Monday, May 18, 2015

Ripening Peaches and Other Stories from Cooperstown

This past weekend the Flemington Neshanock were once again fortunate to participate in the third annual vintage base ball event at the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, New York near where the game's history is commemorated, even if it didn't start there.  The Neshanock had previously played at Ommegang in a 2011 East meets Midwest event sponsored by the Cleveland Blues Base Ball Club.  On that occasion Flemington not only defeated the powerful Cleveland team, but were victorious in all three of their contests, taking home a not inconsiderable amount of beer in the process.  Back in 2013, the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn began sponsoring two days of vintage base ball at Ommegang and Flemington has participated each time.  In addition to the host Atlantics and the Neshanock, there were three new clubs in attendance, the New York Mutuals, the Athletic Club of Philadelphia and the Diamond State Club of Delaware.

As luck (bad luck) would have it, the Neshanock drew the Atlantics in their first match on Saturday morning.  Aided by some uncharacteristic Neshanock defensive lapses - five errors over two innings, the Atlantics scored nine times in the top of the first and added three more in their second at- bat for an early 12-1 lead.   Flemington fought back allowing the Atlantics only one run over the rest of the contest, but could only come up with four of its own for a frustrating 13-5 loss.  Offensively Flemington was limited to only 11 hits with Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner (three) leading the way, aided by Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw and Rene "Mango" Marerro, each with two.  All told the Neshanock made nine errors or muffs, never a good thing and almost always fatal against a team like the Atlantics.  Three of the Neshanocks' five 2015 losses have come at the hands of the Atlantic, but barring an encounter in a late season tournament, Flemington now has the Atlantics right where we want them - off the schedule!

Once the Atlantic match ended, the Neshanock moved over to the adjoining field (in some cases with a quick stop at the brewery) to take on the Athletic Club of Philadelphia, Flemington's second opponent.  The Neshanock quickly got things going offensively while playing much better defense, making only two muffs over the course of the game.  After allowing the Athletics one run in the top of the first, the Neshanock scored four times in each of the first three innings for a 12-1 lead en route to a comfortable 19-7 win over the Philadelphia club.  The day's matches marked the return to the Neshanock lineup of Mark "Peaches" Rubini who suffered through a tough outing in the opener sparking no shortage of suggested headlines for this blog post from his teammates.  Ripening quickly in the second contest "Peaches"had a clear score reaching base six times, on five hits and an Athletic muff.  Not far behind was Dan "Sledge" Hammer who had five hits and came only a bound out to center field short of his own clear score.  "Peaches" and "Sledge" were not the only Neshanocks to have big days at the striker's line as "Thumbs" and "Mango" each had four hit games as did "Brooklyn."  Danny "Batman" Shaw went one better with his father, contributing five hits to the Flemington cause.

Sunday morning saw the Neshanock taking on the Diamond State Club of Delaware in an early morning match enabling everyone to get started on the long ride home.  Flemington got out of the gate early tallying eight times in their first two at-bats to take an 8-3 lead.  From that point, however, the Neshanock could only manage three more tallies while Diamond State gradually caught up so that the contest was tied 10-10 after six innings.  The Delaware club kept going in the last three innings adding five more runs to earn a 15-11 triumph.  Flemington's attack was led by "Mango" who had four hits and came within one at-bat of a clear score.  "Peaches" and Joe "Mick" Murray each added three hits, but even with 19 hits all told, the lack of run production over the last seven innings doomed the Neshanock's chances.

Thinking about it over the long ride home, Neshanock losses seem to fit into one of two patterns.  Saturday's game with the Atlantics exemplifies the first kind where one big inning is the crusher, usually, but not always, abetted by errors extending the opponent's time at-bat.   This shows once again, the importance of making the routine play something that the Atlantics excel at.  The other type was seen in the Sunday match with Diamond State - scoring a lot of runs early followed by too many unproductive innings.  Diamond State never scored more than three runs in one inning, but scored three runs twice and two runs four times suggesting that consistency is more important than one or two eruptions.  Part of this may be the nature of the bound game where any fair ball caught on a bounce is an out which greatly extends the ability of outfielders, especially those with speed, to record an out.  I'm reminded of a match in the Philadelphia Navy Yard Festival a few years ago where the first Neshanock batter singled, stole second and then scored on another single beginning a sequence that was repeated over and over again until seven runs were scored.  Although he said it many years later, Wee Willy Keeler's classic line - "Hit it where they ain't" is perhaps instructive.  Something to think about as Flemington gets ready for its annual Memorial Day visit to Pickering Field in Newtown, Pennsylvania to take on the hometown, Newton Strakes.

1 comment:

  1. I would like to think Memphis kept you on your toes innings 3-9.