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.