Monday, August 14, 2017

Commuting to Connecticut

Almost 150 years ago, the Olympic Club of Paterson began their four game Connecticut road trip by taking a train from Paterson to Jersey City, a ferry to Manhattan, followed by a steam boat to Bridgeport.  Having finally gotten to the Nutmeg state, the young Patersonians boarded a train, a member of the party with the pen name, Olympus, called "the rudest cars and ruggedest railroad to be found anywhere."  Although the Neshanock also came to Connecticut for four matches, 150 years of advances in transportation allowed the trip to be made over two days rather than four.  Indeed given the relative proximity to northern New Jersey, the Zinns were actually able to commute both days.  Unlike the Olympics who began play in Waterbury, the Neshanock went no further west than the quaint village of Wethersfield for two matches at Cove Park with the Red Onion Club so named because the village was once a major exporter of the red onions.

After having, as per usual, won the bat toss, Flemington elected to strike second and retired the Red Onion strikers without incident in the top of the first.  In the bottom of the inning Renee "Mango" Marrero put the Neshanock on the tally board with a two run home run, but the lead was short lived when the local team tied the match in the top of the second.  The Neshanock were able to chip away and score five more times to lead 7-2 after five, but the pitching of Jeff "Pine Tar" Kornhaas and the stout Red Onion defense kept the game close and some timely hitting by their strikers in their half of the sixth made it a one run game at 7-6.  Flemington failed to respond in the bottom of the inning and the Red Onion added a tally to tie the game which is where matters stood when the Neshanock approached the striker's line in the bottom of the eighth.  Fortunately some clutch Flemington hitting put four tallies on the board and the Neshanock closed the game out for a hard fought 11-7 win.  Leading the Neshanock attack with three hits apiece were Jeff "Duke" Schneider, Dan "Lefty" Gallagher and Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner with "Thumbs" recording a clear score.

The first match may have seemed hard fought, but it was nothing compared to the second encounter which began with the Neshanock crossing the plate twice for an early 2-0 lead.  However, that was the last time any one from Flemington approached the plate from third base for six long innings.  Not only did the Red Onion, again led by "Pine Tar's" pitching and solid defense, keep the Neshanock off the board, only three Flemington players reached base.  Fortunately, Flemington's defense held the Red Onion relatively in check, but the Connecticut team still led 4-2 heading to the eighth inning.  Flemington got one back and the Neshanock held off the Red Onion in the bottom of the eighth setting the stage for one last Flemington chance.  With one out, Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw executed a fair-foul play getting his runner, Ken "Tumbles" Mandel to first and while the next batter was put out, "Tumbles" advanced to third.  Down to the last chance, "Duke" a hit well placed ball between the pitcher and third base.  Unfortunately "Duke" fell down right after leaving the striker's line, but he recovered and aided by a rare Red Onion miscue reached first, allowing the tying run to score.  Flemington held the Red Onion at bay in the bottom of the ninth before recording three tallies high lighted by a clutch two out hit by "Jersey" Jim Nunn.  It was far from easy, but the Neshanock held on for an even harder fought 7-6 10 inning victory.

According to "Olympus'" account of the Olympic Club's 1867 visit to Connecticut, the local teams hosted the Paterson boys for entertainment and relaxation at their club rooms.  The modern equivalent took place on Saturday night at a local restaurant, reportedly enjoyed by all.  Other members of the Neshanock party attended a minor league game in Hartford where they were confused by large leather objects the players on the field wore on their hands.  Sunday morning saw the Neshanock at Fort Trumbell State Park in New London for two seven inning matches against the Thames Base Ball Club.  In the first match, Flemington got on the scoreboard early and often, leading 12-0 after three innings on the way to a 17-0 victory.  A high point of the game was the defensive play of the trip.  The Thames club had a runner on second and one out when the third striker hit a hard line drive in the left center field gap.  Rushing over, "Lefty" got a hand on it, hitting it in the general direction of "Duke" who retired the striker on the bounce and then threw the ball to "Thumbs" whose throw to "Mango" nailed the Connecticut runner at the plate.  "Thumbs" and "Lefty" each contributed four hits to the Neshanock attack while "Duke," "Mango," Dave "Illinois" Harris and "Tumbles" added three apiece.  Also noteworthy was the striking of Adam "The Vic" Schneider who reached base twice including a single.

Amidst all of the Neshanock's offensive fireworks, we can't lose sight, or so he told me, of the fact that "Tumbles" three hits plus reaching once on a muff was a clear score.  Not only was it a clear score, but since he didn't score a tally on any of the four occasions, he's one of the few players, vintage and otherwise to have a clear and blank score in the same game.  Not resting on his first game heroics with the bat, "Tumbles" took to the pitcher's box for the second game which was close until the Neshanock broke it open in the last few innings for a 14-4 win.  "Lefty" and "Thumbs" both had four hits with "Thumbs" earning another clear score.   Even while pitching "Tumbles" didn't neglect the offensive side, getting two hits and also struck out two of the opposition's batters.  The Olympic's also played their last game in New London, after which they waited until 10:00 p.m. to take the steamboat "City of Boston" to New York an eight hour journey before finally arriving back in Paterson at 8:00 the next morning.  Not sure about the rest of the Neshanock's trip home, but my own was uneventful and not terribly long after an enjoyable weekend of games against worthy opposition.  With the weekend's results, Flemington is now 23-8 on the season only two short of last year's win total.  Next up are two matches with the Brandywine Club of Pennsylvania as part of the Hecklerfest in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, the Neshanock's final 2017 matches outside of New Jersey.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Connecticut Road Trip - 1867 Style

Paterson Daily Press - September 2, 1867

Apparently the "honorary members" did the necessary defraying and the Olympic Club made its planned trip to the Nutmeg state.  On their return, "Olympus" took the time to submit a written account to the paper which is reprinted in full as follows:

"To the Editor of the Press:  Starting on our tour last Tuesday morning, the 17th, we arrived in New York and there took the boat for Bridgeport.  It was a splendid sail, the sun beaming upon the calm unruffled waters as on polished glass, and the breeze which blew calmly through the day, cooling the sun and air, enhanced our pleasure. We arrived in Bridgeport at half four and from there took the cars, for Waterbury, arriving there at half past seven after a ride on the rudest cars and the ruggedest railroad to be found any where.  The Waterbury club had carriages waiting to receive us, we dashed for the Scovill House, where like hungry men we did justice to our supper.  In the evening a deputation of the Monitor club waited upon us and invited us to visit their Club room; we proceeded there in a body and whiled away a pleasant hour.  From there we returned to our hotel and retired for the night to sleep and dream of victory on the morrow.  The next morning our players dressed themselves in their field costume and awaited the hour for our first game.  At 9 o'clock we proceeded with the Monitor boys in carriages to the ground, we arrived after a pleasant ride through the city.  The arrangements for the game were soon made and playing commenced at 9:30 A.M.  We were defeated by a score of 27 to 22.

After taking a steamboat from NYC to Bridgeport, the Olympic Club traveled by train to Waterbury, Hartford, New London before once again boarding a steamboat to the return trip to NYC

The umpire chosen for the game was Mr. A.H. McCarty of the Waterbury club, and he proved himself an able and impartial one.  The game was well contested, but our boys played with a coolness which showed that they husbanded their strength for the more important game in the afternoon.  In the afternoon, the Waterburys took us in conveyances to their ground, which is a splendid one, and at 2:30 P.M. our game with them commenced, and I tell you our boys went at it in good earnest.  Toomey's pitching was superb, having the double charm of speed and accuracy.  McKiernan behind the bat played that afternoon his prettiest game, capturing the crankiest fouls imaginable.  A noteworthy feature of the game was the playing of "Young Robinson" in centre field, he captured  two running flys in a style which called forth the repeated applause of the assembled spectators.  Fitzgerald on second base and Lotan at short stop made some admirable plays and catches, and in fact our whole nine played with a determination and vim which presaged victory.  In the last six innings, the Waterburys made but three runs, and the game was handsomely ended by a wonderful catch of Crocker's in the left field; he turned his back to the ball while it was shooting through the air and ran at least thirty yards, then turned around and caught the ball in such a manner that it still remains a mystery how he held it.  We won the game by a score of 30 to 15.

In the evening we had a social time with the Monitors, speech making, vocal and instrumental music being the order of the evening.  Mr. Prall of our club favored the Waterbury boys with one of his fine performances on the Piano.  As our players were somewhat fatigued after the games of the day, we bid our friendly opponents good bye at ten o'clock and retired to our hotel.

Obviously the Olympic Club traveled first class

The next morning, the 19th, we packed our baggage and started on the train for Hartford, where we arrived at ten o'clock, meeting at the depot a deputation of the Charter Oaks, who conducted us to the United States Hotel.  After a brief rest we were invited to their club room, which is fitted up in fine style.  We saw there a gold mounted bat in miniature, made from the wood of the Charter Oak, that time honored noble tree.

Paterson Daily Press - September 23, 1867

In the afternoon we proceed to the ground of the Charter Oak Club, which is a beautiful park surrounded by splendid trees.  The ground is very smooth but being on an incline is unadapted for playing ball.  Our game with them commenced at 2:15 P.M. and was witnessed by about two thousand spectators.  It was a fine game; our boys, played up to their usual mark and the Charter Oaks kept up their high reputation as players and gentlemen.  Towards the end of the game the fatigue produced by the games of the day before began to have its effect, and our boys scored blanks on the last three innings, being unable to make the bat connect with the ball, consequently losing the game.  Score, 23 to 12.  

Hartford Courant - September 20, 1867 - note that Paterson is misspelled

In the evening we sat down with the Charter Oak boys to a splendid supper at the United States Hotel, after which Mr. McKiernan, the able captain of our nine while on the tour, made a most appropriate speech and presented the trophy to Mr. Bunce, the Captain of the Charter Oaks, who followed with a brief and witty acceptance.  We next took a stroll through the city of Hartford in company with the Charter Oak boys and retired to rest at an early hour after bidding them good-bye.  At five o'clock in the morning (of the 20th) we arose, partook of breakfast, proceeded to the depot and departed at 6 o'clock on the train for New London.  The train went at a speed which gave us an opportunity to view at our ease the beauty of the landscape.  

The Olympics traveled home on the City of Boston

We arrived in New London at 11 A.M. and started for the Metropolitan Hotel where we put up, took dinner and then made preparations for the game with the Pequots, the Champions of the State of Connecticut.  As that was to be the last game of the tour, the Riversides being unable to play us, our boys went in to terminate the tour in a tall manner by winning a ball from the Champions.  And they did it.  The game commenced at 3 P.M., our boys going in and doing the heaviest kind of batting, Prall and Lotan each scoring two home runs and all the rest doing batting which defied the efforts of the fine fielders of the Pequots to keep the ball form breaking through their line.  Robinson in centrefield made a fine clear leap over a five-rail fence in running for a fine ball knocked, and by it saved a run.  The playing of Toomey and McKiernan was like working of a well regulated machine.  We won by the score, 50 to 21.

We sailed for New York in the steamer City of Boston at 10 P. M., and arrived there at six in the morning, and got here at 8 A.M.  Thus ends our tour.


Paterson Daily Press - September 23, 1867

Sunday, August 6, 2017

New England Standoff

Photo by Mark Granieri

When the Neshanock traveling party, including three members of the Elizabeth Resolutes, arrived at Old Bethpage Village on Saturday, it would have been understandable to believe we somehow missed a turn and ended up in New England instead.  On tap for Flemington were two matches in the Doc Adams Festival against the Providence Grays and the Boston Beaneaters, two New England clubs with more than a little base ball history behind them.  The Providence Club, for example, is famous for its 1884 National League pennant winning season led by the unbelievable pitching performance of Charles "Old Hoss" Radbourn who won 59 games (yes 59) that season, throwing some 678 innings with a 1.38 ERA.  Just mind boggling numbers.  Anyone interested in learning more should take a look at Ed Achorn's fine book Fifty-nine in '84.  More information about the Grays and their recreation of late 19th century base ball including overhand pitching can be found at

Photo by Mark Granieri

Back in mid July, the Neshanock took on the Grays at the Gettysburg Festival and emerged with a hard fought win in a game played under 1864 rules.  For Saturday's game on Long Island, the two clubs moved the rules up a year to 1865 (no fair bound outs), but the game could have been played by the rules of 2000 BC for all it would have mattered.  Flemington did score twice in the top of the first and was still close at 4-3 after two, but Providence tallied eight times in the third, to lead 11-3 on the way to an easy 20-4 victory.  Flemington's offense was led by Lawrence Major with three hits, followed by two apiece by Jeff "Duke" Schneider, Danny "Lunch Time" Shaw, Ken "Tumbles" Mandel and Joe "Mick" Murray, with "Mick" coming up with a clear score.  Lawrence was one of three Resolutes, helping the Neshanock out on Saturday, even though he was wearing the uniform of the Liberty Club of New Brunswick, a club he is starting.  Thanks also to Paul Salomone and Kyle Gautieri for filling out the limited Flemington roster and thanks to the New York Mutuals for organizing this fine event.

Photo by Mark Granieri

After a brief break with nary a "Casey at the Bat" to be heard, Flemington's second match was against the Boston Beaneaters, the first time the Neshanock have taken on the Massachusetts club which like the Grays favors the overhand game.  The Beaneaters have a long and distinguished history that I seem to keep running into in some of my writing endeavors.  For example, one of the essays that I wrote for the SABR publication Inventing Baseball, was about the National League's first game which featured the Boston club (then called the Red Caps) against the Philadelphia Athletics (  Next, I wrote four game accounts for another SABR book, Boston's First Nine about the Boston club's dominance of the National Association from 1871 to 1875 (they were then called the Red Stockings).  In 1883 the club adopted the name Beaneaters and went on to dominate the National League winning seven 19th century pennants and putting seven players and one manager in the Hall of Fame.  I'm currently working on two game accounts for another SABR book about the Beaneaters.  Although they are long since gone from Boston, the club still exists as the Atlanta Braves.  More information about the vintage version can be found at

Photo by Mark Granieri

Striking second in the second contest, Flemington kept Boston off the board and tallied six aces in their half of the first, before adding two more in the second and one in the third for a 9-0 lead on the way to an 18-5 win, almost the direct opposite of the first match.  Danny "Lefty" Gallagher led the Neshanock attack with four hits, earning his first career score in what was only his fourth vintage match.  "Duke," Kyle and "Mick" also chipped in three hits while "Gaslight," "Lunch Time," "Mick" and Lawrence added two apiece.  Lawrence also pitched the full nine innings and made an outstanding defensive play, catching a line drive on the bound in the top of the seventh.  Having split the days two matches, the Neshanock are now 19-8 on the season, heading into a long weekend in New England (where else) with Saturday and Sunday games in Connecticut.  As noted a few weeks ago, the Neshanock trip takes place 150 years after the Olympic Club of Paterson made a similar visit to the Nutmeg State and a post towards the middle of the week will reprint a contemporary account of that trip.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Tuttle Tintypes

Saturday's event in Washington Valley became an exhibition game so the Neshanock's record remains at 18-7, heading into Saturday when Flemington will once again take part in the Doc Adams Festival at Old Bethpage Village on Long Island.  After a hiatus of many years, the Neshanock will play the Providence Grays for the second time in just three weeks.  In their second match, Flemington will take on the Boston Beaneaters, either for the first time or at least the first time in a decade.  In the meantime, below are pictures of some of your favorite Neshanock, courtesy of Dennis Tuttle (all rights reserved) who does an outstanding job of photography each year at the Gettysburg Festival.  Remember to click on the picture to enlarge.

Danny "Lunch Time" Shaw

Flemington defense awaits the ball being put in play by the Walker Tavern Wheelmen

Mark "Gaslight" Granieri (erect) and Chris "Low Ball" Lowry go after an outfield hit

Meshack "Shack" Desane

Rene "Mango" Marrero

Jeff "Duke"Schneider

Although omitting his trademark tumble, Ken "Tumbles" Mandel reaches the bag safely

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Heat and Humidity in Hawthorne

After relatively mild temperatures and humidity last weekend in southern Pennsylvania, the Neshanock encountered Gettysburg like conditions much closer to home in Hawthorne, New Jersey, on the outskirts of Paterson.  Making their second New Jersey appearance in three weeks were the New York Mutuals who joined Flemington for what turned out to be a seven inning opening contest, followed by the full nine innings for the second.  The Neshanock got off quickly in the first match, scoring twice in their initial time at the striker's line, but didn't tally in the next two innings and had an uncomfortable 2-1 lead heading to the bottom of the fourth.  Fortunately the Neshanock tallied three times in the fourth and added three more over the course of the game while allowing the Mutuals only one more run for an 8-2 Neshanock win.  While Flemington didn't put up much offense, Rene "Mango" Marrero had three hits, followed by Tom"Thumbs" Hoepfner with two and Chris "Low Ball" Lowry had a clear score, albeit of the "Tumblesque" variety - on base more via errors than hits.

Limited to just eight tallies in the first match, Flemington topped that total in the very first inning of the second game, scoring nine times before the Mutual even got up to bat.  Another six tallies in the top of the fifth gave Flemington a commanding lead on the way to a 20-8 win.  Brian "Spoons" LoPinto contributed five hits from the lead off position, a figure matched by "Thumbs."  Contributing three hits apiece to the Neshanock attack were Dave "Illinois" Harris, Gregg "Burner" Wiseburn, Scott "Snuffy" Hengst and newcomer, Danny "Lefty" Gallagher (welcome "Lefty").  Thanks also to the hot dog vendor who filled in when Flemington was a man short for late stages of the second game, although it did unleash the worst possible combinations of puns and figures of speech.  Notice should also be taken, or so he tells me, of Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw's pitching performance going the distance in both games.  With the wins, Flemington is now 18-7 on the season headed into a match with the Elizabeth Resolutes next Saturday in Washington Valley, New Jersey.

I want to acknowledge a glaring omission in the account of the Neshanock's visit to Gettysburg when in describing the victory over the Monitor Club of Chelsea, Michigan, I failed to mention "Illinois'" clear score.  I understand that "Illinois" fans, who are legion, have appointed a monitor to insure a higher level of future accuracy in the score keeping department.

Exactly when Hawthorne had its first base ball club isn't clear, but unless it flew below the radar of the 19th century media, which is very possible, it wasn't until some time after 1870.  Neighboring Paterson, of course, had clubs far earlier, but the New York game didn't establish itself in Alexander Hamilton's model industrial city as early and firmly as it did in Jersey City and Newark.  Paterson, I believe, was New Jersey's third largest city in 1860, but it had few ball clubs in the antebellum period although one group of the city's first ball players gets credit for imagination for naming their team the Flora Temple Club in honor of a famous race horse of the day.  None of these clubs seemed to have survived the beginning of the Civil War so it was with some pride, if not relief, that the Paterson Daily Register welcomed the formation of not one, but two clubs in July of 1863.  One group quickly dubbed themselves the Paterson Club while the second chose to call themselves the Excelsior Club perhaps in tribute to the numerous Paterson men serving in the Excelsior Brigade founded by the famous, or infamous, Daniel Sickles.  Both clubs were start up operations, but the paper claimed the Excelsiors had "more rugged players" than the Paterson Club who had thus far shown their "greenness." Experienced or not, the paper wished both teams well so long as they didn't play on the Sabbath.

Paterson Daily Register - August 12, 1863

After almost a month of practice, the two clubs played each other in a contest the Daily Register felt was "well worthy of the gallant sons of the Cataract City" (think Great Falls), finding no end of things to praise especially that "Not an angry word was uttered on the grounds, and, what is more honorable, not a drunken man could be seen."  Perhaps the writer had little experience with base ball or was more interested in the deportment of the players and crowd since his claim of "really excellent" play on both sides is more than a little hard to reconcile with a game that lasted almost five hours before it was mercifully stopped by darkness.  At that time the game was in the bottom of the ninth with the Excelsior Club at bat, leading 23-17 lead so not much was lost, but it's hard to understand how a game with that score could have taken five hours to play.  As seen above, the limited box score gives no information about pitching and muffs, but the only explanation that comes to mind is strikers taking a lot of pitches before swinging, especially since this was before the introduction of called balls.

Paterson Daily Register - October 20, 1863

While the paper heaped praise on a number of the participants, one who apparently earned his accolades was one Jimmy Demarest since he moved up to play center field for the Eagle Club of New York about two months later.  Although not one of the most successful clubs on the field, the Eagle Club had a long history and in the early 1850's was, along with the Gothams and Knickerbockers, one of only three teams playing competitive matches. There are multiple New Jersey connections to the Eagle Club which at some point merits more detailed attention.  In addition to Demarest, at least three other Eagle players in the above box score got started in New Jersey, Bixby with the Pioneer Club of Jersey City, Salisbury with the Hoboken team and Shaffer from the Hamilton Club also of Jersey City.  The Hudson County pipeline to the Eagle Club makes sense, especially since the Eagles played and practiced in Hoboken, but the quick transition of a Paterson player is a little more unusual.  The movement of New Jersey players to a New York club, anticipates Paterson's most famous 19th century team, the Olympics which helped four major leaguers including Mike "King" Kelly and Edward "The Only" Nolan get started.  Another interesting thing about the Olympic Club is that 150 years ago, they visited Connecticut to take on four local teams, an experience the Neshanock will re-create in just a few weeks, although not by railroad and steamer.  A contemporary account of the Olympic trip will be posted right before the Neshanock head for the Nutmeg State.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Baseball America

Photo by Tom "Big Bat" Fesolowich

More years ago than I care to remember, the Zinn family was able to purchase tickets for the then annual major league exhibition game played at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown as part of Hall of Fame induction weekend.  The Montreal Expos were one of the two teams and the other might have been the Angels which shows the game itself didn't create any memorable moments, at least for me.  What was, however, so impressive I've never forgotten it, was the atmosphere in Cooperstown that day, the village streets overflowing with people from all walks of life and parts of the country, united by their love of baseball.  The shared passion was best exemplified by three Roman Catholic nuns in full habit, head to toe, each of them topping off their religious garb with a baseball hat and, yes, one of them was appropriately wearing an Angels cap.  The experience moved Carol Zinn, for whom baseball is an acquired taste, to comment that Cooperstown that day was "Baseball America."  It's exactly the same feeling I had this past weekend when the Flemington Neshanock were privileged to once again participate in the Gettysburg National 19th Century Base Ball Festival.  

Photo by Mark Granieri

As they have since the inaugural event back in 2010, the Elkton Eclipse Club of Maryland did their usual fine job of hosting an expanded and enhanced weekend.  This year some 22 clubs from ten different states arrived at the Schroeder's Farm, not far from Confederate Avenue in Gettyburg for two days of base ball and what has also become a vintage base ball reunion.  Just the scheduling alone, arranging for so many teams to play four games over two days on five fields while balancing team travel needs, was a challenge that have would have won a tip of the hat from Charles Ebbets, that master of major league schedule making.  The Eclipse's commitment to maximizing the number of participating teams plays an important part in making this a "Baseball America" experience.  While the Gettysburg event has a narrower focus than the Hall of Fame induction, like that day in New York state, the weekend in southern Pennsylvania also brings together people from a wide range of locations and backgrounds, united by a passion for base ball history and shared values.  Uppermost among those values, as I experienced them, were playing the game the way it should be played, playing to win while maintaining a respectful relationship with the opposition and heartfelt feelings of fellowship once the match was over.

Photo by Mark Granieri

First up for Flemington this year was the Monitor Club of Chelsea, Michigan, a team, if I remember correctly, which has been playing for about seven years and making its first visit to the festival.  After setting the Monitors down without a run in the top of the first, the Neshanock tallied three times in their half, but had a hard time getting anything going offensively in the early innings.  Flemington did add one run in the bottom of the third primarily because of the base running of Chris "Low Ball" Lowry, who after reaching base demonstrated how to advance on productive outs.  Watching "Low Ball" do this, and not for the first time, I can understand how Henry Chadwick, in the early days of competitive base ball, came to put emphasis on a base runner's responsibility to make his own away around the bases.  Fortunately, for the Neshanock, big innings in the fourth and seventh put the game out of reach and gave Flemington their first victory of the weekend.  Offensively, Dave "Illinois" Harris, Chris "Side Show" Nunn and "Low Ball," led the way with three hits apiece while Danny "Lunch Time" Shaw and the Neshanock defense held the Monitor Club at bay.

Photo by Mark Granieri

While the Monitor Club was new to the Festival, the day's second opponent, the Talbot Fair Plays of Maryland were all too well known to the Neshanock.  Just a few weeks earlier at Princeton, the teams split two games with Flemington earning their first victory over one of the country's top vintage clubs in many a year.  Saturday figured to be a tough game and that expectation was more than met.  Although Talbot scored once in the top of the first, outstanding Neshaock defense kept them off the score board for the next four innings led by sparkling plays by Rene "Mango" Marerro and "Illinois."  Flemington scored once in the second and then added two in the fourth led by some fine base running by Dan "Sledge" Hammer.  Although the Neshanock were ahead 3-1 going to the top of the sixth, Talbot finally broke through to tie the match at 3-3 before Flemington untied  it in the bottom of the seventh, taking a 4-3 lead into the eighth.  Talbot had its last four strikers heading to the line in their half of the eighth, but the Fair Plays quickly showed why they are such a good team.  After the first two strikers reached safely on what were clearly intentionally well placed hits, the next batter went to the line with one goal, move the runners up, which was exactly what he did.  With the table thus set, the last batter in the order delivered a clutch hit which put Talbot ahead to stay in what would ultimately be a 9-5 victory.  It was by no means a case of Flemington losing, but rather Talbot rising to the occasion and winning.  The Neshanock attack was led by "Sledge," "Mango," "Low Ball" and "Lunch Time" with two hits apiece.

Picture by Mark Granieri

Spared the early game on both days, the Neshanock arrived on Sunday morning for a match against the Providence Grays on another day of the nicest weather in the festival's history.  The Providence club is somewhat unique in vintage circles as they recreate a major league team of the 1880's that, of course, played the overhand game, but the gentlemen from Rhode Island adapted to the 1860's rules for the festival.  Unlike the rest of the Neshanock's games, this match turned into a hitting contest.  Flemington tallied seven times in the fourth for a 10-4 lead, but Providence quickly answered with four of their own to close within 10-8 and it was 12-9 as Flemington batted in the bottom of the sixth.  With two out, one on and none in, the chances of increasing the margin looked slim until five straight Neshanock strikers delivered two out hits, producing five runs and a 17-9 lead.  Although Providence scored three of their own in the seventh, another big Neshanock inning put the game out of reach in route to a 25-13 Flemington victory, a much closer game than the score indicated.  As might be expected a number of the Neshanock had big games with Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri, "Tumbles " and "Illinois" delivering four hits apiece, with both "Gaslight" and "Tumbles" (yes, "Tumbles") earning clear scores.  

Photo by Mark Granieri

In its fourth and final game of the festival, the Neshanock took on the Walker Tavern Wheels of Brooklyn, Michigan, another first time encounter for Flemington.  The Michigan club's reputation had preceded them and the Neshanock went into the game anticipating a hard struggle which is exactly what they got in another relatively low scoring affair.  After five innings the two clubs were tied at 5-5 in a game that featured some outstanding defense including such impressive catches by "Illinois" of the Neshanock and the Walker third base man that onlookers wondered if the two had pine tar or some other adhesive on their hands.  Flemington managed to score four times in the sixth for a 9-6 lead, but Walker scored twice in the top of the seventh before the Neshanock closed the door.  When Flemington couldn't add any tallies in its half of the seventh, the one run lead looked precarious. but the Michigan team went out in order in the eighth and the Neshanock added three more runs for a 12-8 lead.  Then to, cap off the weekend, Flemington retired the Wheelman, quickly and without incident.  Impressively, after Walker Tavern closed within two with one out in the seventh, Flemington set down the next eight strikers in order.  It was a good win, over a worthy opponent. "Thumbs," "Mango," and "Illinois" each had three hits while "Sledge," Meshack "Shack" Desane and "Gaslight" had two apiece.

Photo by Mark Granieri

After dinner on Saturday night, Carol and I went to the "Songs and Stories of a Civil War Hospital" program at Christ Lutheran Church in the heart of Gettysburg.  This was the sixth time we've attended the program and beforehand I was wondering why we needed to do it again.  Listening, however to stories, some of them no less heart rendering for being heard year after year, I realized the program was an essential part of the weekend because it reminded us what is really important about Gettysburg.  The Elkton Club does a fine job of organizing the event, but one of their most important contributions is their choice of venue.  Like Cooperstown, Gettysburg has no real base ball significance, rather Gettysburg is important because of those "who here gave their lives, that that nation might live."  Elkton has done everything and more to get us to Gettysburg, while there, I believe we all have a responsibility in some way to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice on that hallowed ground.  Attending the Christ Lutheran program is one way to do that.  Another is to visit some part of the battlefield, but perhaps most fitting would be for each club or a representative to visit the national cemetery and to spend a few moments paying their respects in the section where the men from their home state are buried.  It would give even more meaning to what is already a memorable "Baseball America" experience.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Revolution and Evolution

Blake Zimmer helping me score the game "correctly" at Howell Living History Farm - photo by Ben Zimmer

On Saturday, the Neshanock made their annual visit to River Edge, New Jersey for two games at New Bridge Landing, an historic site operated by the Bergen County Historical Society.  The society always does a nice job with this event and as per usual there was a large and enthusiastic crowd in attendance.  The site has revolutionary significance because in November of 1776, the Continental Army crossed the Hackensack River at this point, beginning their "retreat to victory" which ended on Christmas night 1776 in Trenton.  The opposition for two seven inning games was provided by the New York Mutuals and the visitors got off to a quick start scoring seven times in the first two innings to take a 7-2 lead before Flemington started chipping away while tightening up on the defensive end.  In the top of the fifth, the Neshanock finally tied the game and then added another tally for a one run lead headed to the bottom of the inning.  After that, Flemington, for once, did the things the easy way scoring four times each in the sixth and seventh innings for a 16-7 win.  

A key hit in the sixth was delivered by "Jersey" Jim Nunn who drove in two runs with a clutch two out single.  Leading the Neshanock offense was Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner who earned a clear score the hard way, five hits in five times at the striker's line including three doubles and a home run.   Also contributing three hits apiece were Meshack "Shack" Deshane, Dan "Sledge" Hammer, Rene "Mango" Marrero and Bobby "Melky" Ritter with "Melky" also achieving a clear score.  As he did at Princeton in his Neshanock debut, "Shack" also contributed some fine defense plays in both games .  Also noteworthy was Joe "Irish" Colduvell's flawless defense at second base.  The break between matches featured the usual splendiferous rendering of "Casey at the Bat," followed by Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw leading the crowd in a rousing version of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." 

 In the second game, the Neshanock emulated the Mutuals scoring, seven times in the first two innings, quickly taking charge of what would end up as a convincing 16-4 triumph.  Not resting on his laurels was "Thumbs" who earned a second clear score with four hits including another home run, going a perfect nine for nine for the day.  "Sledge" also had four hits while "Mango" and "Hound" added three apiece.  Five other Neshanocks had two hits including Steve "Cuz" Thompson who returned to the Flemington line up after far too long an absence.  After finishing the first contest at the pitcher's line, Dave "Illinois" Harris made an even earlier appearance in the second came, keeping the Mutuals off the bases and making a fine bound catch along the way.  With the two wins, Flemington is now 13-6 on the season, heading into next weekend's Gettysburg National Vintage Base Ball Festival, one of 22 participating teams in what has become one of the country's premier vintage base ball events.  

New York Clipper - January 4, 1860

A few weeks ago I wrote about an article in the January 4, 1860 issue of the New York Clipper where Henry Chadwick proclaimed the "correct" way to keep a box score.  Chadwick illustrated his format with the above example from an 1859 match between the Atlantic and Star Clubs of Brooklyn.  Chadwick continued to use this format for the next three seasons (including 1860), but was clearly willing to let the box score evolve as evidenced by the below format from an 1863 match between the Athletic Club of Philadelphia and the Eureka Club of Newark. Notice the offensive part of the box score remained unchanged and there continues to be no information about the pitcher's performance.  What does change significantly, however, is the defensive section, gone are the two multi-columned charts, replaced by a listing of defensive statistics providing much the same information in a far simpler format.   Furthermore the revised format now includes passed balls and errors, informing the reader not just what the defense did, but also what it didn't do.  While this is still very different from the modern format, this 1863 box score anticipates the structure or order used today - offensive statistics, line score and then defensive information, followed today by pitching statistics.  The difference between the 1859 and 1863 formats is another example of base ball's evolution, albeit off the field, during those early years of the organized game.

New York Clipper - June 27, 1863

Sunday, July 2, 2017

In the Footsteps of the Babe

One especially enjoyable feature of vintage base ball is the opportunity to visit and play games on fields where some of the game's greatest players have performed, fields far from the major leagues.  Back when I was score keeper for the short lived Eureka Club, we traveled all the way to Fleischmanns in the Catskills for a game on a field where the great Honus Wagner once played. And later this year the Neshanock will visit South Orange, New Jersey for the third time, to play where Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig and Monte Irvin among others have performed.   Another such opportunity occurred this past Saturday when in a late addition to the schedule, the Neshanock were invited to Delanco in south Jersey to be part of an event commemorating a July 1, 1924 game when Babe Ruth himself came to town to play in an exhibition game.  Not only did the local fans get a chance to see the Bambino in the flesh, he rewarded them with a home run - something the estimated 5,000 in attendance doubtless never forgot.

Photo by Mark Granieri

The original schedule called for two matches with the first to be played by 1864 rules and the second under 1870 regulations, the major difference being the elimination of fair bound outs.  Opposing the Neshanock was a Picked Nine, captained by Paul Salomone, captain and founder of the Elizabeth Resolutes.  Most of the Picked Nine were muffins, playing vintage base ball for the first time and they acquitted themselves admirably, especially in the field.  After retiring the Picked Nine in their first attempt at the striker's line, Flemington managed four tallies in its first at bats before suffering through another scoring drought, part of which was due to the opposition's defense.  The Neshanock managed two more tallies in the fifth, but was hardly comfortable with a 7-2 lead, heading into the bottom of the seventh.  Fortunately the Neshanock bats woke up as Flemington scored twice in the seventh and six times in the eighth in route to a 15-2 win which was no where near as dominating as the score might have indicated.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Flemington was led at the striker's line by Danny "Lunch Time" Shaw, Mark "Gaslight" Granieri and Dave "Specs" Chamalion with three hits each, including two doubles by "Gaslight."  Adding two hits apiece to the Neshanock attack were Jeff "Duke" Schneider, Joe "Mick" Murray, Bobby "Melky" Ritter and Ken "Tumbles" Mandel.  In addition to his offensive heroics, not to mention taking pictures for the blog, "Gaslight" had 10 put outs on foul tips which I believe ties a previous record.  Also noteworthy on defense was fine, leaping catch by Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner at short stop and a exceptional "dig out" of a low throw by "Specs" at first.  Since the Neshanock were playing, it's no surprise rain made an appearance as well, beginning with a steady down pour in the eighth inning.  Between games another steady rainfall began and it was agreed to call it a day.  Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw did manage to squeeze in "Casey at the Bat," to perhaps the smallest audience yet.  With the win, Flemington is now 11-6 on the season heading into next Saturday's doubleheader against the New York Mutuals at New Bridge Landing in River Edge, New Jersey, a rare north Jersey appearance by the Neshanock.

As noted many times in this blog, historical accuracy is one of the highest priorities (if not the highest) of vintage base ball, but achieving it isn't always that simple since it's not easy to know exactly how the game was played so many years ago.  This season has seen the debut of a Facebook page devoted to the subject with much of the discussion thus far focused on understanding how the umpire carried out his responsibilities.  Occasionally the discussion has gotten somewhat heated, reflecting just how much the participants care about historical accuracy.  If I didn't understand or appreciate the strength of those feelings previously I do now that I've once again witnessed the comments and observations on the anniversary of the June 19, 1846 game at Elysian Fields between the Knickerbockers and the New York Club. In spite of all the work that has been done on the early years of organized base ball and some clear supporting evidence to the contrary, far too many people still give far too much importance to this game.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Let's be clear, the June 19, 1846 game was not by any standard, the first match game, incontrovertible evidence exists that at least three games were played in October of 1845 including at least one at Elysian Fields (some of the evidence can be seen at Some would also argue the 1846 game wasn't even a true match game.  Inaccurate accounts of this game, used to claim an important part for Hoboken and/or New Jersey in base ball history are not only wrong, they obscure the important base ball firsts that did happen our state such as the first African-American club organized in Newark in 1855.  Fortunately for my frustration with all of this, I'm going to have another platform,  besides this blog, to debunk the myths and try to get the story right.  I'm honored to have been asked by the Morven Museum and Gardens in Princeton to be the guest curator for an exhibition on early New Jersey base ball (1855-1880) scheduled to open in July of 2018.  I'm also working on a companion book which will use historical evidence, not myth or legend to tell the story of our state's part in base ball history - stay tuned.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Four Games, Three Teams, Two Venues

When the first pitch of the Neshanock's long base ball weekend was thrown at 11:25 in Princeton on Saturday, Flemington was four games over .500 at 8-4.  By the time the winning tally in the last game crossed the plate in Weatherly, Pennsylvania at 3:18 on Sunday, the Neshanock were still four games over .500 at 10-6, having apparently traveled extensively and labored mightily to finish in the same place they started.  Little could be further from the truth, of course, as the weekend saw two close, dramatic endings and produced no shortage of memorable moments. On Saturday, Flemington took on the Talbot Fair Plays of Maryland, one of the country's top vintage base ball clubs.  Although the game was publicized as an Historical Society of Princeton event, the Neshanock consider our annual visit to Princeton, the Tumbles' anniversary game, this year marking the sixth anniversary of the day Ken "Tumbles" Mandel's first joined the team.  It's safe to say the Neshanock have never been the same.

After winning the coin toss, Flemington elected to bat second, sending Talbot to the striker's line where they quickly scored two tallies.  However, the Neshanock bounced right back scoring four runs of their own to lead 4-2 after one, but Flemington wouldn't score again until the eighth inning.  By that time, Talbot had 14 tallies, due to a combination of some sloppy Neshanock defense which opened the door to timely hitting by Talbot.  Flemington did rally for four tallies in the eighth, but Talbot got two back in the top of the ninth for a convincing 16-8 victory. Talbot's play was marked by solid hitting, especially with two out, and sensational defense particularly on the left side of the infield.  Jeff "Duke" Schneider led the Flemington attack with three hits and would have registered a clear score, but for being thrown out attempting to steal something that proved difficult throughout the day.  Right behind "Duke" in the hit column were Gregg "Burner" Wiseburn, Brian "Spoons" LoPinto, Chris "Low Ball" Lowry and Meshack "Shaq" Desane with two hits each.  "Shaq" was a muffin playing in his first two vintage games and in addition to his two hits, made some impressive plays in the field, hopefully he will become a regular member of the Neshanock.

After a brief break between games, with the once again obligatory "Casey at the Bat," the second contest began, this time with the Neshanock going first to the striker's line and putting two tallies across the plate.  Talbot once again played fine defense, but the Neshanock raised their defensive game several levels and a close contest developed with the score tied 5-5 going to the top of the sixth.  Interestingly, both teams had the top of their orders up in the sixth and Flemington took advantage putting one tally across the plate to lead 6-5.  Talbot's lead off batter hit a blistering bullet towards third which "Burner" grabbed in a sensational stop, followed by an equally impressive throw to retire the striker, leading the way to setting Talbot down in order.  Flemington added two more runs and led 8-6 going to the bottom of the eighth, but Talbot tied the game with the tying tally scoring on a close play at the plate.   Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner got Flemington stared with a single in the ninth and then scored the go ahead run on "Burner's" double.

No one on the Neshanock bench thought Talbot would go quietly and they put the tying run on third and the winning run on second with two out.  The next Talbot striker beat out a ground ball to third, but when the runner on third tried to score, "Tumbles" appropriately celebrated his anniversary game by throwing the Talbot runner out the plate, assisted by the block and tag by Scott "Snuffy" Hengst.   "Duke" once again got three hits and this time managed to avoid being put out for a clear score, no mean feat against the Talbot defense.  "Thumbs" and "Burner" also had three hits apiece, followed by Dave "Specs" Chamalion with two, all important offensive contributions. However "Tumbles" game saving throw was the day's most memorable moment, at least in the Mandel household.  After an exciting day at Princeton, the Neshanock headed home to prepare for the second half of this long base ball weekend, two games at the Eckley Miners Museum in Weatherly, Pennsylvania.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Located in eastern Pennsylvania, about 2 1/2 hours west of New York City, the Eckley Miners' Village provided housing and other services for coal miners beginning in 1854 through some point before World War II.  Of special note, in 1969 the village was used to film The Molly Maguires.  There wasn't time for a detailed look around, but just the general appearance of the buildings and the location confirmed how difficult life must have been for the miners and their families and that's without even seeing the coal mines themselves.  Sunday's games were the second half of a two day vintage base ball event at the museum with the Keystone Club of Harrisburg playing both days, Saturday against the Brandywine Club and Sunday against Flemington.  After setting Harrisburg down without a tally in the first inning, the Neshanock offense exploded scoring 18 tallies in the first three innings for an insurmountable 18-2 lead.  However, Flemington managed only three more tallies the rest of the game which wasn't a good omen for the second match.  Dave "Illinois" Harris led the Neshanock attack with four hits, followed by Chris "Low Ball" Lowry with three and the well rested duo of Danny "Lunch Time" Shaw and Mark "Gaslight" Granieri with two apiece.

Photo by Mark Granieri

As per usual, the intent was to take a brief break between games, allowing for some rest, food and water, and, of course, "Casey at the Bat," but on Sunday, the break lasted almost an hour because of rain that wasn't predicted or anticipated.  Rain, however, has been a good omen for the Neshanock in 2017 perhaps offsetting the dramatic drop in offensive production in the latter stages of the first game.  Such proved not to be the case, however, and two statistics dramatically illustrate the significant difference in the two games.  While in the first contest, the Keystone club made nine muffs, they played almost flawless defense in the second game with only one miscue.  On the Neshanock end, Flemington left ten men on base in the second contest compared to only five in the first game, interestingly every Neshanock was left on base at least once. Both statistics were bad news for Flemington in a game where every tally mattered.  Even with lower offensive production, however, the Neshanock still led until the sixth when the Keystones tied the match at 7-7 and then took a 9-8 lead as Flemington came to bat in the top of the ninth.

Photo by Mark Granieri

With the Neshanock down to their final out, Jeff "Duke" Schneider drove in "Tumbles" with the tying run and stole second to put himself in place to score on a Neshanock hit which was promptly delivered by "Lunch Meat."  However when "Duke" tried to score the go ahead run (unwisely urged on by the Neshanock bench, especially me), he was out by several miles.  Although Harrisburg got the winning run to third in the bottom of the inning, Flemington survived and the game headed to extra innings, something neither club, having played four games in two days, really needed.  After Flemington went down in order in the top of the tenth, the Keystone Club again got the winning run to third, this time with no one out.  The Neshanock managed to retire the next two strikers, but had no such luck with the final hitter of a long weekend who drove in the winning run, sending the teams home having divided the day's festivities.  "Lunch Time" led the Flemington attack with four hits, followed by "Duke" and "Tumbles" with three each, but it wasn't quite enough to beat the Keystones a second time.  The Harrisburg Club has a fine team who plays the game the way it should be played and it's always a pleasure to meet them on the ball field.  Now 10-6 on the season, the Neshanock will visit Delanco, New Jersey next Saturday for two games with the Elizabeth Resolutes.

Photo by Mark Granieri