Schroeder Farm early Saturday morning
Since the Neshanock were fortunate enough to be part of the inaugural six team event, I've had the opportunity to observe the growth of the festival, growth far beyond just the number of participating teams - 18 in the 2016 version. Opinions about what makes for a great vintage event are, of course, subjective, but what stands out to this observer is the initial vision of holding the event in Gettysburg, the shift from a tournament to a festival and the change in local venue. Six years later the choice of Gettysburg may seem obvious, but for all it's historical importance (more about that later), the small village in southern Pennsylvania isn't particularly significant in terms of base ball in the Civil War period. Originally the event was a tournament played to determine a champion, there's certainly nothing wrong with that approach, but it makes scheduling more complicated and uncertain, while also limiting the number of participants. The festival format with each team playing four games scheduled well ahead of time is not only efficient, it facilitates setting up enjoyable and competitive contests. All of these factors along with the move to the far larger Schroeder Farm, which allows five games to be played simultaneously, facilitates two things enjoyed by almost every vintage base ball participant, the chance to play teams from other parts of the country and to see old friends from the clubs we play more regularly.
Photo by Mark Granieri
Special thanks to Stormy Banschbach of the Belle River Club for the use of two of his fine photos
Playing early on what promised to be a hot day (this is after all, Gettysburg in July) was a plus and Flemington was fortunate enough to play two straight finishing the day's work before 1:00. In the second Saturday contest the opposition was again provided by a Michigan team, this time the Richmond Bees. The first half of the game was another low scoring affair with the Neshanock holding Richmond to just three runs through five innings, but able only to score four tallies of its own turns at the striker's line. Fortunately, Flemington scored seven more times over the second half of the game while shutting out the Michigan team the rest of the way for an 11-3 win. Leading the Neshanock offense was "Sideshow," Flemington's lead off batter who not only had four straight hits, but scored each time. Unfortunately his bid for a clear score fell one short when he was retired in his last at bat in the eighth inning. Chipping in with two hits each were "Sledge," Mark "Gaslight" Granieri, Ken "Tumbles" Mandel and Chris "Muffin" Smith, the latter making his first, but hopefully not last appearance in a Flemington uniform. Departing from standard practice,the post game speech omitted the customary praise of the umpire which may be because the speaker was Danny "Batman" Shaw and the umpire, one, Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw.
Photo by Stormy Banschbach
Photo by Mark Granieri
After the high drama or low comedy of the clear score quest, the Neshanock still had one match left, against a more familiar opponent, the Lewes BBC of Delaware. Back in 2014, the two clubs met twice at the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, splitting two close contests and the Delaware club remains a worthy foe. Low scoring was once again the order of the day, but taking a page from the Saginaw's book, Flemington scored at least once in the first six innings and led 8-4 at that point. Lewes rallied for two in the bottom of the seventh, but the Neshanock got those back to lead 10-6 heading into Lewes' last time at the striker's line. In an inning reminiscent of the last game of the New England Festival three weeks ago, the Neshanock made it a lot harder than necessary, but retired the last striker with the tying run on base to finish the festival with a 3-1 mark, Flemington's best performance in the seven years of the event. Excelling for the Neshanock was Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner with four hits, featuring two doubles and a triple plus some fine work in the field especially throwing a Lewes striker out at first from his knees. Joe "Mick" Murray contributed three hits (after two in the first game) with "Gaslight" and "Illinois" coming up with two each. Now 15-6 on the season, Flemington plays an exhibition game of sorts in Princeton on Saturday followed by a Sunday match with the Atlantics of Brooklyn at MCU Park at Coney Island in Brooklyn.
Commemorative coin used for coin toss and awarded to the winning team
photo by Mark Granieri
Candlelight Service at Christ Lutheran Church Gettysburg
The musical selection includes well known songs like the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Dixie," but also some songs perhaps less well remembered, that give a sense of the personal loss and suffering. Especially noteworthy this year was Henry Clay Work's "The Picture on the Wall," a sad message of irretrievable loss which is perfectly captured in the refrain:
"Among the brave and loyal,
How many lov'd ones fall!
Whose friends bereft, Have only left
A picture on the wall."
If life is unfair, war is the unfairest part of life because some die before they have ever had the chance to live. Nothing can recover those lost lifetimes, but everything can and should be done to be sure what they did in the time they had, is remembered and honored, and it's never too late to do that. A case in point is that of Alonzo Cushing, who was born in Delafield, Wisconsin and grew up in New York state before attending West Point.
On July, 3 1863, the 22 year old Cushing was the commander of Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery positioned on Cemetery Ridge near the copse of trees and the stone wall known to history as the High Water-Mark of the Confederacy because it represents the Confederates deepest penetration of the Union line. Cushing used his battery to fill a gap in the Union lines at that crucial place and while commanding his troops received a wound in the shoulder, a horrific wound in the groin in addition to burning one of his fingers to the bone on a cannon. Yet in spite of being urged to withdraw to seek treatment for his wounds, Cushing refused and was finally killed by another Confederate bullet. His place was taken by Sergeant Frederick Fuller who was later awarded the Medal of Honor, the country's highest military award. No such award was forthcoming for Cushing, due to a hard to believe army regulation that the Medal of Honor could not be awarded posthumously. When that regulation was wisely changed, Cushing's feats were somehow overlooked until over a century later in 1987 when Margaret Zerwekh, no relation to Cushing, of Delafield took up the cause. Interested in local history (her house was on land once owned by the Cushing family), Zerwekh researched Cushing's story and then spent 27 years (five more years than Cushing lived) striving to do justice to this young man. Medal of Honor awards more than five years after the person's death requires a special act of Congress, but finally the necessary legislation was passed and on November 6, 2014 President Obama presented the medal to one of Cushing's distant relatives with the 94 year old Zerwekh in attendance.
Monument to Battery A, 4th U. S. Artillery at Gettysburg
Ensuring Cushing's actions were appropriately recognized and honored took more than a quarter of a century of work by a very committed and tenacious woman, something few of us could or would undertake. But the contributions of programs like Christ Church also matter because they raise up the individual sacrifices that explain why the Union prevailed not just at Gettysburg, but ultimately in the war itself. And by starting and developing a vintage base ball festival near that hallowed ground, the Elkton Eclipse help attract even more people from all over the United States to visit Gettysburg and hear those stories. In the theater's there's a saying that "there are no small parts, only small actors." The same thing is even more true of remembering the past, no contribution is too small and for all these contributions we should be truly grateful. I, for one, am already looking forward to the 2017 festival.