Monday, June 3, 2013

Memorable Matches Then and Now

The Flemington Neshanock began their five week New Jersey tour on Saturday with a visit to the Katzenbach campus of the New Jersey School of the Deaf near Trenton for the school's alumni day.  Neshanock Joey "Midnight" Gallo is a proud graduate of the school and welcomed everyone to campus.  The New York Mutuals graciously made the long trip from Long Island to provide the opposition.

Joey "Midnight" Gallo winning the bat toss - photo by Mark Granieri

I'm now in my fourth season as scorekeeper for the Neshanock after filling a similar role for the Newark Eureka in that club's brief two year existence.  By now I've probably seen close to 200 vintage games, enough to be able to develop a list of memorable matches, both good and bad.  The plus category includes a walk-off win over the Elizabeth Resolutes in Chester, New Jersey and two victories over the Cleveland Blues, a 2011 triumph in Cooperstown and a solid win 2012 win in the National Silver Ball Tournament in Rochester, New York.

Categorizing matches was on my mind this week with the publication of Inventing Base Ball: The 100 Greatest Games of the Nineteenth Century.  Picking a list of memorable vintage matches was child's play compared to the task of selecting 100 games from over 50 years of base ball played all over the United States.  Editor Bill Felber and his "all-star" team from SABR's 19th Century Committee are to be commended for their work.  I was fortunate enough to write essays about the 1858 Fashion Course games, the National League's inaugural 1876 match, the first lost no-hitter (1890) and the Knickerbocker's second match game in 1851.

The Fashion Course games

Each topic had some interesting features.  The Fashion Course games were a best of three series between select nines from Brooklyn and New York.  The Fashion Course label comes from the site of the games, the Fashion Course racetrack, not far from today's Citi Field.  Playing the matches at the enclosed track facilitated the charging of an admission fee.   Understanding Boston's 6-5, April 22, 1876 win over Philadelphia in the National League's first game required drawing on my experiences in recreating 19th century score keeping.  The dubious distinction of being the first pitcher to hold the opposition without a hit and lose belongs to Charles "Silver" King of the Chicago Pirates in an June 21, 1890 Player's League game between Chicago and Brooklyn.  A key play in the unique combination was when Chicago right fielder, Hugh Duffy, threw out a batter at first on what would have ordinarily been a clean single, as the game's sole run scored.

Silver King

While my account of the June 3, 1851 Knickerbocker-Washington Club match appears early in the book, it was my final assignment as the project drew to a close.  The lack of volunteers for the game so late in the process should have told me there was something out of the ordinary about the game, as indeed there was.  No newspaper accounts of the match survive, in fact, the only documented information that does survive is the line-by-line score.  That at least enabled me to describe how the game played out, but still left me a long way from the 1000 word goal.  Fortunately John Thorn and Randall Brown came to the rescue with a number of helpful suggestions and I was able to place in context a game which marks the beginning of regular match play something that continues to this day, even including Saturday's Neshanock-Mutual match up.

Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner

After the dedication of the new field at the school, the first game got underway using 1864 rules.  Down 1-0 in the bottom of the second, Flemington scored twice and went on to an 8-5 win.  With Charlie Harris Hoepfner "cheering" his dad on, Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner had a clear score to spark the Neshanock's attack. Although Charlie then went home for a nap, he so inspired "Thumbs" that he added a second clear score in the second game played under 1873 rules.  Also helping to drive the Neshanock offense was Dan "Sledge" Hammer who followed a strong pitching performance in the first game with a clear score of his own in the second contest.  Leading 17-6 going into the last inning (a 7 inning game by prior agreement), the Mutuals last at bat was frighteningly similar to one of the Neshanock's worst memories, blowing a six run, ninth inning lead, a year ago.  Although the Long Island club did score six times and loaded the bases, mercifully the game ended with a 17-12 Neshanock win.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Alumnus Joey "Midnight" Gallo had a solid day with two hits in each match, proving that you can go home again even though he continues to be hampered by a sore heel.  Not as fortunate was Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw, who although he didn't play was fined 15 cents for over using the term "unmanly."  Responding in his own usual "manly" way, "Brooklyn" promptly paid the penalty ending a successful day for the 10-7 Neshanock and the School for the Deaf."

Photo by Mark Granieri

1 comment:

  1. Richard HershbergerJune 3, 2013 at 10:46 PM

    "No newspaper accounts of the match survive, in fact, the only documented information that does survive is the line-by-line score"

    Sheer luxury! I did the 1833 Olympics game. I didn't have the names of any players, and of only one side. I didn't have a score, or even what rules the game was played under. But I was happy! It also put my essay first in the book.