined the other clubs."  The 1861 box scores include only three carry overs from the 1855 founding members.  With an average age of 16 in 1855, the founders would have only been in their early 20's in 1861, certainly not too old to play competitive base ball.  Most likely they had additional responsibilities which made active club membership too difficult.

Newark Daily Advertiser - May 29, 1862
The promise of a new season, but not for the Adriatic Club

The Newark Junior/Adriatic Club is significant because it marked the first time teenagers organized themselves to play the New York game.  Beyond that they may not seem that important, certainly their on the field record is nothing memorable.  I  think, however, that their significance goes beyond the one 1855 act.  Since they were the first junior club, they also had the opportunity to be the first junior club to transition into senior status which they did.  By doing so they provided an example for the Eureka, as well as the Irvington and Champion (Jersey City) Clubs all of which enjoyed success in the post Civil War years.  Many of the New Jersey clubs formed in the last antebellum years were junior clubs, but few of them ever followed the path taken by the Adriatic.  In addition by branching out to play teams outside of New Jersey, even on a limited scale, the Adriatics were an early part of the process whereby New Jersey clubs explored where they fit in the early competitive world of the New York game.  Regardless of the won/loss record, this group of young men were important base ball pioneers

No comments:

Post a Comment