Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hitting the Road

Yesterday, the Flemington Neshanock (or at least seven of us) took the long car ride out to Smithtown, Long Island to take on the Brooklyn Atlantics and the New York Mutuals.  With only two other vintage teams in New Jersey (one in its first full season), it would be impossible to play anything resembling a full schedule without making trips out of state.  That's a difference between vintage base ball and the original clubs of the 1850's and 1860's who had more local options and could even choose not to leave the state at all.  In fact, although there's not much evidence that they did so, New Jersey clubs could even play New York clubs on the latter's home grounds (Elysian Fields) without leaving the state.

Newark Daily Advertiser - September 6, 1855
In addition to the reference to the Pioneer game, this article contains a rare Newark newspaper reference to a game played between two New York clubs

Thinking about this in anticipation of the trip to Smithtown, I started wondering which was the first New Jersey club to leave the state to play a match.  Perhaps not surprisingly, it appears the first team to do so was from Jersey City, the aptly named Pioneer Club.  Located on the banks of the Hudson, they had easier access to Brooklyn and Manhattan than Newark clubs which would have to first take the train to Jersey City or Hoboken.  So on Monday, September 3, 1855, the Pioneers took the ferry across the Hudson to Manhattan, got on some horse drawn cars to cross lower Manhattan where they took another ferry to Brooklyn.  From there it probably would have been more horse drawn transportation to the grounds of the Columbia Club at the intersection of Division Avenue and South 9th Street in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

Newark Daily Advertiser 1855 Ferry Boat Ad

All told the journey covered about six miles a far cry from Saturday's car ride out to Smithtown which took me close to two hours with no traffic.  In yesterday's first match, the Neshanock went up against the home standing Brooklyn Atlantics and scored twice in the top of the first to take a 2-0 lead.  However it was all Atlantics after that as they want on to an easy 26-5 victory.  Typically the leading vintage club in the east, if not the country, the Atlantics already look to be in mid season form.  

Mark "Peaches" Rubini

Speaking of mid season form, the Neshanock's second match of the day with the New York Mutuals was well played on both sides, eventually going into extra innings.  A key play was another laser like throw from Mark "Peaches" Rubini to cut down a Mutual's runner trying to score the go ahead run in the top of the ninth.  Although the Neshanock couldn't close it out in the bottom of the inning, they were more than prepared for a second opportunity in the bottom of the 10th.  Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw jumped on the first pitch he saw for a single and then turned the base running over to his legs in the person of Scot "Snuffy" Hengst.  "Snuffy" stole second and then advanced to third on a clutch single by Ken "Tumbles" Mandel.  "Jersey" Jim Nunn then ended the affair with a base hit well over the right fielder's head, sending the Neshanock party home happy.

Ken "Tumbles" Mandel

Although their 1855 trip was much shorter, the Pioneer Club had less success on the field losing to the Columbia Club by a 25-13 count.  In accordance with the custom of the times, the Brooklyn club then entertained their Jersey City visitors at a local hotel where "After the inner man had been taken care of, several toasts and congratulations were passed by the members of the clubs present."   The Pioneer Club then must have retraced their steps returning home to their Jersey City residences at a late hour.  Although their trip was much shorter than today's visit to Smithtown, it probably wasn't without challenges.  Just a few months before someone complained to the Evening Post about the New Jersey Railroad's "dirty, miserable, little depots on the New York side," not to mention searching in vain for "a retiring room or water-closet" at the depot or on the ferry itself.

While the Pioneers first venture outside New Jersey wasn't successful they weren't done yet.  After tying the series with a win over the Columbia Club in Jersey City, the deciding or conquering match was played in Brooklyn and this time the Jersey City boys emerged triumphant.  Winning away from home wasn't easy then and it isn't easy now, which is one reason why it is so satisfying.

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