Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Neshanock Keep Going and Edward "The Only" Nolan Gets Started

Saturday, the Flemington Neshanock visited Nutley, New Jersey for their fifth match of the young season still undefeated due to both manly play along with helpful assistance in the form of some strategic rain outs.  The match in Nutley, played at a very attractive venue in Yanticaw Park, was the second annual base ball classic hosted by the Kingsland Manor, an historic site in that north Jersey community.  The opposition was once again provided by the Nutley Colonels, a local club put together for the event.  A year ago, the Colonels proved that all muffins aren't created equal, playing excellent defense while dropping a low scoring 5-2 match to the Neshanock.  This year's event proved to be very different due primarily to the presence of almost all of Flemington's heavy hitters.  Vintage base ball doesn't always accurately recreate the 19th century game, but one definite similarity is the importance of who shows up.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Striking first, the Neshanock scored four tallies and proceeded to hold off the local club to lead 5-1 after three innings in what looked like something of a repeat from a year ago.  In the next two innings, however, Flemington tallied 11 times to break the game open on the way to a 19-8 win.  Although the Colonels didn't come as close as in 2015, they again made some good defensive plays and clearly work hard at understanding and playing the 19th century game.  Flemington was led on offense by Dan "Sledge" Hammer with five hits (one at bat short of a clear score) followed close behind by Danny "Batman" Shaw and Gregg "Burner" Wiseburn with four apiece.  Not far after this trio of Neshanock, were Rene "Mango" Marrerro, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri and Joe "Mick" Murray each with three hits.  Other than two walks, which Henry Chadwick considered errors on the pitcher, the Neshanock made only one muff over the course of the match. All told it was another solid effort for Flemington which goes into next Saturday's New Jersey history fair at 5-0, the club's best start in roughly 150 years.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Last week before the Neshanock's annual visit to Ringwood State Park was rained out, I tried looking in more detail at the Hewitt Club, an early Ringwood base ball team which was playing by at least 1874.  The club is mentioned in two articles in the Paterson Daily Press that amazingly lists the players' full names which should, at least theoretically, have made it easier to identify them.  However, searching the 1870 and 1880 census led to only two positive identifications so there wasn't much to go on.  Looking at the article a little closer, however, I realized something more interesting, the Hewitts played against one of New Jersey's most important 19th century teams, the Olympic Club of Paterson, a team I wrote about in Baseball Founders.  The Olympics were organized in 1864 and quickly became very competitive with an especially notable September 1866 upset of the Irvington Club, the same year that upstart team from the outskirts of Newark defeated the defending champion Atlantic Club of Brooklyn.  The Olympic win gave the Paterson men more than a little revenge since earlier in the season they had been embarrassed and then some in a 77-6 humiliation by the Irvingtons.

Edward "The Only" Nolan

As in most of New Jersey, the immediate post Civil War period saw base ball activity grow in Paterson, including what might be termed the 19th century equivalent of vintage base ball when a number of teams were organized to play a form of the "old-fashioned" game.  This burst of activity came to an abrupt halt, however, as in 1869 the Daily Press noted that both base ball and cricket had been played to such a degree of excess that it caused "a heavy loss to our industries by the negligence of their employees," which led, among other things, to the Olympic Club playing very sporadically, if at all.  Many New Jersey clubs during the 1860's proved short lived and there would be nothing unique about the Olympics, were it not for what happened when the team was revived in 1874.  Not only did this new incarnation prove to be even more competitive than the earlier version, but it also provided important competitive base ball experience for four future major league players including Hall of Famer, Mike "King" Kelly.

Photo by Mark Granieri

The Olympics' 57-18 victory over the Hewitt Club in June of 1874 was actually a prelude to the effort to revive the club with the players reportedly willing "provided they receive pecuniary support to compensate for the time they lose in practicing."  Interest was such that on July 10th, some 50 fans of the "national game" gathered to reorganize the club, hoping to "emulate the glory of its former days."  Less than a week later, the newly reconstituted Olympics played a match with the Franklin Club of Paterson that included a Wally Pippesque moment.  According to the paper, the Olympic pitcher (who was unnamed) "was not present, and Nolan took his place."  The seventeen year old Mr. Nolan ultimately reached the major leagues and took or was given, one of the game's most memorable nicknames - "The Only." While Nolan didn't enjoy tremendous on the field success in the majors, his career certainly had its moments.   Much more about Nolan's post Paterson playing days and his distinctive nickname can be found at John Thorn's Our Game blog at

Paterson about 1870 - note the offices of the Daily Press

While I haven't yet looked at Nolan's pre-1874 base ball activities , the young pitcher certainly got off to an impressive start with the Olympics, holding the Franklin Club to just five runs while forcing or inducing 11 strikers to go out on foul tips.  After that game Nolan became part of the Olympic's regular starting lineup, although until August it isn't not clear if he was the pitcher.  However on August 6th, the Olympics traveled to Newark to take on the Marion Club at their grounds at the intersection of Orange and 7th Street in the Roseville section of Newark.  It was another dominating performance for the precocious pitcher,  as he allowed only four runs in the Olympic's 24-4 victory, this time getting 16 outs on ground balls to shortstop.  Nolan's success continued later in the month against the Irvings when he also apparently added some theatrics to his repertoire as the Press reported the Olympics pitcher's "antics frequently amused the spectators."  Nolan's "antics," may have been due in part to having to overcome what the Press described as "eleven errors in succession," by second base man Art Fitzgerald.  In spite of his failings on the field, Fitzgerald apparently knew something about the business side of the game since according to his obituary, both "King" Kelly and longtime major league pitcher, Jim McCormick consulted with Fitzgerald early in their careers before signing their contracts.

Photo by Mark Granieri 

Although the team was enjoying a lot of on the field success in 1874, the situation on the Olympics was apparently something less than Camelot as on September 3rd, the paper reported that "Nolan has returned to the Olympics as pitcher," although why he left has not yet been determined.  Apparently his return was just in time for a important inter-city series with the Channel Club.  Doubtless to everyone's surprise, perhaps Nolan most of all, the opposition hit his offerings early and often in a 19-6 drubbing.  While some of this was attributed to the presence of two ringers in the Channel line up, the Press also noted that the other Paterson club had seen Nolan pitch so many times, they had "no difficulty in batting his balls," which went "whizzing every time."  The rematch came in early October with both teams apparently loading up as the Olympics supposedly had three "foreign players," with the Channel Club going one better.  Probably because of the outcome of the first game, Nolan was not the starting pitcher, but it made little difference as the Channels led 10-1 after only four innings.  Things turned around quickly, however, when the young phenom went back to "his old place as pitcher," shutting out the opposition the rest of the way as the Olympics came back for an 11-10 win forcing a decisive third game.

Paterson Daily Press, October 27, 1874

Having dodged what appeared to be sure defeat, the Olympics were not about to fall short of the mark and they won the deciding game by a 17-11 count.   While Nolan was the winning pitcher, it was another part of his game that reportedly most impressed the fans as he "astonished the crowd most by his mode of catching some of those "hot liners," that were sent from the bat at a rate of swiftness almost invisible to the naked eye."  Apparently giving the young ball player, the highest praise he could think of  the writer said his fielding exploits "would have reflected honor on a Japanese juggler."  All of this was impressive enough, but Nolan had apparently so captured the popular imagination in the city that school boys began emulating his pitching motion "by which swift balls are sent in a direct line with that sudden and peculiar underhanded jerk," putting Paterson pedestrians at risk.  It was certainly a very successful season for young Mr. Nolan and another post will take a look at Nolan's second and final season with the Olympics before he moved on to a far bigger stage.

1 comment:

  1. I am great fan and love to play Baseball thanks for sharing this post about history.