Monday, September 23, 2013

Surprises Along the Way

After a second weekend off in the last three, the Neshanock returned to action this past Sunday against a long time rival at a new venue.  The opponents were the Elizabeth Resolutes, New Jersey's oldest vintage club and the venue was Denville, New Jersey as part of the municipality's centennial.  The match also marked a homecoming of sorts for Ken "Tumbles" Mandel who grew up in Denville or so he claims.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Playing under 1864 rules, the match started with the Neshanock scoring three times in the top of the first and then setting down the Resolutes in order in the bottom of the inning.   A scoreless Neshanock second was followed by a four tally uprising by Elizabeth in the bottom of the inning, all of the action coming with two out.  Runs were at a premium thereafter with Flemington adding only two tallies over the next six innings while the Resolutes managed three more to take a 7-5 lead heading to the top of the ninth inning.  Reminiscent of a number of Flemington matches this year, the Neshanock rallied to score once and put the tying and go ahead runs on second and third with two out.  Once again, however, it was not to be as the last striker went down and the Resolutes emerged with a hard fought and well earned 7-6 triumph.

Photo by Mark Granieri

In a game without a lot of offense, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri, Joe "Mick" Murray and Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw each managed two hits.  Of greater note in the contest was the tight defense played by both sides.  Other than walks (pitcher's errors in the Chadwick system), the Neshanock made only two muffs in the field.  Even more impressive was the Resolute's performance as, again other than walks, they didn't commit a single muff.  Of all the matches, I've scored this year, today's match was only the second time the opposition did not make a single muff.  With the loss, the Neshanock are 20-19 for the season with a doubleheader next Saturday in Monroe, New Jersey against the Athletic Club of Philadelphia.

Latest Neshanock uniform modification - photo by Mark Granieri

On the research side of things, I'm now pretty close to the end of going through the contemporary newspapers for Sussex and Warren counties, looking at how base ball developed in those rural areas of northwestern New Jersey from 1855 to 1870.  In each case there is no evidence of organized base ball clubs during the antebellum period and this seems to have continued through 1864, but towards the end of 1865 there was some organized base ball activity in both places.

Photo by Mark Granieri 

Based on what I had seen in the Newark newspapers in the immediate post war years, I wasn't surprised to then see rapid growth of base ball in both counties in 1866 and 1867, probably a little more in Sussex County, but plenty in both localities.  It turned out that I ended one research visit to Alexander Library at Rutgers with the 1867 season for Sussex County and in planning my return visit thought it would probably take the entire 3-4 hours to finish that county through 1870.  To my surprise I found next to nothing about base ball in 1868 in both Sussex County papers and not much more in both 1869 and 1870.  The fact that it took so little time, allowed me on that visit to begin working on Warren County.  I still have more work to do there, but reviewing two of the three Warren County papers for 1865-1870 reveals almost exactly the same pattern, a lot of reports in 1866 and 1867 and very little the next three years.

Local "hero," Ken "Tumbles" Mandel (right) with Bob "Melky" Ritter" - photo by Mark Granieri

Part of this, I think, is due to the nature of newspapers during the Civil War era, especially weekly newspapers.  The primary mission of newspapers in those days was not to report the news, but to advance the cause of one particular party.  In Sussex County, for example, there were two newspapers, the Sussex Register (Republican) and the New Jersey Herald and Democrat (unsurprisingly Democratic) which basically hammered at each other every week.  1868, of course, was a presidential election year and it appears the papers in both counties were too wrapped up in the campaigns to spend to devote much, if any, space to local base ball.

Photo by Mark Granieri 

Given the paper's role, the lack of coverage is understandable, but if that were the only factor, it would seem there would have been a return to more detailed coverage for the next two years, but there wasn't.  Is that a reflection of less base ball activity or something else?  Before I can reach an informed opinion, I'm going to have to see what I find for the other 19 counties, especially the rural ones, by looking at the local weekly papers, the national papers and the daily newspapers in Newark.

Photo by Mark Granieri

I've went through the Newark papers for the post war period when I was researching the Eureka and Irvington Clubs for Baseball Founders and while I didn't take any notes, I seem to remember a lot of accounts of games and clubs well outside of Newark.   My guess, and it's only a guess, is that the lack of reporting doesn't reflect a decline in activity.  Rather I think, by 1869 base ball had become part of life in these rural communities and was no longer newsworthy especially in weekly papers which have both limited space and have to take a different approach to reporting the news.  Once I finish Warren County, I'm going on to Hunterdon County which borders on Warren so we'll see if I find anything similar while also looking for information about the original Flemington Neshanock.

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