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.