Playing Saturday's game by 1864 rules was appropriate since Camden's first base ball team got started that same year almost a decade after the first New Jersey teams took the field. While that may seem on the late side, it wasn't because local youth had an aversion to bat and ball games. Rather, it was because teams in neighboring Philadelphia played a very different game known today as Philadelphia town ball. Town ball is a catch-all term used to describe a wide range of bat and ball games that aren't base ball. Fortunately, thanks to a critical mass of surviving source material and the work of historian Richard Hershberger, the game played in the City of Brotherly Love is understood well enough to be identified as the Philadelphia version of town ball. Back in 2014, as part of the Gettysburg Festival, the Athletic Club (Saturday's opponent) recreated the game which is vastly different from base ball. Just a few of the differences include no foul territory, eleven on a side and bases in a circle about 20 feet apart.
As significant as these differences are, they pale in comparison with Philadelphia town ball's most distinctive feature. Every at bat has only two possible outcomes - a home run or an out. Young men in Philadelphia organized town ball clubs in the early 1830s and it's no surprise the game gradually moved across the Delaware River, leading to the formation of the Camden Club in 1857. Camden, however, didn't become the Hoboken of Philadelphia town ball. Comprehensive research in contemporary south Jersey newspapers has failed to uncover a single instance of another club other than the Camden team. Part of the failure of the Philadelphia game to spread is the southern part of the state lacked the population density and mobile society of north Jersey that greatly facilitated the spread of base ball north of Trenton. But having watched Philadelphia town ball being played, it seems to me that there was another major factor - there's not a lot of strategy to a game where each at bat has only two possible outcomes and, therefore, not much reason to be interested in the game. Baseball, on the other hand, has so many possibilities that the strategic alternatives sometimes seem unlimited.
It's no surprise, therefore, that in the early 1860s, the Philadelphia clubs gradually converted to base ball, followed by the Camden Club in 1864. The Camden players, or at least one of them, Weston Fisler, adapted relatively quickly. After starting with the Camden Club, Fisler joined the Athletic Club of Philadelphia when it was one of the top teams of the 1860s. He stayed with the Athletics throughout their years in the National Association and then as a charter member of the National League in 1876. Fishler complied a .310 lifetime batting average in the two professional leagues while earning the nickname "Icicle," because he was so "cool and collected" in all circumstances. In his last season the Camden product not only played in the first National League game, he has the distinction of scoring the first earned run in league history. Clearly playing another, very different game first, didn't hold Fisler back from being the first, but certainly not the last, New Jersey player to enjoy success at the professional level.