Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Saddest Words

Photo by Cindy Wiseburn

The 19th century American poet, John Greenleaf Whittier once wrote that "Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been."  It's a great line, if for no reason, because of its universal application, all of us have experienced or will experience missed opportunities at some point in our lives .  In base ball regardless of the type or the kind of involvement there are some equally sad words - "This is the last game of the season," words that no one escapes.  They became reality for the Flemington Neshanock this past Sunday at the Strasburg Railroad Museum in Strasburg, Pennsylvania in the scenic Lancaster countryside.  The Neshanock, of course, never do things in a small way so Sunday saw not just a last game, but three last games, in an event sponsored by the Elkton Eclipse.  Not only are the Eclipse a fine vintage club, they really know how to organize quality vintage events including this one and especially the annual festival in Gettysburg.

Photo by Cindy Wiseburn

On this windy, but sunny day, the Neshanock and Eclipse were joined by the Rising Sun Club of Maryland and the Keystone Club of Harrisburg with each club playing three seven inning matches by 1864 rules.  Flemington opened the day's play against the Rising Sun Club, a team the Neshanock defeated for the first time back in September at the Philadelphia Naval Yard Classic.  In a low scoring game, Rising Sun prevailed by a 4-1 count reportedly in large measure due to the Maryland club's excellent defense.  Next up was the rubber match (a bridge term applied to base ball as far back as the 1850's) with the Elkton Club since the teams had split two games back in June at the Howell Living History Farm.  Although Flemington got off to an early 2-0 lead, defeating the Eclipse twice in one year was too much to hope for and the Maryland club won a close 9-6 decision.   In it's truly "last game" of the season the Neshanock took on the event's only Pennsylvania club, the Keystone Club of Harrisburg led by some time Neshanock Doug "Pops" Pendergrist.  This time Flemington got its bats going, taking a 13-4 lead into the last inning which Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw preserved with some masterful relief pitching or so he told me.  In any event Flemington won it's final game of 2016 by a 13-9 count, finishing with a 25-13 record, the best record in the club's storied history.  Trust me, the Neshanock may not always be the best team, but we never lack for stories.

Photo by Cindy Wiseburn

 2016 marked my ninth year serving as a vintage base ball scorekeeper and while winning always makes things more enjoyable, each season has been a winning experience.  That's because of the people involved and especially those who do the heavy lifting to make it happen.  In that regard, special thanks to Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw who does so much work to get everything organized and then uses encouragement, threats and whatever is necessary to get us to different and sometimes distant venues every weekend from April through October.  Next, of course, are all those who play for the Neshanock, even if it's only a few time a season.  I owe a special debt of thanks to Mark "Gaslight" Granieri, official blog photographer, who this year, more than ever, kept the Neshanock's worldwide fan base informed of the team's results.  "Gaslight" also set a personal record in 2016, throwing out three runners stealing in one game, interestingly the same number he threw out all season.

Photo by Dennis Tuttle

Over the course of the 2016 season, Flemington literally played teams from Maine to Delaware, missing, I think, only Rhode Island.  Thanks to the gentlemen on all of those clubs for their commitment to vintage base ball, a form of living history that seems to expand more and more every year.  Three things are essential to any base ball match, two teams and an umpire, Flemington is fortunate to be able to call on the services of Sam "It ain't nothin' 'til I say" Bernstein.  Finally, but most important of all, thanks to all of the wives, partners, significant others, girl friends, parents and now children who attend games ranging from the stifling heat of Gettysburg in July to the cold of April almost anywhere.  It was to put it mildly another splendiferous season and the same will doubtless be true of 2017.  I wish everyone in the vintage base ball community a wonderful off season and hope to see you sometime, somewhere, next year.

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