Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Rainy Day in Chester

Yesterday the Neshanock were scheduled for their annual visit to Chester, New Jersey for a match with the Brooklyn Atlantics.  It's a nice venue which always draws a good crowd, but unfortunately the rain, real and forecast, wiped out the event.  We can't really complain too much about the weather since only one game was lost to weather last year and this was the first cancellation of 2013.

An early decision to cancel the match (an e-mail sent out just after 7:30) was necessary because the Atlantics had about a 2 1/2 hour car ride to Chester and it wouldn't have been fair for them to travel all that distance for no reason.  At the same time, modern technology, just that of the past 25 years alone, allowed the decision to wait until Saturday morning without risking seriously inconveniencing anyone.  In the days before cell phones, text messages and e-mail (not that long ago), it would have been far more cumbersome to keep everyone informed.

1860 Challenge from the Hamilton Club (Jersey City) to the Knickerbocker Club of NYC
It does not appear the challenge was accepted

All of this, of course, pales in comparison with the communication challenges of the game's early days.  Matches were scheduled through invitations issued by one club to another, typically based on a vote of the membership of the challenging club.  Although the telegraph did exist, my guess is that the process of making, accepting/rejecting an invitation was done primarily through the mail.  If there was threatening weather on the appointed day, the visiting club had to make an all or nothing decision at the time of departure.

Interestingly, the first time a New Jersey club played an away match outside of the state, the weather was a complicating factor.  In an earlier post, I wrote about how the Pioneer Club of Jersey City, traveled to east Brooklyn to take on the Columbia Club on September 3, 1855.  In spite of the potential delays in taking ferries and horse drawn conveyances, the Pioneer Club was on site "at the appointed hour," only to find "very unpleasant weather."  Both clubs and any hardy (or fool hardy) fans waited for "some time" before accepting that the rain wasn't going to stop.

Box Score of the first match played by a New Jersey club outside the state

Apparently the Pioneer Club members decided they weren't going to come all this way with nothing to show for it and their hosts agreed.  In any event seven soggy innings were reportedly "well played."  Although the Columbia Club prevailed, 25-13, the reporter felt it was hard to determine which was the better club as "several hands" were "put out by slipping down."  The match was followed by a supper at a local hotel, suggesting the Pioneer players were able to change into dry clothes, both for the dinner and, perhaps more importantly, for the trip home.  If so they had the advantage on today's vintage base ball players who sometimes have to make a long trip home in uniforms very much the worse for wear.

Next weekend the Neshanock travel to that hallowed base ball site, Cooperstown, New York to play the Essex Club of Massachusetts at the Ommegang Brewery.  Two years ago Flemington played in a tournament at the brewery winning all three games in weather reminiscent of that encountered by the Pioneer Club in 1855.  Let's hope part of that experience will be repeated this time, and I don't mean the weather!


  1. Richard HershbergerMay 18, 2013 at 8:34 AM

    By 1860 the Knickerbockers were already pretty much withdrawn from general competition, and mostly restricted their match games to traditional opponents. I'm not surprised they declined the Hamiltons, even with the challenge being for a fly game.

    Speaking of which, what is the source for that letter? I don't recall seeing it before.

    I think you are right that challenges were usually issued and replied to by letter, but it is also clear that there was a fair amount of telegraphing going on when inter-city travel was involved, which mostly means involving high-level clubs. So you will find a game scheduled for Philly, with the sun shining, when the Philly club receives a telegram from New York saying it is raining there, so the club is staying home. If it is raining in New York, it is a reasonable first approximation that it is raining in Philly, but far from certain. I take from this that the timing didn't work for two-way telegraphy meshing with the train schedule.

  2. Found it here on the Internet

    Not a bad price!

  3. Richard HershbergerMay 18, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    Robert Edward Auctions does a real service by keeping their catalogs available online. I also get a good giggle from the hype. I am just now looking at a trophy ball from 1864 from a game between the Unions and the Resolutes. There is much breathless breathlessness about how especially significant these clubs were, and this game in particular what with it taking place during the war. In fact the Unions were a top tier club, but the Resolutes really only second, and there was nothing particularly notable about this game. It is definitely a cool item, and legitimately collectable since these things don't come on market all that often, but it is cool as an example of the type, not for any unique attributes. It must be nice to have $15K to throw about for this sort of thing, or $7+K for that Hamilton letter. If I had that kind of money, I would still spend it on something else. But I don't have the collector gene, thank goodness.