Posts Tagged ‘1865 Brooklyn Atlantic’

The Last of the 1865 Atlantic

May 26, 2016
The 1865 Atlantic

The 1865 Atlantic

If you’ve been following along, you may be very happy to read that title. I’ve done a lot of stuff on them recently. Now it’s time to look at the last playing member of the team and make some general observations.

Sidney Churchill Smith is the man in the lower right of the team picture above. He played right field and is almost totally obscure. He was born 6 January 1842 in New York and spent some time with the Star, one of the minor teams in Brooklyn, before catching on with the Atlantic in 1864. He remained through 1866, the year he married. I have no idea if marriage caused him to leave baseball, but he does not appear on any future roster I can find. He managed to hook on with the Kings County Tax Office while playing with the Atlantic. In the 1860 census he is living with a Lucius Smith in Brooklyn. He is 18 and no occupation is listed for him. In the 1870 census he shows up living with the same Lucius Smith who is in wholesale dry goods. Lucius Smith is old enough to be Sidney’s father, but the census info in neither census confirms that (although his Find A Grave info says it’s true). Sidney is listed as being born in New York  and is a “dry goods clerk.” So it may be he’s working for his father’s dry good business. Certainly he’s left the Kings County Tax Office. In 1900 he’s living with his son-in-law, Theodore Richrath and his (Smith’s) wife whose name is Sophie in Brooklyn. No occupation is listed and he’s 58 so it’s possible he is retired. So he’s had at least one child, a daughter named Lillie. Other information indicates a second daughter who died early. For what it’s worth, his wife is originally Sophie Pike and is the sister of former Atlantic great Lip Pike. In 1905 he and his wife are living in a boarding house in Brooklyn His death certificate indicates he died in Kings County  7 February 1908 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn (in the picture below, Leonora and Lillie shown on the grave marker are daughters). He is the only member of the 1865 Atlantic to never play in either the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players or in the National League.

Smith's grave from Find a Grave

Smith’s grave from Find a Grave

And a few miscellaneous notes:

1. A few months ago I did something similar to this series on the 1860 Excelsior. The Atlantic are only five years later, but while only one (Asa Brainard) member of the Excelsior make a professional team, all but one of the Atlantic make a professional team.

2. Again, as with the Excelsior, there are an inordinate number of the Atlantic who end up with jobs with the City of Brooklyn or Kings County. It was one of several ways teams, not just the Atlantic, got around amateurism rules.

3. In many ways they are a cross section of American society in the era. One becomes a millionaire. One has a nervous breakdown. Most live fairly simple lives as working stiffs who hold down a job, get married, and have kids.

4. None of the others have the big league success of Joe Start, but two (Dickey Pierce and John Chapman) go on to have serious baseball careers (and a couple of others do some umpire work). Pierce plays into the National League era and Chapman is a big league manager.

5. It seems the baseball community could be close knit. One of the players, Sydney Smith, married the sister of another player, Lip Pike. Although Pike wasn’t with the Atlantic in 1865, he did play for them later. I’ve found a couple of references to other players who are related by marriage (for instance Folkert Boerum and Jack Remsen–Remsen married Boerum’s sister). If you think about it, that makes sense. The men knew each other, worked closely together, and surely met each other’s families.

The 1865 Brooklyn Atlantic were a great team in that era when baseball is transitioning from a gentleman’s club to a professional team. The men were extraordinary ball players. They were also fairly normal men of their day.



Chadwick’s Neighbor

May 23, 2016
The 1865 Atlantic

The 1865 Atlantic

Frederick William Hotchkiss Crane was born 4 November 1840 in Saybrook, Connecticut. In the picture above, he’s the man on the right of the top row. Of the 1865 Atlantic, he had one of the longest careers and one of the most interesting neighbors.,

The son of a minister, Fred Crane was, by 1860 known as one of the better young players in the northeast. Whether his father’s connections with a “higher power” helped or not is unknown. He came to the attention of the Enterprise, one of the junior teams in the New York area and was signed as a second baseman. He played with them in both 1860 and 1861. He was good enough that the top-tier teams in Brooklyn wanted him. Ultimately, that meant the Atlantic, the Eckford, and the Excelsior. He was lured in 1862 to the Atlantic, where he stayed through 1865. He was a good enough hitter, but was primarily famous as a good fielding second baseman. Remember, this is an era when players were near the bag and had no gloves, so “good fielding” doesn’t mean exactly the same then as it means now.  His numbers are no where near complete, but a newspaper source indicates that in one 18 game stretch in 1865 he scored 71 runs, which is a lot even for that era.

He was good enough that the Athletic, the premier team in Philadelphia, wanted his services. In 1866 he jumped to them. There seems to be no information on what inducements were offered so there is no actual evidence that he was being paid. But whatever made him go to Philadelphia, it wasn’t enough to make him happy. By August 1866 he was back with the Atlantic and still considered a prime second sacker.

With the formation of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players in 1871, Crane remained in Brooklyn with an Atlantic team that did not join the new league. By 1873 he was ready to move on. He played one game in the Association for the Elizabeth Resolutes of New Jersey going one for four (a single) in four at bats. He picked up an RBI and held down his usual second base. He went back to the Atlantic and in 1875 was with them when they finally joined the Association. He played 21 games, moving from first base to shortstop to the outfield over the 21 games. He managed 81 at bats, 17 hits. One was a double. He scored seven runs, had four RBIs, and struck out four times. It was the end, as far as I can determine, of his baseball career.

Unlike some players, Crane had outside interests. He sang in a Brooklyn city choir (no info on whether he was a bass or baritone) and went into manufacturing. He specialized in machinery, setting up a factory in New York City (not Brooklyn). He made good money and was able to buy a substantial home in Brooklyn.

The house was on the same block as Hall of Fame writer and statistician Henry Chadwick’s house. The two men liked each other and became friends. Frankly, I’d love to have been a fly on the wall listening to some of their conversations about early baseball.

Fred Crane died 7 April 1925 in Brooklyn. He, along with many of the early pioneers to Brooklyn baseball, buried in Greenwood Cemetery.


The Sewer Inspector and 100 Runs

May 19, 2016
The 1865 Atlantic

The 1865 Atlantic

The amount of information available on members of the 1865 Atlantic is getting thin. There are still four players to write about, and enough information on only one of them for a worthwhile stand alone effort. So I’m going to combine two of them into one post.

The Sewer Inspector

The man in the upper left of the picture above is John A. Galvin, shortstop for the 1865 Atlantic. He was born 1 August 1842 in New York. Very little information is available until he shows up in 1860 playing for the Osceola, a junior team in Brooklyn. In 1861 he was playing for the Exercise of Brooklyn, one of the weaker teams in the area. He jumped to the Powhatan club during the season. Powhatan was another of the junior clubs in Brooklyn. In September he volunteered for duty in the 51st New York Infantry Regiment and remained until October. The 1862 season saw him playing again for Exercise. By 1863 he’d moved over to the Atlantic and become their regular shortstop. He remained there through 1867 when he went across the river to Manhattan and joined the Mutual.

By 1871 he was 31 and no longer a premier shortstop. The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players was formed in that year and left out the Atlantic. In 1872 the Atlantic joined and called on Galvin to play a game at second base. He batted four times, made four outs, and made four errors in five total chances. It was his last throw in baseball.

While playing ball, he’d hooked on to a job with the City of Brooklyn, which was, in the 1860s, an independent city. Finding city jobs was a common way of paying players without them becoming professionals. Galvin got a job with the city Works Department and became a city sewer inspector and remained at that job for several years. He spent at least one year as the main man at the truant’s home. By 1887 he’d moved up from both the sewers and the truant’s home to become supervisor in charge of setting the foundation for the Brooklyn Elevated Railroad, a position of some prominence. He remained in Brooklyn until he died on 20 April 1904.

The Man Who Scored a Hundred Runs

Charles J. Smith is the man on the left of the middle row in the picture above. In 1865 he was the primary third baseman for the Atlantic. He is credited with being the first man to score 100 runs in the National Association of Base Ball Players, the premier baseball league of the 1860s.

Smith was born 11 December 1840 in Brooklyn and by 1858 was already recognized as a good baseball player. He hooked on with the Enterprise of Brooklyn as their third baseman and by the end of the season had been coaxed into joining the Atlantic. He remained there to October 1870. His great season was 1864 when he set a record by becoming the first man to score 100 runs at the highest league level. He’s supposed to have done it in 19 games.

Let me take a moment and comment on that last sentence (You knew another one of these “wait a minute” comments was coming, didn’t you?). One hundred runs in 19 games comes to over five runs a game. You do that today they’re going to put you (and probably whoever’s hitting behind you and racking up a ton of RBIs) into the Hall of Fame without a five-year wait. In fact they’ll probably do it while you’re still playing. But you have to remember the game in 1864 was basically a hitter’s game and pitchers were there primarily to toss the ball and start the play. Additionally fielders had no gloves, didn’t yet routinely cover the holes (especially the one between first and second), so teams ended up frequently scoring a lot of runs (30 runs in a single game by the winning team was not unheard of). Still, it’s quite a feat to score 100 runs in 19 games. I’ve found no play-by-play or box score evidence to back up the claim, so you are advised to be careful when telling your friends you know who scored 100 runs in a baseball season for the first time.

When the Atlantic failed to join the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players in 1871, Smith, along with several other Atlantic players, jumped to the Mutual of New York who did join the first professional league. Playing both second base and third base, Smith got into 14 games, had 72 at bats, got 19 hits, scored 15 runs (note that again that works out to more than one run per game played), had two doubles and one triple, five RBIs, and one each walk and strikeout. It was the last professional season for him.

At this point he almost disappears from the record. There are a couple of stories saying he suffered a nervous breakdown, but no date is given. He ended up in a house in Great Neck, New York. He died there 15 November 1897.

This leaves me with two players still to cover. By this point the information is getting less and less. You’ve probably noted by now that almost all of it has to do with the man’s baseball career and personal information is getting harder to find. There are two more Atlantic to go. I’ll add some comments about the players as a group when I do a post on the last player remaining, the right fielder.





The First Pinch Hitter

May 12, 2016
The 1865 Atlantic

The 1865 Atlantic

It’s 5 May 1871. Catcher Doug Allison has just been injured. Someone needs to replace him in the lineup. The Washington Olympics call on Frank Prescott Norton (the man in the middle of the picture above) to take Allison’s place. When he steps to the plate, Norton becomes the first ever pinch hitter in the history of a professional baseball league. He struck out in what turned out to be his only plate appearance in the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, the first professional baseball league.

None of that means Norton was the first ever pinch hitter in the history of baseball. There’s evidence that pinch-hitting, usually in case of injury, occurred prior to 1871. But Norton is the first to do it in a professional game.

Frank Norton was born in Port Jefferson, New York  9 June 1845. He got his start in baseball with the Brooklyn Stars, one of the weaker teams in the National Association of Base Ball Players in 1863. He stayed through 1864 earning a reputation as a good center fielder who could also catch. In 1865 he joined the Atlantic helping them to the Association championship. It was his only season with the champs. In 1866 he played with the Excelsior and in ’67 started the season in Boston with the Tri-Mountains. The team wasn’t good enough and the pay wasn’t great in Boston (I’ve been unable to determine where he worked), so he moved south to Washington where a job in Federal government (Interior Department) and a place on the Nationals as a second baseman, shortstop, and catcher awaited. He stayed with the Nationals through at least 1868 (and one place indicates he was there in 1869 also). The job paid well and he retired. He got his one shot in 1871 because he attended a game and was called on in an emergency.

He moved, after 1871, to New York where he became a contractor. He made a lot of money and inherited more (about $500,000 in 1875). After time as an insurance agent and realtor, he retired, apparently as a millionaire, and began splitting time between homes in South Carolina and Greenwich, Connecticut. While at Greenwich on 1 August 1920 he died. He is buried in Suffolk County, New York in the cemetery of the Setauket Presbyterian Church.

Next time you’re watching a game and they call on a pinch hitter. Think kindly of Frank Prescott Norton. He deserves it.

The First Lefty

May 9, 2016
The 1865 Atlantic

The 1865 Atlantic

The man in the middle of the bottom row is Thomas Jefferson Pratt. He was the primary pitcher for the 1865 Atlantic. He seems to be unique in baseball in that he is the first ever left-handed pitcher.

Before I give you any information on Tom Pratt I need to comment on the sentence just above with another one of my caveats. At least twice I found reference to Pratt being left-handed. Both times the quote appears to be taken from another source that is not referenced in any type note so I’m not sure from whence comes the idea he was left-handed. His Baseball page says he threw right-handed. Someone is wrong, but I don’t know who. But I’m not sure how much it matters in 1860s baseball. It is an era when pitchers stood 45 feet away and tossed underhanded without snapping their wrist. It’s obvious, from things you read about the era, that some pitchers had figured out how to get around the restrictions with speed (Jim Creighton) and movement (Candy Cummings) already becoming part of the hurler’s technique. The comments on both Creighton and Cummings indicate how unusual they were so it seems that most pitchers merely tossed the ball toward home and relied on the batter missing it or the fielders catching and throwing it, things which both righty and lefty pitchers can do about equally well. All of which is meant to tell you that it may not have mattered Pratt was left-handed (although there is some evidence he’d figured out a curve). All of that is meant to tell you that the title of this article may be wrong. Be advised.

Tom Pratt was born 24 January 1844 in Chelsea, Massachusetts. He was, as with a number of his contemporaries, a cricketer who moved from cricket to baseball. As with most other players he moved from position to position and team to team with some regularity. Starting in Philadelphia with the Athletic, the premier team in the city, he hooked on with the Atlantic in the early 1863 and settled in as their primary pitcher. He was good enough to lead them to a number of pennants, including the one in 1865 which led to the picture above. He wasn’t exactly a professional, but got a job with the City of Brooklyn that paid relatively well for the era, didn’t include much actual work, and left plenty of time to play ball. The job for playing concept was very common for the era and helped keep many players amateurs in the strictest sense of the word (and professionals in a true sense). He seems to have “worked” in the city Works Department, but I’ve been unable to determine his exact job (which makes the pay for play concept even more likely).

In 1864 he went 18-0 for the Atlantic, 13-0 in 1865. These are National Association of Base Ball Players games. He won many more playing outside the official Association. In 1866 he went to the Athletic (his original team) for the beginning of the season, but ended up back with the Atlantic for the latter part of the season. In 1867 he tried it in Philadelphia again, this time with the Quaker City team. The 1868 season saw him back with the Atlantic. It’s evident he’s moving a lot, but it’s also clear that he’s getting a higher paying job with the city when he does so.

In 1870 he moved to Philadelphia and began play for the Athletic. He remained there for the season. When the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players was formed in 1871, he got into one game for the Athletic. He played first and got six at bats in his one game. The six at bats in a single game is still a record, although it’s since been tied. He went two for six, both singles, scored two runs, and had an RBI. It was his only professional game. He had three errors in 14 chances at first. It was the end of his playing career. Best estimates give him a 80-19 win-loss record as a pitcher.

He then moved to umpiring and remained an ump for a number of years (into at least 1886) before retiring from baseball. He made money as an umpire, as a player, as a city worker. It seems he kept much of it. He helped establish Pratt Brothers, a paint and whitewash business that did well. He also married into some money. In 1884 he had enough money to invest in the Union Association, a venture that ultimately failed. His Keystones, the UA team in Philly, did poorly, he lost a lot of money, but his business remained a success, as did a skating rink he opened, and he was able to continue living comfortably.

Tom Pratt died 28 September 1908 in Philadelphia.

Pratt's grave from "Find a Grave"

Pratt’s grave from “Find a Grave”


The Best Team Prior to Professionalism

April 11, 2016
The 1865 Atlantic

The 1865 Atlantic

Professionalism was probably more common in baseball quicker than we’d like to believe. In the 1860s Jim Creighton was being paid under the table. He’s frequently called the “first professional” but there’s no evidence he was actually first. Lip Pike was also being paid under the table, but Pike was more open about taking the money (leading to a famous case that could have destroyed the first league had not common sense intervened). But it was still an era when many of the players were indeed amateurs. It was the period of the National Association of Base Ball Players (to be differentiated from the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players that existed from 1871-75). It’s a sport we would recognize as baseball (sorta) and it was dominated by one team, the Atlantic (of Brooklyn). They won several Association titles (they weren’t pennants yet). For my money the best of the team prior to the 1869 Red Stockings and avowedly professional teams was the 1865 version of the Atlantic, the team in the picture above (you can click on it to see it larger). Although I’ll have to admit I don’t have the statistical evidence (the traditional way baseball arguments are solved) to prove they were better than the 1866 version, they still get my vote.

The 1865 Atlantic went 45-0 with a tie. Now you can argue it’s not a lot of games, but it was a fairly standard amount for the era. They scored a lot of runs. While 30 runs in a game was not uncommon in the age, they did it with disturbing frequency. They hit well up and down the lineup and fielded well, again for the era. There aren’t a lot of stats available, but from the box scores I can find and the articles I read, it is evident that they were just head and shoulders above the competition.

All that leads to the very obvious question, “just who were these guys?” That’s what I’m setting out to discover. If you recall, a few months ago I took the picture of the 1860 Excelsiors and looked up what I could find on the nine players on the team. It took a long time and so will this. So don’t expect the next five or six articles to be about the 1865 Atlantic. Some of them (three in particular) are easy to find because they went on to make a mark in the world (especially the baseball world) while others are, at this point, total unknowns (again, three). Hopefully I’ll be able to find out as much as I did about the Excelsiors, which in a couple of cases was admittedly almost nothing. If you go to an article from 13 December 2010 titled “‘Start’-ing at First” you’ll find my look at first baseman Joe Start (in the above picture he’s the man on the right end of the middle row), the player who had the best post-Atlantic baseball career. So one down.

And so far, and I’ve only begun, they aren’t nearly as colorful a group as the Excelsiors (no one seems to have ended up in prison or manufactured baseballs), although as a rule they went further in baseball (but it’s also five years later). But hopefully, they’ll still be interesting.