Sunday, August 24, 2014

Brief Hiatus

A Manly Pastime will be taking a brief hiatus for the next two weeks.  Barring something unforeseen, the next post, Casey Stengel's greatest day in baseball - revisited, will be up on or about September 6th.  Thanks to everyone who has been reading the blog and also for sharing it with others.  The most recent post, Keeping Score Before Henry, has had almost 300 page views in less than a week.  I hope everyone has an enjoyable and safe end to summer and Labor Day weekend.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Keeping score before Henry

Eric Miklich in his old pants

Base ball games can have many turning points.  The turning point in Saturday's Neshanock-Eckford match was when the visitors from Long Island managed to overcome the traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway and actually get to Washington Township, New Jersey.  Once on the field, the Eckford retired Flemington without a run in the top of the first and then proceeded to record seven tallies, all  with two out, in the bottom of the inning en route to an 18-2 victory.  Although the Neshanock struggled offensively, both Dave "Illinois" Harris and Mark "Gaslight" Granieri (in spite of just hitting the big 50) contributed three hits apiece.  Unfortunately the rest of the lineup could only manage a combined total of five base hits.  Even though the Eckford scored 18 runs, "Illinois" pitched well in several innings as did Ken "Tumbles" Mandel who didn't walk anyone and even picked a runner off first.  Regardless of the outcome, playing the Eckford is always enjoyable because it's a chance to spend time with Eric "Express" Miklich, a legend in vintage base ball circles.  As promised Eric broke in a new pair of base ball pants which he claimed were responsible for the three outs he made at the plate and an error in the field.  On the other hand the pants apparently had nothing to do with the two hits Eric made in his last two at bats.  Flemington is now off until the Philadelphia Navy Yard Festival on the weekend of September 6-7th. 

Score sheet for the initial October 6, 1845 Knickerbocker game - note William Wheaton was the umpire

In historical research, it's not uncommon to find one thing while looking for another.  A lot more unusual, at least for me, is to find both questions and answers while looking for something else.  A week or so ago, I was at the New York Public Library looking at microfilmed copies of the Knickerbocker Club game books as part of researching the 1851 "Short Boy" or "Dutch" riot in Hoboken.   This wasn't my first experience with the game books since they were a source for my essay on the Knickerbockers' June 3, 1851 match with the Washington Club which appeared in the SABR publication, Inventing Baseball: The 100 Greatest Games of the Nineteenth Century.  This time, however, while examining Knickerbocker activity at Elysian Fields both before and after the 1851 riot, I noticed some things which prompted the following questions:

1. The Knickerbockers approved their rules on September 23, 1845 and played a game using those rules less than two weeks later on October 6th.  In spite of such a short time span, the club already had pre-printed score sheets with the club name.  Since the Knickerbockers were a pioneering club, it seemed to me that they would more likely have started out with something far less structured and gradually realized the need for a more formal score book.

2. It's been noted many places that the Knickerbockers' first priority was exercise not competition.  If so, why did they use game books to keep records of lineups and individual results instead of just tracking runs, outs and innings?

3. Why in addition to tracking runs and outs in their game book, did the Knickerbockers also include a column to record fines?

The New York club page from the famous June 19, 1846 game, note that even though it was a 23-1 rout, Davis of the New York Club managed to incur a fine for swearing

As interesting as this was, I was still focused on the 1851 riot so my next step in that research was re-reading portions of John Thorn's, Baseball in the Garden of Eden, where to my surprise I found the answers to all of the above questions.  Included in the book are excerpts from a November 27, 1887 San Francisco Examiner story entitled "How Baseball Began: A Member of the Gotham Club of Fifty Years Ago Tells About It."  The article was "discovered" or recovered by Randall Brown and has also been reprinted in full by John Thorn in his "Our Game" blog at  The article is basically an interview with William Wheaton, then an 73 year old resident of San Francisco, but who was originally from New York City and a member not just of the Knickerbockers, but also the even earlier Gotham/New York Club.  Among his memories of organized base ball's earliest days, Wheaton noted that:

"The scorer kept the game in a book we had made for that purpose, (emphasis mine), and it was he who decided all disputed points.  The modern umpire and his tribulations were unknown to us."

William Wheaton

That one sentence basically answers all of the above questions.  Since a number of the Knickerbockers were originally members of the Gotham/New York Club, they must have known about pre-printed score books and their importance for efficient game management so having one of their own made up would have been an essential part of getting organized for field practice.  Furthermore, if the score keeper was the ultimate authority, he needed a systematic way to maintain accurate records of runs and outs.  Keeping track of individual results provided sufficient backup detail to resolve any discrepancies and/or disagreements.  Lastly noting fines in the game book preserved all of the relevant information for submission to the club secretary or whoever was charged with collecting payment.

Full game book for the June 19, 1846 match

So it would seem game books or score books were first introduced not for the compilation of team and individual statistics, but for game management.  It's somewhat similar to the function of the official score book in a basketball game (as a former college basketball student manager, this should have occurred to me sooner) where the on-the-court officials give information to the official scorer who maintains a score book that is the final record both during and after a game.   My understanding from Richard Hershberger is that when base ball match play became more regular, each team had an "umpire" who kept score with the two men also responsible for working out any disagreements about plays in the field.  As Richard observed this, predictably, didn't work out well in practice so a referee was needed to provide a deciding vote to break deadlocks.  At some point, in some way, it was decided to give all of the authority to one umpire, leaving the score keepers to maintain records for their team's benefit and sometimes to help the umpire on issues such as outs, runs, batting orders.  

June 1850 score sheet showing adapted use of the fine column

The Knickerbockers and the Gothams before them may well have believed their pre-printed forms had all the necessary categories and recorded all the necessary information.  Yet it wasn't terribly long afterwards, and certainly before match play became the norm, that other information was recorded on these "original" score sheets.  As the above picture of an 1850 game sheet illustrates, an enterprising score keeper, began using the fine column to record fielding positions.  Just one more small piece of evidence that base ball is game of evolution, not invention.

Eric Miklich in his new pants

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Battling in Parisppany and a Base Ball Battery (Civil War Style)

Photo by Mark Granieri

Last Saturday the Neshanock were scheduled to play in the Old Time Base Ball Festival at Old Bethpage Village on Long Island, but the weather interceded giving Flemington a badly needed day off.  Next up was yesterday's date with the Hoboken Nine, matches scheduled for a venue that fell through for some reason.  Fortunately Parsippany, New Jersey was more than willing to host the matches on relatively short notice.  Thanks to Mayor James R. Barberio, the Morristown Chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution and the North Jersey Civil War Round Table for making both clubs feel welcome and providing everything we needed.  It was an good venue and those in attendance were certainly interested in learning about 19th century base ball.  On a personal note, I was grateful for the help of my friend, Rich Rosenthal, chair of the NJCWRT and it was a pleasure to meet Fran Becker, a reader of this blog.  

Photo by Mark Granieri

Both matches were seven inning contests played under 1864 rules with Hoboken striking first in the initial match which proved to be a low scoring affair.  Flemington led 4-3 after five innings, but Hoboken tallied twice in the sixth for a 5-4 advantage which the Neshanock were never able to overcome falling by an 8-5 count.  Flemington mounted little offense in the contest with just seven hits as only Rene "Mango" Marrero and Ken "Tumbles" Mandel got two hits apiece.  After a brief break featuring Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw's rendition of "Casey at the Bat" (once again the slugger failed to come through), the second game got underway, this time with Flemington striking first.  After not generating much offense in the first match, the Neshanock struck quickly in the first  tallying six times, but Hoboken responded with five of their own in what was clearly going to be a higher scoring affair.  In addition to scoring six times in the first, the Neshanock tallied five times in the seventh, but could only manage four runs in the other five innings while Hoboken scored in all, but one inning and held on for an 18-15 win.  "Mango" continued his hot hitting with four hits, joined by Mark "Gaslight" Granieri, also with four and Chris "Sideshow" Nunn who had three.

Monument to Clark's Battery at Gettysburg

During the long weekend at the Gettysburg Vintage Base Ball Festival, I took part of the Neshanock party on a relatively brief tour of the battlefield.  The goal was to provide an overall sense of the battle and to visit some of the places where New Jersey troops were engaged, incorporating three base ball references along the way.  The first base ball connection was literally at the first stop, the site where General John Reynolds, commander of the Union I Corps, was killed almost immediately upon arriving on the scene.  The base ball connection is the identity of Reynolds replacement, none other than Abner Doubleday himself, who while he deserves no spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame, earned a monument at Gettysburg for his performance as interim Corps commander.  The second base ball reference was something I wrote about after the Neshanock's 2013 visit to Gettysburg, a base ball match played by the officers of the 11th New Jersey in the spring of 1863.   During the tour we stopped at the monument to the 11th's role in the battle, fighting so fierce that every officer over the rank of lieutenant was either killed or wounded including five of the base ball players (three killed, two wounded).

Print of Clark's battery in camp in November of 1863 as shown on the eBay web site, the base ball match is in the lower right hand corner

While the 11th New Jersey base ball match took place prior to Gettysburg, the third reference involved a game played several months after the battle, not long before Abraham Lincoln gave his historic speech at the new Gettysburg National Cemetery.  Playing in the match were members of Battery B of the 1st New Jersey artillery, more popularly known as Clark's battery which served with distinction on both the second and third days at Gettysburg.  The base ball connection came to my attention when my friend, Joe Bilby sent me a picture of a print of Clark's battery in camp at Brandy Wine Station,Virginia in November of 1863.  The print shows members of the battery engaged in various camp activities including a group in the lower right hand corner playing base ball.  Joe cautioned me that the picture was not in the public domain so I set out try to locate the original.  My search took me to the Baseball Hall of Fame library which only has a copy and so couldn't give permission to use it.  The library also passed on a link to an recent sale of a copy on eBay for about $425.  The above picture is from the eBay web site.

Some of the members of Clark's battery from Michael Hanifen's History of Battery B, First New Jersey Artillery

Based on the eBay description it appears the print is a lithograph of the original drawing.  I read somewhere that the drawing was made after the war for an 1870 reunion of the battery which was formed in the fall of 1861 primarily from Newark and Essex County.  According to the eBay web site, the print was produced by Merinsky's Litho and Printing of New York City from a drawing made by E. Stutzen, "a member of the battery."  One thing you learn quickly in historical research is to check everything so it wasn't totally a surprise to find that neither Michael Hanifen's 1905 history of the battery nor the New Jersey State Archives data base has any record of a Stutzen serving in Clark's battery.  There is, however, an 1890 Civil War widow's pension application from a Barbara A. Stutzen for her late husband, Charles E. Stutzen which states he served in the 4th New Jersey infantry, but, here again, no confirmation of his service has been found.  The next step is to order a copy of the pension file from the National Archives which hopefully will shed some light on the subject.

Stutzen Civil War Pension Application

Regardless of the outcome of further research on the artist, it's no surprise men from Clark's battery played base ball in camp, especially if they came from Essex County.  By 1860 there easily 30-40 active base ball clubs in Newark and the surrounding communities.  Many were junior clubs made up of local neighborhood boys, but the important thing is that there was a lot of base ball being played and it's not surprising that in their spare time, volunteer soldiers reverted to a favorite peace time activity.  What is somewhat surprising is the post Gettysburg date of the match since, with only a few exceptions, all of the base ball matches played by New Jersey troops took place no later than May of 1863.  It is to be hoped the base ball players in Clark's battery enjoyed their late 1863 game, as the spring of 1864 brought constant campaigning with little respite for base ball or any other leisure activity until war's end almost a year later.  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Keeping score with Henry

Photo by Dennis R. Tuttle

In this age of smart phones and social media, it's no surprise that some participants in the Gettysburg Vintage Base Ball Festival, including myself, posted pictures on Facebook.  Some of these photos were subsequently shared on the Festival's page including an excellent set by Dennis R. Tuttle.  Since I'm in the above picture from that collection, my characterizing them as excellent may seem self-serving, but considering the only part of my body showing is my right hand, this can probably be overlooked.  The attraction, of course, is not an almost seven decades old hand, but the score book which is probably unique in vintage base ball circles.  While I wasn't aware this picture was being taken, it happens fairly frequently, sometimes by a professional photographer for local media, but also by spectators who see me with a large ledger type book and decide to investigate further.  It's also not uncommon to hear the book described as "cool".  That his handiwork could be considered "cool" or whatever was the 19th century equivalent, probably never occurred to Henry Chadwick when he designed it almost 150 years ago, as the Neshanock's score book is a replica of the "Father of Base Ball's" 1868 version.

Recreating this aspect of 19th century base ball got its start early in my tenure as Neshanock score keeper when Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw, club president, suggested I use Chadwick's scoring system and that we try to replicate the score book itself.  Fortunately, unlike many areas of 19th century base ball, there was no lack of original source material.  Chadwick described his system in a number of contemporary guide books (Andrew Schiff's biography of Chadwick was also helpful) and even more fortunately some of the original score books survive in the Albert Spalding collection at the New York Public Library.  On the first of numerous visits to study the originals, I realized that Chadwick had gradually upgraded his score book from the late 1850's versions which basically only provided sufficient space for runs and outs.  While the early clubs probably didn't need much more data than runs and outs, Chadwick's responsibility was to provide newspaper accounts for an audience, few of whom, if any, had actually seen the match.  This was also long before the days of press boxes with typewriters, not to mention laptops, so Chadwick needed a handwritten record he could draw on to write his account so he developed both a scoring system and a score book for that system.

Henry Chadwick

Recreating a 19th century score book began, therefore, with choosing from the different versions and the 1868 model seemed a good choice because of the detail it provided both on the game and on the scoring system itself.  With that decision made, the major challenge was replicating the score book page when photo-copying was out of the question and taking photos was initially prohibited.  The solution on a subsequent visit was to use a ruler to measure, not just the size of the page, but also the grid of horizontal and vertical lines.  As each measurement was taken, I used pencil and ruler to draw the same lines, matching the length, width, etc on a blank piece of paper as best I could while also recording the various column and row headings.  That was pressing against the limits of my artistic ability, but fortunately, my friend, Henry F. Ballone, is an expert on page layout (among other things) and with my work plus some pictures I was eventually permitted to take, he was able to design and reproduce high quality reproductions of the original pages.  The final step was having the pages bound by a bookbinder with a final cost of about $180 for a book with the capacity of 100 games or two Neshanock seasons.  While the cost may seem high, it is the result of binding the book and the amount of color on the pages.

My crude rendering of the original 1868 score book

The research and production of the score book came after I learned how to use Chadwick's scoring system which is dramatically different from modern score keeping.  Supposedly the only vestige of Chadwick's system still in use is "K" (the last letter in the word "struck") as the symbol for a strikeout.  Probably the most fundamental difference is the numbering system used for players in the field.  As probably everyone who reads this knows, the current, longstanding approach is the somewhat arbitrary assignment of numbers to the nine positions where the pitcher is "1," the catcher, "2" through the right fielder "9."  Chadwick instead gave each fielder the same number he had in the batting order, so, for example, when the Neshanock pitcher in last Saturday's game batted 6th, his defensive number was "6," not "1."  I read somewhere (not sure where) that Chadwick did this because contemporary players (1868 or earlier) played multiple positions in one game so using batting order places allowed Chadwick to record a player's defensive performance regardless of what position he played.  Perhaps somewhat ironically, playing multiple positions in one match also happens frequently in vintage base ball so this "old" system actually helps score vintage games.

The final product

It appears the numbering system also drove the layout of the score book pages and to some degree the size of the book.  In modern scoring each page typically includes the batting order, fielding positions, nine plus innings and game totals.  Since all pitchers are "1" and so on, no information is needed about the defensive team to score an inning.  However, when the defensive numbers are based on the batting order, the scorer, unless he or she has a photographic memory, has to continuously flip to the defensive team's page which can become fairly tiresome, fairly quickly.  To remedy this, I believe, Chadwick added a column after the 10th inning which listed the defense's batting order so the scorer has all the necessary information on one page.  I know from practical experience how helpful this is, as prior to recreating Chadwick's book, I used another version of a vintage score book that required the aforementioned page flipping which was indeed tiresome.

Some of the other features in the book (along with the fact it was "copyrighted") suggest that by 1868 Chadwick was marketing the score book in some fashion.  The best example of the broader intended use of the book is the listing at the bottom of the page of the abbreviations used for the different bases and plays.  Recording a typical ground out to shortstop requires noting both the base and the players involved so today's 6-3, shortstop to first out, would have been 3-5A if the shortstop were batting third and the first base man, fifth.  Hits are recorded with a vertical line crossed by horizontal lines for the number of bases, while errors or muffs are noted by the player's batting order number followed by a "0."  From four plus years of using this system, there's only one play I've found that Chadwick seems to have omitted, a fielder's choice.  That is, Chadwick had a way to record the force out at second, but no method of recording the batter's safe arrival at first.

There are also some other quirks to Chadwick's score book.  Although it's hardly a major issue, there is no allowance for a morning game (probably infrequent at the time) with the starting and ending time carved in stone (or at least black ink) as being in the p.m.  Slightly more significant is Chadwick's apparent lack of interest in recording the date of the match, since no space is provided for this information.  These quirks not withstanding, Chadwick developed and gradually enhanced a means and method for gathering and recording detailed data about almost every aspect of a match.  His efforts to protect his score book from the torrential downpour at the 1865 Atlantics-Mutals match at Elysian Fields shows how much he valued both the book and its contents.  And well he might, for it was the detailed game records that enabled Chadwick to write comprehensive accounts for an audience, many of whom never attended games, thereby contributing in his own way to base ball's increased popularity.