Saturday, February 27, 2010

What's at 3rd Avenue & 3rd Street? A TrolleyRide; that's What

The Trolley takes us to South Slope, as it's beginning to be called. 
Normally it's called the Gowanas section, and before they built a highway through the neighborhood way back when, the neighborhood was still considered park of Red Hook.

3rd Ave & 1st Street ~ 4th Ave & 4th Street,
Brooklyn, N.Y.

(pic - 100 Years of Baseball, Beekman House)
Home of the Brooklyn Dodgers before  Ebbets Field was built;
Now, Then and the Debate

In 1898 the Dodgers played their first game here, in a newly constructed version of Washington Park.  The previous one was done-in by fire.  There are a lot of details I will be leaving out for the purposes of this post.  But you should know there were 3 versions of Washington Park at two locations diagonal from each other; hence the two different intersections I stated above.  The Dodgers played here till their last game in 1912 then moved in to Ebbets Field.  But this isn't about the Dodgers; not this time.  This is about teams that precede even the Dodgers....kinda.

Back on September 13, 2009 I attended 3 Baseball Games at today's NYC Washington Park (public park).

It was a 3 game round robin involving the Brooklyn Atlantics, Newark Eurekas and
the New York Gothams.

(click the pamphlets,  check out these rules.)

(pics-Brooklyn Dodgers by Mark Rucker)

Baseball's first true dynasty, the Brooklyn Atlantics Baseball Club 
Champions of the United States in 1864, 1865, 1866, 1868 and 1870
(as THEY claim ~ some of it is debatable)

..and not these NEW YORK GOTHAMS,

a team founded in 1852 playing out of Manhattan

NO, I'm talking about these Brooklyn Atlantics


..and these New York Gothams of 2009.


I'm talking about
the VBBA


Member of the Flemington BBC

These guys are regular me and you(s) who have a passion for baseball played the way it was played in the 1860's and 1870's.  They adhere to the day's rules and don't use gloves.  One of the rules worth mentioning is if you field a batted ball on one bounce, the batter is out.  The pitcher still pitched underhanded back then.  One of the greatest tools of the pitcher was being allowed to fake the runner and quick pitch the batter.  He was able to slow or fast pitch as he chose as long as it was an underhanded delivery.  I can't explain my joy watching these games play themselves out and witnessing the differences with today's game.

It was pure enjoyment but not just because of the game.  These were a collection of some very fine individuals.  They made so much time for me to just ask questions and photograph them.  There was a moment when I asked 4 players to come together for a pic.  One guy scattered, another whistled in the direction of the dugout and I turned around to see the whole team coming towards me with bats in hand for a complete team photo (the one you see above). No smiles!  No one smiled in photos in the late 1800's.  These guys had all the details covered. They really were such personable fellows too.  I am sorry that at this time I'm having trouble putting a name to the face in some of these pictures.  This file has been sitting in a Zip-File since November.  I'm sorry for that because I enjoyed the day so much.  I do not have WinZip software and I'm scared to death of downloading WinZip software from anywhere for fear of the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.

The Atlantics get in some practice.
The house in the background is
The Old Stone House.
It has been re-assembled here at Washington Park from it's original location,
using the same exact materials.
This was George Washington's headquarters during the Battles of Brooklyn. 
Hence, Washington Park.


The game is about to start.
Gothams vs. Atlantics


the Gotham Nine and the Atlantic Nine

(Shakespeare on the left)


I have no doubt about the Atlantic's 3rd baseman, Frank "Shakespeare" Van Zant.  I was sitting along 3rd base and was chatting it up with him all day long.  If I remember correctly he is an English professor.  Frank, please accept this belated expression of gratitude and can you share the sentiment with the team for me?  Ed "Pigtail" Elmore was the pitcher for the Atlantics this day.  Thank you all for " of the finest displays of skill and gamesmanship, in a gentlemanly manner of play."

PigTail makes a pitch.


The contest is over and they shake hands like gentlemen.


I kept score of the game based on an improvised system to accommodate the rule differences.  I don't expect you to understand it, but this is what it looked like.   This is the Atlantics side of the book.


Everything they do for the love of this game is an out of pocket expense.  Road trips and even the baseball they have specially made come out of their pockets.  I asked Shakespeare if I could have a ball.  He educated me how they operate and offered a ball for $25 to cover their expense.  Fuggedaboutit!!...You kiddin' me?!  It is one of my prized possessions today and the best $25 bucks I EVER spent!  Thanks again Frank!

One of my new prized possessions; an 1860's replica baseball marked
as the ol' Atlantics Base Ball Club marked all their awarded baseballs
before entering the storied display case.

The Newark Eurekas salute the Gothams before their game.

An unfortunate reality about the modern park may limit the teams appearances in Brooklyn.  These guys are taking real hacks and usually play on regular sized fields.  This day's contests were played in a modern city park where the right fielder and first baseman could whisper to each other. 
We'll see.  I would love to have them back.

Be well fellas! 
I hope to drive out to Smithtown, Long Island this summer
to take in another game of Vintage Baseball.
Thanks for all your friendliness.

Now let's take a few minutes to talk about Washington Park itself.  The park had been in use since the early 1880's.  The Dodgers, like I said didn't move in till 1898.  On December 31, 2009, an article appeared in the N.Y. Daily News that revisited an age long debate.  There is only one portion of wall that remains from Washington Park of the past.  It's the wall on 3rd Avenue, from 1st Street to 3rd Street.  The wall was definitely in place by 1914. 

The debate has always centered whether or not that wall existed when the Dodgers played there.  That would have to have the wall in place in 1912 or before.  If it is indeed proven this wall was in place prior to the Dodgers moving to Ebbets, obviously it raises concerns about it's preservation.  A few years back, the present owner of the lot, Con-Edison, raised eyebrows when they announced plans to demolish the wall.  Brooklyn baseball fans freaked out and Con-Ed has since been committed to it's preservation.  Naturally, I have the same interest level whether this wall can be dated to the Dodgers as any other Brooklyn Dodger enthusiast. 
But the wall is preservation worthy regardless as it was home to Brooklyn's Federal League team; the Brook-Feds, or as they became more commonly referred to as the Tip Tops.

(150 Years of Baseball.Beekman House)


The owner of the team was owner of the Brooklyn Tip Top Bread Company. 
If you didn't know, and I assume you do,
the Federal League was a rival to MLB and played the 1914-1915 seasons. 
Wrigley Field is a remnant of that League. 
It was built to house the Chicago team of the Federal League.

This is what the Brooklyn Tip Tops looked like. 
I took this picture at Yankee Stadium in 2008
when I  spotted this guy wearing a Tip Top Jersey. 
I asked him if I could snap a pic of it. 
I've never seen anyone with one before. 
I'm not making insinuations about the guy
but he didn't realize what the jersey represented. 
He thought it was another Dodger jersey. 
I politely informed him otherwise.

The following pictures show the wall in the background during these Federal League festivities.  There's a lot of significance to this site and I'd like for the city to get around to placing a commemoration of sort in honor of Washington Park, of which there currently is none.  What history that is being held- on to you can credit NYC Parks & Rec, and staff at The Old Stone House.  It's inexcusable the city isn't doing more.

Getting back to the wall, some cases are being made for the pre-1912 existence.  Most, to include the self-proclaimed Brooklyn resident historians, claim otherwise.  They don't believe it is so.

(Opening Day Festivities 1914)


This is the the interior view of the wall pictured at 3rd Ave and 1st Street.
All the cap stones are still in place making the wall very recognizable when you compare these pictures with today's remaining structure.



...that concludes today's TROLLEY RIDE to
Washington Park, Brooklyn


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