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Very Early Knicks Game Washed Out . . . in Brooklyn
|Location||Brooklyn, NYBrooklyn, NY|
|City/State/Country:||Brooklyn, NY, United States|
|Immediacy of Report||Contemporary|
|Age of Players||AdultAdult|
N. Y. Herald April 14, 1846.
This item is extracted from a 19CBB interchange among Bob Tholkes, John Thorn, and Richard Hershberger, which touched on the somewhat rare later travels of the Knickerbockers and the nature and conditions of several playing fields from 185 to 1869. Text is included as Supplement Text below.Edit with form to add a comment
|Query||Edit with form to add a query|
|Submitted by||John Thorn|
|Submission Note||19CBB posting, 2/25/2014|
|Has Supplemental Text||Yes|
<comments voting="Plus" />
This is new to me-- the /New York Herald /recorded on April 14, 1846,
that the Brooklyn Star Cricket Club opened its season at its grounds
with an intrasquad cricket match AND "a base ball game between the
members of the Knickerbocker Club". Unfortunately, a violent storm
broke out, which severely hampered the cricket, and apparently
prevented the Knicks from playing. . . .
Are there any other instances out there of the Knicks leaving the
Elysian Fields for their exercise? In later years the Star Base Ball
Club was usually the first to take the field in the spring, apparently
because their grounds became usable more quickly; perhaps the Knicks
arranged the trip because the Elysian Fields were still drying out.
Bob Tholkes, 19CBB posting, 2/24/2104.
Here's the text. I had known of this, also of a Knick trip to Long
Island some years later.
N. Y. Herald April 14, 1846
Brooklyn Star Cricket Club. The first meeting of this association for the
season came off yesterday, on their ground in the Myrtle avenue. The
weather was most unfavorable for the sport promised---a game of cricket
between the members of the club, a base ball game between the members of
the Knickerbocker Club, and a pedestrian match for some $20 between two
aspirants for pedestrian fame. It was past 12 o'clock ere the amusements
of the day commenced. Shortly after, a violent storm of wind, hail, and
rain came on, which made them desist from their endeavors for some time,
and the company which was somewhat numerous, left the
ground. Notwithstanding, like true cricketers, the majority of the club
kept the field, but not with much effect. The wind, hail, rain, and snow
prevailed to such extent that play was out of the question; but they did
the best they could, and in the first innings the seniors of the club
made some 48, while the juniors only scored some 17 or 18.The game was
not proceeded with further. . . ."
The Knicks went to Long Island (i.e., Brooklyn) as part of a boating
trip (perhaps to DeBost's home?) in about 1851, as I recall, but would
have to check the Game Books to make certain.
john thorn, 19cbb Posting, 2/25/2105
The Knickerbockers were solidly the baseball mainstream through the 1850s. (Indeed, up to 1854 or so they *were* the baseball mainstream.) This included playing away games. Most of these would be on the Red House Grounds, but they also had a warm relationship with the Excelsiors, and played them in Brooklyn. One example is the game of July 8, 1858, on the Carroll Park grounds:
"An immense crowd, completely circling the field, were present, and, as usual, were sadly in the way of the players. Would it not be well to have a discourse preached to the thousands of curious ones, teaching that, if they have eyes, they can see as plainly, if they would stand farther off. It is due to the Excelsiors to state that they used the most strenuous endeavors to make a fair field, but what are twenty men against thousands?" New York Sunday Mercury July 11, 1858
They more or less dropped out of the mainstream in the 1860s, but they did not completely cut themselves off. They continued their friendship with the Excelsiors. Their game of September 1, 1868, for example, was played on the Capitoline Grounds (with ten men on a side: an idiosyncrasy of Knickerbocker-Excelsior matches through this period).
The two clubs planned a trip to Washington, DC in 1869. This would have been the only recorded trip of the Knickerbockers outside the metropolis. It didn't come off, however:
"The proposed contest between the Knickerbocker Club, of this city, and the Excelsiors of Brooklyn, announced to take place at Washington on Friday last, was unavoidably postponed, owing to the inability of the majority of the members of the Knickerbocker Club to leave town in consequence of the critical position of things in the money-market, several of the Knickerbockers being in business in Wall street." New York Sunday Mercury September 26, 1869
In other words, it is hard to coordinate something like this when the participants actually work for a living, and not merely by the hour.
The Knickerbockers further isolated themselves in 1872. The old Elysian Fields grounds were closed due to the march of progress (i.e. it was more profitable to develop the land). The Knickerbockers sublet the nearby St. George CC grounds one day a week. These were enclosed grounds, but rather than using this as a vehicle to charge admission, the Knickerbockers used it to exclude uninvited outsiders:
"The Knickerbockers have an enclosed ground private to themselves, none but members or specially invited guests being allowed on the field." New York Sunday Mercury June 29, 1873
They continued to play match games, but only with pure amateur clubs which are deeply obscure today, such as a game on June 25, 1873 against the Arlington BBC, played on the Melrose ground in Morrisania.
One of my little regrets in life is that the Knickerbockers never played the Olympics of Philadelphia. The Olympics did make one trip to New York, but it was in their semi-professional period, when they wouldn't really have been the sort of team the Knickerbockers played with. The problem was that while there were true amateur clubs composed of men of an age to be in the prime of their (non-baseball) careers, this virtually by definition made it almost impossible for them to tour.
And yes, the Carroll Park grounds were typically ready for play early, due to good drainage:
"The Carroll Park grounds—vacant lots adjoining Carroll Park, South Brooklyn—is the locality at which the opening games of the season are played every year, the hard sandy soil of the lots admitting of play before the turfy fields are in condition elsewhere." New York Daily Tribune March 30, 1867
We could add to that that the Union and the Capitoline Grounds were designed to double as skating ponds, which is to say that they had poor drainage by design. Worst, however, were the Tremont Grounds of the Unions of Morrisania. These were opened with great fanfare and at great expensive in 1868, intended to replace the old Melrose grounds (the triangle amidst the railroad tracks) but the drainage problems often made them unplayable:
"The grounds of the Union Club, at Tremont, are almost useless, a day’s rain making them so wet and muddy that play is impossible for a week afterward. We have not seen them really dry and in first-class condition once this season, and unless more perfect drainage can be effected, the boys had better return to the old "triangle"; at Melrose, or find some more suitable sport for play. A good coat of turf would do much to improve the ground, and we hope that next season we shall find green grass instead of mud." New York Dispatch October 25, 1868
[Trimountains vs. Gramercy 9/21/1868] "Both clubs took the cars at the Harlem Depot for Tremont, the new grounds of the Unions had been selected for the match, owing to the rain however, the ground was quite wet, and it was finally decided to go to Melrose, and play on the Unions old grounds..." New England Base Ballist August 6, 1868
I can't prove it, but I have a suspicion that this is the explanation for the Union club's rapid fall from being one of the top clubs to being defunct.
Posted by Richard Hershberger, 2/25/2014.