Photo by Mark Granieri
On September 2, 1963, in the second game of a Labor Day doubleheader, New York Mets pitcher, Jay Hook, lost 1-0 to the Cincinnati Reds which by itself wasn't that unique. After all, the Mets were in their second year and not that much better than their horrendous inaugural 1962 season. What was unique about the game, however, is that the Reds scored their only run on rookie Pete Rose's home run, not only as the game's first batter, but also on the very first pitch. While I didn't see the game, I've always remembered either a sportswriter or a Mets coach saying that Hook should have thrown one more warm up pitch. The Flemington Neshanock had a day like on Saturday at the 18th Annual Base Ball Festival at Old Bethpage Village on Long Island, the birthplace of vintage base ball, although in Flemington's case it would have taken entire warm up inning, not one pitch. Hosted by the Mutual Base Ball Club of New York and this year honoring base ball pioneer, Daniel "Doc" Adams, the event drew vintage clubs from as far away as Rhode Island and the Washington, D.C. area.
Photo by John Zinn
In their first match, Flemington drew the Rising Sun Club of Maryland, a first time opponent, but hopefully a future one as well. At best the Neshanock were going to be short handed for the day, but when the Nunn family got struck in traffic and Mark "Wrong Way" Granieri somehow ended up in the middle of Queens, the first match was marked for a bad beginning. Although graciously assisted by "Hawk" of the Atlantics, "Mister" and "Dirt" of the Newtown Sandy Hook Club and "Bar Keep," wearing a Bridgeport uniform, the Maryland club struck quickly for a 6-0 lead in their first at bat. Once the Neshanock were fully assembled and got organized, everyone settled down and Flemington held Rising Sun to only four runs over the remaining eight innings. Unfortunately stout defense by the Maryland club limited the Neshanock and others to just four aces and a 10-4 defeat. Too bad "Mulligans" aren't part of base ball.
Photo by Mark Granieri
One high point for Flemington was a clear score by Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw who batted four times without making an out, using his many years of experience to strategically place his hits. Once Mark "Gaslight" Granieri finally found Old Bethpage Village, he added to the growing list of victims of his "foul ball ploy." The maneuver begins with the Flemington catcher coming up with a foul tip or foul pop and then throwing the ball into the outfield. Unsuspecting or not totally informed base runners, mistakenly think they can advance which is, in fact, prohibited under 1860's rules. Once recovered the ball is then thrown to the pitcher who then doubles off the runner by either throwing to the base or going to the base himself. After using the trick play to pull of an inning ending double play at Gettysburg, "Gaslight" put another notch in his gun in the top of the ninth against Rising Sun, this time for a triple play, I believe the second in recent Neshanock history.
Famous picture of an 1859 match at Elysian Fields between the Knickerbockers and the Brooklyn Excelsiors, "Doc" Adams is the fourth from the left.
As noted earlier, this year's event honored Daniel "Doc" Adams, a base ball pioneer whose story was seemingly lost to history. Thanks to John Thorn in Baseball in the Garden of Eden and a Society for American Baseball Research biography (http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/14ec7492), Adams role in the legendary Knickerbocker Club of New York and the early days of organized base ball is now better known. With degrees from both Yale and Harvard (Medical School), the young doctor came to New York City in the late 1830's and began playing whatever form of base ball was played at the time. Just a month after the Knickerbocker Club was founded, in October of 1845, Adams joined, became president the next year and held the position until 1862. While the Knickerbockers sometimes get credit for things they didn't do, the club did introduce the shortstop's position and Adams recalled that "he was the first to occupy that place." Beyond initiating this key defensive position, "Doc," also played a crucial part in the first efforts to standardize the rules as the chair of the National Association of Base Ball Players Rules Committee. In the latter role he helped establish the ninety foot distance between the bases, often taken for granted today, but such a vital part of the game. "Doc" was well represented at Old Bethpage by his Great Granddaughter Marjorie Adams, who is spearheading an effort to get this base ball pioneer into the Baseball Hall of Fame - best wishes to her and everyone working towards that end.
Photo by Mark Granieri
After the first game ended, the Neshanock didn't have long to digest the result (or anything else for that matter) as the second match began almost immediately against the Capital City Stars, a select group from the Washington D.C. area. This time Flemington made the first inning their own, scoring seven times and coasting to a 15-2 victory in a match limited to four innings due to time constraints. The Neshanock knocked out 20 hits in just four at bats, featuring clear scores from Chris "Low Ball" Lowry and Scott "Snuffy" Hengst plus a double and a triple from "Gaslight" who remarkably found third base without difficulty. Free of the stress of traffic on the Southern State Parkway, the Neshanock's father and son act, "Jersey" Jim Nunn and Chris "Sideshow" Nunn each had two hits. "Dirt," "Mister," and "Bar Keep" stayed with us for the second game and contributed both at bat and in the field. Thanks also to Sam "Israelite" Bernstein who for this day, exchanged his umpire's regalia for a Neshanock uniform and added a hit to the Neshanock attack. Old Bethpage Village is a beautiful venue for base ball and the New York Mutuals deserve high praise for hosting such a quality event over such a long period of time.