Play ball! (Like it’s 1864)

In July 1866, a baseball team comprised of Flemington’s prominent men was established. While the team, dubbed the Flemington Neshanock, was not well known for its wins – often losing by a landslide against its rival, the Lambertville Logan – it served as an example for a later team’s celebration of a historical national pastime.

The Neshanock was revived in 2001 by Brad “Brooklyn” Shaw, and on July 23, they will hit the field in Princeton to play a game of vintage sport with the Historical Society of Princeton.

“The Historical Society has been hosting an ‘Old Time’ or ‘Vintage’ base ball – as it was spelled prior to the 1880s – since 2010. We love that this has become an annual tradition in the community. It’s a great event, because people of all ages can enjoy watching a game, but also learn the history of how the game and the rules evolved,” said Eve Mandel, HSP director of programs and visitor services.

The game, which will take place at Greenway Meadows Park, 275 Rosedale Road, at 11 a.m., is free and welcomes all participants ages 18 and up to come have a go at base ball from another era. Mandel calls the event “part show, part history lesson and all fun.”

One of the requirements set forth by the Neshanock and other vintage leagues is the players wear period uniforms and use rules from 1864 or 1873. The Neshanock use authentic replicas of 19th century equipment and consider their club a unique brand of historical re-enactors teaching today’s sports fans about a historical game that helps define the nation’s patriotism.

In this game of base ball, participants must also play the whole game bearhanded, since that’s how it was done in the days of yore. According to Mandel, players or “ballists,” as they were referred to in the mid-19th century, played without gloves until the mid-1880s.

The vintage rules are also different from today’s because balls caught on one bounce are considered outs and the batter cannot overrun first base.

When asked why the sport follows rules from two separate years, Mandell replied, “The two different years’ rules reflect the changes in the game. When they play by 1873 rules, it’s not an out if it’s caught on a bounce.”

At last year’s HSP base ball game, the Neshanock played a new vintage team called The Bog Iron Boys and won 19-4. The Bog Iron Boys had recruited some fans from the stands to join their team for the day deeming new players, “muffins” – another fun fact you can learn about at the game.

For more information about the Princeton game on July 23 and to sign up to play, please call (609) 921-6748 ext. 102, or email eve@princetonhistory.org.

 

About Erica Chayes Wida

Erica Chayes Wida is a writer, mom, and complete zealot when it comes to poetry, paella and globe collections. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology from UCLA, Erica moved to Italy where the seasons and old architecture inspired her journey back to the East Coast. Since then, she and her husband have created a nest egg locally and, over time, developed a rather grand love affair with the town of Princeton. Erica is senior editor at The Princeton Sun and enjoys fulfilling her Princeton affections on a daily basis. | View all posts by Erica Chayes Wida