Charles Klasman is the manager of the New York Gotham Base Ball Club, a club that originated back in 1865! Fun fact: The Civil War was coming to a conclusion when the Gotham Base Ball Club was founded. I had the pleasure of conducting a Q & A interview with the gracious Mr. Klasman! If you enjoy what you’ve read, please help the club by visiting their website and potentially making a donation or to read MORE about the fascinating history of the “Pioneer” baseball club. Big thanks to Mr. Klasman for participating in this interview!
Johnny: Can you please tell me a little history about the Gotham Base Ball Club?
Charles: The Gotham Club started as the Washington Base Ball Club in the 1840s and later became the Gotham Base Ball Club. Members of the team were also part of the New York Nine which played the first recorded game in 1845. In those days, they played for fun and for “health.” But it became a passion for many and the popularity of the game grew. The Gothams had several homes in New York, one notable site was the St. George Cricket Grounds which today has the landing site for the Staten Island Ferry and the Staten Island Yankees stadium on the old property. The Gothams played the Hoboken Club there in 1864. About 1854 the Gotham team moved from St. George to Elysian field in Hoboken. Some of the vintage players, myself included, took a picture at the old “home plate” after our winter meeting this past December.
The Gothams had several iterations of the team over the years. The last incarnation became part of the National League when, in 1884 after the Manager Jim McMutrie began referring to his players as Giants, the name changed again. They moved to San Francisco after the 1957 season and we’ve never charged them royalties. It was not until the year 2000 when Drew Frady, who now lives somewhere in Colorado revived the Club and began playing once more as the Gothams in 1864 fashion. Along with the Mutuals, Atlantics, Neshanock, Hoboken Nine, Bog Iron Boys and Eckfords we make up the New York area of the Mid-Atlantic Vintage Base Ball Association.
Johnny: As a child, were you ever aware of this historical team?
Charles: No, just the stories about the New York Giants I heard from my father and other family members. I do recall seeing games at the original Yankee Stadium and getting a seat right behind a post! But I became a Mets fan and regarded them as a modern New York surrogate for both the Dodgers and Giants.
Johnny: What made you want to become the manager of this prestigious club?
Charles: I’ll stop short of saying I “wanted” to become manager of the team. I was simply an enthusiastic player and committed to the team itself. When our previous manager John Hyslop retired, myself and Rafael “Wickets” Garcia took over. Wickets has taken a step back this year in lieu of personal commitments so our centerfielder Ben “Collector” Levinsohn has stepped up as co-manager. Too much work for just one man! I’m proud to be a part of the team in any capacity.
Johnny: Has there ever been any well-known ballplayers who have come out from the club?
Charles: Many, of course. George Wright was a Gotham as well as a Red Stocking. He was arguably one of the best and most influential shortstops in the history of baseball. He was an engineer of how a shortstop and second baseman would share second base and turn double plays. He was also an outspoken supporter of running past first base in order to avoid frequent collisions. His brother Harry Wright and pitcher Candy Cummings who invented the “Curveball” also were early Gothams. All three are in the Hall of Fame.
Johnny: Prior to taking this job, was there any learning to be done, of terminology, etc.
Charles: Yes, it is an on-the-job learning process, one that I am still learning. There are many players in the league who are far more knowledgeable than I am. Collector (Ben) is our team historian. We call him that because he collects memorabilia and historic artifacts. Everyone on the team earns a nickname at some point. There are often debates with league historians about which terms were used and how they were used. We do try to keep in character when we play in front of spectators. We don’t “high five” and try to resist using modern baseball terms. We tally “Aces” when we score, the umpire won’t call you safe, he either says nothing or pronounces you “not out”. There is a lot to learn and I often get confused watching modern games.
I think there are some things that MLB might consider reverting back towards. Like when we step to the plate the pitcher may throw. Even if we step away, the pitch may be thrown, but the umpire is not obligated to call any of the pitches. I’d like to see the umpires have less of a propensity to allow batters to step away. If they can’t put on their gloves to bat and keep them on, don’t wear them. We play without gloves in the field. And what if on a 3-2 count the umpire had the instructions to not call a pitch which was borderline? Instead letting the players decide the outcome of the at bat. Carlos Beltran might be a Met hero today.
Johnny: Tell me about yourself. How have you been able to help other people with the general knowledge of baseball and the Gotham Club?
Charles: It’s a great subject for parties to talk about. We participate in educational days for schools. The Cyclones have a date each year where we play in the years of 1864, 1873 and 1877 for school kids. Once people see the game the questions start coming. They all want to know what the differences are and when the game changed. All the players enjoy sharing with the spectators. A simple pleasure that so many people enjoy.