Port Nine Heroes of ‘89

Footnotes to Long Island History

Port Nine Heroes of ‘89

January 17, 1957

Thomas R. Bayles


        According to articles in the local newspapers in 1889, baseball was a popular game back in those days and was played all winter when the weather was fit.  Edward Pfeiffer was manager of the Middle Island team which was very active then.  The following is from the Port Jefferson Times, during the latter part of January, 1889:

            “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 a dismal failure.

            “Things were 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 a victory over Port Jefferson by default.

            “That was enough.  Early Saturday morning Mr. Homan sent his scouts scouring the village for anybody who was ever known to play baseball and who, in addition, had interest enough to journey to 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 (no telephones then) that Port Jefferson’s nine would be on hand at Randall’s store (afterwards Pfeiffer’s) at Middle Island at 2pm, if the weather was in any way fit for a game.

            “At 1pm, 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.

            “Once well 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 village 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 but brought forth no signs of human life.

            “Randall’s 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.

            “A spirited 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.”

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