eckford club

‘Smiling’ Mickey Welch: The Hall of Fame Baseball Pitcher from Williamsburg

Mickey Walsh (via Haulsofshame.com)

Tens of thousands of men have played professional baseball, but only a few have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. One of those rare individuals is pitcher Mickey Welsh (July 4, 1859 – July 30, 1941) who was born and raised in Williamsburg.

Only about two-dozen pitchers have won more than 300 games in their careers and Mickey Welsh was the third-ever pitcher to join that elite club. Welch played 13 seasons in the major leagues, three with the Troy Trojans, and 10 with the New York Gothams/Giants. He was very successful with an effective curveball, a change of pace, and a version of the screwball. During his 13 major league seasons, he posted 20 or more wins nine times, seven in succession.

Mickey Walsh (via newsday)

Welch’s real name was Walsh. Mickey was the son of Irish immigrants who settled in Williamsburg. When Welch was young baseball was the rage in Brooklyn. Welsh in all likelihood saw the great local amateur team, the Eckford Club, which twice won the national baseball title before professional teams came to dominate the sport and the Eckford club folded in 1872. The first fully enclosed baseball grounds was also located in Williamsburg, The Union Grounds and it is more than likely Welch watched games there as a child.

Welsh was no physical giant. He stood only five feet eight inches tall and was no power pitcher. He threw underhand and had his success because he was a student of the game who mastered batters strengths and weaknesses and pitched smartly. Welch said, “I was a little fellow and I had to learn to use my head. I studied the hitters and knew how to pitch to all of them and I worked hard to perfect my control. I had a pretty good fastball, but I depended on my change of pace and an assortment of curveballs.”

(via Baseballhall.org

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Tom Gilbert, Greenpoint’s Prolific Baseball Historian

Playing First by Thomas W. Gilbert, book cover

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

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When Greenpoint Won the World Series (Well, Sort Of)

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-4-53-13-pmIt’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

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A History of Greenpoint in Twenty-Five buildings: The Mansion House

Screen shot 2016-03-24 at 7.26.30 PM

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.

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