BAREHANDED “BASE BALL”: In a previous year, “base ball” as it was played in the 19th century, is played in a game sponsored by the Historical Society of Princeton. This year’s game will be played on Saturday, June 24, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Greenway Meadows Park in Princeton.
By Wendy Greenberg
It’s a game and a history class. America’s favorite pastime, baseball, is the backdrop for a family day experiencing the game as it used to be played.
The Historical Society of Princeton (HSP) is offering vintage baseball, in a game to be played on Saturday, June 24, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Greenway Meadows Park, 275 Rosedale Road.
“We love hosting this event every year,” said Eve Mandel, HSP director of programs and outreach. “It’s fun to just watch to see how games were played in the 19th century. But baseball fans can also appreciate the evolution of the rules, which is especially relevant given the recent changes to the MLB.”
Mandel said that HSP first hosted the event in 2010. The Flemington Neshanock and the Liberty Base Ball Club of New Brunswick will take the field and play by the 1864 rules, in a competitive match of bare-handed “base ball.”
They will wear period replica uniforms made by K & P Weavers, a Connecticut manufacturer and supplier of 19th– and early 20th-century reproduction baseball uniforms, equipment, and more.
The players, who are from all over the country, play barehanded, without gloves, as was the case in the 19th century. Using replica vintage equipment as well, they will invite spectators to take batting practice, and will answer questions after the game.
The nonprofit Neshanock Base Ball Club of Flemington has as its mission to inform the general public on the roots of baseball. The original Neshanock club was established in July 1866 and comprised mainly of the town’s prominent residents, according to the club’s website.
The website notes that the club president was George F. Crater, owner of Crater’s Hotel, which was on the spot of what is now the Union Hotel. Neshanock often lost to their chief rivals, the Lambertville Logan.
The Neshanock players reestablished themselves in 2001 and revived the original name of the team.
The Liberty Club, which was launched in 1857, played local New Jersey teams until the inception of the National Association of Base Ball Players (NABBP), which they helped found in 1858. The Liberty played clubs from the New York and New Jersey region. The onset of the Civil War saw the Liberty members disperse, then briefly reunited at the end of the Civil War, but by the early 1870s the Liberty had all but disappeared.
The club came back in 2018, with home games near Piscataway. Today the Liberty competes against other historically-accurate opponents, such as the Neshanock players.
The Historical Society of Princeton is the sole sponsor of this family event, with no charge or pre-registration required. For more information, visit princetonhistory.org.