Sunday, August 9, 2015

"But for Tumbles"

After heading north and east last weekend to Bethpage, Long Island, the Neshanock moved south on Saturday to Pennsauken, New Jersey not far from Philadelphia.  Play was hosted by the Pennsauken Historical Society which  attracted a good crowd for two seven inning games of 1864 base ball.  The opposition was provided by the Bog Iron Boys of Allaire Village, aided and abetted by volunteers from the Diamond State and Atlas Clubs of Delaware, the Brandywine Club of West Chester, Pennsylvania and the Athletics of Philadelphia, all coming together to play as the vintage all-stars. Thanks to all of these gentleman and I apologize if I missed any of the participating clubs.  Twelve was apparently the Neshanock's magic number for the day as Flemington finished with the same tally total in both matches.  In the opening contest, the Neshanock scored seven times in the bottom of the second for a 9-2 lead only to see the all-stars tally five times in the fourth to close to within 9-7.  Fortunately, Flemington added three more in the fifth and hung on for a 12-9 triumph.  

Sinnickson Chew - Editor of the West Jersey Press

Leading the offense for the Neshanock were Scott "Snuffy" Hengst and Chris "Low Ball" Lowry both with clear scores, the second time in a row for both strikers.  They were supported by "Jersey" Jim Nunn, Dave "Illinois" Harris, Joe "Mick" Murray and Danny "Batman" Shaw each with two hits, "Batman" also pitched for Flemington.  After a brief break, the second match got underway with the all-stars jumping out to an early lead which they held until the top of the third inning.  It was all Neshanock after that, however, as Flemington scored twice in the third and seven times in the fifth en route to a 12-1 victory.  Two more Neshanock players recorded clear scores as both Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner and Joe "Mick" Murray achieved the feat in support of Dave "Illinois" Harris at the pitcher's line.  In keeping with tradition, the day also included an addition to the living legend that is Ken "Tumbles" Mandel.  Although his performance in the second game was brief, Tumbles had two "but for's," as in "but for" Tumbles' errant throw, "Illinois" would have had a shut out and "but for" Tumbles' pinch running base blunder, Jack "Doc" Kitson would have had a clear score.  All in a day's tumbles!

Photo definitely not by Mark Granieri

Saturday's match was reportedly the first vintage game, not just in Pennsauken, but in all of Camden County, a place that has its own unique place in New Jersey base ball history.  To date, the City of Camden is the only documented community in New Jersey to have an organized club playing a bat and ball game other than base ball or cricket.  Founded in 1857, the Camden Club played something called Philadelphia town ball.  Town ball has become a catch-all term for many different kinds of bat and ball games, but Richard Hershberger's in depth research and analysis has provided a clear understanding of the Philadelphia version which I've summarized in prior posts.  As the name suggests Philadelphia town ball was developed by clubs from the City of Brotherly Love, especially the Olympic Club, and was played until the early 1860's when the Philadelphia clubs converted to the New York game.  The Camden Club played town ball at least through 1863, but it too came around to the New York game in 1864 and played against the leading Philadelphia clubs through the early post war period.  At least one future major league player, Weston Fisler, got his start with the Camden Club before playing many years with the Athletic Club of Philadelphia, including participating in the first National League game in 1876.

Photo definitely not by Mark Granieri

In addition, the Camdens also have the distinction of being the only ball club of any kind, excluding cricket, south of the state capital in Trenton during the antebellum period.  This began to change towards the end of the Civil War and in the late 1860's numerous clubs were formed throughout the southern part of the state.  In Camden County there was a team in Haddonfield and within Camden itself, the Union Club supplanted the Camden Club which gradually faded out of existence.  Extensive knowledge of base ball in Camden County is somewhat limited because, for some reason, the media didn't pay a lot of attention to the game.  The two leading newspapers of the period were the Camden Democrat and the West Jersey Press neither of which seemed to make base ball much of a priority.  That's understandable to some extent as these weekly newspapers with the typical political missions of the era had limited the space for leisure events.  But even so, the West Jersey Press in particular seemed less than enthusiastic about base ball's expansion.  One example is the below article, describing not game action, but two somewhat gruesome injuries and suggesting that the game might not be worth the risk.  

West Jersey Press - October 10, 1866

Those comments pale in comparison, however, with the below article published three years later in the same newspaper which seems to be a combination of wishful thinking and incredibly inaccurate opinion when base ball was in the midst of rapid post war expansion.  The exotically named Sinnickson Chew was the editor of the Press throughout the period and clearly was no base ball enthusiast. 

West Jersey Press - May 19, 1869

However, Mr. Chew seems to have changed his tune, at least to some degree, when the honor of Camden was at stake.  One of the early clubs in southern New Jersey was the Mosacsa Club of Salem which was founded on May 31,1865 (thanks to J. Harlan Buzby of the Salem County Historical Society for providing the date) and by 1870 had developed into a formidable team in their own right. Reportedly undefeated for two years, the Salem team entertained what was advertised as the Union Club of Camden for a match on their grounds.  As "S" sadly informed the readers of the Salem newspaper, the local heroes had, however, taken on not just another group of amateurs, but a team "many of whom were professionals" representing "the best clubs in the country."  Because of the makeup of the opposition, "S" felt there was no dishonor in the 23-20 defeat.  The quasi-anonymous author was still confident enough in his club to throw down the gauntlet to any club "south of Newark," which encompasses a number of clubs in central New Jersey with much more experience than the Mosacsa or any south Jersey club.

National Standard August 17, 1870

Although editor Chew chose not to enter the debate himself, he was at least willing to give the local club a platform by printing a letter from "U," refuting the claims of "S," while at the same time derisively calling the Salem team a "Country Club."  With regard to the claim about "professionals," the Union man insisted that six of the nine were, in fact, club members while the others were substitutes, but not necessarily active members of other clubs.  Analysis of the Union line up confirms the first assertion as six players were  members of the Union Club in prior years.  Of the three who could not be positively confirmed as members of the victorious Camden team, only Hayhurst appears on any of the Philadelphia club rosters in Baseball Founders.  Hayhurst could conceivably have been Elias Hicks Hayhurst, the well known Philadelphia player and manager who three years earlier led the ill-fated effort to admit the black Pythian Club of Philadelphia into the Pennsylvania State Association of base ball clubs.  Although Hayhurst was over 40 in 1870, he had been a back up player for the Athletic Club of Philadelphia a year earlier so it's not impossible he could have helped out the  short handed Union Club.  Since the Hayhurst in the Union line up that day made six outs without scoring, at least one "professional" didn't contribute much to the Union victory.

West Jersey Press  - August 24, 1870

It doesn't appear that the two clubs met the following year, but the competitive aspect of base ball was clearly taking hold in the the southern part of the state.  That by itself was enough to ensure that Mr. Chew's vision of imminent doom for base ball had no chance of coming to fruition.  Hopefully his political prognostications were more accurate.

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