Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Getting a Ball at a Game - Then and Now

Base ball games at almost every level of play can produce a wide range of experiences.  At the low end are days that can only be described as long and frustrating which aptly captures the Neshanock's experience this past Saturday at Rahway River Park, the home field of the Elizabeth Resolutes.  It's a nice venue, but there is very little positive to say about the day's play, at least from the Flemington point of view.  In the first match, played by 1870 rules, the Resolutes exploded for a 10 run second inning and although Flemington battled back, the deficit never got closer than 7 before Elizabeth won 20-10.

Photo by Mark Granieri

That was bad enough, but the second game played by 1873 rules was longer and far more frustrating.  This time the Neshanock got off to a big lead, but Elizabeth kept battling back and trailed by only one run headed to the top of the ninth.  After the Resolutes scored twice to take a one run lead, the Neshanock quickly tied it and put the winning run on third with only one out.  With almost unlimited ways to close it out, Flemington didn't get it done and the match moved to extra innings.  Having tempted the base ball gods, Flemington paid the price as the Resolutes scored twice in the top of the tenth and held on to complete the sweep of the two games.

Photo by Mark Granieri

While there weren't many positives for the Neshanock, Dave "Illinois" Harris did earn a clear score in the second game.  "Illinois" suffered a painful wrist injury late in the match, but in typical manly fashion finished his last at bat, reaching base before retiring from the match.  Gerard "Jacks" D'Angelo also had a strong offensive day, falling one at bat short of a clear score in both matches.  Other than that there wasn't much else about the day which will go down in Neshanock history.

Dave "Illinois" Harris 

Earlier in the week, I had two experiences which led me to think about how one aspect of base ball has changed over the centuries. During one of the matches last Sunday in Gettysburg, I heard a man behind me tell his son that if he had gotten to a foul ball, he couldn't have kept it.  Clearly the boy thought that like a professional game, he could have gotten himself a souvenir.  Then this past Thursday, Paul Zinn and I were at the Mets-Braves game at Citi Field and were extremely fortunate to come up with a ball thrown into the stands by Mets first baseman, Josh Satin, after he recorded the last out of the top of the fourth inning.

It was interesting, first of all, to think about how the opportunities to get a major league game ball have increased over the last 20 years or so.  Prior to that (I'm not sure of the exact time period), the only chances were foul balls hit into the stands as well as home runs and ground rule doubles that ended up in the seats in fair territory.  Added to those possibilities today are the balls from the last outs of most innings, almost every foul ball that stays on the field and even some of the balls used for infield practice.  It's still a unique experience, but there are more chances.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Back in the 19th and a good part of the 20th century, however the chances were almost non-existent and also illegal.  I recalled some of this from the research on our book about the 1916 season, but rather than trust my memory went back to Peter Morris's excellent book - "A Game of Inches: The Story Behind the Innovations that Shaped Baseball.  As I thought, for all of the 19th century and more than I realized of the 20th century, fans at major league games were required to return balls hit into the stands (this was also the period when the number of balls used in a game was very limited).  The policy was so strictly enforced that in the early 1900's, fans in Washington and New York were arrested for trying to hold on to foul balls.  This reached the level of the absurd in 1921 when an 11 year old boy in Philadelphia spent the night in jail for not returning a foul ball.  Fortunately a judge who had wisdom beyond the letter of the law released the boy saying the act was one, "I would do myself."

The initial change in this restrictive and unpopular policy actually came prior to the 1921 incident when at the beginning of the 1916 season, Chicago Cubs owner, Charles  Weeghman announced that fans could keep balls hit into the stands.  Weeghman's act was far from universally popular with the other clubs as the Philadelphia Phillies wanted to be reimbursed for the eight balls hit into the stands during batting practice.  Given the condition of baseballs used during games in 1916, one can only wonder what balls suitable for batting practice must have looked like.  It wasn't until the end of the 1920's, that clubs for the most part, gave up the effort to retrieve foul balls.

Photo by Mark Granieri

That adults over 100 years ago were willing to risk arrest in order to hold on to their prize says something about the strong desires stirred by the possibility of getting a ball at a professional game, feelings which are no less strong today.  Part of it, no doubt, is the scarcity.  Even with more chances today, I'd say there are probably no more than 50 balls hit or thrown into the stands during a game, but even if it was a 100 in a crowd of 20,000 the probability of success is still very small.  A second motivation is that the ball is tangible evidence of that day of the ball park.  The need for that kind of evidence apparently isn't limited to fans.  After the top of the eighth inning last Thursday, Mets second baseman, Daniel Murphy threw the ball into the stands after the last out, only to come out of the dugout a few minutes later to ask for it back in exchange for another ball.  I have no idea what was important about the original ball, perhaps it meant something to the Mets relief pitcher, LaTroy Hawkins, but the point is it had importance to someone with regular access to game balls.

Photo by Mark Granieri

I also think the tangible nature of the souvenir has a deeper meaning.  The major leagues are obviously the highest level of the game we love and all of us at some point had dreams and hopes of one day playing in a major league game, dreams and hopes which were never realized. Instead we participate in the game in multiple ways - watching on television, listening on the radio and going to games.  Yet no matter how much we enjoy watching or listening, there is a barrier between us and the game itself so anything that takes down that barrier even temporarily is attractive.  That's probably part of the appeal of fantasy camps, running or strolling (for seniors) around the bases, ball park tours and the like.

Bringing a ball home from a game is, I think, much the same thing.  Every ball that goes into the stands has been in a major league game.  Foul balls have been thrown by a major league pitcher and hit by a major league hitter as have home runs and ground rule doubles.  Even infield balls have been thrown and caught during a major league game.  Inning ending balls may be the most complete because they have been pitched, hit, thrown and caught, pretty much everything that can happen to a ball.  When we succeed at getting that ball, the rare and, for most of us, unattainable experience of being in a major league game, becomes in some unexplainable way part of our lives.  As Paul said on Thursday, it was a great father and son moment, not likely ever to be forgotten and one quickly passed on to the next generation whether she understood it or not.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Weekend in Gettysburg

Photo by Mark Granieri 

This past weekend, the Flemington Neshanock participated in the fourth annual Gettysburg Vintage Base Ball Festival.  The event has grown from a six team tournament to a festival where 17 vintage clubs play four games over the course of two days.  For 2013,  the festival was moved to Schroders Farm, a much larger venue where five games could be played simultaneously.  Part of the festival's attraction, of course, is the opportunity to visit the Gettysburg battlefield, which was especially timely this year since it's the Sesquicentennial of those three historic days in July in 1863.

Photo by Mark Granieri

On Saturday, the Neshanock took on two new foes, the Milford Club from Delaware and the Bay City Independents from Michigan.  I missed most of the Milford match, arriving in time to watch the Delaware team close out a 14-6 victory.  The Bay City match was a well played, closely contested game which was tied 11-11 after seven innings.  In the 8th, Bay City broke through with five tallies and held off a last ditch ninth inning Neshanock comeback to prevail 16-14.  As in the Hoboken match of two weeks ago, Flemington had the tying runs on second and third with two out, but "Jersey" Jim Nunn's hit to right field bounced just high enough and just long enough for the right fielder to grab it.  Thanks to Richard Hershberger who joined us for the match and shared some insights about base ball history which were enjoyed by the Neshanock, not to mention the umpire.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Sunday, the Neshanock were back at it, opening play with the Capital City All Stars from Washington, D.C.  After Capital City tallied twice in the top of the first, Flemington took a lead it would never relinquish, breaking the game open with a six run eighth inning for an 18-6 victory.  Mark "Peaches" Rubini recorded a clear score, batting six times without making an out, including five hits.  Dave "Illinois" Harris also chipped in with five hits and Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw added three more.  On the defensive side, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri recorded nine put outs on foul tips, two of which were the front end of double plays.

Photo by Mark Granieri 

In what was probably the final match of the festival, Flemington played a new (and very young) Union Hills Club from Maryland.  With every member of the Neshanock contributing at least one hit, Flemington took an early 5-1 lead and was in control all the way for a 10-4 win.  With the 2-2 Festival record, the Neshanock left Gettysburg with an overall 15-11 record and glad once again to have participated in this fine event.  Next Saturday, Flemington makes a brief return to New Jersey, visiting the Elizabeth Resolutes at Rahway River Park.

New Jersey Gettysburg Battlefield Monument Re-dedication 

I missed most of the first game on Saturday because in addition to my base ball responsibilities, I also had Civil War commitments as the New Jersey State Assembly had designated July 20th as New Jersey Day at Gettysburg.  In order to honor the  New Jersey men and woman who served at Gettysburg during July of 1863, the New Jersey Civil War Heritage Association and the New Jersey Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee (I chair the latter group) hosted a ceremony to re-dedicate the New Jersey monuments on the battlefield, followed by an afternoon tour of the places where New Jersey troops were engaged.  It was an honor to make some brief comments at the ceremony and very moving to do so right on a spot where New Jersey men "gave the last full measure of devotion."

Box Score from Thomas Marbaker's History of the Eleventh New Jersey Volunteers

Not surprisingly my dual role, led me to think about whether any New Jersey base ball players, that is members of the leading New Jersey clubs,  fought at Gettysburg.  While  a number of New Jersey regiments played base ball during the war, the most active unit appears to be the 2nd New Jersey which actually formed its own team, named the Excelsior Club.  Game accounts and even box scores of matches were reported in the Newark newspapers and there are recognizable names in the line ups, such as John Collins of the Newark Eureka.  However the 2nd New Jersey was only marginally engaged at Gettysburg by virtue of the fact that they and the rest of the Sixth Corps had such a long march just to get there.  Long march may be an understatement, as the 2nd New Jersey and the rest of the New Jersey brigade left Manchester, Maryland at 10 P.M. on July 1st and reached Gettysburg at 4 P.M. the next day, a march of 35 miles in 18 hours with only one break along the way.

Captain Luther Martin - KIA at Gettysburg, 7/2/1863 - Photo courtesy of John Kuhl 

A New Jersey regiment which was heavily engaged at Gettysburg was the 11th New Jersey, a unit formed in 1862 from seven different counties including Essex and Hudson, the two New Jersey counties with the most antebellum base ball activity.  Long after the war, in 1898, Sergeant Thomas Marbaker wrote and published a history of the 11th New Jersey.  In discussing the regiment's activities in winter quarters during 1863, Marbaker makes mention of a base ball game played around the middle of April.  There's nothing unusual in this, but what is interesting is that Marbaker, or someone else, kept a box score of the match for 35 years before it appeared in his book.

Captain Dorastus Logan - KIA at Gettysburg, 7/2/1863, photo courtesy of John Kuhl 

Also interesting is that unlike box scores for other regimental base ball games, the box score doesn't list positions, but rather the ranks of the players.  The two teams were made up of officers and senior NCO's, with one side headed by Captain Luther Martin and the other by Captain Dorastus Logan.  About 6 weeks later, on July 2, 1863, these same officers and the rest of the 11th New Jersey were on the Emmitsburg Road at Gettsyburg, just north of the Peach Orchard.  When Union defenses in the Peach Orchard began to break down, the 11th New Jersey came under Confederate attack simultaneously from the south and the west.

Captain Andrew Ackerman - KIA at Gettysburg, 7/2/1863

The carnage was terrible, all told 153 officers and men were killed or wounded, a casualty rate of over 55%, the highest of any New Jersey regiment at Gettysburg.  Reportedly every officer above the rank of Lieutenant was either killed or wounded.  Among the dead were the aforementioned Captains Martin and Logan, the leaders of the two base ball teams plus Andrew Ackerman, who had been promoted to Captain by the time of the battle.  In addition, Lieutenant Edwin Good was wounded three times and the Adjutant, John Schoonover, was wounded twice.  Both survived, indeed, Schoonover apparently recovered enough to be on the battlefield the next day where he had a horse shot out from under him.

Resolution of officers of 11th NJ mourning their dead, Newark Daily Advertiser - August 18, 1863

I'm not surprised Marbaker included the box score in his book because to some degree, the book is a compilation of facts and stories.  Since the book was published more than 30 years after the war, it's doubtful many of the players were still alive to read about that long ago base ball game.  My guess is that at most, modern readers take brief note of this base ball match of no special significance and go on to the more important accounts of the regiment's sacrifices at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

11th New Jersey, right flank marker - photo by Mark Granieri 

Perhaps, however, the image of these young men playing an April base ball game 150 years ago, can help us to see them as something more than just cogs in  a vast military machine.  All of us who love base ball know the feeling of excitement of the year's first game on an early spring day.  Regardless of their level of base ball proficiency, it's not too much of a reach to believe at least some of these soldiers were excited in the same way.  Shared experiences like these may help us to better recognize their hopes, dreams and, even fears about what lay ahead.  If so, we will have a better understanding and appreciation of the magnitude of their commitment and their sacrifices.

The 11th New Jersey monument is in front of the tree, on the Emmitsburg Road - photo by Mark Granieri

Pulitzer Prize winning author, Rick Atkinson has written that great stories are bottomless so there is no end to what can and should be written about them.  Without question, the Civil War is such a story and understandably much of that writing will focus on the generals and politicians who made the big decisions.  However it is equally important to remember the ordinary (ordinary because there were so many of them) men and women.  Once all the  political decisions were made and the military strategies set, it was their willingness to stay the course and perhaps die in the process which saved the Union.  For that we should be truly grateful.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Gettysburg Scores

Saturday - Milford (Delaware)  14 - Flemington 6
                 Bay City (Michigan) Independents 16 - Flemington 14

Sunday - Flemington 18 - Capital City 6
               Flemington 10 - Union Hill Nine 4

More later in the week

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Contemporary Learning

Before last Saturday's match in River Edge, a man came up to me and told me how much he enjoyed our book about Ebbets Field.  Although he was born after the Dodger left Brooklyn, the man had heard about Brooklyn's historic ballpark from his father and enjoyed reading more about it.  In fact, he enjoyed the book so much that he tried not to read it too quickly so he could "savor" it.  It was very kind of him to share this and I can appreciate his feelings about taking his time with a book he was enjoying as that is what I am experiencing with the recently published Baseball Founders.

Just as this gentleman couldn't get enough of Ebbets Field, I  feel the same way about the early base clubs especially those in the New York metropolitan area.  I'm not referring to the New Jersey clubs which I wrote about in this book, but their contemporaries in New York and Brooklyn.  It reminds me of when I was researching my first book about the 33rd New Jersey Civil War regiment and found it helpful to study books about the other regiments in the same brigade which shared some of the same experiences in the same places.  In addition as I read the essay about the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York by John Thorn, William Ryczek and Peter Morris, I've realized some new possibilities about how the New York game might have spread into New Jersey, possibilities I should have picked up on earlier.

The first has to do with the large number of Knickerbockers who worked in banking and finance.  I need to go back and look at the occupations of the early Newark players, but I think a number of them also worked in banking.  That's important because even though banks are in direct competition, they also have to interact with one another in order to for money to move within the system.  I'm sure the technology of this process is dramatically different from when I was in banking 30 years ago, but one way or another banks always have to present checks and other items to the bank responsible for payment.  

For much of the 20th century this happened through some kind centralized clearing house, but in the mid 19th century I'm fairly sure banks had regular interaction with their competitors primarily through messengers or even clerks who visited other banks on official business.   It's probably not too far fetched to believe clerks from Newark banks visited their counterparts in New York City, nor is it impossible that some how base ball came up in the conversation.  It's even possible that a Jersey clerk stopping at a New York bank at the end of the work day might have been invited to accompany the New York clerk and his friends to a practice or match at Elysian Fields.  It's all speculative, but the scenario is possible and just one such experience could have motivated a young Newarker to talk to his friends about their getting in on the action.

Knickerbocker Base Ball Club members

Another possibility I picked up on in the Knickerbocker essay is that the game's introduction to New Jersey could have been facilitated by New Yorker base ball players living in or moving to New Jersey.  I've written before about how the move of six Jersey City players to the Eagle Club of New York  in 1856 helped kill the first two Jersey City clubs, but hadn't thought a lot about the impact of moves in the other direction.  Reading through the bios of the Knickerbocker Club alone I've found at least 17 who lived in New Jersey at one time or another.  Especially intriguing are Knickerbockers Gershom Lockwood and Asa Potter Taylor who were living in Newark and Jersey City in the 1850's when the first base ball clubs were organized in New Jersey.

Knickerbocker Club and Excelsior Club of Brooklyn

 It's certainly not too much of a stretch of the imagination that these two or other New York players living in New Jersey talked to their friends and neighbors about base ball.  Lockwood doesn't ring a bell as a Newark player, but both the Pioneer and Excelsior Clubs in Jersey City had players named Taylor in the line up, players I haven't yet identified.  Like the first possibility, this idea is speculative and may have never happened, but the only realistic ways young men in New Jersey could have learned about the New York game was by watching it or hearing about it.  And these are two additional ways such experiences could have taken place.  In any event I'm grateful for this book and fully expect additional insights for my own research as I read on, but not too rapidly so I can make the enjoyment last!

11th New Jersey Monument at Gettysburg 

Unfortunately the Neshanock's July 13th visit to Governor's Island to take on the Gotham Club didn't take place.  As noted previously, next weekend I'll be in Gettysburg both for the 16 team vintage base ball festival and New Jersey Day at Gettysburg as the New Jersey Civil War 150th anniversary committee honors our state's service in that crucial battle.  I'll be doing a post or posts about the weekend, but since we don't get back until sometime Sunday night, it may be the middle of the following week before the post is ready.  I will try to post the scores of the Neshanock's matches on Saturday and Sunday.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Base Ball Founders - Personal and Otherwise

Photo by Mark Granieri

Vintage base ball is all about re-creating history, playing the game using the rules and equipment (or lack thereof) of the times.  The historical connections tend to be different at each match and some times we end up re-creating things that weren't planned or on the agenda.  Saturday, for example, the Neshanock completed it's New Jersey tour with two matches against the Hoboken "Nine" at historic New Bridge Landing in River Edge.  It was a good event, well run and well attended, but there was a problem with the field which was much smaller than the space needed for the typical vintage match.  As the discussion went on about how to set up ground rules to make this work, it occurred to me that we might be re-creating or re-living the experience of early base ball players in New York City who had a hard time finding adequate space.  Perhaps it was after frequently having to modify the rules in order to play on a cramped space in lower Manhattan that the idea of taking the ferry to Elysian Fields in Hoboken became a whole lot more attractive.

Photo by Mark Granieri

To work things out on Saturday, the distance between the bases was reduced to 70 feet and center field was so limited by a swampy area that any ball hit into it on fly was an out, not ideal, but the same for both teams.  In spite of the limitations imposed by the space, the two clubs played two competitive seven inning matches under 1864 rules.  In the first game, the Neshanock got off to an early lead which grew to 10-3 heading to the last inning, but Hoboken was not done, scoring four times before Flemington closed the match out for a 10-7 win.  Noteworthy for Flemington was Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw who recorded a clear score, not only reaching base all three times without making an out, but also scoring each time.  Dave "Illinois" Harris contributed three hits while Bob "Melky" Ritter pitched a strong game.

Photo by Mark Granieri

After a brief break (primarily for "Casey at the Bat"), the second match got underway.  This time round the Neshanock couldn't generate much offense, scoring only twice and, therefore, failed to take advantage of a strong defensive effort which allowed only four Hoboken runs. Flemington did put the tying runs on base with two out in the last inning, but it was not to be and Hoboken prevailed 4-2.  The split put Flemington at 13-9 for the season heading into next week's match on Governor's Island in New York Harbor.  After that it's off to Gettysburg for a 16 team vintage base ball festival.  That Saturday will also mark New Jersey day at the battlefield as the New Jersey Civil War 150th Anniversary Committee honors the memories of the over 150 men from New Jersey who there "gave the last full measure of devotion."

Photo by Mark Granieri 

River Edge, the home of New Bridge Landing, is just north of Hackensack which was the hometown of the Zinn family even before there were New Jersey clubs playing the New York game.  In fact, it was on July 3, 1849 that John Zinn (1827-1897) arrived at Castle Garden (a predecessor of Ellis Island) in lower Manhattan.  No later than a year later, he was living in Hackensack, ultimately becoming a relatively prosperous grocer.  I'm confident he was never a member of a base ball club, but I would love to find proof that his son, John (1850-1920) played the game at some point.  At the very least, the next generation got our family involved in base ball as my grandfather, John G. Zinn (1892-1955, for whom I'm named) played a lot of base ball especially on the Bordens Milk Company team in the 1920's.

My grandfather, Jack (John) Zinn is the second player from the left in the second row.  That thing on his right hand is a new-fangled invention called a glove - it will never catch on.

It's interesting to think about family base ball pioneers at the same time Baseball Founders was published by McFarland and Company.  This anthology of essays about early base clubs is the second volume of what is known as the Pioneer Project, an effort to tell the stories of the players and clubs who first popularized the New York game.  I don't remember how I first learned of this project and that the organizers were looking for someone to write about early New Jersey base ball clubs, but it was probably through SABR's 19th century e-mail list.  Regardless of the source, I found my way to the web site of noted baseball historian Peter Morris which listed some of the possible topics.  With my usual level of naivete, I assumed there would be competition so I quickly signed up for clubs which interested me the most.  Not long after, I realized I was on my own and would, therefore, have the privilege of writing the entire New Jersey section.

Looking now at the clubs I chose, it's interesting that while there was no design, grand or otherwise, the clubs fit into some specific categories.  First are what can rightfully be described as true pioneer clubs; the Pioneer and Excelsior Clubs of Jersey City, the Liberty Club of New Brunswick and the Nassau Club of Princeton.  Although they lasted only one season, the two Jersey City clubs were part of the first group of 1855 New Jersey clubs while the Liberty Club introduced the game to central Jersey and was the first New Jersey Club to join the National Association of Base Ball Players in 1857.  As I wrote in the last post, the Nassau Club was the state's first college club and one of the earliest in the nation.  Three other clubs covered in the book, the Eureka of Newark, the Irvington Club and the Champion Club of Jersey City all began, more or less, as junior clubs before going on to compete at the highest levels in the state or in the case of the Eureka and Irvington Clubs, in the nation.  Finally there is the Olympic Club of Paterson which foreshadowed the state's role as a developer of base ball talent by sending four players on to the major leagues.

Looking back at these essays, I realized how little I knew about 19th century base ball in general and New Jersey base ball in particular.  While I was certainly aware the game dated back to the 19th century, I was one of those who thought real base ball history began with the founding of the American League in 1901.  I will always be grateful to Peter Morris and everyone involved in the Pioneer Project for the opportunity to write the New Jersey section and opening these aging eyes to the fascinating world of 19th century base ball.  I've since realized there is a lot more to the story of New Jersey base ball in the 19th century, stories that deserve to be researched, studied and told.  How the game took hold and spread throughout the state, the elusive, but fascinating story of black base ball in New Jersey and the development of the college game in the state are just a few examples of the topics that need more in depth treatment.  Some of that has been accomplished through this blog, but I'm also thinking about the next step.  Stay tuned!

Monday, July 1, 2013

A New Jersey Base Ball Pioneer

Yesterday was the next to the last stop on the Neshanock's five week New Jersey tour with a visit to Princeton to take on the Diamond State Base Ball Club of Delaware.  The match is an annual event of the Historical Society of Princeton which was ably hosted by Eve Mandel, Director of Programs and Visitor Services.  Eve is the better half (by far) of Nesahnock, Ken "Tumbles" Mandel.  The event also marked the second anniversary of "Tumbles" joining the Neshanock, a truly unforgettable moment in club history.

Princeton is, of course, home to Princeton University which had one of the first college base ball clubs back in the late 1850's when the school was more popularly known as the College of New Jersey.  My introduction to base ball at Princeton came in a round about way when I was researching Charles Ebbets, long time Brooklyn Dodger owner and builder of the historic ballpark which bore his name.  While browsing through the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, I found a February 2, 1913 letter to the editor from Lewis W. Mudge claiming to have introduced base ball both at Bloomfield Institute (a prep school in Bloomfield, New Jersey) in 1857 before taking the game to Princeton in 1858 along with fellow Brooklynites, Henry Sampson and Henry Butler.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Such claims always have to be treated carefully, but I kept the letter for no particular reason other than a general interest in New Jersey base ball history.  Some time later when I decided to write an essay about the Nassau Club for Baseball Founders, I learned Mudge had indeed played an important part in the development of base ball at Princeton.  Known as the father of base ball at the school, Mudge and his fellow Brooklynites formed the Base Ball Club of the Class of 1862, Nassau Hall in March of 1859.  The following year the club opened its membership to all Princeton students and became the Nassau Club.  During Mudge's undergraduate years, play was pretty much limited to inter squad matches and games against students from Princeton Seminary (apparently almost always won by the college students), although they did make one road trip to Orange, New Jersey.  Supposedly "much persuasion" was required before the faculty gave what had to have been a reluctant blessing to the trip.

Photo by Mark Granieri

While faculty concerns about athletic/academic balance were understandable, there apparently wasn't a problem with this group as seven club members graduated in the top ten places in their class with Mudge leading the way at number two.  Like a number of his teammates, Mudge went directly from college to Princeton Seminary to prepare for the ordained Presbyterian ministry.  The prospective pastor also continued to play for the Nassau Club as eligibility rules were apparently less stringent in those days.

Photo by Mark Granieri

After ordination, Mudge went on to a 47 year career in the ministry including 20 years at the 2nd Presbyterian Church in Princeton.  That tenure ended in 1895 when Mudge, perhaps drawing on his experience as a team player, selflessly gave up his post so two Presbyterian churches could merge with the other pastor leading the merged congregation.  Mudge never lost his interest in base ball as evidenced by his 1913 letter ( a year before his death) that also covered his role in antebellum Brooklyn base ball as a member of the Hiawatha Club.  One classmate remembered the base ball pioneer as the "only student he ever knew who could work out a mathematical problem, lay plans for winning a base ball game and carry on a conversation at the same time."

Photo by Mark Granieri

Base ball, as Lewis Mudge, no doubt, learned from his playing days is full of uncertainty.  That reality was certainly illustrated during the day's play in Princeton.  In the first match, played under 1864 rules, the Neshanock couldn't get anything going offensively and managed to score only three times.  That wasn't anywhere near enough against a Diamond State team that played a fine all around game.  Under 19th century rules, if a base runner makes the last out of the inning, the lead off batter in the following inning is the player after the base runner, as opposed to the modern rule where the lead off batter is the player after the batter when the last out is made (confused yet?).  This happened twice in the match so that in a game where there were 14 players in the batting order, it took five innings for every Neshanock to get up to bat.

Photo by Mark Granieri

It didn't take quite as long to go through the lineup in the second game, in fact, after scoring only three times in the entire first game, the Neshanock scored 10 times in the top of the first inning (played under 1873 rules) sending 13 of 14 hitters to bat.  A 10 run first inning is a wonderful thing, but it was also only the first inning and Diamond State gradually caught up while an intermittent rain got steadier and steadier.  Finally a flash of lightning in the bottom of the fourth sent everyone home for the day.  At that point the score was 10-9 Neshanock, but since the full inning wasn't complete, it was not an official match.  Thanks to Sam "It aint nothing until I say" Bernstein for clarifying the rule after the match.   Next week the Neshanock's (now 12-8) five week New Jersey tour ends with  two matches in New Bridge Landing (near Hackensack) against the Hoboken "9."  More on the Nassau Club and Lewis Mudge in Baseball Founders which I understand/hope is to be published later this month.