Sunday, June 29, 2014

Build It or Not, They Will Come

Photo by Mark Granieri

Having spent last Saturday in one of the easternmost points in New Jersey, yesterday the Neshanock headed south and west to historic Princeton to play their annual match on behalf of the Historical Society of Princeton.  Although I was unable to be there, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri once again filled multiple roles, providing a game summary along with photos in addition to his usual stalwart play in the Neshanock lineup.  Saturday's opponent was the Diamond State Club of Delaware, a relatively new club which has become a formidable foe in a relatively short time.  That was more than evident in the first match, played under 1864 rules, as Diamond State got off to a 11-3 lead after 2 innings aided by a number of Neshanock defensive lapses.  Although the Neshanock's play improved after that, the Delaware club coasted to an easy 13-4 triumph.  The second contest was played under 1873 rules and Flemington combined good hitting and fielding to record an easy 16-2 victory behind the pitching of Dan "Sledge" Hammer.  Reportedly the Neshanock defense was especially, strong making multiple double plays including two started by "Mango," a very promising Neshanock muffin.  Next Saturday, Flemington returns to the northern part of the state for matches sponsored by the Bergen County Historical Society at historic New Bridge Landing in River Edge, New Jersey.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Just seeing the pictures of the wide open spaces in Princeton compared to the cramped quarters last week in Hoboken was a further reminder of the importance of convenient playing space in the early development of the New York game.  But even though Elysian Fields' primary contribution to base ball was providing ample and accessible space for the pioneering New York clubs of the 1840's and 1850's, the game continued to be played there throughout most of the 19th century.  In fact, a review of New York city newspapers suggests the base ball fields were the last part of the Stevens' pastoral playground to succumb to the 19th century equivalent of urban sprawl.  As late as November of 1888, 45 years after the Magnolia Club gathered at Elysian Fields for base ball and chowder, the Cuban Giants, a black club, were scheduled to play a match on the historic grounds on the Hudson.  With such a long history as a base ball venue, Elysian Fields witnessed many of the game's transitions including one embodied by a Brooklyn Atlantics - New York Mutuals match played on August 3, 1865

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper - October 11, 1856

Although drawn almost a decade earlier, the picture gives a sense of the throngs taking the ferry from Manhattan to Elysian Fields

For the most part the New York clubs which called Elysian Fields home were of the gentlemanly variety, playing more for exercise than for competitive success.  The primary exception was the New York Mutual Club which became one of the best teams of the 1860s as well as one of the most controversial because of their connections to the Tammany Hall political machine.  Throughout the Civil War years the Mutuals were very successful, but never quite good enough to unseat the Eckford or the Atlantics and win the championship.  In 1864, for example, the Mutuals won 20 out of 23 matches, but two of the losses came at the hands of the Atlantics who went undefeated and re-claimed the championship from the Eckford.  While the Mutuals were, no doubt, frustrated by coming so close in 1864, they still most likely looked forward to another championship run in 1865 in a post war world.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Although base ball was somewhat slowed down by the war, there had been some innovations including the first regular use of enclosed grounds facilitating both crowd control and charging admission (not necessarily in that order).  By 1864, Brooklyn had both the Union and Capitoline Grounds while the Athletics of Philadelphia opened their new field at Jefferson and 25th Street that very season.  The trend continued in 1865 with the Eureka Club of Newark's new grounds at Ferry and Adams Street which weren't enclosed, but still earned praise from the New York Clipper (probably Henry Chadwick) for the handling of  large crowds.  Even though the Mutuals continued to play at Elysian Fields, they recognized the need for upgraded facilities and worked out a plan with the Stevens family for improvements on the north field in anticipation of the 1865 season.  While cost figures were not released, the Clipper reported the total expense was three times more than anticipated.  In addition to cutting down trees, removing rocks and leveling the ground, the Mutuals erected "an amphitheatre of seats," which the Clipper claimed would make it the "most popular resort for ball players in the country."

Photo by Mark Granieri

Given the cost overruns,  it's not surprising that the upgrades at Elysian Fields also took longer than expected, but by August all was in readiness for the first championship match at the "new" north field or so the Mutuals thought.  The first sign of unusually high interest in the game was the amount of pre-match conversation as the New York Herald reported the impending contest between two undefeated clubs was the "talk of the town."  Match day itself quickly showed what lay ahead as the crowd began gathering at 11:00, hours before the first pitch.  By 1:00 the ferries were so packed that some passengers wondered if the load would swamp and sink the boat.  Nor was the river the only heavily traveled access route as the "north road was hidden with the clouds of dust" from the many horse drawn conveyances bringing people to the match.  Whether it was the euphoria of the end  of the war or the opportunity to see two of the best clubs for free (other than the ferry ride), a record breaking crowd was gathering.  Estimating the crowd at 18-20000 (a similar figure was given by the Clipper), the Sunday Mercury proclaimed it the "most numerous assemblage of spectators" ever to attend a match.

Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper - August 26, 1865

Apparently the trees removed as part of the improvements to the north field did not include the one located only a few feet from the striker's line

As game time approached and the "human tide still flowed" towards the north field, both on foot and "via the cars," two things must have dawned on the leaders of the Mutual Club.  At least one person, most likely the treasurer, mourned the loss of prospective gate receipts, but more pressing and more immediate was how to handle the huge crowd.  Complicating the problem was the New Jersey location where New York City and Brooklyn police lacked jurisdiction and Hoboken's force was far too small for the task at hand.  Whatever order was imposed had to come from the Mutuals and they at least ensured any ladies in the crowd got seats, even if that meant demanding that seated males do the manly thing.  By 3:00 all the seats were long gone, with the rest of the huge throng packed five deep around the field while others perched in trees or on the outbuildings of Perry's Hotel.

Peter O'Brien of the Atlantic Base Ball Club of Brooklyn

Not surprisingly, the standees had encroached on to the playing field itself so it took the Mutuals 45 minutes to clear an adequate playing area, but even then spectators remained in portions of the outfield.  Metaphorically holding his nose to some degree, the Clipper reporter (again most likely Chadwick) commented that the crowd was made up of "all classes" including Brooklyn and New York "roughs" and, even worse, the "black leg fraternity," pickpockets who in their wildest dreams couldn't have imagined such a vast sea of potential victims with so little police protection.  Also present were those with a "pecuniary interest" in the outcome who didn't hesitate to interfere with play when it was to their advantage.  According to the Sunday Mercury, fan interference cost Start and Chapman of the Atlantics home runs while Zeller of the Mutuals was cut down running on a foul ball because he couldn't hear the umpire's call.  In spite of the outside interruptions the two clubs played, and the fans saw, a very competitive match.  The Mutuals led 7-6 after three innings, but in the top of the fourth, the Atlantics who "thought it time to be up and doing in the batting line," scored three times and had two on with veteran Peter O'Brien at the plate.  O'Brien solved the crowd interference problem by hitting the ball so far no one could deny his right to a home run as the crowd applauded "vociferously."

New York Clipper - August 12, 1865

Discouraged, but not disheartened, the Mutuals rallied in the fifth and reduced the margin to just one tally, trailing 13-12 while dark storm clouds gathered on the horizon.  With five innings in the books, the game was official with the Atlantics ahead so the Mutuals only hope was to play another full inning and be ahead when the inning was complete.  Before the 6th inning could begin, however, the game ball split at the seams with the only replacement ball locked in the Mutuals dressing room.  Incredibly the Mutual who went to get the ball, forgot to take the key, forcing a return visit that cost 10 minutes the Mutuals couldn't afford to waste.  To their credit the Atlantics didn't stall in their at bat, going out quickly in order, but it didn't help the Mutuals.  Still down only one tally in their half of the sixth, the New York club got their first two men on when the rains came, ending the game and the Mutuals chances for victory.

New York Clipper - August 12, 1865

With base ball done for the day, the rush was on for the limited cover at Perry's Hotel where supposedly only one of twenty got out of the downpour.  For the light-fingered, it was like shooting fish in a barrel as the pickpockets did a "flourishing business."  Mr. Perry himself kindly came to Chadwick's assistance, using an "oilskin covering" to protect his score book and notes.  Once the principals had gathered, the understandably disappointed Mutuals presented the game ball to the Atlantics, while doubtless already looking forward to the August 14th rematch at Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn.  Meanwhile the "well washed multitude" trekked through the mud and water to the ferry, reportedly indifferent to the "torrent of water," probably because they couldn't get any wetter.  His equilibrium restored, if not dried out, Chadwick called for  "one hundred Metropolitan police with persuasive hickory sticks" to attend the rematch to "see that a perfectly clear field is provided."  Accounts of that match make no mention of security issues and the Atlantics won, en route to another undefeated season, successfully defending their championship in the process.

New York Herald- August 4, 1865

Third up from the bottom is a personal ad offering a reward for a "gold-hunting case watch" supposedly "lost" at the August 3rd match, but more likely one of the victims of "black leg fraternity."

 The security issues at Elysian Fields continued to be a serious matter and similar problems arose when the clubs returned to Hoboken in September of 1866.  Already a believer himself, Chadwick thought everyone in attendance that day "were thoroughly convinced that enclosed grounds are the only suitable localities for important contests."  A year later, Edwin Stevens agreed as he forbade any future championship matches at Elysian Fields forcing the Mutuals to relocate to the Union Grounds in Brooklyn so that New York City's best team now played its most important matches in the city of churches.   Elysian Fields provided badly needed space for the early New York clubs, but the most competitive level of the game had outgrown its capacity barring a significant financial investment to enclose the field which no one, including the Stevens family, was apparently willing to do.  The August 3, 1865 match demonstrated that as the quality of play improved, facilities had to keep step, a process that has continued ever since.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Return to Base Ball's Incubator

 Photo by Mark Granieri

Every year on the Saturday closest to June 19th, the Neshanock visit Hoboken to play a match in honor of the Knickerbocker Club of New York's first match game played on that date in 1846 against the New York Club.  For at least two years, the match was against a Hoboken club put together just for that one game, but about three years ago the Hoboken Nine were formed, a welcome addition to New Jersey's vintage base ball community.  In the past the match was played at Stevens Institute located on the site of the Stevens' estate and not far from historic Elysian Fields.  This year the field at Stevens was being replaced so the match was moved to John F. Kennedy Stadium, the home field of Hoboken High School.  Unfortunately, from an historic standpoint, both fields have artificial turf, but just being in Hoboken serves as a reminder of the early days of the New York game.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Today's match began with Hoboken tallying twice in their first striking opportunity, but Flemington quickly responded with three tallies in their first appearance at the striking line.  Hoboken continued to hit well in the match's early stages adding five more tallies, to lead 7-4 after four innings.  Things changed after that as Hoboken could only manage one tally over the next two innings while Flemington scored seven times to take an 11-8 lead as the match headed to the seventh inning.  In the bottom of the sixth, the first four Flemington strikers all reached base with three scoring, but Hoboken retired the next ten strikers in order.  No offense accompanied by weak defense is a deadly combination and when Hoboken scored three in the eighth, the local team had a 12-11 lead as the match went to its last inning.  Flemington took the field hoping to keep the margin at one run, but Hoboken was not to be denied, erupting for four more tallies to put the game out of reach, preserving a 16-12 win.  Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner led the Flemington attack with three hits, followed by five other Neshanock who had two apiece. 

Photo by Mark Granieri

While the primary purpose of the Neshanock's visit to Hoboken was the annual commemoration of the 1846 match, in a larger sense the event also honored Elysian Fields part in the early development of the New York game.  Just as many early 20th century ballparks were "green cathedrals," Elysian Fields was, in a similar way, a special gathering place for the early practitioners of the new form of an old game to conduct their "religious" exercises.  Although not in any sense base ball's birthplace, Elysian Fields played an incubator like role for the New York game, providing ample, accessible and available space from the first days of field practice to the beginnings of competitive play of the 1850's and beyond.  Perhaps the most important advantage of the greensward on the Hudson was its availability as ample and accessible space is frequently lost to commercial development.  Fortunately for base ball, the Stevens' family learned that operating Elysian Fields as "a pleasure ground for old New York" was more profitable (ferry fees) than developing the land for housing or other uses.

Map of Hoboken from Hopoghan Hackingh: Hoboken, A Pleasure Resort for Old New York by Charles H. Winfield

So obvious were  Elysian Fields's advantages to early New York ball players that, as John Thorn has shown, other New York base ball clubs like the Magnolia Club, played there before the Knickerbockers had even been organized.  The transition to competitive play in the 1850's plus the formation of more clubs gradually increased the number of New York base ball players paying their pennies to ride the Stevens family ferry.  By 1857 when the final stage of base ball's antebellum growth was getting underway, six different New York clubs had contracted to use what appear to be two different parts of Elysian Fields as their home base ball grounds.  To that point those who had never visited the pastoral playground in Hoboken lacked any real sense of what base ball at Elysian Fields actually looked like since newspapers provided only written descriptions. That changed in September of that year when both Porter's Spirit of the Times and the New York Clipper each commissioned artists to prepare engravings of a September 8, 1857 Eagle - Gotham Club match at Elysian Fields.

New York Clipper - September 19, 1857

According to the practice schedule Tuesday was a regular day for both clubs to play in Hoboken, but based on the Clipper account, the field depicted in the drawings was the Eagle Club's home grounds.  The engravings appear to be contradictory with regard to the location of the home plate, but the Clipper caption stresses their picture was "a correct representation" and it is certainly the more detailed of the two.  Among other things the drawing illustrates the lack of seating (reportedly not added until 1862) as well as the marque or tent to the right of the catcher, most likely the "suitable accommodations for the ladies" frequently mentioned in contemporary accounts.  Between the tent and the striker is a man seated on a chair, described as the referee (umpire) "solitary and alone."  According to the Clipper, he is "ready to mete out justice to all when appealed to."  Both the picture and the description illustrate the more passive role of the umpire when he had no responsibility to call strikes (1858) or balls (1864) and served primarily as the court of last resort on plays the players couldn't resolve for themselves.

Porter's Spirit of the Times - September 12, 1857

Of special interest to a vintage (in more ways than one) scorekeeper, is the scorers table located between the striker and the dark uniformed Eagle players.  Labeled "umpires" in the caption, the picture confirms that as early as 1857 scorekeepers were most likely reserve players.  At the time score keeping was rudimentary and the most important responsibility was most likely mutual agreement on the score, the number of outs and the striking order.  Having both scorers at a stand alone table anticipates the scorers table at basketball games and emphasizes the "official" nature of the role in a pre-scoreboard era.  The joint position of the two scorekeepers also suggests a desire, possibly drawing on past experience, to prevent potential disagreements about the score.  Also of interest is the positioning of the fielders with the three basemen positioned on top of their respective bases with the shortstop in a more or less modern position as are the center fielder and left fielder.  Not so with the right fielder, who appears to to be in a modern second baseman's position, whether the positioning is accurate, artistic license or a lack of knowledge on the artist's part is unclear.  Finally note the bats which appear to be lying in fair territory just to the right and front of the pitcher.  Once again this could be artistic license, but the caption itself states the bats are "on the field."

New York Clipper - September 19, 1857

Having devoted half of its front page to the picture, the Clipper's game account was limited in space, but not superlatives.   According to the writer, the match was attended by "immense crowds" who were rewarded with "spectacular [defensive play] on both sides," thereby preventing any "large scores from the bat."  Down 2-0 after one inning, the Eagle Club tallied four times in the second and twice in the third for a 6-3 lead in route to a 15-9 triumph.  After the match at least four Eagle Club members didn't have to join the throngs boarding the ferry for New York City.  Williams, Bixby, Gilman and Brinkerhoff were Jersey City residents who played with that city's charter clubs in 1855.  The combined New York - New Jersey makeup of the Eagle Club lineup, along with Elysian Fields' role as the "home" grounds for the early New York City clubs, illustrates how the New York game was actually a "Greater" New York affair.  Recently I read somewhere that base ball in 1855 was limited to New York and Brooklyn, yet according to the Protoball web site, that same year New Jersey had as many clubs as Brooklyn (10 each) and more than New York City (6).  While the actual numbers are debatable, there was a lot of base ball was played in New Jersey in the 1850's, some of it by New Jersey clubs.  This is not to argue about the relative importance of New Jersey's role, but to emphasize the regional aspect of the New York game's early days.  Commemorating Elysian Field's role as a base ball incubator helps do just that. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Is This Any Way to Run a Base Ball Club?

 Photo not by Mark Granieri

In order to have a base ball match there are some things that are required and other things which aren't mandatory, but make for an enjoyable experience.  Among the latter are nice weather, a good venue,  a reasonable trip and interested fans, all of which the Neshanock had today for their annual visit to the Howell Living History Farm near Lambertville, New Jersey.  Missing, however, was one of the essential things - the opponent, as the other team didn't muster anywhere near enough players.  Faced with this challenge and not wanting to disappoint the fans, Flemington did the manly thing by dividing up into two teams and inviting some of the spectators to join us.  Everything worked out very well as all of the participants got plenty of playing time and in someways it was a better way to introduce the 19th century game to a new audience.  The two squads must have been well matched as the game was tied after nine and looked like it was headed to the 11th when Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw struck a walk off single off of Ken "Tumbles" Mandel.  Having played today close to the banks of the Delaware, next week, the Neshanock head east for the annual Hoboken game commemorating the 1846 Knickerbocker - New York Club match

Photo not by Mark Granieri

 The highest and most widely shared value in the vintage base ball community is the importance of historical accuracy in recreating 19th century base ball.  Whether through social media, e-mail groups or by in-person encounters before, during and after matches, the discussion, debate and even argument goes on about how the game was played on-the-field.  To my knowledge, however, what clubs did and how they behaved off-the-field, receives little or no attention.  If the September 8, 1859 meeting of the Hamilton Club of Jersey City is anything to go by, failure to recreate that aspect of 19th century base ball is probably a good thing.  The club's minute book, housed in the Hall of Fame Library in Cooperstown, opens a window on a scene that makes one wonder how the Hamiltons ever managed to play a match.

Title Page of the Hamilton Club Minute Book

The meeting that September evening took place at Jersey City's American Hotel, located at 9-11 Montgomery Street, near the Hudson River ferry.  Recorded in the neat handwriting of club secretary, Nathan B. Shafer, the minutes don't report the length of the meeting which is unfortunate as it must have gone on long enough for more than a few pair of eyes to have glazed over.  First up after the routine business of approving the minutes (probably the only routine thing about the meeting) was a vote on the prospective membership of Amos Williamson and Daniel Vorhees.  Voting was anonymous with white balls for yes and black balls for no, with three or more black balls sufficient for rejection.  Fortunately for Williamson (2 negative votes) and Vorhees (1 negative vote), they avoided the fate of F.A. Smith , the only prospective member recorded as being rejected.  Interestingly only 13 and 15 members respectively cast votes which is similar to other recorded votes.  The one surviving members list reflects 32 names so it appears meetings weren't, as a rule, well attended.  Perhaps the discussions that followed indicate why members avoided meetings whenever possible.

First two pages of the minutes from the September 9, 1859 Hamilton Club Meeting

With membership issues disposed of, attention turned to the upcoming return match with the Adriatic Club of Newark, to be hosted by the Hamiltons at their grounds in Jersey City.  The debate included motions and votes on the following:

The date of the match
The time of the match
Choosing a committee to select the "nine" and six subs subject to the approval of the president
Selection of a field captain
Selection of a scorekeeper
Whether or not to host a post match reception

Choosing the committee to select the nine was prolonged because one nominee and his substitute declined to serve.  This was nothing, however, compared to the debate over providing their guests with a post match meal.  In a series of motions and votes, the 13-15 present, decided they didn't want a price quote from the hotel proprietor, did want to offer some kind of refreshments, but not a collation.  The deadlock was resolved with a decision to provide the "usual refreshments" whatever that meant.  To make matters more confusing the debates on the match details and the repast were "sandwiched" around a debate on the momentous question of the time of field practice.  After motions for 3:00 for all practices or 3:30 for Saturday and the "usual" hour for Wednesday both failed, a compromise of  3:30 for both days passed, apparently satisfying those members to whom 30 minutes once a week was a major issue.

Daily Courier and Advertiser - September 13, 1859

As tedious as these debates sound, the meeting didn't lack passion.  Four separate members were fined 25 cents (the maximum fine possible) for disorderly conduct.  Scorekeeper Caciouri F. Alger was actually fined twice in succession.  On three other occasions, a member or members were frustrated enough to unsuccessfully try to move adjournment.  Clearly the Hamilton Club was not a group where harmony reigned.  Before finally adjourning the Hamiltons took up one more issue, whether to challenge the Eagle Club of New York to a match, but proposals for both first and second matches failed to get enough votes.  Why this was contentious isn't clear, but some of the Eagle Club regulars were, or had been, Jersey City residents.  Jersey City men would continue to play for the Eagle Club in the 1860's with Hamilton secretary Nathan Shafer eventually becoming president of the New York City club.

1860 Hamilton Club challenge to the Knickerbockers of New York City 

How typical were these acrimonious meetings among early base ball clubs?  In the section about the Knickerbocker Club of New York in Baseball Founders (co-written by John Thorn, Peter Morris and William Ryczek) club meetings are described as "more contentious and divisive" than on-the-field activities with "an unseemly number of petty quarrels."  It sounds like group decision making was no easier then than it is today, but a further question is to what extent most clubs required that every decision had to be voted on by the members.  Somewhere other than Baseball Founders, I read that the Knickerbocker officers made most of the decisions about matches which is a much more practical approach.  If the Flemington Neshanock are any indication of vintage base ball practice, scheduling is handled by the club president, but members certainly have input at different times and in different ways.  It seems unlikely many vintage players would consider decisions about match scheduling and post match repasts within their purview.  Depending upon how typical the Hamilton Club practice may have been, today's approach acknowledges the need for groups to delegate some powers to leaders.  Meetings like the September 8, 1959 Hamilton Club gathering probably got that practice adopted fairly quickly.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Predicting the Unpredictable

 After a rare weekend off (as opposed to an off weekend), the Neshanock returned to action on Sunday entertaining the Elkton Eclipse of Elkton, Maryland for two games at historic Gebhardt Field in Clinton, New Jersey.  Arriving early, I got a quick sense of just how historic this pristine setting was as base ball has been played there since about 1903, but it was even more historic for me and my family on a personal level.  My father, Hank Zinn, coached base ball and other sports at nearby High Bridge High School in the late 1930's, winning the county baseball championship in 1939.  I quickly ascertained that Clinton High School's team played at Gebhardt so that my father must have coached there at one time or another.   

Picture of High Bridge's 1939 Hunterdon County Championship baseball team, Hank Zinn is standing on the far right

Unfortunately the day's matches were any thing but historic.  The first contest was played under 1864 rules and the Neshanock highlights were winning the bat toss, my catching a foul ball (self-preservation kicked in) and a fine running catch by Scott "Snuffy" Hengst.   The only other thing worth mentioning in the 24-6 loss was a two hit performance by Ken "Tumbles" Mandel.  Mercifully the game was called after seven innings and after a brief break, the second match got underway using 1873 rules.  One of the major differences between 1864 and 1873 games is that fair balls have to be caught on the fly so 1873 matches tend to be more high scoring.  Surprisingly, however, the second match was lower scoring with the Neshanock actually leading 4-3 going to the bottom of the third.  Elkton is a fine club, however, and they eventually got their offense going as well as playing outstanding defense and won 14-6.  Although the run output was the same, Flemington hit much better with Dave "Illinois" Harris leading the way with two hits as well as pitching several innings.  The Neshanock defense was also much improved in this game especially the outfield play where Chris "Sideshow" Nunn made three fine catches.  The two losses left the Neshanock at 5-10 for the season heading into next week's matches with the Gotham Club of New York at the Howell Living History Farm

High Bridge High School baseball team - Hank Zinn is in the second row in the bow tie which presumably he didn't wear during games

 Given the Neshanock's defensive performance the past few weeks, the meltdown in the first contest was surprising, but if it does nothing else (and it does a whole lot else), base ball teaches us to expect the unexpected.  While that should be common knowledge, many still seem surprised when player and team performance doesn't conform to expectations.  A few weeks ago I wrote about the Irvington Club's 1866 upset of the mighty Brooklyn Atlantics, but anyone who thought the Irvington Club would go from one success to another that year got a rude awakening. The upstart "country club" did follow their upset win with a decisive 37-22 win over the Eckford Club, also of Brooklyn, but then apparently fearing no one, the Irvingtons next traveled to Philadelphia to challenge the mighty Athletic Club.  Coming off a 15-3 season, the Philadelphia team had won seven straight 1866 matches including the previously mentioned 92-2 thrashing (all adjectives are inadequate) of the Alert Club of Danville, Pennsylvania.  Even the most pessimistic Irvington player or fan must have believed their club couldn't do any worse and they were right, but not by much, as Irvington lost by the equally hard to believe score of 77-9.

 New York Clipper - July 28, 1866

While devastating doesn't begin to describe the humiliation of giving up a 25 run inning and losing by 68, it was only one game and although Irvington also lost the return match, it was by the much more respectable score of 18-11.  However, Irvington's first season as a senior club continued to be up and down and when the club traveled to Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn for the September return match with the Atlantics, optimism about the New Jersey club's chances was probably in short supply.  Since being upset by the Irvington in June, the Atlantics had lost only once and by the September 24th rematch both Dickie Pearce and Fred Crane were back in the Atlantic lineup.  With over three months to think about being both beaten and outsmarted by the upstarts from Irvington, the Brooklyn club was doubtless ready for revenge.

Dickey Pearce

Perhaps the still defending champions were a little too anxious for their own good as they failed to score in their first two at bats and trailed Irvington 2-0 coming to bat in the third.  When the first two Atlantic strikers went out, at least some on both benches and in the crowd must have wondered if history was about to repeat itself.  They need not have worried as aided by some poor work by Irvington catcher, Thomas Buckley, the Atlantics erupted for six runs and added eight more in the fourth for a 14-3 lead.  Irvington did rally for five runs in the bottom of the seventh, but it was far too little, far too late and the Atlantics got their revenge with an easy 28-11 victory.  Unnecessary as it appeared however, Irvington was still entitled to a third and deciding match which was reportedly going to be played at a neutral site in Hoboken.

Capitoline Grounds, Brooklyn

As the season moved towards its conclusion, the Atlantics were probably (and understandably) more worried about beating the Athletics of Philadelphia than the third match with Irvington.  The Philadelphia club's hopes for a perfect season ended with a 27-17 defeat by the Atlantics on October 15th, but the Philadelphians returned the favor, 31-12, a week later.  A final match would decide that issue, but first, the Atlantics had to take of business against both the Eureka Club of Newark and the Irvington Club, their only other losses of the season.  Brooklyn dispatched the Eureka on September 27th and October 25th so the only remaining obstacle to a winner take-all match with the Athletics was the October 29th "conquering game" with Irvington.

Union Grounds, Brooklyn

In the end the match was not played at Hoboken, but instead at the Union Grounds in Brooklyn.  Given the Irvington Club's inconsistent performance, the Clipper indicated it was "fully expected that the Irvingtons would be as badly punished" as they were in their first visit to Brooklyn.  Because of these low expectations and "the high charge" for admission (somehow related to the division of the gate receipts between the two clubs) only 1500 made their way into the grounds.  They were rewarded with what the Clipper called "one of  the most closely contested and exciting games of the season."  That was, of course, a subjective opinion, but even at almost 150 years distance, the match was very different from most games of the era.  After a scoreless first, the Atlantics, again striking first, tallied twice in the second and led 2-0 going to the bottom of the fourth.  Irvington then tied it at 2-2 and tallied once more in the bottom of the fifth for a 3-2 lead in an usually low scoring affair.

Fred Crane, 2nd baseman of the Brooklyn Atlantics

Irvington's lead was short lived, however, as the Atlantics scored twice in the sixth and once in the seventh to lead 5-3.  Although shutout since the fifth, Irvington blanked the Atlantics in their last two at bats and still trailed by only two runs as they came to bat for the last time.  Even though the Atlantics were within three outs of victory, there was no shortage of "nervous anxiety" on the Brooklyn side since three runs for Irvington would cost the Atlantics the championship without even playing the Athletics.  Reinder Wolters led off by grounding out to second, but Charles Sweasy followed with a single through short bringing up Andy Leonard who blasted a triple, scoring Sweasy, and moments later, Leonard crossed the plate himself on a passed ball.  With the score tied at 5-5 and only one out, the Atlantics were on the brink of an even greater disaster against the same "country club" who so embarrassed them in June.  Fortunately for Brooklyn, pitcher Tommy Pratt bore down and retired Michael and Hugh Campbell without incident so that "tie game was the cry from the scorer's desk," leading to what was reportedly the first extra inning game in the history of the Atlantics.

New York Clipper - November 10, 1866

Base ball tends to be unforgiving when a team fails to take advantage of an opportunity to close out a game and such was the case with Irvington.  Fred Crane led off the tenth "with a high ball to right field which the wind took clean over the building" for a home run.  With the gates now partially open, the Atlantics aided by "wild pitching and loose support behind" tallied six more times and won 12-6.  In the end because of disputes between the Athletics and Atlantics, the third and deciding match was never played so Brooklyn retained its championship.  For the Irvington Club, the match marked the end of a season no one could have envisioned at the beginning.  After what was arguably the biggest  upset of the decade, somewhat marred by an opposition without its full lineup, "the country club" lost to the Athletics by 68 runs and then took the only team to beat the Athletics to the very brink of defeat  In some ways, Irvington's November loss was even more impressive than its June victory since this time, they went head-to-head with the Atlantics best and more than held their own or as the Sunday Mercury put it "the Irvingtons showed themselves to be splendid players, and well earned a victory, if they did not achieve it."