Sunday, April 27, 2014

North and South - Part I

On Saturday, the Neshanock were scheduled to visit Old Bethpage Village on Long Island to defend the New York/New Jersey Cup which Flemington won a year ago.  The event was to be hosted by the New York Mutuals with the Hoboken Nine and the New York Gothams as the other participants.  However, mother nature apparently had other ideas and the event was cancelled due to Friday's heavy rains and the poor condition of the fields.  As result, it appears the Neshanock will hold on to the cup for another year which has to be the easiest champion defense yet.  After an opening month with a lot of travel outside of New Jersey, Flemington now embarks on the heavy New Jersey part of the schedule beginning with two games next Saturday in Woodbridge against the Brooklyn Eckford.  This coincides with the last stages of my "journey" through 19th century New Jersey newspapers beginning with a visit this week to the Gloucester County Historical Society to finish the Salem County newspapers.  The next step is compiling this information in useful form a lot of which will ultimately be posted on the Protoball web site (  The early stages of this process are already underway and are generating some thoughts about the spread of base ball into the less populated areas of the state.

Photo by Mark Granieri

After the first New Jersey clubs took the field in 1855, the game quickly crossed the state from east to west, as only a year later, in 1856, Trenton got its first base ball club.  It took much longer, however, for the New York game to reach the northern and southern parts of the state and the next two posts will look at how and when the first base ball clubs were formed in Sussex (far north) and Cape May (far south) counties.  In both cases, there is no evidence of organized base ball in both the antebellum period and the Civil War years or at least none in the contemporary newspapers.  I'm less and less confident, however, that the lack of base ball news during the war years, means no organized base ball was being played.  If daily newspapers in Newark and Jersey City, where the game already existed, were hard pressed to find space for base ball from 1861 to 1864, it must have been even more difficult for weekly newspapers in rural Sussex and Cape May counties.  Military reports via the telegraph, letters from local soldiers at the front as well as political and editorial space needs could easily have crowded out scores and game accounts submitted by club secretaries.

Map of Sussex County

In any event, in the 1860's, the factors influencing the spread of base ball were different from those of the antebellum period.  Even with the limits of war time coverage, base ball news received increasing attention in the media, and newspapers like the New York Clipper and the Sunday Mercury provided sufficient base ball news to whet appetites for the formation of local clubs.  Expanded railroad networks also increased access to the game, but this probably wasn't a factor in Sussex County as railroad service to the county seat at Newton grew only slightly from 1855 to 1870.  More important than the amount of railroad service, however, were the increased number of people riding the rails, most of them in blue uniforms, going to and from the front.  While the extent that base ball played in Confederate POW camps helped to expand the game in the south has probably been exaggerated, base ball played or watched by Union soldiers from rural parts of New Jersey could only have been a positive influence in the game's post war growth.

New Jersey Herald and Democrat - July 26, 1866 - challenge and response for the Star Club of
                                     Newton's first match game

According to Snell's History of Sussex and Warren Counties, Sussex County provided at least a company (about 100 men) for the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 11th, and 15th regiments some of which played base ball matches during the war.  Of special note is the 2nd New Jersey which played so much base ball that it formed its own base ball club including some members of leading Newark clubs.  One member of the 11th New Jersey from Sussex County, John Schoonover was a participant in the officers only base ball match played shortly before Gettysburg where he was wounded and a number of the other participants were killed (  Without over emphasizing or exaggerating the importance of these experiences, the fact remains that post war rural towns and villages in Sussex County had more residents who had played or watched base ball than before the war, increasing the potential interest in forming local base ball clubs.

John Schoonover - 11th New Jersey

Although the Union army demobilized and sent regiments home fairly quickly in 1865, any significant impact of soldier's war time base ball experiences, probably didn't take effect until 1866.  By then two base ball clubs had already been organized in Sussex County, interestingly both were associated with schools.  The first newspaper account of a Sussex County base ball match describes the August 30, 1865, 36-14 win of the Mount Retirement Seminary Club over the Delaware Club of Port Jervis, New York.  This club of "scholars" had reportedly been organized for only six weeks and their victory was in the return match with Delaware winning the first contest.  In addition, while no details survive, a June 14, 1866 New Jersey Herald and Democrat article about the formation of the Star Club of Newton claimed there was a base ball team of students at the Newton College Institute in 1865. By that time, any population of 100-150 boys undoubtedly had some portion sufficiently acquainted with base ball and anxious to play competitively.

Newton Collegiate Institute 

Regardless of the cause or causes, 1866 saw the formation of a number of non-school affiliated base ball clubs throughout Sussex County and a dozen clubs played matches that year.  Not surprisingly the county seat at Newton had the largest number of clubs, the first of which, the Star Club  had enough members to field three "nines".   The initial incarnation of the club played in 1866 before breaking up the following spring due to the "removal and disbursement of its members."  A highlight of the Star Club's season was a match with the Jersey Boys of Deckertown for the Sussex County championship at the agricultural fair that fall.  This was the same event that sparked controversy ( over the participation of the Randolph Club of Dover, due to "eligibility" issues regarding some of their players.  The complaints were raised by John W. Gillam, editor of the New Jersey Herald and Democrat who had a lot of knowledge, or at least opinions, about base ball even though the game, at least on an organized basis, was relatively new to his community.  Gillam may also have been somewhat ambivalent about the growth of the base ball in Sussex County as earlier that fall, he threatened (but apparently didn't implement) a 50 cent charge to print box scores.

New Jersey Herald and Democrat - September 20, 1866

In any event, the Star-Jersey Boy match proved to be the closest of the tournament.  Tied 20-20 after nine innings, the Stars pushed across a tally in the top of the tenth and held the "boys" scoreless to win "the county ball."  It was apparently a game to remember, as many years later, someone calling himself "Twinkler" gave the inside story to the Sussex Register.  According to this eyewitness, the Stars led 20-9 after eight innings when the Deckertown lads asked for a unique kind of mercy.  Claiming it would be embarrassing enough to go home without the silver ball, the Jersey Boys pleaded they couldn't  bear to go home beaten so badly.  Supposedly Lew Martin of the Stars (future state senator and U.S. congressman) passed the word to "let the Jersey Boys score a few runs," which quickly became eight with none out.  Having opened the gates of mercy, the Stars couldn't close them before Deckertown tied the score, forcing an extra inning, but fortunately the Star Club came back to win.    Regardless of whether this almost fatal attempt at "mercy" was accurate or not, base ball was in Sussex County to stay. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ron Gabriel Award

Very pleased to learn that Ebbets Field: Essays and Memories of Brooklyn's Historic Ballpark, 1913-1960 has been awarded the 2014 Ron Gabriel award by SABR for the best book published about the Brooklyn Dodgers in 2013.  Thanks to all those who contributed to this project.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Crossing the Delaware - Then and Now

On Saturday, the Neshanock traveled south to visit the Athletic Club of Philadelphia.  While this was far from the first match with the team from the city of Brotherly Love, it was Flemington's first visit to the Athletic's home grounds in Fairmount Park.  Granddaughter watching kept me from making the trip, but I understand the Athletics were very gracious hosts, among other things serving homemade beer in mason jars.  Thanks as always to stalwart Mark "Gaslight" Granieri for providing both pictures and a summary of the matches for the Neshanock's worldwide following.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Both matches were played by 1864 rules and the first contest was close until Flemington erupted for eight runs in the bottom of the eighth on the way to a 17-7 win.  Ken "Tumbles" Mandel pitched for the Neshanock, but had an even more exceptional performance at the plate, walking each of the four times he came the striker's line.  I'm not sure if "Tumbles" was put out on the bases, but if not this was his second unique clear score.  Two years ago against these very same Athletics, he "earned" a clear score completely on Athletic fielding muffs.  In the second game, the two clubs traded seven run innings early in the contest, but Flemington took an 18-11 lead going to the ninth behind the pitching of Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw.  The Athletics staged a three run rally and had men on base, but the Neshanock held on for an 18-14 win.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Although I was present only in spirit, the Neshanock's trip to Philadelphia, along with my own "journey" through southern New Jersey newspapers led to some pondering on Philadelphia's influence on the development of base ball  in New Jersey.  As is well known in base ball history circles, beginning in the 1830's, young men in Philadelphia organized clubs to play a game called town ball by contemporaries, but today better referred to as Philadelphia town ball to distinguish it from other games with the same name.  An excellent reconstruction of Philadelphia town ball by Richard Hershberger is available in Volume 1, Number 2 of Baseball: A Journal of the Early Game, but some of the major differences between it and the New York game include:

1. The bases consisted of five stakes in a circle about 30 feet in diameter with only about 19 feet between the bases.

2. For the side to be retired, all eleven batters had to be put out.

3. Runners could be put out by being hit with a thrown ball, an act known as "soaking or plugging."

4. After hitting the ball safely, runners could not stop at a base so that each at bat produced either an out or a run.

Reportedly the Athletic Club  is going to recreate Philadelphia town ball at the Gettysburg vintage base ball festival the weekend of July 19-20th which should be well worth watching.

Olympic Club of Philadelphia Constitution

Best known of the city's town ball clubs was the Olympic Club which dates back to the early 1830's , making it more than ten years older than the better known Knickerbockers of New York City.  Although these two pioneering clubs played a fundamentally different game, they had at least one thing in common, circumstances forced them to cross the river (Hudson or Delaware) and play in New Jersey (Hoboken or Camden).  It took a while in both cases, but by the late 1850's, young men in New Jersey formed their own clubs to follow in the footsteps of their visitors from New York and Philadelphia.  In the case of south Jersey this led to the formation of the Camden Club, thus far the only New Jersey team known to initially play town ball or more specifically Philadelphia town ball.  But unlike the experience of the New York game in northern New Jersey,  the expansion of Philadelphia town ball started and ended in Camden,  Other than the Camden Club, reviews of newspapers in Camden, Gloucester, Ocean, Cape May, Cumberland and Burlington Counties produced not a single reference to town ball clubs through the entire antebellum period.

West Jerseyman - June 23, 1858

Why didn't Philadelphia town ball spread any further into New Jersey than Camden?  And conversely why did the New York game reach as far as central New Jersey by 1860?  In speculating about this or any issue regarding the spread of the early game, it is important to remember the limited number of ways one could experience, and thereby, become interested in, any new game.  The practical possibilities were limited to witnessing a game in person, listening to an eyewitness who had seen or played in one or by reading about it in the newspaper, with the first two being the ones more likely to generate a lot of enthusiasm. 

New York Clipper - August 11, 1860

Both seeing or hearing about base ball required a personal eyewitness so a key factor was the number of opportunities to see a game or at least talk to someone who either watched a match, or even better, played in one.  To state the obvious, two things that increased or limited the seeing or listening possibilities were population and the transportation network.  Both factors were important in northern New Jersey as clubs playing the New York game were formed not only in nearby and heavily populated Hudson and Essex Counties, but also in smaller Trenton, Elizabeth, Rahway, New Brunswick and even relatively rural Somerville. 

Photo by Mark Granieri

As noted in prior posts, one common feature of these communities was a direct railroad link to Newark, Jersey City and ultimately New York.  Not only did northern New Jersey have this railroad network, but by 1855, it had been in place for almost 15 years.  According to John Cunningham in Railroads in New Jersey: The Formative Years, by 1850 this rail system carried significant commuter traffic to and from Manhattan as well as New Yorkers on excursions to contemporary recreational sites at places like Summit, Morristown and even Paterson.  Both this relatively sophisticated railroad network and the volume of passenger traffic significantly increased the possibility of a base ball experience.

None of the railroads depicted on this map existed before the Civil War

South Jersey on the other hand had far less population and almost no rail network whatsoever.  The nine southernmost counties had total 1860 population of about 227,000 compared to over 160,000 in Hudson and Essex counties alone.  But even if the area had more people, convenient interaction with Philadelphia and Camden simply didn't exist.  According to Cunningham there were no major railroads in south Jersey before 1860 and transportation to Philadelphia markets was limited to mule driven wagons and the Delaware River.  From a recreational/vacation standpoint, Cape May was practically accessible only by boat and there was little in Atlantic City to attract Philadelphia vacationers to ride the first railroad to the future resort.  Philadelphia town ball did receive some attention in the national sports weeklies including detailed game accounts in The New York Clipper, but other than very sporadic reports in the Camden newspapers, South Jersey papers took no notice of the game.  Here again, south Jersey suffered in comparison with the rest of the state which had all of New Jersey's ten or so daily newspapers.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Regardless of whatever other factors may have worked against the expansion of Philadelphia town ball into south Jersey, there were simply too few potential players and a lack of convenient access to the game for those potential players.  These factors most likely also explain why the New York game itself didn't make it south of Trenton until the war years when there was a different set of dynamics.  The lack of development of any organized bat and ball games in the southern part of the state also suggests that northern New Jersey was uniquely positioned as  a place where base ball could become well established once it moved beyond New York City and Brooklyn (a separate city until 1898).  In addition to its proximity to those two major population centers, northern New Jersey had, for the time, a significant population base, a well developed transportation system and numerous daily newspapers.  Without studying other communities near Manhattan and Brooklyn, it still seems reasonable to think it would be hard to find similar conditions any place close to the New York metropolitan area.  Looking at how base ball expansion was different throughout the entire state demonstrates the importance of northern New Jersey's infrastructure to base ball's initial sustainability. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Enclosed Fields, Admission Fees and Tough Losses

Base ball, or at least the New York game, has been with us for almost 170 years, but it never loses the ability to surprise us, no matter how much we think we know what's going to happen.  Today's Neshanock - Resolute match played at the Somerset Patriots ballpark in Bridgewater is a case in point.  Last week the Elizabeth Resolutes played two strong matches in Smithtown including a win over the Brooklyn Atlantics while only a handful of the Neshanock saw their first 2014 game action.  As might be expected, given those circumstances, Elizabeth jumped out to a 10-1 lead after four innings and it looked like it was going to be a one sided affair.   But suddenly the Resolutes started making mistakes in the field and the Neshanock were quick to take advantage.  Down 11-4 going to the bottom of the sixth, Flemington scored eight times to take an 12-11 lead.

Photo by Mark Granieri

The latter half of the match was a back and forth affair with the Neshanock taking the lead and Elizabeth catching up.  In the top of the ninth, Flemington held a one run lead and the Resolutes were down to their last out with no one base, but the Neshanock couldn't close it out and Elizabeth took a one run lead going to the bottom of the inning.  Flemington had a runner on third with two out, but the match ended with Elizabeth prevailing by one tally.  While it wasn't the cleanest played game on both sides, it was very competitive and a tough loss for the Neshanock.

Photo by Mark Granieri

 Flemington had a balanced attack with Dan "Sledge" Hammer, Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner,  Scott "Snuffy" Hengst, Joe "Mick" Murray and Ken "Tumbles" Mandel each contributing two hits.  Leading the attack, however was muffin Glen Modica, who in his first ever match, had three hits including a key bases loaded double in the Neshanock's eight run sixth.   Well done sir!  Let's hope the improved play in the second half of the match will be something to build on in the weeks ahead beginning next Saturday against the Athletic Club of Philadelphia in the City of Brotherly Love.

 Photo by Mark Granieri

Recreating 19th century base ball in an enclosed ball park without an admission charge is more than a little ironic.  Scheduling matches at enclosed facilities as well as building such facilities for base ball began primarily so that admission could be charged.  The most noteworthy early instance of a match played on an enclosed ground with admission charge took place in the summer of 1858 in what has become known as the Fashion Course games.  Named for a race track near today's Citi Field, the Fashion Course games were a best of three series between New York and Brooklyn "all star" teams.  Large crowds, including a group from Jersey City, made their way to the site and paid 10 cents to enter the grounds with an additional 20 or 40 cents charge depending on whether your carriage was drawn by one or two horses.

Fashion Course Games - New York Clipper - July 24, 1858

Given the popularity of the series (won 2-1 by the New York side), it was only a question of time before someone tried a more permanent arrangement.  Leading the way in 1862 was William Cammeyer, who opened his Union Grounds in the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn to base ball matches.  Three years later, Brooklyn got its  second ball park, the Capitoline Grounds in Brownsville, and, according to William Ryczek in Baseball's First Inning, the two places became "the models for all others."  One of the "others" hosted an 1864 New Jersey-Pennsylvania "all star" game as part of the U.S. Sanitary Commission Fair in Philadelphia.  Located at Jefferson and 25th Street, near the Spring Garden Reservoir, the grounds were the new home of the Olympic Club, originally a Philadelphia town ball team older even than the Knickerbocker Club of New York.  The gate receipts went for the benefit of the Sanitary Commission (a Union Soldier's Relief organization) which was probably the rationale for what appears to be base ball's first 25 cent admission fee, not including horses.

Brooklyn's Union Grounds

Although New Jersey's clubs played in games, like the 1864 Philadelphia match, where admission was charged, the first such game in New Jersey apparently wasn't played until 1866 and under more than unusual circumstances.  According to the December 13, 1866 edition of a Mount Holly newspaper, a game was played in Bordentown a few days earlier between two teams "composed on the one side of some of the fattest men in the state, and on the other some of the leanest."  Similar matches had been played in other parts of New Jersey, but in this case, a 10 cent admission fee was charged and reportedly $112 was collected, meaning over 1100 were present.  The total crowd was actually described as being much larger as "the field was an open one and hundreds could see without paying."  No explanation was provided as to what was done with the money or why so many people attended an outdoor event in December, a question perhaps better left unanswered.

New Jersey Mirror and Burlington County Advertiser - December 20, 1866

Admission fees did, however, become an issue for the state's leading clubs in the post war period.  In August of 1867, the Newark Evening Courier lamented that unlike "all the other famous clubs," the Eureka lacked a permanent ground where they could "charge a small entrance fee" to "defray the expenses of the club."  No further details were provided about the expenses, but other contemporary accounts strongly suggest the Eureka Club was paying at least some of its players.   Supposedly the biggest obstacle to building an enclosed ground was the high cost of land in Newark and the paper urged concerned citizens to support the club financially because the Eureka were "a big advertising card for us."  Unfortunately this and any other such efforts were fruitless and the Eureka Club played only one more full season.

Edward "The Only" Nolan 

A year later in 1868, the Olympic Club of Paterson, honored with a visit from the renown Brooklyn Atlantics, adopted the Fashion Course model, by using the Paterson racetrack to host the match.  Reportedly there was "quite a large crowd," in spite of a 25 cent admission charge, but unfortunately a large number of people got in without paying and the two clubs "lost considerable money by the blunder."  Whether financial issues were a contributing factor isn't clear, but the Olympics were largely inactive after 1868 until the club was reborn in the 1870's when it produced four future major leaguers including one Hall of Fame player, Michael "King" Kelly and one Hall of Fame nickname, Edward "The Only" Nolan.

Photo by Mark Granieri

By 1870 admission fees were becoming fairly standard at  a wide range of New Jersey locations including Jersey City, Somerville and Trenton.  In Jersey City, the Champion Club solved the lack of an enclosed ground by building a  "tier of seats," for which they charged admission, women were admitted to the seats at no charge.  Initially admission to this version of a 19th century "luxury box" cost 10 cents, but went up to 25 cents for a match with the Star Club of Brooklyn which reportedly attracted "several thousand" even at the higher price.  While the quality of play probably wasn't as high as in Jersey City, the Somerset Unionist informed prospective spectators to a "Waxer" Club of Somerville match that admission for the contest against the "Centrals" of Plainfield would cost adults 25 cents and children a dime.

Children's Soldier's Home, Trenton - 1873

With the exception of the match at the Paterson racetrack, none of these contests were played on an enclosed ground.  Surprisingly, it seems New Jersey's first enclosed base ball field was built not in one of the state's larger cities, but in the relatively less populous state capital at Trenton.  In June of 1870, the Daily True American reported construction of a new base ball and cricket grounds that was "completely fenced" near the new Soldier's Children's Home at the intersection of Hamilton and Chestnut Streets.  Built to house orphans left behind by the state's Civil War veterans, the property ultimately became the first New Jersey Institute for the Deaf.  An admission fee of "a quarter of a dollar" was charged for a June 24th match with the well known Athletic Club of Philadelphia and a crowd estimated at 700 paid to see the Trenton Club decisively defeated 48-11.  Apparently not in the least bit intimidated, the Trenton Club again stepped up on class in September and were shut out 19-0 by the New York Mutuals.  Regardless of the result, it was clear that enclosed ball parks and admission fees were here to stay. 

Photo by Mark Granieri

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Starting the Season - Then and Now

My first foray into 19th century base ball research was for an essay about the Eureka Base Ball Club of Newark which was ultimately published in Baseball Founders last summer.  The research began by going through the Newark Daily Advertiser from the early 1860's beginning with April and May, the months we typically associate with the beginning of the base ball season.  To my surprise I didn't find a single reference to the Eureka in particular, or base ball in general, which made me wonder whether I was going to find anything at all.  However, once I hit June, accounts of the Eureka club's matches as well as other base ball reports began to appear regularly.  This was probably my first practical introduction to many of the differences between base ball then and now.  Although it changed to some degree later in the 1860's, match or competitive play in New Jersey typically didn't begin until June and then ran through early November.

 April in the late 1850's and early 1860's was apparently devoted to organizational meetings and practice.  In early April of 1861, for example, the Hamilton Club of Jersey City met to decide a number of issues including their home grounds and the date of their first practice.  The minutes of that meeting were the last entry in their records as the next day the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter and the Hamilton Club was never heard of again.  Using April for those purposes has not been continued by vintage clubs which is most likely due, not to a lack of respect for historical accuracy, but an understandable desire to start playing as soon as the weather permits, even if it (the weather) does so grudgingly.

As a result, yesterday saw a small group from the Flemington Neshanock travel to Smithtown, Long Island for matches with the Brooklyn Atlantics and the Elizabeth Resolutes.  Unfortunately only five Flemington players were there, but in the true spirit of vintage base ball, players from the New York Mutuals, New York Gothams, the Brooklyn Eckford and probably other clubs I'm missing stepped in so Flemington could field a full team.  In the Neshanock's first match with the host Atlantics, Flemington and friends generated little offensive, but played some good defense early in the contest so that at the end of three innings, the Atlantic margin was only four runs.  Like their namesakes, however, the Atlantics are a championship club and it was only a matter of time before they took complete control for an overwhelming victory.

The second contest against the Resolutes was not much better from the Neshanock standpoint as the Elizabeth Club appeared to be in mid-season form scoring five times in the bottom of the first.  Once again Flemington stayed within striking distance for the first three innings, but like the Atlantics, Elizabeth broke open the game and rolled to an easy victory.  I understand the Resolutes also defeated the Atlantic in the third match of the day - congratulations to the Elizabeth club on an excellent start to the season.  It's hard to find much positive in two such decisive defeats, but Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw did have three well placed hits in the first game, and almost had a clear score as he (or his legs) was/were put out once on the bases.  "Brooklyn" also had one long hit in the second game (longer than the three in the first game combined) and Scott "Snuffy" Hengst knocked a long double, but those were about the only highlights.  Next week Flemington makes its only New Jersey appearance of the month at the Somerset Patriots ballpark as part of that independent league club's fan appreciation day.

 For the early New Jersey clubs finding the right time to start the season was probably just part of the overall learning process of starting and sustaining a base ball club.   Back 150 years ago in 1864, the very idea of playing a season of games against other clubs was relatively new.  If we take the 1857 convention as the beginning of regular match play on a relatively broad basis, 1864 was only the seventh year of a season which ran roughly from June to November.  The prior six seasons were equally divided between three years of peace time growth, followed by a similar period of trying to figure out how, if at all, to continue playing  in a country divided by Civil War.

New York Clipper - May 14, 1864 account of a presentation of the new pitching rules to the Eagle Club of New York

No matter how difficult those adjustments may have been, by the spring of 1864, the game had survived three years of war and the New York Clipper boldly proclaimed that "not since 1861 has there been a season that has opened more auspiciously for the welfare of the game."  Another paper felt that although base ball matches had continued during the war, the players themselves had not neglected their patriotic duties.  Previewing a May, 1864 New Jersey-Pennsylvania "all star" match (about which more on the anniversary) in support of the U.S. Sanitary Commission's Fair in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Item claimed "no class in the community has exceeded the base ball players of the north," in "the cheerful willingness to tender their services, and if need be, offer up their lives."  Such patriotic rhetoric is standard fare during wartime, but doesn't always match reality or at least it didn't in the case of New Jersey's base ball players.  It is sometimes forgotten that Civil War military service was primarily voluntary, in New Jersey, for example, over 70,000 men served in the military, but less than 1000 were drafted.  For the prominent clubs, like the Eureka of Newark, it appears the number who chose not to go exceeded those who had "gone for a soldier."

Newark Daily Advertiser - May 2, 1864

By 1864, there seems to have been almost a parallel existence between base ball and the war with the war's only significant impact on a club, the loss of those players who chose to volunteer.  For example, the May 2, 1864 "news" page of the Newark Daily Advertiser included an article about the upcoming base ball season, a long report from the 33rd New Jersey at Chattanooga and a report about the impending draft. The spring of 1864 did mark the end of a significant number of three year enlistments so clubs like the Newark Eureka looked forward to some base ball reinforcements especially, pitcher James Linen.  Whatever other adjustments Linen faced in his return to base ball, he was going to have to get used to new pitching rules adopted at the end of 1863.  One change, ended a similarity with cricket as the addition of a back line to the pitcher's position eliminated the pitcher's ability to get a running start before releasing the ball.  Beginning in 1864, pitchers also had to have both feet on the ground when pitching the ball, but perhaps the most historic change was the introduction of "balls" some six years or so after "strikes" became part of the game.  Unlike today, only three balls were necessary for the striker to head for first and all base runners moved up a base, regardless of their place on the bases.  That meant, for example, that a walk with a runner on third, scored the runner, perhaps the origin of the old  base ball cliche that "a walk is as good as a hit."

Newark Daily Advertiser - May 2, 1864

Anyone following the rules debates at the end of 1863 probably recognized that another major change wasn't far off.  The fair bound out whereby strikers were retired on any batted ball caught on a bounce had been debated frequently and it's proposed elimination at the 1863 convention failed by only three votes.  The days of the so-called "bound game" were clearly numbered and 1864 would, in fact, be it's final season.  Rule changes of this magnitude must have been on the minds of New Jersey players as they prepared for the new season.  Some of them may also have been wondering if they would be around for the whole season as the draft scheduled for May was about to make military service a whole lot less optional.  Some of the state's premier players may also have been wondering about their chances of being selected for the aforementioned "all-star" match in Philadelphia scheduled for about the same time as the draft.

New York Clipper - May 14, 1864

With at least some of these things on their minds, milder spring weather enabled countless young men and boys in New Jersey to start playing base ball again.  Further south, milder weather meant the beginning of a different kind of season, the Union spring offensive.  Taking advantage of a very brief window before the resumption of full scale hostilities, members of the 1st New Jersey played and lost a match with a team from the 10th Massachusetts.  For 1st New Jersey shortstop, Alexander Dobson of Middlesex County, it was his last base ball game, a week later he was killed in the battle of the Wilderness, less than 30 days before the end of his three year enlistment.  Regardless of whether or not the season's start was auspicious or not, the game's long term survival seemed fairly certain, but the survival of the Union itself was far more problematic, something we will periodically explore in the 150th anniversary of one of the most crucial years in American history.