Today Al Reach is largely a forgotten figure here in North Brooklyn where he began his baseball career, But Reach not only became the first openly professional baseball player in 1864, but he also went on to co-found the Philadelphia Phillies and become a millionaire – not bad for an immigrant kid who began life working twelve hour days in a Greenpoint shipyard.
Reach was born in 1840 in London, England, but he followed his father to America and lived in Williamsburg. When Reach was a teenager in the 1850’s, the East River was lined with shipyards and Reach got a job doing the grueling work of a shipwright, working ten to twelve hours a day in the days before power tools.
Baseball was also exploding on the scene in America, but nowhere was the sport more popular than here in Brooklyn. Most of the teams were composed of the sons of well-to-do families who could allow their sons the leisure to play the game. Greenpoint also formed a team, but it was not composed of rich kids sons. Its team, the Eckford Club, was made up of shipwrights like Reach who worked 60 to 72 hours per week. Though they had little time to practice, the grueling nature of their work left them very strong and fit and it is little wonder that the team proved successful.
Reach was never a great power hitter, but he was a great fielder. Many sources give him credit for being the first baseman who for the first time played off the bag allowing him to turn balls hit through the infield into outs.
Baseball was evolving in the 1850s and there is a lot of conjecture about the rules of the game. Pitching was underhand and many of the modern pitches had yet to be born. The game was still amateur and players played simply for love of the game. The Civil War interrupted baseball for many players, but the Eckford Club still played on and in 1862 and 1863 the Greenpoint club won the National title, making them the best club in America, but money would soon destroy the proud local baseball team.
The 1862 and 1863 championships were held at the Union Grounds in Williamsburg, the first fully enclosed baseball stadium. The Eckford Club’s victory on its home grounds was the cause for jubilant celebrations. The thousands of fans who showed up for the championship showed observers there was the potential for ticket money in baseball. Teams began to charge and offer players money under the table to join their squads. Continue reading →
WHAT: Visioning Session for Renovating McCarren Ballfields Join NYC Parks to share and discuss your ideas for the future of McCarren Ballfields 1, 2 & 3! WHEN: Thursday, September 6 | 6pm Where: McCarren Play Center | 776 Lorimer Street, between Bayard Street and Driggs Avenue
It is richly ironic that Tom Gilbert’s home on North Henry Street lies in what was once the outfield of the Manor House, where Greenpoint’s legendary national championship team, the Eckford Club, once played. Gilbert—who was born and raised in North Carolina but has lived in Greenpoint since 1983—is passionate about baseball, especially its early history. He has written books about Roberto Clemente and Pete Rose, but I find his writing on early baseball most fascinating. Gilbert wrote an intriguing book about early baseball and its connections to Green-Wood Cemetery called Playing First. Many of the founders of baseball are buried in Green-Wood and reading Playing First makes a visit to Green-Wood so much more rewarding. Continue reading →
If you’re wondering why a bunch of parents and kids are strutting down Grand Street today (4/29), the Williamsburg Sports League is kicking off the summer baseball season with their fourth annual parade. Players, coaches, parents, and local neighbors will participate in the parade, flaunting their team spirit to the max. The parade will start at 9am at the Grand Street Campus(850 Grand Street @ Bushwick) and will end at Lindsay Park (Montrose & Lorimer) with a special First Pitch. Check out the parade’s Facebook event for more info.
It’s late October and all the baseball fans will be glued to the World Series. Homer Murray and other Cubs fans will go nuts if the Cubs finally win the world Series, but even many of the most passionate Greenpoint baseball fans are aware that a local team, the Eckford Club was the best team in America before the organization of professional baseball.
Organized in 1855, the Eckford Club won the national championship in 1862 and 1863 in the days when baseball was still an amateur sport. The players were shipwrights who worked in the shipyard of Eckford Webb, at the foot of Milton Street. Although they had little time to practice on account of the sixty-hour weeks they worked, the Eckford players succeeded nevertheless because shipbuilding made them incredibly fit and strong. Continue reading →
After making it all the way to the World Series last year, the New York Mets have a shot at playoff baseball for the second season in a row. They face off against the San Francisco Giants in the National League wild card game at Citi Field at 8:09pm tonight. This is do-or-die time for the Mets, as the loser of this game will hang up their cleats until next season and the winner will advance to the NLDS vs. the Chicago Cubs. It’s a home game, Mets ace Noah Syndergaard is on the mound, and the forecast calls for perfect baseball weather this evening. Now, all we can do is raise a cold glass of beer to the Amazins and hope for the best tonight. In order to help you do that, we thought we’d put together a little list of some of the best Mets/baseball hot spots around (or close to) Greenpoint!
The Mansion House is not just part of Greenpoint history, but also of baseball history. The colonial era house, near today’s Engert Street, was the home of the fabled Greenpoint baseball club, the Eckford Club. Many baseball historians claim that the Mansion House was first ever clubhouse in baseball history! Certainly the Eckfords, who played for many years on the grounds of the mansion etched their names into baseball history, but first, here’s a little bit about the house.
Sure you are proud of your kid and enjoy sunshine in the bleachers while chowing down on a hot dog, but sometimes magic happens when adults participate in kid’s sporting events, as the video below proves.
The Greenpoint Little League will be holding registrations for boys and girls ages 4 to 12 this Saturday, March 8th – 3 to 6pm and Sunday, March 9th – 3 to 5pm at The Cage (62-40 Metropolitan Ave, Middle Village) Continue reading →