Brief Sketch of Baseball in the Longwood Community
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On any summer
evening as you drive around the Longwood Community you can find Little
League games being played on fields. At night when the lights come on
you can find hundreds of adults playing softball in Brookhaven Town
leagues. The story of baseball in our community is long and rich in
history. This brief sketch will attempt to tell the history of Baseball
in our community.
The origin of
baseball in America has long been in dispute. Baseball began as a game
called Rounders. The game of Rounders had no formal rules and it had a
variety of different rules depending on where it was played.
still claim that it was Abner Doubleday who founded baseball at
Cooperstown, little documented evidence can be found to support the
Many people have
come to believe that it was Alexander Cartwright who was the true
inventor of baseball. It was Cartwright, who in 1845 developed rules
that governed play. Teams were assigned players, who played a
nine-inning game, with 3 outs to a half inning. The diamond was laid out
as a square with the distance being 90 feet between bases.
The sport was
already rapidly gaining popularity when the Civil War began. It was the
Civil War that that was largely responsible for the explosive growth of
the game across our country. The game was played by Union and
Confederate soldiers alike. Long duty periods at camps and forts were
punctuated by baseball games. These games provided a much needed
distraction for the long periods of boredom and were also used to boost
the morale of the men.
General Joseph Hooker took over the Union Army after the disastrous
defeat at Fredericksburg, his primary goal was to build up the morale of
the army. In Willard Glazier's book Three Years in the Federal Cavalry,
he describes how as morale improved the men took to watching a baseball
game played between the 14th Brooklyn and the Second New York
Cavalry. Several Yaphank men were with the 2nd New York at
that time and witnessed the game. Samuel Darrow and Josiah Smith both of
the 48th New York Infantry were stationed at Fort Pulaski,
where numerous baseball games were played.
head, South Carolina, James Nichols, Middle Island resident and member
of the 165th New York Volunteers, was one of 30,000 who
witnessed a ballgame between his regiment and another Union regiment.
The game of
baseball crossed the social, economic and political strata of American
life. Once the war ended, returning soldiers brought the game to every
community in America. A sport that was used to "pass time" would shortly
become a national past time.
Civil Veterans came home to Longwood and baseball fields were built in
each community. In Yaphank ball fields were built on the property of the
Suffolk County almshouse and on Gerard Blvd. In Middle Island it was on
a field of the old Thompson homestead (now the site of the Longwood
Public Library.) The field was later moved to what is now Bartlett Pond
Park on the Middle Country Road in Middle Island. The Coram field was
built on the Davis farm across the street where the Davis home on Middle
Country Road is located.
As the men came
home teams were formed and challenges were made of other teams from
local communities. No formal schedules were arranged and teams just
agreed on a location and date to play. These games were well attended by
members of the community and a good team was a source of great community
In 1869 the
Cincinnati Red Stockings radically changed the complexion of baseball
when they paid their players. This allowed them to hire the best ball
players of the time, which allowed them to go undefeated. In 1871 other
teams realizing that they could not compete under this handicap formed
the National Association, which was baseballs first professional
newspaper on microfilm for our area is the Patchogue Advance. Numerous
references can be found about baseball in the Longwood area.
On November 24th
1877 an article in the Patchogue advance announced the results of a
return game between the Young Athletes of Yaphank and the Liberals of
Patchogue. The nine-inning game was won by the Young Athletes of
Yaphank. The game was won by "heavy batting" by the Young Athletes
including a home run by H. Train and 3 base hits by F. Homan. The game
according to the paper was stimulated by outside friends.
The game of
baseball was so popular that it was even played during the winter months
as the following letter illustrates.
In Feb. 23, 1878
A closely contested
game of baseball between the Patchogue nine and the Young Athletes of
this place. In all points it was a most interesting game. Through a
general indifference baseball has been allowed to flag in Yaphank, and
while steady practice won the athletes every game at the beginning of
the season, the wont of it has lost them equally as many at the close.
The athletes lost the game by a score of 11-8. Mr. Seley of Patchogue
officiated as umpire and as he always does, gave entire satisfaction.
Honest and impartial, he gives a tone and pleasantness to the game that
adds to its other pleasures. The Young Athletes unite in returning
thanks to Mr. Seley for his honorable decisions.
officers were elected at the first quarterly meeting of the Athletes
ball club, Saturday evening February 23: President, L.B. Homan:
Secretary, R.E. Hammond, Treasurer, A.W. Train; Captain E. Nolan;
Trustees, F. McCreary and Smith Thompson. The club is improving as a
union and the national game increases in interest.
On March 9, 1878
the first and second nines played a match game on Saturday, resulting in
a victory for the former, by a score of 54 to 13.
On Tuesday Feb. 26th
the Port Jefferson ball club played a match game with the Coram club.
Coram won by a score of 80 to 31. The return game was played in Port
Jefferson when the Coramites were again victorious by a score of 23 to
games began to foster healthy community rivalries, and were well
attended by the residents of each community.
recorded meeting between two Longwood teams took place on March 16, 1878
when the Young Athletes played the Atlantics of Coram, on their grounds.
The Coram team had a number of substitutes from other clubs. The day was
fine and the game terminated pleasantly. The Athletes of Yaphank won the
game easily by a score of 21 to 7.
In June the Young
Athletes of Yaphank issued a challenge to any amateur club in Brookhaven
or Riverhead to play a match on July 4th, on grounds to be
mutually agreed on. Address R.E Hammond, secretary. Here is a chance
for Patchogue -Moriches and Bellport included.
The following article appeared in the Port Jefferson times in January of
" About three weeks
ago the Middle Island Baseball club, after defeating nines from Coram
and surrounding villages issued a challenge to play any club in
Brookhaven Town. This challenge was immediately accepted by a few
enthusiastic baseball fans in the village (Port Jefferson), but all
attempts to get enough players together for a practice game on the
"sand" at the schoolhouse proved to be a dismal failure.
in this sad state of apathy until last Friday evening when L.B. Homan
received a communication from Edward Pfeiffer, the secretary of the
Middle Island club, informing him that unless Port Jefferson's nine was
on the grounds ready to play the following afternoon, Saturday the
Middle Island nine would claim victory over Port Jefferson by default.
enough. Early Saturday morning Mr. Homan sent his scouts scouring the
village for anybody who was known to play baseball and who in addition
had interest enough to journey to the far away battleground at Middle
Island to decide the question. After climbing the hills and wading
through the slush and mud enough players were secured to form a team and
Mr. Pfeiffer was telegraphed that Port Jefferson's nine would be on hand
at Randall's store at Middle Island at 2 p.m. if the weather was in any
way fit for a game.
At 1 p.m.
Al Wynne and his stage were in hotel square and all the players loaded
on board. The boys having never played together before, the road being
long and muddy, all added to the knowledge that in a short hour-and-
a-half they would stand on the diamond at Middle Island, pitted against
players who were supposed to eat baseball at their meals and sleep on
bats, made the boys feel blue.
underway, Joseph Burke was elected captain, and he assigned each of the
players his position and gave them a few necessary instructions about
the conduct of the game. The stage took a route up Main Street, through
the Stony Hill road to the North Country road to the Mount Sinai
schoolhouse, then taking the lane directly south.
For a while
it rumbled along, disturbing the silence through the woods until some of
the players broke forth in song, which was kept up until the first
houses of the challenging villages were reached. Then the yells and
whoops that were emitted sent the chickens and geese scurrying across
the road and caused the cows in the barn yards to look up in mild-eyed
surprise and brought forth no signs of human life.
store was soon reached and the stage load was informed that the game was
to be played in one of Azel Swezey's lots a mile up the road. Arriving
there the Port Jefferson boys found a large crowd awaiting them. All the
villages from Yaphank to Lake Grove had delegations to witness the great
game followed with considerable wrangling about decisions, finally
resulting in a victory for Port Jefferson 21 to 12. After the game three
rousing cheers were given for Middle Island by the victors, which were
heartily returned by the Middle Island boys. The Port boys filed into
their stage and after a short stop for refreshments were driven rapidly
homeward, with song after song lightening the trip, until the depot was
reached when the whole stage load took up the chorus of an improvised
ditty, the principal line of which ran, And port Jefferson, she got
there' and kept it going until the square was reached.
If there is
no snow on the ground and the sky is clear Middle Island will return the
game and play in Port Jefferson Saturday afternoon February 8, when an
exciting and much closer game can be looked for."
fostered community spirit and pride. A number of lively rivalries
between local hamlets began to develop. In 1889 one such rivalry
developed between the Middle Island baseball club and Bellport. Local
news correspondents would use newspaper columns to goad opponents into
playing games and issuing challenges to a communities pride.
June 13, 1889
Hurrah! The Middle
Island B.B. club went to Bellport last Saturday and defeated the
Buckeyes 28 to 13! It's no use talking the M.I.B.B. club is too much for
the two Bellport clubs. (the stars and the Buckeyes, but don't cry! The
superiority of the Middle Island boys is proved by the following
details: Play was called at four o'clock. Buckeye stock at par. The home
captain having choice of innings chose the field and before the Buckeyes
took a turn at the bat the M.I. boys had place 18 runs to their credit
and virtually won the game. In the beginning of the fourth inning the
score stood 18 to 0 in favor of the visiting club. Buckeye stock 50 per
cent below par. Not a Buckeye had yet reached first base safe. After the
M.I. boys got reckless and through errors the Buckeyes scored 13 runs
during the next 5 innings, when in the ninth inning the M.I. boys
settled down to play and retired the side in one, two, three order, not
a man seeing first base. Thus ending the hallucinations of the Bellport
correspondent and his pet teams.
The Patchogue Advance correspondent wrote about a July 4th
The glorious fourth
was celebrated in a quiet manner, as becomes our demure village. In the
afternoon a ball club from Bellport astonished the natives and
themselves by doing up in fine style a club hailing from the classic
precincts of Middle Island to the tune of 23 to 3. The game was very
entertaining and we hope they will favor the audience again. It was
played on the almshouse farm.
The Middle Island
correspondent wrote of a second game that took place that day at the
Almshouse. I guess we can safely say that they quickly learned about a
There was game of
ball in the afternoon between the Middle Island and Yaphank clubs on the
formers grounds, but this lacked the excitement from the fact that it
was a one sided game from the start in favor of the home club. Joseph
Denham, who is reported as being a star pitcher was placed in the box
for the Yaphank and was fairly well supported behind the bat by T.
Dedham. But the field support was not very good and Denham had
apparently lost confidence in his delivery and refused to enter the box,
and retired in favor of W. Still who was batted freely and he retired
at the beginning of the 4th inning in favor of Woodward. On
the other hand their opponents were effective and played a steady game
throughout, retiring the side twice with three men on bases. The
principal feature of the game was a tripple play in the third inning
with 3 people on base. Score 20 to 0 in favor of Middle Island. Umpire,
seek revenge and beat the Yaphank team….
In September, 1889
At the field in
Yaphank the Bellport Stars defeated Yaphank by a score of 30 to 15.
On September 30th
the Bellport Stars played the Middle Island ball club on the Yaphank
Stars after reaching the top of the ladder, were too weak to hold their
position when they faced the Middle Island club on the Yaphank grounds
last Saturday. The battery for Middle Island; Hawkins and Coleman. Time
of game, 2 hours 15 min; umpires, Eaton and Westby.
We noticed an
article in the Bellport Correspondence last week something like the
following: "We understand that a challenge was extended to the Middle
Island nine by the Buckeyes to play them a game of baseball which they
were too cowardly to accept. Shame" We think the Bellport correspondent
a little to previous as the Middle Island nine accepted the challenge by
return mail for the day and date named. "By the way." The Middle Island
nine requested the Bellport Stars to play a second game on the Yaphank
grounds according to agreement of both captains and they positively
refused to do so. Shame! But then it is quite natural that they should
want to remain as near to the top of the ladder as possible. The day
came for the Buckeyes to appear but the Buckeyes did not. Shame! An
exhibition game was played and resulted in a score of 12 to 14.
Captain had responded to the charge and once again the Middle Island
correspondent would answer.
correspondent makes a poor excuse for his nine not being willing to come
up here and play in the woods. We did not ask them to play in the woods
but offered to meet them on the Yaphank grounds which is a lot adjoining
the county Almshouse
club circa 1910. Photo from the collection of Edith Davis.
It would soon
become evident to these local clubs that establishing an actual schedule
for each team would eliminate all these problems. Baseball was about to
enter its Golden Era.
Yaphank Circa 1930
baseball became active in Suffolk County in the early 1930’s. In the
hamlets of Longwood many teams began training their players at the
elementary school level. Pat Raimond of Yaphank remembered the Yaphank
elementary school principal Mr. Davis encouraging the boys at the
Yaphank Elementary School (circa 1923-1932) to practice after school. He
remembers Mr. Davis piling the entire team (nine boys) into his Model T
Ford Roadster for a ride to play a game at the Middle Island School.
This entailed putting several boys on the seat, several atop the trunk
and a couple on the running boards,
representatives of a number of teams resulted in the formation of an
official league to foster competition. In Yaphank the fire department
agreed to sponsor a team to represent both it and the community. The
league consisted of ten teams with a season schedule of twenty games. As
all the players worked at jobs during the week, games were played on
Sunday afternoon. At the end of the season an awards banquet was held
at a suitable facility, determined by the league officials, to recognize
and reward individual as well as team performance. Of interest,
although not a member team of the newly formed league, the Suffolk
County Giants, an all Black team challenged and played against league
teams as schedules would accommodate. They proved formidable opponents.
remembered how the Yaphank Fire Department team was managed and coached
by his father Gustave Neuss, Sr. He was a commissioner of the local
fire district. He volunteered to lead the team because of his prior
experience in the sport. In the late 1800s, as a member of the
Knickerbocker Athletic Club in New York City, he participated in many of
the Club’s sport activities. At the turn of the 20th century as a
performer with the Ringling Brothers Circus he played the first base
position on the circus team. The team, composed completely of show
performers, challenged local baseball teams at all cities where the
circus played. He had a thorough knowledge of the game.
This was amateur
baseball. Players were from the local area and were few in number. The
roster of players was usually about twelve. The line-up for a game was
as listed below.
Ed [Duke] Glover
John E. Davis, Jr.
Utility Hub Brown
There was no
back-up for positions. When necessary positions were changed to meet
the demands of the occasion. The team members were furnished with
uniforms. These were rose pink in color and carried Yaphank Fire Dept.
across the front of the shirt. It made for a sharp looking team.
Laundering of the uniforms was performed in the Neuss’ home laundry as a
contribution to the team.
The home team
furnished all the baseballs required for each game. A ball had to be
lost or so damaged to require replacement before a new ball was put in
play. One ball could last an entire game. Also the home team furnished
the umpire. He not only called strikes and balls but also made calls on
the bases. He was positioned behind the pitcher, as he had no face or
chest protection. Needless to say there were many of the umpire’s calls
which were questioned but his verdict was final. A game between Yaphank
and West Patchogue experienced some fisticuffs because of West
Patchogue’s objection to an umpire’s decision. Merton Kinney performed
the thankless job as umpire for Yaphank F.D. He will be rewarded in
diamond was located on the south side of North Gerard Road. Around 1935
a number of young men from Yaphank cleared the brush from the land. They
cut down several Locust trees and attached chicken wire from one to the
other, making a backstop for their baseball field. The John S. Jones
farm was across the highway to the north. The third base line ran
parallel to and about one hundred feet in from the road in an east
southeast direction. Home plate was at the west end of the third base
line. The first base line ran south southwest from home plate. These
base lines were marked using hydrated lime applied by hand. The batter’s
box was similarly delineated. Players benches were located at a safe
distance from the base lines. Home team was at the third base line and
the visitors’ was located off the first base line. No seating was
furnished for spectators. Fans brought their own chairs, viewed
automobiles, or stood to observe the play. There was no peanuts and
Cracker Jack or beverages. Spectators supplied their own. Drinking water
was furnished home team players. No rest room facilities were
available. Conditions were primitive.
surface was hard, sand and clay mix. It was periodically smoothed using
an eight-foot wide two-blade dirt road scraper loaned by the township
highway department. The outfield was grass which was kept under control
using a sickle bar hay mower loaned by one of the locals. The level
surface of the ground made an excellent playing field. I do not know
who owned the property but no one challenged its use for ball playing.
The number of
years in the 1930s that the team held together I do not know. The
archives of the Yaphank Fire Department may have recorded some history
of the team’s longevity. I do know with the advent of World War II the
team disappeared. For the years the team played, a goodly number of
loyal fans attended the weekly games to give support, win or lose. It
was a memorable time for Yaphank.
The years 1932-1935