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.

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