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





Sunday, June 18, 2017

"A Correct Score of a Base Ball Match"

As the Neshanock headed south by various routes on their way to the City of Brotherly Love and a Saturday match up with the Athletic Club of Philadelphia, the rain came, a good omen for Flemington so far this season.  The presence of "Neshanock weather," notwithstanding, however, the Athletics got off to a quick start in the first match, leading 4-1 after three innings and 4-2 after five.  In their half of the sixth, however, Flemington got things going offensively, scoring four times for a 6-4 lead.  The Athletics got one back, to trail only 6-5 heading to the bottom of the eighth at which point a five run Flemington rally, put the game out of reach for a hard fought 11-5 win which was far closer than the score indicated.  The Neshanock attack was led by Dan "Sledge" Hammer, who not only had a clear score in four trips to the striker's line, but also hit a home run and a triple, falling only a double short of the cycle.  Backing up "Sledge" were Rene "Mango" Marrero and Joe "Mick" Murray with two hits each.




Photo by Jeff Schneider

After a brief break, this time without the usually obligatory "Casey at the Bat," the Neshanock got started early scoring five times in the first, adding three more in both the second and third to lead 11-2, coasting thereafter to an 15-4 win.  Flemington had a second clear score in the second game, this time from Chris "Low Ball" Lowry with four hits, followed by Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner, Danny "Lunch Time" Shaw, Scott "Snuffy" Hengst and "Mango" with three each.  Also of note was Adam "the Vic" Schneider who got his first two vintage base ball hits while also handling two chances in the field.  With the two wins, the Neshanock improve to 8-4 for the season heading into a busy weekend with two matches at Princeton on Saturday against the Talbot Fair Plays and then on Sunday at the Eckley Mine Museum Festival against the Harrisburg Club.


Photo by Jeff Schneider

If a clear score was the ultimate offensive goal of a 19th century ball player, the equivalent for a score keeper would be what the New York Clipper, (read Henry Chadwick) in its January 14, 1860 issue, somewhat immodestly claimed was "A Correct Score."  Lamenting the absence of sufficient data to analyze the prior season and anticipating expanded base ball coverage during the 1860 season, Chadwick not only proclaimed the "correct" format, but illustrated it with the details of an 1859 match.  Going even further, he expressed the hope/expectation that the National Association of Base Ball Players would would also endorse a standard system, something which doesn't appear to have happened.  Trying to cover all the bases, Chadwick also called on each club to have a "regular scorer or scorers," because it is "an onerous position" which "requires a gentleman to fill it creditably," important credentials to this very day.  Looking at this "correct" score, I thought it might be interesting to enter into Chadwick's format, the Neshanock's statistics from the June 10th nine inning match with the Picked Nine to see what it might tell us.


          
                                     Hands Lost      Runs
Duke 1 1
Adam 2 0
Spoons 1 2
Thumbs 2 0
Gaslight 3 1
Illinois 3 1
Mick 1 2
Melky 2 0
Tumbles 4 0
Irish 6 0
Low Ball 2 2
Total 27 9

First, came the above section, almost identical to the first 1845 box scores, listing the batting order, hands lost (outs) and runs scored.  Based on this information, it appears the major offensive contributions came from "Spoons," "Mick" and "Low Ball" each of whom tallied twice, no reference or credit is given to those who made the hits (or outs) that allowed them to score.  According to Peter Morris' go to work, A Game of Inches, runs received more emphasis than hits because early base ball box scores were derived from cricket where almost every hit produces a run.  Since runs were the name of the game there was little reason to be concerned with hits.  According to other entries in Peter's book, batting averages as we know them today weren't a part of base ball until 1874 while RBI's became part of the game even later in 1879-80. To the early box score format was appended the below line score, a clear improvement which shows how the game developed.  Without this someone hearing the 17-9 score might think the Picked Nine dominated contest when, in fact, the Neshanock led most of the way.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Flemington 0 1 0 2 3 0 1 1 1   9
Picked Nine 1 0 0 0 0 2 5 9   x  17



Next up is the below table of defensive statistics showing how while in the field, Flemington recorded the 24 outs for the eight innings that the picked nine was at the striker's line.  The two highest totals, eight for "Gaslight" and four for "Illinois," reflect their respective positions at catcher and first base.  In "Gaslight's" case, however the put outs have nothing to do with strike outs which apparently weren't counted as put outs at the time.  Rather, they reflect the bound rule which retires a batter on any foul ball caught on a bounce and catchers will likely have higher put out totals under those rules. I recall other matches where "Gaslight" had nine to ten put outs, meaning that a third of the opposing batters were retired with out putting the ball in play.  Missing from the format or at least, Chadwick's example is any record of muffs or errors, so we know the number of plays made correctly, but have no sense of the errors.  Without going into the gory details, errors opened or at least help open the door to the Picked Nine's offensive outbursts in their last two times at the striker's line.


How Put Out            Fly      Bound        Base        Total
Duke 1 1
Spoons 0
Thumbs 1 1 1 3
Gaslight 2 6 8
Illinois 4 4
Mick 3 3
Melky 1 1
Tumbles 1 1
Low Ball 3 3
Total 3 13 8 24
                 
Finally comes the below chart showing how the Neshanock striker's were retired.  Note that strike outs and run outs (tagging a runner in a run down) are not treated as put outs, but merit a separate category.  Since only four Flemington batters were retired on fouls, compared to eight for their opponents, the Neshanock did a better job of putting the ball in play.  Otherwise there doesn't seem to be a huge amount that can be gleaned from this chart.  What's missing from all of this, of course, is any information about pitching reflecting perhaps Chadwick's belief that pitching was of secondary importance to hitting and fielding.  The other thing to note is that this format reflects his views before the 1860 season which doubtless evolved even more by the end of 1864 (the rules by which this match was played).  In a future post, I'll plug these results into an 1864 box score format to look at how box scores continued to evolve along with the rest of the game.  


How Put Out  Fly Bound 1st 2nd 3rd        Foul
Duke 1
Adam 1
Spoons 1
Thumbs 2
Gaslight 2 1
Illinois 1 2
Mick 1
Melky 1 1
Tumbles 1 2 1
Irish 2 3 1
Low Ball 1 1
Run Out
Struck Out - Adam - 1
                               


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hot Day at the Farm

Saturday marked Flemington's annual visit to the picturesque (and mown hay ridden) Howell Living History Farm near Lambertville, New Jersey in very un-Neshanock like weather (it wasn't cold and rainy).  All too often, Flemington has difficulty defeating its opponent, today's problem began with just finding one.  Originally the match was to feature a new New Jersey vintage base ball club, but the prospective club failed to materialize leaving the Neshanock scrambling for an opponent.  Fortunately the vintage base ball community is wonderfully supportive so a picked nine representing primarily the Diamond State Club of Delaware, one member of the Athletic Club of Philadelphia, a couple of "muffins" and vintage base ball revolver extraordinaire,  Charles "Bugs" Klasman, filled in admirably, a little too admirably in the first contest.  Thanks to all those gentlemen for helping out and the good folks at Howell for providing a beautiful venue, albeit with a tree taking up most of right center field.


Photo by Mark Granieri

Striking first, Flemington got off to an early lead and even though the Neshanock didn't maximize their opportunities, still led 6-1 after five frames.  The picked nine started to scramble back in the sixth, however, closing to 6-3 and then took the lead at 8-7 after seven innings.  Flemington managed to tie the game in the top of the eighth, but the visitors were not to be denied in their half, scoring nine runs for a 17-9 victory.  After the door was opened by some untimely Neshanock muffs, the picked nine did some excellent work at the striker's line and deserved their come from behind win. Flemington's attack was led by Brian "Spoons" LoPinto and Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner with three hits apiece followed by a half-dozen Neshanock with two hits each.  Another item of note in the first game was a successful pick off play by Flemington pitcher Bobby "Melky" Ritter.


Photo by Mark Granieri

After a break for free food (thanks Howell Living History Farm), the obligatory performance of "Casey at the Bat," a seven inning second game got underway with the Neshanock in the field.  After keeping the picked nine off the score board in their first time at the striker's line, the Neshanock erupted for four runs in their first at bat which they matched and then some with five runs in both the second and third innings.  Ahead 9-3 after three, Flemington coasted home to a 16-6 victory behind the pitching of "Melky" followed by a solid relief effort from Dave "Illinois" Harris who also had four hits in as many times at bat.  Unfortunately "Illinois" missed out on a clear score because Ken "Tumbles" Mandel, once again in the wrong place at the wrong time, forced "Illinois" out at third after one of his base hits.  Right behind "Illinois" in offensive production was "Thumbs" with three hits, followed by "Spoons" and Joe "Mick" Murray with two apiece.


Photo by Mark Granieri

Base ball rules, including the 19th century variety, seem to have a way of producing statistical oddities.  In today's first game, for example, how did the Joe "Irish" Colduvell have more times at bat than the nine players ahead of him in the batting order in a game with no walks?  This statistical fluke was produced by a 19th century rule mixed with the aforementioned "Tumbles" unusual (to say the least sense) sense of timing.  Three different times in the first game, "Tumbles," batting before "Irish" managed to make the last out on the bases, not all  his fault, but he was there.  Under the 19th century rules that existed until 1879, when the last out was made on the bases, the batter who led off the next inning, was the player following the base runner in the batting order, not the player after the one at the plate when the last out was made (got that?).  "Tumbles," with his flair for the unusual enabled "Irish," not just to be the last batter in one inning, but the first batter in the next inning on three different occasions - not something you see every day even in the 19th century.  In any event, with the split on the day's proceedings, the Neshanock are 6-4 on the season heading into a double header next Saturday, June 17th against the Athletic Club of Philadelphia in the City of Brotherly Love.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Present (or at least near) the Creation

Recently I've been revisiting the early days of organized base ball as described by John Thorn in his definitive work, Baseball in the Garden of Eden.  I'm always fascinated by rules or features of the game which date back to the 1840's when the game first really got organized in New York City.  For example, among the Knickerbocker rules, adopted in 1845, is the stipulation that if a batter swings and misses for a third time, the catcher has to hold on to the ball, a rule enshrined forever in the annals of Brooklyn Dodger baseball misery.  Why did those young men so many years ago feel compelled to spell that out?  Since the Knickerbocker rules by themselves weren't sufficient to play a game, it's been suggested a number of their rules were intended to clarify issues not generally accepted among the relatively small number of ball players in Manhattan.  But if the catcher wasn't required to catch the first two strikes why was it so important to literally handle the third strike differently?  We'll probably never know for sure, but Richard Hershberger (as per usual) has done some extensive research and thinking on the subject, to be found at .https://sabr.org/research/dropped-third-strike-life-and-times-rule



 Another feature of today's game, something so common place as to be taken for granted, also dates back to that same period - the box score.  Any modern fan worth his or her salt spends time perusing the daily sports pages or the Internet seeking statistical information about players and teams.  Regrettably, newspapers are cutting back publication of out of town box scores, but fortunately comprehensive coverage is available on the Internet.  In fact, the wonders of technology even enable us to watch a box score in real time as the game progresses.  Yet even those consciously aware of the important role of the box score, may not realize it was part of the game before some of the most basic rules.  Box scores, for example, preceded called balls or strikes, nine inning games and nine players on a side, just to name a few.  It's risky to use creation and base ball in the same sentence, but based on the earliest documented match games, it's almost possible to think the box score was actually present at the creation or at least in the general vicinity.



Two of the earliest documented match base ball games were played in late October of 1845 between the New York Club and members of the Union Star Cricket Club of Brooklyn.  Both results were reported to the public and preserved for posterity through a brief verbal summary and, more importantly for our purposes, a crude box score.  The above box score which appeared in the New York Morning News, informs the reader the two teams met and played a match at Elysian Fields with eight to a side and the New Yorkers won handily by a 24-4 count.  A second account in the same paper a few days later includes a similar box score, which told the paper's readers the New York Club won the rematch.  Published at a time when it's safe to say most people  knew little about base ball, and perhaps cared less, the box scores confirmed which team won and gave a sense of which players had done well or poorly offensively.  Beyond that, there's not much a contemporary reader could have learned from the box score.  Even the inclusion of a simple inning by inning listing of runs scored, would have allowed an interested observer to know, for example, whether both games were one sided from the beginning or close until the New York Club pulled away.



From an historical perspective, however, these ancient (relatively speaking) box scores raise some interesting questions about the rules of games played just as the Knickerbockers were getting started and before their rules, or at least their clarifications, may have been generally accepted.  An obvious difference from the modern game is only eight players on a side confirming the matches were played before Doc Adams invented the shortstop's position.  It's also unlikely the teams played under the Knickerbocker's rule which said the  first team to tally 21 aces or runs won the match.  Unlikely instead of certain because under the Knickerbocker rules each team had to have the same number of at bats or innings so it's not impossible, the New York Club reached 21 and it took the Brooklyn players longer (far longer in the second match) to retire the side.  Still it's more probable the New York team was the winner because they scored more runs over the course of the same number of innings which raises the more interesting point - how many innings did the two teams play?


1853 box score showing little change from 1845

Perhaps a more appropriate question is, how many outs were there per inning?  Both box scores reflect 12 outs for each team although there is an error of some kind in the Brooklyn totals for the second match.  While the box score shows 12 outs, the individual figures total up to 13 which may be accurate, but more likely reflects an error by the score keeper (they are human after all) or an mistake in the transfer of the information from the score book (probably that of the New York club) to the newspaper.  Assuming for the moment, it was a mistake, then we have two games where each team made 12 outs which under modern rules would have meant four inning games.  However there is no way of knowing for sure if the New York Club had either adopted or was already using the Knickerbocker rule of three outs per inning.  The relationship between the New York Club and the Knickerbockers in October of 1845 is unclear.  We know there were overlapping memberships, but the extent there was common ground in their beliefs about rules such as the number of outs per inning  is unknown and probably unknowable.


By 1854 more detail is being provided, although inning by inning runs scored is still missing

In his ground breaking work, Baseball Before We Knew It, David Block wrote that before the Knickerbocker rules came into vogue, most games were played under two possible scenarios, one out - side out or all out - side out.  While these box scores don't spell out the number of outs allowed, the fact that in both games at least one player on each team didn't make an out (what would become known as a clear score) confirms the game was not played under the all out -side out arrangement.  It's certainly possible they played under the one out - all out version, but that would have meant playing 12 innings which is possible, but seems unlikely.  Among other things it's hard to believe so many runs would have scored in matches where only one out was sufficient to end a team's turn at bat.  While it's impossible to know for sure, my guess is that for at least these two games, the clubs not only played under the Knickerbocker rule of three outs per inning, but also anticipated the post Knickerbocker rule of the victory going to the team with the most runs after an even number of innings were played.  Speculation?  Without a doubt. Obscure?  Perhaps, but since base ball lacks a specific creation moment, artifacts like these, limited as they are, help us to study the beginnings of the organized game.



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Monday, May 29, 2017

"Without ever having had a chance to live"

The Neshanock's annual Memorial Day visit to Newtown, Pennsylvania to take on the hometown Strakes was cancelled for obvious reasons.  After taking next weekend off, Flemington will visit the Howell Living History Farm on Saturday, June 10th.  What follows is a reflection on why it's so important to remember our country's war dead originally written to accompany the game account.


Newark Star Eagle May 1919

Recently I've been thinking about something I wrote well over a decade ago, in my first book, The Mutinous Regiment: The Thirty-third New Jersey in the Civil War.  The 33rd's heaviest combat losses came during the Atlanta Campaign which lasted from May to September of 1864.  On July 20, 1864 at Peachtree Creek, the regiment had the extreme misfortune to be caught in an exposed position  in front of the Union lines when the Confederates under John Bell Hood launched a surprise attack.  Although the rebels were finally driven off, it was not before the 33rd suffered their highest combat losses of the war.  Ironically, and it was a bitter irony, Peachtree Creek was not only the 33rd's bloodiest battle of the war, it was also their last.  While it would take another year before the regiment returned home to New Jersey, they would never again be at risk of dying in battle.   Considering that sharp divide between living and dying, it's not surprising I was moved to write "If life is unfair, little in life is less fair than war.  In every war some go through combat unscathed to live long and full lives, while others, for no reason besides luck or chance, die without ever having had a chance to live." More than ten years, three other books and countless articles and blog posts later, I still think it's one of the best things I've written.


Parker Middleton of Newark, 369th Infantry Regiment - Killed in Action, September 30, 1918

What brought it to mind was not so much Memorial Day, but another war related project I'm working on this time about World War I.  I've been asked to give a lecture for the Newark History Society on September 25th about the combat experience of Newark men in what was then called the Great War.  It's not a subject I knew much about and researching it has shown the random unfairness of combat casualties was even greater for the dough boys of 1917-18 than for the Civil War generation.  Not only was the duration of our country's participation in the war shorter, most American troops saw combat for no more than three to four months.  The great majority of the men from New Jersey who served in World War I were part of either the 29th Division (the Rainbow Division) or the 78th Division (Jersey Lightening).  Most of both divisions' combat experience came in the Meuse Argonne, a terrible struggle that lasted from September 26th to Armistice Day on November 11th.  It was the longest battle in American History, lasting 47 days, but since units rotated in and out of line, the actual time in combat was shorter.


William Sawelson, 312th Regiment - Killed in Action, October 26, 1918

None of this is to suggest it was easy duty, Edward Lengel's excellent book on the battle is aptly  entitled To Conquer Hell and describes the terrible losses suffered by inexperienced, poorly trained American soldiers going against some of the strongest German defenses on the western front.  The 78th Division's story is a case in point, they were actively engaged for only nine days, but in that time, saw the unit's strength decline by 50% as they fought and died to take the citadel at Grandpre, a crucial position on the German's last important defensive line.  But while it must have been terrible, the men of the 78th Division were at the most risk of dying in combat for little over a week.  Even more so than the 33rd New Jersey's dead, the "unlucky" in the 78th Division had indeed died "without ever having a chance to live."  Understanding the unfairness of battle and how much those men missed when they lost their lives in the service of our country can helps us, I think, to better understand their sacrifices and the importance of never forgetting them.  As  the British poet, Laurence Binyon wrote earlier in the war.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

May it always be so.






Sunday, May 21, 2017

Not a walk-off, no matter how you look at it

Saturday, the Neshanock made a rare trip to northern New Jersey to take on the Nutley Colonels in an event sponsored by Kingsland Manor, an historic home in Nutley dating back to the 1700's.  The sponsors do a great job in hosting the match and I especially appreciate their reprinting something I had written about 1860's score keeping in the program.  While the weather was far more comfortable than the record breaking heat of the end of the week, the few rain drops that fell were a bad omen for the home team since at least so far, the Neshanock play better amidst rain or at least threatening clouds.  Today's game was basically decided early in a rather bizarre second inning which began with the Colonels, down 2-0, putting runners on second and third with one out.  What looked like a golden opportunity to score quickly went by the boards when the Neshanock pulled of the hidden ball trick (the Colonels had been duly warned by the umpire) and then recorded the third out on a foul tip.  


Photo by Mark Granieri

After the first two Neshanock strikers went down in Flemington's half of the second, it looked the game would continue to be a low scoring affair.  However the Neshanock suddenly erupted for six tallies, not all of which would have earned a lot of points for style, but counted in the score book for an 8-0 Flemington lead.  From that point on the strong pitching of Danny "Lunch Meat" (aka "King," aka "Batman") Shaw and Rene "Mango" Marrero and solid defense behind them kept the home team not only off the scoreboard, but also off the bases.  Flemington didn't generate a huge amount of offense either, but did tally 13 times in total led by "Mango" and Jeff "Duke" Schneider with three hits each, followed by Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner, Joe "Mick" Murray, Chris "Low Ball" Lowry, "Lunch Meat" and Dave "Illinois" Harris with two apiece.  "Illinois" also stole three bases which a was key factor in the victory or at least so he told me.  Thanks also to Manny for filling in and bolstering our numbers.  Now 5-3 on the season, Flemington will journey to Newtown, Pennsylvania on Memorial Day for the annual match with the hometown Strakes.


Photo by Mark Granieri

A few weeks ago, when writing about the Neshanock's bottom of the ninth inning victory over the Atlantic Club, I carefully avoided using the expression "walk-off win."  Not only wasn't the term used in the 1860's, it wasn't in vogue for most of my 60 plus years of following baseball one way or another.  I've since learned, however, that not only wasn't the expression "walk-off win" used in the 19th century, there was no such thing under the rules by which the Neshanock - Atlantic game was played (1864).  While I probably should have realized this earlier, it was brought home when I started thinking about one of the games on the Nassau Club of Princeton's four game tour of the then independent City of Brooklyn in October of 1863.  After dispatching the Resolute Club of Brooklyn in their first match, the collegians took on the Excelsior Club, a storied team from the City of Churches, largely due to their historic tour of New York state in 1860.  Later that same year, the Excelsiors had some unpleasant experiences in matches with the Atlantic Club leading to a vow not to compete for the championship which doubtless cost them some talented players.  Further weakening the Brooklyn club was the absence of its leader, Joe Leggett, who by 1863, unlike most of the leading players of the day, was serving in the Union Army.


Asa Brainard

At the same time, the Excelsior Club was not without talent, especially pitcher, Asa Brainard, who would go on to pitch for the Cincinnati Red Stockings and then for multiple teams in the National Association.  Opposing Brainard (whose brother was his catcher) was, not surprisingly, Fred Henry, he of the deceptive, curve like pitch, and it's no surprise the game was relatively low scoring.  Striking first, the Excelsiors led 2-1 after three innings and then added three runs in the fourth and two in the fifth while the visitors only managed three runs in the next three innings so that the Brooklyn club led 7-4 after six.  It got worse for the Princeton team over the last three innings and heading to the bottom of the ninth, the Excelsiors had a seemingly comfortable 11-5 lead.  Some of the Excelsiors may have been a little too relaxed since the Brooklyn Eagle (most likely Henry Chadwick) claimed they were paying "sundry attentions to a pail of claret punch."  In any event, the combination of two Excelsior muffs and two passed balls along with some timely Nassau hitting produced seven runs for the visitors and a "walk-off" victory.  But not so fast!  Under the rules of the day, the team striking second had to complete their at bat or the game reverted to the last complete inning when the Excelsiors were ahead  And in the gathering October dusk, it wouldn't take too long for it to be too dark to continue, in fact there were some claims that was already the case.


Joseph Leggett 

One can only imagine Henry Chadwick's horror at what happened next.  Two were out with Fred Henry at the striker's line and the Nassau Club star tried to speed things along by intentionally swinging and missing.  This didn't sit well with the Excelsior Club who "excited" over losing a game they had seemingly won, not to mention the effects of demon rum (or in this case claret), forgot, according to Chadwick, the gentlemanly Leggett's teaching and tried to keep the game going until it had to be called for darkness.  Brainard started pitching wildly and then when Henry finally hit a fly ball, catcher Harry Brainard called for all three Excelsior's circling under the ball to intentionally miss it.  Fortunately, George Cook, in the words of the Sunday Mercury, "remembering the club he played for," caught the ball, restoring order and some semblance of gentlemanly behavior, not to mention a Nassau Club victory.  Fortunately both papers reported that good feeling was immediately restored and the two clubs enjoyed the customary post game celebratory dinner.


New York Sunday Mercury - October 25, 1863

While I was certainly aware of the practice, if not the rule, of playing all nine innings regardless of the score, the way this could impact a game already won or lost, was something I hadn't encountered or thought about.  It, of course, raised the question of when the rule was changed and an email exchange with noted base ball historian Richard Hershberger determined the nine inning rule remained in effect for another 17 years, changing in time for the 1880 National League season.  I have to say, I'm amazed it took that long, especially at the professional or major league level.  I'm guessing that amateur clubs which didn't play as frequently and not quite as competitively, enjoyed playing as many innings as they could.  It surprises me, however, that professionals who had more than their fill of games would want to play any extra innings especially in circumstances like the above situation where it could cost a club a game.  But as Richard pointed out, we should never under estimate the traditional fall back of "we've always done it that way."  In the absence of other explanations for maintaining rules or practices that seem to have outlived their usefulness we should always keep that in mind.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Fred's Curve


Photo by Mark Granieri

If the old adage "when it rains, it pours," were applied to the first few weeks of the Neshanock's 2017 season, it would read "when it rains, Flemington wins."  Follow two wet wins at Old Bethpage village two weeks ago, the Neshanock again triumphed among the rain drops in their annual visit to Ringwood Manor State Park.  Taking part in the event for the first time was the Brandywine Club of West Chester, Pennsylvania, a fine group of ball players who first crossed the paths (base or otherwise) with the Neshanock at the 2017 Gettysburg Vintage base ball festival.  Not only did the visitors have to contend with Flemington's apparent fondness for wet weather, but Sunday also marked the first time the Neshanock were at full strength so much so we were able to lend veteran Mark "Gaslight" Granieri to the short handed Pennsylvania club. Taking full advantage of having its full complement of players, Flemington pounded out 26 hits in the first contest with only a slight drop off to 24 in the second affair.  In the first match the Neshanock led 10-5 after three innings, but allowed only one Brandywine tally thereafter while adding another 13 runs for a 23-6 victory.  A special highlight for me came before the game when Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw gave me a baseball autographed by one Charles H. Ebbets, along with a certificate of authenticity - a thoughtful and much appreciated gift.


Photo by Mark Granieri

Leading Flemington's offensive onslaught was Dan "Sledge" Hammer with four hits including three doubles, coming up only one at bat short of a clear score.  Right behind "Sledge" were Danny "King" Shaw, Bobby "Melky" Ritter and Ken "Tumbles" Mandel with three apiece while five other Neshanocks had two hits.  In addition to his three hits "Melky" notched a put out and an assist while in the pitcher's box demonstrating new found mobility from his still relatively new hips.  After the obligatory break for "Casey at the Bat," the second match began, this time with the Neshanock in the field.  While Flemington continued to hit effectively, much improved Brandywine defense combined with timely hitting kept this one much closer so that the Neshanock led only 12-7 after six innings.  The visitors added one tally in the top of the inning and had two on with two out when a fine "Tumbles" catch of a line drive (without the traditional tumble) kept Flemington in front.  The Neshanock then tallied five times over their next two visits to the striker's line while keeping Brandywine off the board for a 17-8 victory.  "Sledge," Rene "Mango" Marrero and Dave "Specs" Chamlian had three hits apiece for Flemington, but the noteworthy offensive achievements were clear scores for Gregg "Burner" Wiseburn and Chris "Sideshow" Nunn.  Not only did "Burner" avoid making an out, he also tallied in each of his four plate appearances.  "Sideshow's" clear score didn't quite match "Burner's" for style points, but as Henry Chadwick used to say (or should have said), "It's still a clear score in the box score."  Now 4-3 for the young season, Flemington will take part in the Spirit of the Jersies history fair next Saturday at Monmouth Battlefield State Park.



In the last post I mentioned that Fred Henry, Princeton student and pitcher for the Nassau Club, was given (and took) credit for throwing curve balls as early as the fall of 1863.  This was hardly news to me since I had seen references to Henry's deceptive pitch back when I was researching the Nassau Club for the second volume of Baseball Founders.  For whatever reason or reasons, I've never bothered to look at where this fit into the history of the pitch that has been a litmus test for whether a prospective player was of major league caliber.  Having decided it was finally time to pursue this, the first port of call was A Game of Inches where noted base ball historian Peter Morris began his entry on the curve ball by writing that "Few if any origins have as heatedly disputed as those of the curve ball." With that opening, it was no surprise, Peter's essay covers more than ten pages, one of the longest entries in his book.  Henry is, of course, mentioned, but given the complexity of the subject, I want to focus, not on entering the debate for or against any of the many candidates, but rather by looking at contemporary comments to see what was said about Henry at the time.  Where all this fits in the larger story is a subject for another day and perhaps another place.


Fred Henry 

The first media mention that Henry threw something out of the ordinary is found in newspaper articles describing the Nassau Club's September 26, 1863 victory over the Athletic Club of Philadelphia.  The Philadelphia Item reported that the collegiate pitcher threw "a slow ball with a heavy twist" which was "extremely irregular" and bothered the Athletics for the first 2 - 3 innings.  Indeed Henry shut out the Athletics for the first two innings before allowing two tallies in the third by which time the Nassau club had the game well in hand with a 15-2 lead.  The Athletics did manage eleven more runs over the course of the game, but it was far too little far too late in the Princeton team's 29-13 victory.  The 13 tallies were well below the Philadelphia club's average of 22 runs a game which is inflated somewhat by the Athletics 73 run outburst in another 1863 match. In addition to the Philadelphia paper, Henry's pitching was also mentioned by both the Clipper and the New York Sunday Mercury.  The latter paper attributed the Nassau victory to "the fine pitching of Henry" which the paper said was reflected in the number of strike outs and foul catches.  While a number of the newspaper accounts of the match include box scores, none that I've seen record the number of foul outs and strike outs - a standard frustration of 19th century base ball research.



After a victory over the Irvington team (then a junior club), the Nassau club spent their October academic break in Brooklyn taking on the Resolute, Excelsior, Star and Atlantic Clubs, four games in four days with Henry pitching all four contests.  While there were no comments about Henry's pitching in the newspaper accounts of the first three games, only the Excelsior Club reached double digits (11) while the Resolute and Star Clubs were limited to 9 and 7 runs respectively.  Although the statistical information on runs scored by these clubs is incomplete (taken from Marshall Wright's The National Association of Base Ball Players), all three Brooklyn clubs were held under their average offensive production.  The limited scoring was certainly a major factor in the young college players winning all three games.



Brooklyn Daily Eagle - July 7, 1864

 Although Atlantic Club was a year away from being a championship team, they appear to have been Henry's biggest test on the trip.  If so, it was a test, he and his teammates failed, losing by an 18-13 count in game stopped for darkness after seven innings.  Even though the Brooklyn club won, one newspaper recognized Henry's proficiency claiming his pitching "bothered the Atlantics exceedingly," citing as evidence the fact that every Brooklyn player had a strike called on him with Crane and Smith striking out.  The significance of each Atlantic taking a called strike would seem to mean they were deceived by pitches they first thought out of the strike zone, but which came back in because of some kind of twist or slant.  Both the commentary and the statistical evidence, as limited as it may be, supports the idea that whatever Henry was doing it was both unusual and effective.  The Nassau Club hurler's early 1864 performance further supported such speculation, not only did he pitch well in the New Jersey - Philadelphia all star game, but he also led the Nassau Club to victories over the Mutual Club of New York and the Star Club in a return 1864 visit to Brooklyn.  An early July re-match with the Atlantics, however did not go quite so well since the Brooklyn team was apparently more than a little ready for Henry's deceptive delivery, hitting five home runs while embarrassing the collegians by a 42-7 count.  Then and now base ball is a game of adjustments.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Another game, another river to cross


Winston Churchill once remarked that golf is a game where the objective is to hit into a very small hole, an even smaller ball with tools totally inadequate for the purpose.  Much the same could be said about taking seven vintage base ball players (at least two over 50) to play the Elkton Eclipse, one of the country's top teams, at their home field.  To make matters even worse, not only were Elkton at full strength, they looked in mid season form especially in the field and the final results were very predictable.  One early surprise was the Neshanock keeping the Eclipse off the score board in the top of the first and then tallying a run to lead 1-0 after one.  After tying the game in their half of the second, Elkton took a 5-1 lead after three, but Flemington stayed close, trailing only 11-7 after six.  At the point, however, the Eclipse's offense got going and then some, tallying seven times in the 7th and nine more in the 8th for a 27-10 victory in a game mercifully stopped after eight innings.  Even more mercifully, the second contest was limited to seven innings, a match that saw Elkton quickly take control in route to a 13-4 victory.  The Neshnock were led on offense by Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner with seven hits over the two games, followed by "Jersey" Jim Nunn with six and Lawrence Major and Jeff "Duke" Schneider with five apiece.  Now 2-3 on the season, the Neshanock return to action next Sunday at Ringwood Manor in northern New Jersey hosting the Brandywine Base Ball Club.


After  last week's trip to Long Island led to some reflections on the first time a New Jersey team crossed the Hudson (not to mention the East River) to take on a New York club, it seemed only natural to use this weekend's trip to Maryland to take a similar look at the first time a New Jersey club crossed the Delaware. Since the former case featured one of the state's charter clubs, it didn't take a lot of heavy lifting to remember the first crossing of the Hudson in search of base ball glory, but that wasn't the case when it came to a New Jersey team heading south.  I knew some of the early south Jersey clubs played matches against Delaware teams, but that wasn't until after the Civil War, so it seemed doubtful any of those matches would have been the historic first.  Without looking I remembered the Eureka club of Newark visited Philadelphia for some matches in September of 1863 so I thought that might be the first instance, but such was not the case, although I did have the year right.  Based on current research, it appears the honor goes to the Nassau Club of Princeton which traveled to Philadelphia in May of 1863 to take on not just one, but two clubs from the City of Brotherly Love.


Nassau Club 1863-64 - Fred Henry is the third from the left

I've written about the Nassau Club before both in Baseball Founders and on this blog so hopefully what follows isn't redundant.  Organized at Princeton University during the late 1850's, the Nassau Club was made up of Princeton students, but wasn't yet a school sanctioned organization.  The club is one of the rarer antebellum teams where we know exactly how it came to be formed.  Three young men from Brooklyn, led by Lewis Mudge, Class of 1862, brought their bats and balls with them when they enrolled at Princeton and got the team started although most of their early matches were either with the Princeton Seminary or of the inter-squad variety.  By 1863, Mudge and the other founding members had graduated, although Mudge would play some matches for the Nassau Club while a student at the Seminary (apparently eligibility rules were looser in those days).  In any event on May 22, 1863, the collegians boarded the train and headed to Philadelphia to take on the Athletic Club.  Organised in 1859 as a Philadelphia Town Ball team, the Athletics had a religious experience in 1860, converting to base ball and by 1863 were about to begin taking on the best teams in New York and Brooklyn.


Batting first, the visitors from New Jersey tallied twice, but the lead didn't last long as the Philadelphia team put up three aces of their own and then broke the game open with six in the third and seven in the fourth to lead 20-5 after six innings.  Although the term hadn't been invented yet, the Nassau Club gave it the old college try, rallying for nine aces in the 7th, making things much more interesting at 20-14 in favor of the home team.  This was not, however, to be a legendary come back as the Athletics restored some order by scoring three times in the seventh on the way to a 29-18 victory.  In a fairly detailed account of the match, The Item and Visitor seemed more concerned with the local team's lack of practice, imploring the Athletics to have their first nine play two or three more matches before heading to New York City and Brooklyn to play stronger competition.  The paper praised the visiting collegians as "excellent players and gentlemanly young men," but noted that their play demonstrated a "great want of a pitcher."  It was a very perceptive observation on the writer's part, not because of the lack of proficiency demonstrated by S. H. Jacobus, but because of the presence of a far more talented pitcher out of position at second base, one Fred Henry.


Great Central Fair - Philadelphia, June 1864

Whether they took the paper's advice to heart or not, Henry pitched the following day's 20-14 victory over the Olympic Club and would pitch the remainder of the Nassau Club's 1863 match games.  All six of those contests took place in the fall after a long summer break beginning with a 29-13 victory over the Athletics, this time at Princeton.  In October during a semester break, the collegians headed to Brooklyn, home to a number of the club's players, to take on four teams from the City of Churches.  Over the course of four days, the Nassau team with Henry pitching defeated the Resolute, Excelsior and Star clubs before falling to the Atlantic Club by a respectable 18-13 score.  What was the key to young Mr. Henry's pitching success?  He is one of those credited as being the first or one of the first to throw a curve ball.  While it's impossible to verify how much credit Henry deserves in pioneering the pitch, he could certainly be hard to hit.  A year later in a New Jersey - Pennsylvania all star game as part of the Great Central Fair in Philadelphia, Henry not only struck out four of Philadelphia's top players, he also retired 13 on foul balls, 17 outs without the ball being hit into fair territory.  In the next post we'll take a more detailed look at Mr. Henry's pitching prowess.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

"Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery"

Writing about opening day at Citi Field a few weeks ago, I commented that I really like the Mets ballpark once I get there, the problem is getting there.  My feelings about Old Bethpage Village, the birthplace of vintage base ball and home to the 2017 version of the New York - New Jersey Cup are very similar.  On the way there, the roughly 60 mile trip took a manageable hour and forty-five minutes, but the return took almost three hours due to broken down cars, construction and drivers who thought it appropriate to drive about 30 miles an hour in the center lane.  Within those travel challenges, however, base ball at Old Bethpage is almost always an enjoyable experience especially for the annual showdown between New Jersey and New York teams.  I'm not exactly sure when the competition began, but since 2013, the cup has become a resident of New Jersey, thanks to three Neshanock victories plus one timely rain out.  Both the format and the participants were changed for the 2017 event with the Monmouth Furnace Club a new entry on the New Jersey side and New York adding the Atlantic Club of Brooklyn, in my opinion, the country's top vintage club.


The Striker's Line

In past years, the two New Jersey clubs took on the New York teams with the cup going to the team with the best overall record.  This year, the opening games featured intra-state competition guaranteeing a New York - New Jersey final.  As a result, Flemington began the day playing the Monmouth Furnace Club, a relatively new vintage team playing out of Allaire State Park.  Monmouth went to the striker's line first, scoring one tally before the Neshanock responded with five to take a 5-1 lead.  After that, however, Flemington managed only one tally over the next five innings while Monmouth chipped away to close to 6-4 after six.  Finally mustering some offense, the Neshanock scored twice in the seventh, but the Furnace club was far from finished adding two runs to make it 8-6 with Flemington coming to bat.  Fortunately the Neshanock added two more insurance runs and shut out Monmouth in the ninth for a hard earned 10-6 win.  This was the first time I've seen Monmouth Furnace play in a few years and they've made real progress and should be a real test for any team they play the rest of the season.  Flemington's attack was led by Dan "Sledge" Hammer's three hits with Dave "Illinois" Harris and Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw contributing two apiece.  Joe "Mick" Murray earned his first clear score of the season albeit with some help from the defense.  Still a clear score, is a clear score and Henry Chadwick knew what he was doing in making reaching base a priority, no matter the means of arrival.


The Much Improved Monmouth Furnace Club 

No one on the Neshanock was surprised to learn the Atlantics had prevailed in the New York bracket so that to retain the cup, Flemington had to do something it had never done before, outscore the Brooklyn club.  The Atlantics were missing some of their top players, but the Neshanock were also not at full strength (thanks to Mike, Brick and A. J. for filling in).  Striking first, the Atlantics tallied once which the Neshanock matched and added one to lead 2-1 after one inning.  Pleas from the Neshanock bench to call the game because of rain, darkness or any reason fell on deaf ears.  Flemington's apprehension about what was going to happen proved well founded when the Atlantics started scoring while keeping Flemington off the scoreboard, making the score 7-2 after five innings.  At that point, however, things began to change, the pitching of Danny "King" Shaw and solid Neshanock defense shut out the Atlantics the rest of the way while Flemington added three runs to trail 7-5 going to the bottom of the ninth.  Jeff "Duke" Schneider led off with a single which was followed by some uncharacteristic Atlantic miscues and some well placed hits.  When the dust (or the mist) cleared, the score was tied, two were out and the winning run was on third, with  "Sledge" at the striker's line.  The situation called for a line drive which the Neshanock striker promptly delivered, setting off more than a little excitement on the Flemington bench.


Field before the championship game 

While everyone on the Neshanock is pleased to retain the cup for another year, we can be forgiven, I hope, for being at least as excited about our first victory ever over the Atlantics.  Thinking about it (especially during the traffic jams on the way home), there are many reasons the Atlantics are such a fine club.  Certainly they make a lot of outstanding plays both at bat and in the field, but what sets them apart in my mind is how seldom they make mistakes in the field and employ timely well placed hitting.  How do you beat a team like that you may ask?  By imitating them (the  highest form of flattery) through doing the same things they do so well - consistent play in the field and timely hitting.  That's exactly what the Neshanock did at Old Bethpage, making only two muffs over the course of the match and taking advantage of their offensive opportunities.  "King," "Sledge," "Illinois," "Snuffy," "Mick," and "Duke" each had two hits for Flemington.  All were important, but special notice should be paid to "Duke" who started two rallies including the winning ninth inning rally.  Equally noteworthy is holding the Atlantics to just two runs over the last six innings including shutting them out for the last four.   I want to make special mention of the Atlantics very gracious behavior in defeat - they set a high standard for all of us in vintage base ball both on and off the field.


Photo courtesy of the Atlantic Base Ball Club 

While the New York - New Jersey Cup is a relatively new event, head to head competition between New Jersey and New York clubs dates all the way back to 1855, the very first year young Jersey men formed their own base ball clubs.  In fact, not one, but two fledgling New Jersey clubs crossed both the Hudson and East Rivers that year to take on the Columbia Club of Brooklyn (then a separate city).  A very brief search turned up little information about the Brooklyn team, but both of the New Jersey clubs, the Olympic Club of Newark and the Pioneer Club of Jersey City are known to me and, to some extent, to the readers of this blog.  One of Newark's charter clubs, (first calling itself the Oriental Club) the Olympic Club had little real impact during its sole year of existence.  Although it was equally short lived, Jersey City's first club has an interesting story beginning with how they first played the game or more accurately the game they apparently played.



The Pioneer Club along with the Excelsior Club (Jersey City's second charter club) were founded within a few weeks of each other in the early summer of 1855 and fittingly played their first match games against each other.  Box scores and newspaper accounts of those games include 11 players on a side in high scoring matches that seem only to have lasted a few innings - clearly not reflecting complete compliance with the Knickerbocker rules.  There is at least some retrospective oral tradition of  a "base ball" club or clubs in Jersey City in the 1830's (http://amanlypastime.blogspot.com/2015/10/base-ball-before-knickerbockers.html) which may very well have played by different rules which the new 1855 vintage initially followed to some degree.  Whatever the differences, the Pioneer Club apparently realized the error of their ways and became true practitioners of the New York game by the time they began a best of three series with the Columbia Club in September.



The first match played in Brooklyn was a solid victory for the home team as the Columbia Club doubled up the Pioneer Club's run total in a 26-13 thumping.  Not long after that the Jersey City team played an inter-club match between the married and single men which was covered by a newspaper man who wasn't impressed the Pioneer's on the field prowess.  Claiming they "have much to learn," the writer pointed out the obvious but apparently not honored principle that "two or three of them should not try to catch the same ball."  Even more of a concern was the players' nicotine habit, not because of the long term health concerns, but because the Pioneers smoked not only while in the field, but also when at the striker's line.  Whether or not it was due to the public criticism in the media, the new Jersey City team quickly got their act together winning the return contest 27-12 and then dominating the conquering game on October 14th, winning 23-8 in a match played at the Putnam Club's grounds in east Brooklyn.


A. J. Bixby pitched for the Eagle Club in this September 8, 1857 match at Elysian Fields

The club's late 1855 success augured well for future seasons, but by 1856 the Pioneers had gone out of existence primarily because three of their best players had defected to the Eagle Club of New York which, of course, played its home games, not in Manhattan, but in neighboring Hoboken.  Similar defections also killed the Excelsior Club which went undefeated in 1855 beginning a tradition of New Jersey men playing for the Eagle Club which continued well into the 1860's.  It also marked the beginning of another tradition, New Jersey club's inability to retain their best players. One of the Pioneers who enjoyed significant success after leaving New Jersey was A. J. Bixby who not only played in two of the three Fashion Course games (1858 all star games between Brooklyn and New York clubs) but also served as Vice President of the National Association of Base Ball Players.  Even so victory in the first New Jersey - New York (loosely defined) series showed New Jersey teams were a force to be reckoned with as was proven once again yesterday at Old Bethpage some 162 years later.