If you were anywhere near Boys’ Park at Yanticaw Park in Nutley Saturday afternoon, May 5, you might have thought you were transported back in time to the late 1800s. That’s because on the grass-only field were two teams clad in uniforms worn by “base ball” players (that’s how it was spelled long ago) playing a game with early rules of the sport that has since evolved.
A crowd of around 50 onlookers were there to watch the recreation of a game played by the Kingsland Colonels of Nutley Base Ball Club and the Flemington Neshanock Base Ball Club.
Both teams wore pill-box style caps of era (circa 1895). Not sure of what pill-box caps are? Think of the Pittsburgh Pirates of the late 1970s. Their uniforms — baggy, with collared jerseys.
And perhaps the most intriguing part of the recreated game? Not a single player wore a glove, despite the use of wooden bats, a “hard” ball and a pitching style even Matt Harvey (too soon?) could master (one pitcher tossed overhand lightly — almost shot-putting the ball toward the plate while another threw it slowly underhandedly.)
Of course, one has to realize no one wore gloves at the game because back then, it was just a player and his bare hand. Could you just imagine playing bare-handed in today’s game?
When we first arrived at the game, and stood behind the outfield to grab photos, a ball was hit to deep center field. The center fielder got under the ball, it hit his hands as he attempted to catch it — and let’s just say the sound it made was painful enough just to hear.
He didn’t make the catch, either.
But that stopped no one from playing the game as if it were for gold.
The matchup, the fourth of its kind in the last four years, put on by Nutley’s Kingsland Manor — an historic restoration trust that is “a group of actively interested citizens whose continuing task is to move Kingsland Manor (a building located at 3 Kingsland St.) toward the broad goal of landmark, museum and local activity resource — was a great event enjoyed by residents and non-residents alike.
Tatiana Rojas, 34, of nearby Belleville, heard about the game from a friend. Her son, Johan, 6, is a huge Mets fan (and shares the first name of the only Mets’ pitcher ever to throw a no-hitter, Johan Santana on June 1, 2012.) She says her son lives and breathes baseball, so she decided to bring him to the game.
“I wanted him to see what the game was like a long time ago,” the elder Rojas said. “It was worth it. You can tell these guys just love the game. Anyone willing to play without a glove is pretty dedicated to the game.”
Her son says he had a blast.
“It was fun,” the little Rojas said. “I want to catch a ball.”
That didn’t happen, unfortunately.
Drew Meyers, 47, and his son, Joe, were taking a brisk walk around Yanticaw Park’s perimeter. While they hadn’t come to the park to see the base ball game, they stopped to catch an inning. Mets’ fans like the Rojases we met earlier, they took time to praise what they were seeing for free — as Drew took a chance to make a joke about his favorite pro team.
“This is great,” the senior Meyers said. “And considering the garbage we’re getting out of the Mets the last week, it’s even better. Any one of these teams could show up at Citi Field and beat the crap out of the Mets, you know what I’m saying.”
Perhaps. Likely. Maybe even very likely.
Joe Meyers says he particularly liked the umpire’s uniform.
“An ump in a bowtie … different,” the 14-year-old said of the ump who was also clad in a black suit, white shirt, a massive top hat and a walking stick of the era. “Not much like today’s game. But it’s cool to see how it was back then.”
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.