Sunday, August 27, 2017

Short Handed but Not Short Changed

About the only thing consistent in vintage base ball player attendance, is it's inconsistency, a problem that also sometimes plagued 19th century clubs.  Last Saturday for example, it looked like the Neshanock would have enough players for two teams, allowing perhaps for a two platoon system.  This Saturday, however, on a gorgeous day at an attractive venue (Rahway River Park), Flemington could muster only six players to take on the Elizabeth Resolutes, New Jersey's senior vintage club in years of service and the Neshanock's long time rival.  Fortunately, as was probably the case in the 19th century, other players were on hand, including Steve Dienes and Mike Ohlson, who gracefully stepped into the Flemington lineup and made major contributions in the field and at the striker's line.

Having unaccountably lost the bat toss, the Neshanock hit first and were retired without a tally which was followed by the Resolutes scoring twice for an early 2-0 lead.  Flemington then did to the Resolutes what other teams typically do to the Neshanock (or what the Neshanock usually does to itself) scoring four times after there were two outs and nobody on.  Elizabeth quickly returned the favor, however, tallying three times after there were again two out and none on.  Flemington tied the game in the top of the third and matters were even at 3-3 when the Neshanock batted in the fourth.  Keyed by Dan "Lefty" Gallagher's first vintage home run, a three run shot, Flemington scored seven times for a 12-5 lead.  Although the Neshanock added one more in the fifth, Elizabeth countered with two in their half to pull within seven at 13-6.  Neither team scored in the seventh, but Flemington added four in the top of the eighth for a commanding 17-7 lead with a final count of 17-10.

The Flemington offense was led by Joe "Mick" Murray with four hits, a total also matched by Steve who regularly plays for the Monmouth Furnace Club.  Mike, the Neshanock's other guest player contributed three hits, followed by Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw, Danny "Lunch Time" Shaw, Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner and Bobby "Melky" Ritter with two apiece.  "Brooklyn" and "Melky" shared the pitching duties, rotating to first base and based on their performance at that position, the regular Neshanock first base men would be well advised to remember Wally Pipp.  With the win, Flemington is now 26-8 on the season, setting a record for most wins in a season.  After taking Labor Day weekend off, the Neshanock have seven matches left on the schedule and the opportunity to reach the 30 win mark for the first time in the club's history.  Stay tuned.

Playing the Resolutes was appropriate since my work on my book on early New Jersey base ball is now focused on the post Civil War period, specifically 1865-1880.  Based on prior research, I thought there were two major themes for the period, the spread of the game throughout the rest of the state and the efforts of New Jersey clubs to play at the game's highest levels.  In the second half of the 1860's, two New Jersey teams, the Eureka Club of Newark and the Irvington Club competed against the country's best, but fell short, sometimes heartrendingly short.  The last club to take up the state's banner was the Elizabeth Resolutes, but they were also unsuccessful, marking the last time in the 19th century a New Jersey club tried for national prominence.  In reading through the New York Clipper and the New York Sunday Mercury, I've realized there was another trend that I missed.  As national prominence became less viable, success at the state level became more important, sparking the beginning of local rivalries within New Jersey.  I need to look at the state championship competition more closely, but the Resolutes were state champions in 1870 and, I believe, runners up to the Champion Club of Jersey City in 1871.  Again, stay tuned.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Playing Uphill

Photo by Mark Granieri

On October 21, 1805, moments before the British navy attacked the combined French and Spanish fleets off Cape Trafalgar in what would become one of the most decisive victories in naval history, British Commander, Horatio Lord Nelson tried to inspire his men with these deathless words  - "England expects every man to do his duty."  For the Flemington Neshanock, on their way Saturday to Harleysville, Pennsylvania for two games with the Brandywine Club, the modern equivalent was an email from vacationing club president, Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw advising the club to "BE SPLENDIFEROUS."  It's doubtful those words will live in history, but every bit of encouragement helped in what proved to be two close tense matches with the Pennsylvania club.  The games were played as part of the annual Heckerfest which wasn't, as some might think, the Neshanock's weekly verbal treatment of Ken "Tumbles" Mandel, but rather demonstrations of colonial crafts connected to the nearby Heckler Farmstead.

Photo by Mark Granieri

Striking second, Flemington recorded single tallies in the first and third inning plus two in the fifth for a 4-1 lead, but Brandywine matched that with three in the sixth and the game was tied 4-4 after seven.  After the Pennsylvanias took a 5-4 lead in the top of the 8th, the Neshanock knotted the game one final time in the bottom of the inning.  In the top of the 9th, however, Brandywine tallied twice so that Flemington trailed by two headed into their last at bat.  After "Jersey" Jim Nunn reached on an error, Joe "Mick" Murray contributed a clutch single getting the tying runs on base, but two Neshanock were retired without either run crossing the plate.  Flemington's last chance belonged to Terry Crumlish, a muffin in his first vintage match and the newcomer didn't disappoint with a ringing double to tie the game, bringing Joe "Irish" Colduvell to the striker's line with chance to win the game.  The Neshanock veteran also didn't disappoint delivering a clutch single to give Flemington an unlikely 8-7 win.  In addition to his clutch double, the "Muffin" had one other hit, joining Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner and Rene "Mango" Marrero with two hits apiece, "Mango" earning a clear score in the process.  Flemington's defense was helped by a trap ball play pulled by "Tumbles" himself plus the usual stout pitching of Bobby "Melky" Ritter and "Mango."

Photo by Mark Granieri

Unlike most Flemington games, the first match started almost on time, punctuality that continued with a closely monitored break between games before the Neshanock batted to start the second contest.  Although still not generating a lot of offense, Flemington did lead 5-0 going to the bottom of the fourth, but Brandywine quickly countered with three of their own and another close contest developed.  Flemington failed to score in the last three innings, usually a recipe for defeat, but tight Neshanock defense kept Brandywine at bay, leading to another hard fought victory, this time by a 7-5 count, a game that took just 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Flemington's limited offense was led by Dave "Illinois" Harris and Dan "Sledge" Hammer, both of whom had two hits while earning clear scores.  "Sledge" also had a strong day at catcher, throwing out four would be base stealers in the two games.  Also of note was fine throw by Chris "Sideshow" Nunn to nail a Brandywine runner trying to score on a sacrifice fly.  With the two wins, the Neshanock's record is 25-8, tying the team's previous mark for victories, set a year ago.

The Neshanock congratulate Irish (center with mustache) after his game winning hit.
Photo by Mark Granieri

Since vintage base ball games are frequently played as part of events and/or at historic locations, the playing field is frequently something less than a well manicured, level greensward.  Such was the case Saturday where the games were basically played uphill, something the two clubs adapted to remarkably well.  Such conditions do however, have a certain amount of historical accuracy.  As noted previously, I'm working on a book on early New Jersey base ball that will be the companion volume to Morven Museum's 2018 exhibit on the same subject.  Currently, I've been revisiting the Irvington Club, a team, I've written about before, particularly how it seemingly came out of nowhere to upset the Brooklyn Atlantics in early 1866.  Apparently the Irvington Club's home field was so bad New Jersey's other prominent club, the Eureka refused to play at Irvington that same year.  By the 1867 season, the Irvington had a new field, but it was still far from ideal or even level since, according to the New York Sunday Mercury, runners "are liable to overrun first and second bases," a situation somewhat offset by having "up hill work in reaching third."  Even getting to the field was a challenge, forcing fans, reporters and others to walk "four miles to see a match, with the option of being sweated to suffocation in an over crowed car."  A home field advantage is one thing, but that's ridiculous.

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.