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.  

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