Monday, August 26, 2013

More Controversy at the Fair

August's final Neshanock match was a trip south to Wilmington, Delaware to pay a return visit to the Diamond State Base Ball Club.  The Delaware club came to Princeton in June where the second match was suspended because of rain in the fourth inning.  So the first order of business was to finish that match with the Neshanock leading 10-9 with one on and no one out in the Diamond State fourth.  Played in Rockford Park, the local team scored three more times in the bottom of the fourth to take a 12-10 lead going to the top of the fifth.  Unfortunately the Neshanock failed to score in their at bat and then suffered through a seven error inning (including walks) which saw Diamond State tally 11 runs and take an insurmountable 23-10 lead, going on to a 25-15 win.


Photo not by Mark Granieri 

After the first match, Diamond State very graciously provided lunch to the Neshanock and their party before the two clubs made the short trip to the Hagley Museum for an 1864 match.  With the bound rule in effect, it was understandably a much lower scoring game, but unfortunately for Flemington more defensive lapses and a lack of offense resulted in a 9-6 Diamond State win which wasn't a close as the score suggests.  Of note on the Neshanock side was a clear score by Dan "Sledge" Hammer who also pitched three scoreless innings aided by an improved defensive effort.  Although the Neshanock didn't play well, nothing should be taken away from the Diamond State Club which played very well in both matches.




Photo not by Mark Granieri

The two losses left Flemington at 20-17 for the season after five months of play.  September's schedule is a little lighter, but the Neshanock will make three New Jersey appearances; Saturday, September 7th in Belvidere, Sunday, September 22nd in Denville and Saturday, September 28th in Monroe.  After that the Neshanock have only one more scheduled New Jersey match so September is a good opportunity to take in the experience of a 19th century base ball match - more details are available at www.neshanock.org.



Photo not by Mark Granieri

Both of yesterday's matches were intensely played, but with no controversy or ill feeling.  As I wrote last week there was plenty of controversy and ill feeling at the 1866 Sussex County base ball tournament  between the Irvington and Active Clubs.  However, that wasn't the only negativity associated with the event.  Another controversy erupted before the team in question even took the field.  Starting at the end of August, strong opinions were voiced in the local and even national newspapers about the Randolph Base Ball Club of Dover in Morris County, beginning with a long article in the New Jersey Herald and Democrat.


Photo not by Mark Granieri

In the weekly papers' August 30th edition, an unnamed writer devoted about 900 words of a four page paper to criticize the Raandolph Club which had just visited Sussex County as part of a three county tour.  Apparently writing against the wishes of the Star Club of Newton, the author lambasted the Dover team and its president for a roster which included four players who were members of other clubs, a violation of National Association resolutions.  Playing with a loaded lineup, the Randolphs had defeated the Star Club by a 61-16 count, a beating comparable to what it was handing other clubs.


New Jersey Herald and Democrat -August 30, 1866
A part of the paper's charges against the Randolph Club

Labeling this behavior, "moral fraud," the paper warned the Dover team that their "volunteers or hired substitutes" from other clubs would not be allowed to compete at the upcoming tournament.  While the Herald named only positions, not names, the Jerseyman of Morristown quickly filled the gap by repeating much of the Herald article accompanied by a  box score of the Randolph's 62-46 win over the National Club of Morristown.  Another observer of some of the Dover team's matches took time to write a letter of complaint to the editor of Wilke's Spirit of the Times which appeared the paper's September 15th issue.


Wilkes' Spirit of the Times - September 15, 1866

Not surprisingly the Randolphs weren't going to accept the allegations without a response and a letter from the club appeared in the Herald on September 13th.  Also using positions, not names, the club's spokesperson denied the claims that their pitcher, center fielder and left fielder were members of other clubs.  Nothing, however, was said in defense of their first baseman, Condit, who the Herald claimed was a member of the Nassau Club of Princeton.  In closing, the writer, also unnamed, promised the Randolphs would compete in the upcoming tournament with a lineup "governed strictly by the rules of the National Association of Base Ball Players."  In the end the Dover team, not only competed, but won the silver ball, again routing the Star Club, 56-27, after defeating the Passaic Club of Chatham by a more modest, 37-22 count.


Photo not by Mark Granieri 

However, two of the positions allegedly occupied by "illegal players" were taken by different players in at least one of the games in Newton.  While some other explanation is, of course, possible, the line up change suggests that at the very least, the Randolph Club was concerned about possible eligibility issues.  The possibility that something wasn't entirely on the up and up is also supported by the one player who can definitely be identified, the club's first base man, Condit, who is clearly Edward A. Condit, Princeton Class of 1866 and first base man on the school's Nassau Base Ball Club.


New Jersey Herald and Democrat - September 13, 1866

I wrote about Condit in my essay about the Nassau Club in Baseball Founders as the one member of the team who had a less than respectable post base ball career.  After college, Condit embarked on at least a 20 year career of white collar crime including sending a bogus telegram announcing the death of Cornelius Vanderbilt in hopes of creating a stock market crisis.  Further arrests for fraud were followed by an 1884 forgery charge.  Condit was apparently not without friends, however, as visitors smuggled into the jail a saw and other tools which the former ball player used in a failed jail break.  At this trial Condit was re-united with a Princeton classmate, the judge who presided at the proceedings.  Conflict of interest standards were apparently much looser in those days, but it did Condit little good as he was sentenced to four years of hard labor.


New York Herald  - December 20, 1876
Just one of Edward Condit's brushes with the law

Convicting the Randolph Club of nefarious behavior based on Condit's future exploits is, of course, guilt by association and proves nothing.  But the whole thing is fairly suspicious and raises the question of what the Randolph Club was up to.  Other than the allusion to their possibly being paid, the Herald prudently limited any analysis of their motivation to lopsided wins that "enure to the benefit, glory, or what they choose."  Both, however, the Herald writer and the anonymous letter writer refer to the club's president as a "sporting man," (read gambler), suggesting that betting on run differential or some thing similar was part of what was going on.  We'll never know, but one thing is clear, if Henry Chadwick learned about this while he was in Newton, he would have found it even more appalling than the Irvington Club's refusal to take part in the post game ceremonies.


2 comments:

  1. Richard HershbergerAugust 26, 2013 at 8:40 PM

    The thing is, there was a general practice that college nines were the exception to the rule against players switching clubs. College nines mostly--though not entirely--played during the academic year, with the players going home over the summer. They often would then play with some local club. It isn't clear to me if the exception was formal, but it was widely understood. This may explain why the Randolphs didn't deny Condit's presence.

    On different a different note, did scoring go up generally with the adoption of the fly game? I have never looked into this, but it isn't my impression. The sense I get is that improvements in pitching prevented this, and in any case how lively or dead the ball used was a far larger factor. So far as I can tell no vintage club uses anything like an 1860s live ball. Rather, the liveliest vintage balls used are similar to the deadest period balls.

    Oh, and that sound you heard was me arching my eyebrow at the completing of a suspended game: never the practice with the New York game.

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  2. No idea as to what happened historically with the introduction of the fly game, but in vintage base ball there's no question that those games are higher scoring with tremendous swings within games.

    Finishing the rain stopped game was the alternative to playing two full games, it took me three and 1/2 hours to get home as it was (traffic north from Delaware/Maryland is brutal on Sunday afternoons) so even if it wasn't historically accurate, I'm glad we didn't play two.

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