Having suffered three straight losses, the Neshanock were more than ready to get back on the winning side of the ledger when they visited the Dey Farm in Monroe Township for the annual matches with the Athletic Club of Philadelphia. While there didn't appear to be any gamblers present, anyone who took the Neshanock in the second inning would have well rewarded as Flemington tallied nine times in the second inning of the first contest and then topped that by scoring 11 times in their second at bat in the second game. Both big innings got Flemington started on what turned out be easy victories. Leading the Neshanock attack in the first game was Dan "Sledge" Hammer who had four hits and a clear score. Tom "Thumbs" Hoepfner also had four base hits with Dan "Lefty" Gallagher, Dave "Illinois" Harris and "Jersey" Jim Nunn adding three apiece. In the second contest, "Sledge" added another clear score while Chris "Sideshow" Nunn, "Lefty," "Illinois," Jeff "Duke" Schneider and Meshack "Shack" Desane added four each followed by Ken "Tumbles" Mandel and Scott "Snuffy" Hengst with three apiece. As usual Bobby "Melky" Ritter delivered a strong pitching performance aided by a solid defense behind him. With the two wins, the Neshanock are now 28-11 for the season, heading into two games next Sunday against the Gotham Club of New York at Garret Mountain in Woodland Park.
"Illinois" at the striker's line
Back in August when Flemington played the Providence and Boston clubs at Old Bethpage, I described it as playing 19th century base ball royalty. The same could be said of the Athletic Club of Philadelphia which was one of the power house teams in the years immediately after the Civil War and it turns out the Philadelphia team also contributed to the spread of the New York game into south Jersey. Other than the Camden Club, which played Philadelphia town ball through 1863, I haven't found any New Jersey newspaper accounts of base ball clubs south of Trenton until after the Civil War. There is, however, evidence that one south Jersey community had a club during the war years. Early in the 1864 season, as part of the Great Central Fair in Philadelphia, a picked nine from New Jersey played, and defeated, a similar squad from the City of Brotherly Love. Included in the New Jersey lineup was Baird, representing the Bridgeton Club, the county seat of Cumberland County in extreme southern New Jersey. I need to look again, but I'm fairly sure that the Bridgeton papers from 1863 make no mention of such a team. It wasn't until I was looking for something else in the Philadelphia City Item (courtesy of Richard Hershberger) that I found an account of the founding of the Bridgeton club. Falling down a metaphorical rabbit hole is a fairly common occurrence for 19th century base ball researchers.
According to the September 23, 1863 issue of the Item, Franklin Westcott, and others were in the process of organizing a base ball club in Bridgeton. Westcott, it turns out was a prominent local lawyer, very active in Republican politics and an outspoken supporter of the Lincoln administration. He graduated from Princeton in 1858, a time when according to Frank Presbrey's 1901 history of athletics at what was then called the College of New Jersey, "base ball clubs of all descriptions were organized on the back campus" which may have been Westcott's introduction to the game. Just about six weeks after the September article, the November 4, 1863 issue of the Item reported on a visit paid to Bridgeton by the Athletics Club. Founded as a town ball club in 1859, the Athletics had converted to the New York game and 1863 marked the beginning of the club's climb to a prominent role in base ball circles. The Athletics' visit to Bridgeton was their second trip that year to take on a less experienced club, in September they journeyed all the way to Altoona where they pounded the Mountain Club 73 to 22. Trips of this nature would become the norm for the Philadelphians in the 1860's where they would visit and overwhelm local clubs who apparently enjoyed the experience.
Frank Westcott's grave, he died in 1875, only 36 years old
While I'm not completely familiar with the nature of these other visits, the trip to Bridgeton on Tuesday, November 2nd seems to have taken a somewhat unique format. After arriving in the south Jersey village, the two clubs played two games, first a game between the two teams and then a second contest where the two clubs divided into teams with five players from the Athletics on one squad with the remaining four joining five members of the Bridgeton Club on the other team. It's safe to say the Athletics won the first contest, although no score or box score is provided which was also the case for the second contest. After enjoying the local hospitality for the night, the two teams played another game the next morning, again without any score being reported in the paper. The Athletics then enjoyed one more meal with their hosts before returning to Philadelphia. While little or no details were provided about the matches, far more information was provided about the off the field activities.
President of the Athletics and Publisher of the City Item
When the first two games were over both clubs adjourned to the Bridgeton Hotel for dinner featuring a speech by the honorable John T. Nixon, like Westcott a prominent local lawyer and a leader of the Republican Party. Once that speech was complete, the players went to the Union meeting hall at the town hall where Thomas Fitzgerald, president of the Athletics and publisher of the Item "spoke upon the issues of the day" for 90 minutes to a crowd of 500-600 people. Not surprisingly his paper reported that "Mr. Fitzgeral's justification of the leading measures of the administration was most heartily endorsed by the intelligent and loyal citizens of Bridgeton." Fitzgerald, needless to say, was also a Republican noted for his progressive views on racial issues. It feels at some level, like the visit was as much about politics as base ball. Perhaps the idea was to help the local Republicans solidify their position as the country headed into a presidential election year where the outlook was not at all favorable to the Republicans. It couldn't have hurt as the Lincoln carried Cumberland County 2669 - 2032, a result the Camden Democrat claimed was due to the "corrupting influence of Philadelphia." Be that as it may and regardless of whether the game was a side benefit to political machinations, base ball had arrived in south Jersey to stay.