Updated: 2 days ago
(This post was updated on August 5, 2020.)
The Hon. Julius Fleischmann's "tally-ho" to meet the Governor at the Margaretville Fair, Wagner Cottage burns down and the M.A.C. host the semi-professional Brooklyn Field Club.
For a budding baseball researcher, having old newspapers available for online scouring is just about the best thing you can get out of the internet. Doing a quick search at nyshistoricnewspapers.org, I found a treasure trove of items related to the Mountain Athletic Club from the pages of the Catskill Mountain News. The CMN survived for 118 years (1902 - 2020) as the preeminent source for local news in the Town of Middletown. I am told by the Town Historian Diane Galusha, that precursors to the CMN included the Margaeretville Messenger (1894-1902), and The Utilitarian (1863-1894). Former third-generation owner of the CMN, Dickson Sanford said those older papers were lost in a flood a long time ago. I often wonder what stories about the M.A.C. lie embedded deep in the sediment below the East Branch of the Delaware River. For instance, what about the time Honus Wagner played ball here? Did he bring Ty Cobb with him? What other Major League talent (that we don't already know of) graced Mayor Fleischmann's athletic grounds? I digress...
Just the first column of the CMN on July 31, 1903 was enough Fleischmann-related scuttlebutt worth mentioning. I will share the excerpts here first, then provide context for each:
The Big Margaretville Fair Big doins were certainly in store for the Margaretville Fair in late August of 1903. The following four coming attractions caught my eye:
1) By 1903, Cincinnati's youngest Mayor, Julius Fleischmann then a 31-year old, ran the family business, owned a private ballpark in the Catskills, a yacht on the Hudson and he and his brother had recently purchased interest in the professional Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies. Oh by the way, they had also built the largest yeast factory in the world just a few years earlier along the Hudson River in Peekskill, NY. It's apparent that Julius was such a fat-cat by then, that he had the street credit to waltz into a town fair with an entourage (referred to as "his tally-ho") to meet the Governor Benjamin B. Odell like it was a summit at Camp David. I'm uncertain as to what would be so important to onlookers that such a visit would be more interesting than watching a horse race that day or perhaps a ride on the Ferris wheel, but you can bet that serious business was discussed that day in late August. After all, Odell and Fleischmann were both leaders in the Republican party with interests in the economic boom taking shape in the Lower Hudson Valley.
2) The day was to feature a horse race with stock from the Gould's encampment at Furlough Lodge up on Dry Brook. Horses were ridden by none other than cousins Jay and Kingdon Gould, young heirs to the family's railroad fortune. In fact, it was Kingdon's son, Kingdon Gould, Jr. (who passed away in 2018 at the age of 94) that wrote a $100,000 check to the Village of Fleischmanns that got our ball field back to grass following the 2011 flood. For his generosity, we almost elected to put him up on the M.A.C. Wall of Fame, but frankly with so many ball players worthy of a spot, we just ran out of room.
3) "An electrifying ballonist"...need I say more? I suspect Max Fleischmann would've taken an interest being that he too operated his own Zeppelin for many years.
4) There was to be "some interesting games of baseball" too. Although, it sort of seems like an afterthought in planning the festivities. I'll bet the writer was not particularly interested in the sport. I'll have to dig a little bit to see who played and whether it was "interesting" or not.
Flames Destroy the Wagner Cottage From talks with Village historian John Duda, this is the Wagner Cottage for which Wagner Avenue (home of the M.A.C. Grounds) got its name. Contrary to the local legend, one thing we know is that Wagner Avenue was not named after The Flying Dutchman, Honus Wagner who may, or may not have played with the M.A.C.
My favorite part of the story is that local gossip deciphered that the place was perhaps set ablaze by a smoldering cigar from "disconsolate lovers who sought to drown their sorrows in solitude and smoke." Local papers can be so tabloidal at times.
At the time of the burn, the cottage was owned by the Bloomingdale Brothers (of department store fame) and the New York Times speculated the fire was "supposed to have been caused by boys using the grounds as a rendezvous for skylarking."
Brooklyn Comes Upstate
The last item from the column mentions a game that day and the next between the semi-professional Brooklyn Field Club and the M.A.C. Attempts to discover more about the B.F.C. have been a bit of tail-chasing though. It's safe to assume that there may have been so many clubs in Brooklyn at the time, that someone put together a team of ringers and sent 'em upstate to give Mayor Fleischmann's Club a run for his money. After all, the M.A.C. had developed a reputation of being one of the best ball clubs around and they were on an apparent hot streak having won 10 out of their last 11 games. Despite my efforts, I couldn't locate the results of the games in future editions of CMN as they did not publish box scores like other larger newspapers employing their own sports reporters.
Now, if you'll forgive me, I have to get back to my MLB Network to watch another game before they cancel the rest of this COVID-shortened season.