Friday, March 28, 2014

Follow up to "Disarmed, but no disabled"

 "An 1887 Police Gazette depiction of a game between the Snorkey's and the Hoppers.  Of the players on the Snorkey Club of Philadelphia (named for the one-armed hero of the drama "Under the Gaslight"), one had an arm off at the shoulder, another had a paralyzed arm, the rest were minus a hand; their opponents in a game of May 23, 1883, were the Hoppers, who were all one-legged or on crutches. In a reminder to modern readers of the brutality of the Industrial Age in American, both sides were said to consist wholly of former employees of the Pennsylvania Railroad."

 Thanks to John Thorn for sharing the above picture and description, in response to the post about one-armed Civil War veterans.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Disarmed, but not disabled

Base ball articles in 1860's northern New Jersey newspapers suggest a basic pattern for the game's spread and development throughout the state during both the war and the post war periods.  In urban and rural areas alike, there was little, less or no activity during the war years, followed by some match play (increased or initial) in 1865, dramatic growth in 1866 and 1867 and a drop off or at least a slowdown during the last three years of the decade.  Some of the decline may have been more perceived than real as newspaper editors devoted less of their limited space to base ball news.  There is, however, clear contemporary confirmation of an abatement in the post war surge.  To date the only significant variation seen from this pattern occurred in Jersey City and Hudson County, directly across the river from Manhattan.  Compilation of the newspaper accounts continues, but the sheer volume of game accounts confirms a high level of base ball activity through 1870.

Evening Journal - February 4, 1869

As noted in earlier posts, post war base ball matches included not just club contests, but also games between members of various non-base ball organizations or groups.  Matches between the employees of various businesses were especially popular in Newark, while in Hudson County there was little reported corporate competition, but frequent games between teams of policemen, firemen and ferry workers.  As widespread as this non-club competition became, however, only one instance has been found of G.A.R. Post members taking to the ball field.  This one exception occurred in Hudson County  towards the end of the decade when Joseph Hooker G.A.R. Post Number 3 of Bergen played at least one match per year from 1868 to 1870.   Although it was incorporated into Jersey City in 1870, the city of Bergen was originally an independent municipality making up the southern part of Journal Square and southern portions of modern Jersey City.

New Jersey State G.A.R. Flag

The Joseph Hooker post was one of the hundreds of Union veterans organizations that sprung up in the north throughout the post war period under the national umbrella of the Grand Army of the Republic or G.A.R.  According to Stuart McConnell in Glorious Contentment: The Grand Army of the Republic 1865-1900, the organization's public mission was to promote fraternity, charity and loyalty among Union veterans, but it also had a more private, political agenda.  According to McConnell, the G.A.R. "worked effectively for the Grant-Colfax ticket during the campaign of 1868" and continued to support Republican candidates for the rest of the century.  The organization's political clout is demonstrated by the fact that from 1868 to 1900 only one person achieved the presidency without being G.A.R. member.

G.A.R. Medal

Although playing base ball was not part of their mission, the members of the Hooker Post apparently didn't want to be left out of the base ball excitement in Hudson County so they played what appear to have been planned as "muffin" matches at least once a year.  Muffin matches were games between teams of inexperienced and inferior players who were more likely to "muff" the ball than catch it.  The Hooker Post's first such encounter was in July of 1868 against what was called the Unique Literary Society of Bergen, but may actually have been a regular base ball club.  Subsequent "muffin" matches in 1869 and 1870 were played against the Bergen Sons of Temperance and the Taylor Zouaves, not exactly base ball household names.  What is of interest about the Hooker Post's matches, however, is not the level of competition, but their lineup which had two players with only one arm.

Frederick Boorman, George Sipp, Gustavus Jackson, Charles Knoeller and Charles Bowers all appear to have been members of Hooker Post No. 3 and played in the 1868 and 1869 base ball matches

The July 28, 1868 edition of the Jersey City Daily Times gave a fairly detailed account of the match with the Unique Club where the G.A.R. boys apparently "expected to meet a muffin nine."  Accounts of other clearly designated New Jersey muffin matches suggest that such contests were played as much for laughs and socializing as for competitive purposes.  Apparently expecting something similar, the veterans supposedly "made up their minds to excel in 'muffinism" with a lineup of three one-armed veterans, another "with but one eye" and one with a "wooden understanding."  If the descriptions seem of questionable taste, the paper took it to another level (a lower level) reporting that "the wooden-legged man, however, failed to walk to the ground and the one-eyed fellow appeared not to be able to 'see it."  Regardless of how accurate this was, when play was called the G.A.R. team did, in fact, have two, one-armed men in their line-up, Frederick Boorman and John Rome.  Although the reporter made another tasteless comment about both men having trouble in the field because they were "short-handed," he was forced to conclude their play was "excellent."  Rome played center field and scored two runs while Boorman, not only pitched, but some how hit the game's only home run.  A little over a year later, both men also played in the Sons of Temperance match with Rome scoring six runs and Boorman seven in the G.A.R. team's 69-63 triumph in a game that clearly won no points for style.

6th New Jersey Battle Flag

Both Boorman and Rome, it turns out, have interesting stories with Boorman's being the easier to trace.  A New Jersey native and a clerk prior to the Civil War, Boorman joined many of his peers in answering Abraham Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter.  After that 90 days of service was over, Boorman wasted no time re-enlisting, joining the 6th New Jersey less than a month after his return from Virginia.  Assigned to the 2nd New Jersey Brigade, the 6th was part of the Army of the Potomac's long, hot march in pursuit of the Confederate forces invading Pennsylvania in June and July of 1863.  Finally arriving at Gettysburg about 9:00 a.m. on July 2nd, the Brigade was divided up piecemeal to reinforce other Union units defending against the multiple Confederate assaults on the Union left.  The 6th ended up near Devil's Den, supporting the 4th New York Artillery, "fighting like tigers, exposed to terrific fire of musketry," before being forced to withdraw.

6th New Jersey's monument at Gettysburg

Most likely during this time, Frederick Boorman was wounded in the right arm which was amputated in keeping with standard medical practice. The wounded warrior was discharged in September and returned to Hudson County where he would live for most of the rest of his long life until his death in 1914.  Boorman's membership in the Hooker post was only the beginning of what was apparently a lifelong involvement in G.A.R. affairs.  He later became Commander of G. Van Houten Post No. 3 in Jersey City and even held statewide office as the Junior Vice Commander in 1889, representing New Jersey at the National Encampment.  Boorman worked at a number of post war occupations, ultimately moving to Bayonne where he became the postmaster.

Battle of Vera Cruz - Mexican-American War

John Rome's story, on the other hand, was harder to trace and, is certainly more unique, if not more interesting, as he was actually a G.A.R. member without serving in the Civil War, no mean achievement.  Born in Germany in 1833, Rome's family came to the United States when he was only four years old.  On November 11, 1845, apparently along with his elder brother, the 12 year-old, enlisted as a musician in the United States Artillery and saw service in the Mexican-American War.  No details have been found, but on March 11, 1847, Rome was wounded at Vera Cruz and lost his left arm.  After his May 1847 discharge, Rome moved around a lot, but in the late 1860's was in Jersey City, working as a "huckster" or peddler.  Somehow the Hooker Post's pitcher must developed important political connections as by the late 1870's, he was in Washington, D.C., working as a messenger in the House of Representatives.  Ultimately this second wounded warrior became a door-keeper at the House, a position, he appears to have held until his death on November 6, 1922 at the ripe old age of 89.  Rome is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, one veteran at least who was not forgotten by his country.

 House of Representatives Report for 1893 showing John Rome (7th from top) as a messenger - soldier's roll
Two unanswered, and probably unanswerable questions, are how did Boorman and Rome play base ball and why did they do it.  On the how side, the more difficult question is how they managed to "strike" or bat with one arm well enough to get on base and, in Boorman's case, hit a home run.  The article states only that Boorman batted left-handed because he had lost his right arm while Rome did the opposite for the same reason.  There is no was of knowing, of course, how much of the amputated arm they lost, obviously the more of the arm that was saved, the greater the ability to help hold or support the bat.  Perhaps some kind of accommodation was made in terms of how the ball was pitched in order to give them a chance to make contact.  Interesting as this may be, of greater interest, at least to me, is why they did it.   Given that Rome lost his arm in 1847, it's unlikely he ever played the New York game before his injury.  Boorman is more likely to have played at some level, but his name does not appear in any Hudson County box score prior to his wounding in 1863.  Boorman's motivation may simply have been to show he could still play base ball, while Rome was taking on something he had never had the opportunity to do.   What seems clear though is that fear of embarrassing themselves was outweighed by their desire to show that although they were disarmed, they weren't disabled - more power to them.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Newton Crane - Base Ball Pioneer on Two Continents

Obituaries of early New Jersey base ball players seldom include much information about the deceased's base ball activities regardless of their duration or significance.  As a result it isn't surprising that the most detailed obituary of Robert Newton Crane fails to mention his involvement in base ball pioneering on two continents over two centuries.  Also contributing to the lack of base ball related information in the obituary is the fact that Crane's primary base ball roles were off-the-field.  Even more important, however, in the absence of any mention of this aspect of Crane's life is that the most detailed obituary appeared not in an American paper, but in the stately Times of London where Crane lived for the last half of his long life.  But even though far away from his native land and national game, Crane never stopped trying to further base ball's advancement.

Portion of Crane's obituary in The Times, May 7, 1927

Robert Newton Crane, more commonly known as Newton Crane, was born on April 1, 1848 in Long Branch, New Jersey, the son of John Newton Crane and Fannie C. Crane.  The elder Crane was a Methodist minister, born in West Bloomfield, New Jersey (now Montclair) in 1810. Reverend Crane served multiple congregations in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey so the family moved frequently in the 1850's and 1860's and there were a number of places where Newton could have been introduced to base ball.  If, however, he hadn't caught the base ball bug by the mid 1860's, Crane certainly did so while attending Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut as one of the 17 members of the class of 1867.

Wesleyan in the late 1860's

While the class size seems incredibly small today, like most 19th century institutions of higher education, Wesleyan was a very small place in the 1860's with a total college community of about 150 people.  Even with a small student body, however, Wesleyan was not immune to base ball excitement as the school reportedly had "various" base ball clubs in the 1860's including the Agallian Club which was formed in the fall of 1864.  About a year later, on September 30, 1865, the club played its first match game, traveling to relatively near New Haven to take on Yale where they were decisively defeated 39 to 13.  Although hardly a major sporting event, for some reason the contest merited an article and box score in the New York Times listing one R.N. Crane as the Agallian score keeper documenting his participation in the early days of college base ball.

Newark Daily Advertiser - September 14, 1867

College in the 1860's usually prepared young men for a career in the church, medicine or the law, the so-called learned professions.  By the time of his 1867 graduation, however, Crane had apparently decided, at least initially, not to pursue any of those options.  Instead he came to Newark and took a job as a reporter for the Newark Daily Advertiser which included covering base ball matches.  The post Civil War period saw not only significant base ball expansion in New Jersey, but also the initial phase of wide spread media coverage so, as with his college experience, Crane participated in the early stages of an important and permanent development in base ball.  As noted in a prior post, Crane even played in an 1867 match between Newark and New York/Brooklyn reporters, having much success at catcher as he retired 10 opposition strikers on foul bound outs.

Newark Morning Register - May 20, 1869

During Crane's time at the Advertiser he formed what became a lifelong friendship with Richard L. Gilder who went on to a long and successful career as the editor of the Century magazine, a leading national publication of the late 19th century.  After Crane had spent a year or so with the Advertiser, he and Gilder became more than friends as they joined forces to start a new paper, the Newark Morning Register.  Although the new venture meant more responsibility for Crane, he still found time to play in base ball matches between Newark newspapers.

St. Louis about 1860

While Crane and Gilder may have been lifelong friends, their business relationship lasted only until 1872 when Crane his sold interest in the paper and moved west to St. Louis.  Like almost every U. S. community, St. Louis was the scene of intense competition between politically partisan newspapers.  Ironically the Republican newspaper at the time was the St. Louis Democrat owned by George Fishback and two partners.  It's not entirely clear what drew Crane to St. Louis, but in March of 1872, Fishback bought out his other two partners and brought his brother, William, in from Indianapolis to help run the paper.  William, in turn, recruited new talent including Crane although how he knew Crane isn't clear.    Supposedly Crane used "considerable charm and a patina of good manners" to win over the city's "social elite" and whether it was his "charm," talent or some combination of the two, George Fishback promoted Crane to managing editor.

Gerard Allen - Crane's Father-in-law and reportedly the wealthiest man in St. Louis

Fishback's buyout of his partners and promotion of Crane drove both the former partners and the former managing editor to the rival St. Louis Globe and Crane's college education and social skills not withstanding, the Democrat lost the newspaper war with its rival.  In 1875 the Globe took over the Democrat forming the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, but by that point, however, Crane was not only out of journalism, but out of the country.  Among those apparently impressed by Crane in the city's "social elite" was Mary Frances Allen, daughter of Gerald B. Allen, reportedly the wealthiest man in St. Louis.  Crane and Mary Frances were married in 1873 and a year later moved to England when Crane was appointed U. S. Consul to Manchester by President Grant.  Crane's time in England was life changing in multiple ways beginning with a career change as upon returning to the U. S. in 1878 he forsook journalism to become a lawyer.   Once admitted to the bar, Crane became partners with Everett W. Crane in the firm of Pattison and Crane supposedly "one of the most prominent" in St. Louis.

Everett Pattison - Crane's law partner

In addition to whatever financial and personal rewards Crane got from the career change, the move also got him back into base ball.  One of Crane's clients was Henry V. Lucas, who had inherited a large fortune from his grandfather, an early settler of St. Louis.  Lucas loved base ball and had built a field at "Normandy" his country estate where he invited friends to play ball, followed by elegant dining.  It's not hard to imagine Crane at these gatherings, getting back on the field and then talking base ball with his host.  At the time (late 1883) there were two major leagues, the National League and the American Association which at the end of that year signed the National Agreement which among other things formalized the reserve clause binding a player to one team as long as the team desired.

Newton Crane in his prime

Lucas wanted to own a major league team and finding no existing franchises available for purchase decided to start a new major league, the Union Association.  While Lucas pledged to honor existing contracts, he declared war on the reserve clause so that as Lucas' attorney, Newton Crane became involved in the first large scale attack on that controversial restriction of player's rights, an effort that finally succeeded roughly a century later.  As the Union Association prepared for the 1884 season, some 30 players subject to the National Agreement signed contracts with the new league including Tony Mullnane known as the "Count of Macaroni" because of his "dandified appearance."  Mullnane became a focal point of the war as after jumping from the American Association St. Louis Browns to the Lucas' St. Louis Unions, he promptly jumped back to Toledo of the American Association.

Tony Mullnane - the King of Macaroni

A large part of Mullnane's motivation for defecting from his defection was probably because the National Agreement clubs "blacklisted" those who jumped to the new league. When Mullnane's subsequently arrived in St. Louis with the Toledo club, Crane took legal action on Lucas' behalf and obtained an injunction preventing Mullnane from playing in St. Louis unless it was for Lucas' team.  Crane then followed Mullnane and the Toledo Club to Cincinnati where he obtained an initial injunction there as well.  Not surprisingly the Toledo club appealed and very surprisingly U. S. Circuit Judge John Baxter dismissed the injunction without even reading the legal briefs because the matter was "too trivial" for the court to consider since base ball was a sport not a business.

Henry V. Lucas' grave - reportedly no pictures survive of the Union Association founder

While Mullnane's status was important from a legal standpoint, his loss on-the-field didn't have much impact as Lucas' club dominated the Union Association's first and only season, going 91-16 and easily finished first.  Financed primarily with Lucas money, the other clubs struggled with only five playing out the full schedule.  In the end, Lucas killed the league before it died on its own, as it had served his purposes when his team was accepted into the National League even though it meant accepting the hated reserve clause.  A larger question were the players who had been "blacklisted" for signing with Lucas.  Once again Crane was involved and the two men attended the National League meetings in early 1885 and plead "by every art known to them," but to no avail.  Fortunately the ban was finally listed, but Lucas' membership among the magnates was short lived as he was out of base ball by 1886 and in serious financial trouble thereafter.

St. Louis Republic - October 24, 1897

Perhaps some of Lucas' problems could have been averted by Crane's legal counsel, but by the end of 1885 Crane had once left St. Louis and returned to England.  Apparently Crane and his wife enjoyed their four years in England so much they moved back there permanently and Crane was admitted to the British bar.  His English legal career was so successful that in 1921, Crane was appointed a King's Counsel, one of England's highest legal honors, known as "taking silk" because of the robes worn in court.  At the time Crane was the first American ever to be so honored.  In addition to his legal work, Crane was a long time leader in the American colony in England including helping to found the American Society in London and serving as chairman in 1898.

The Northern Echo - March 26, 1890 - one example of Crane's promotion of base ball in England

Being over 3000 miles from American base ball did not, however, prevent Crane from promoting the game.  Albert Spalding's 1889 world tour made it's last stop in England, playing matches for over a two week period, primarily in the Midlands.  The tour sparked interest in getting American base ball played competitively in England and from 1890 on, Crane was reportedly "the true north of British base ball for the next two decades."  The initial effort was the formation of the National Base Ball League of Great Britain with Crane as president and money, players and managers provided by Albert Spalding.  The league had four teams in the Midlands, but unfortunately problems of rowdiness and discord led to the dissolution of the league after one season.

However, Crane continued to promote the game including writing an 1891 base ball book aimed at the English audience and also served as President of the London Base Ball Association in 1894.  None of these effort bore much fruit and Crane resigned his president's position in 1895, giving up for the moment, his efforts to bring his beloved game to his new homeland.  Base ball passion dies hard, however, and 1918 saw Crane take part in one last effort to sell base ball to the British.  With so many Americans and Canadian military personnel in England, Crane helped organize the Anglo-American League which played on Saturdays and holidays.   Any long term success was probably unlikely, but the end of World War I and the Spanish Influenza epidemic ended any chance for the league's survival.

Newton Crane in 1917

The Anglo-American League apparently marked Crane's last active involvement in base ball prior to his death on May 7, 1927.  As noted the Times obituary gives a detailed history of Crane's distinguished career without mentioning any of his various roles in base ball.  Although Newton Crane's on-the-field career was brief, in other capacities he was involved in four pioneering efforts - the early days of college base ball, sports writing, the first major challenge to the reserve clause and introducing American base ball to a England.  The ultimate success of the first three is well known, much less visible is that baseball is indeed played in England today, most prominently through the British Baseball Federation which in 2013 had 58 teams participating in four different leagues.