It seems for as long as anyone remembers, and farther back than that, Riverton has loved its baseball.
Pages here and in the Gaslight Newshave detailed Riverton’s rich baseball tradition which dates to the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and possibly earlier. Recent improvements in the playing field and grandstand at Riverton Memorial Park open a new chapter in Riverton history as the Riverton Athletic Association tries out its refurbished digs on Opening Day, April 12, 2014.
Even so, we must acknowledge the achievements of past generations and realize that the loss of such a familiar touchstone of one’s youth might yet cause a nostalgic twinge, no matter how improved the venue.
Enjoy our virtual scrapbook of opening day photos and commentary by my former Riverton School teaching partner, Mrs. Susan Dechnik.
Click on the cover at left for the PowerPoint slides or here for the faster downloading PDF file.
Contribute your remembrances of the old grandstand, regale the younger generation with a bit of Riverton baseball lore, or tell us your impressions of the new grandstand and opening day.
– John McCormick
From across the miles, Gary R. Weart writes:
Great to see that the grandstand has beeen renovated. I remember riding bikes there in the 50’s and 60’s because it was a nicer facility than we had in Palmyra. We used to play pick-up games on that field. The wall of the grandstand was also great for “pepper,” as we didn’t have to chase the ball. Sometimes we stood at home plate and played a game “backwards” by trying to hit the ball up into the seats by lifting it just over the fence allowing it to fall in the seats for a “homerun.” We could also record an out on defense by catching the ball off the fence. A ball hit over the grandstand was recorded as an out. It was sort of a game involving bat control. We could play a game of 9 innings with just two people. Needless to say, I have many great memories of spending many hours at that old grandstand.
I also heard from a source that prefers to remain anonymous that it was a great place to make out.
One Society member commented that the homes on the December 3rd Candlelight House Tour December were “…historic and all quite beautiful.” This extraordinary biennial event invites the public inside some of the most distinctive homes and buildings in historic Riverton to raise funds for the Riverton Free Library.Hundreds of admirers of 19th century architecture came from throughout the greater Philadelphia and South Jersey areato view the historic buildings all beautifully decorated for the holidays which included five private homes plus the Porch Club, Christ Church, and TheNew Leaf Tea Room and Gift Shoppe.
Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers, proprietor of The New Leaf, generously offered space to the Historical Society of Riverton (HSR) to host its popular Museum for a Day exhibition, a traveling display of local Riverton artifacts, photographs and ephemera from its archives.
The showing offered a special opportunity for its exhibit curator, Mrs. Cheryl Smekal, to display women’s period clothing and furnishings as well as rare objects belonging to prominent Riverton families. Mrs. Smekal organized the event with assistance and guidance from Society Board members Mrs. Pat Brunker, Mrs. Nancy Hall, Mrs. Phyllis Rodgers and Mr. John McCormick.
A table covered with 16 household objects common to the earlier 1900s which beckoned to onlookers, “Can You Guess…?” sometimes created traffic gridlock as museum visitors seriously debated the various uses to which some of the more puzzling objects might be put.
John McCormick was on hand to answer questions from collectors and the public about memorabilia and collectible ephemera. John, a retired educator and local historian, offered reproductions from his vast collection of local historic images with street views from local Burlington County towns.
John devoted a section of the show of artifacts to The New Leaf at 606 Main Street since that address has played a number of roles in Riverton’s business section since it first was the location of Ezra Perkins’ butcher shop about 1900.
You can view a PDF file of that banner that outlines the history of 606-608 Main Street here.
Always of special interest to collectors are the vintage post card reproductions photo-restored by John McCormick featuring Dreer’s Nursery, New Jersey shore resort towns like Long Beach Island, Ocean City, Stone Harbor, and other locales like Burlington, Trenton, Moorestown, Mount Holly, Palmyra, and Riverside.
One collector visiting the Society’s Museum for a Day was delighted to see that John had added considerably to what he had available at Victorian Day 2007, and he pulled up a chair and devoted over two hours to browsing the vintage postcard reproductions.
The Society appreciates Mr. McCormick’s generosity in sharing his collection on the HSR web site and blog for people of all ages to enjoy.
While an adult visitor may recall and perhaps even reminisce with the website’s content, a child seeing those same images and stories may see for the first time how life in his or her hometown was so different a hundred or more years ago.
We commend The Friends of the Riverton Free Library for their successful house tour program which reminds us that our magnificent, historic homes in Riverton can be restored to their past splendor rather than sold as apartment conversions.
The Candlelight House Tour significantly contributes to the rediscovery of Riverton by visitors and homeowners as a special place to live. The following photo gallery of our Road Show Museum will suffice until the HSR can secure a permanent solution to display the wonderful collection to which so many Rivertonians have contributed over the years.
– Gerald Weaber, President Historical Society of Riverton
The Phillies are playing in Clearwater now, and fan anticipation is high as the team prepares for another run at the World Series. With the re-signing of Cliff Lee, the Phillies now have in Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, and Co. what may arguably be the one of the best starting pitching rotations ever assembled in the history of major league baseball. Years from now, a generation will look back fondly upon these as the “good ol’ days.”
Few today can remember grandparents’ tales of Riverton’s heyday of baseball during the late 19th century, but there was a time when the “Riverton Nine” was so highly regarded that Henry Chadwick, the “Father of Baseball,” recalled an 1890 game in which they played as one of the best he had ever seen. A June 4, 1895, New York Times article stated, “During the old days of baseball, perhaps no amateur club in the country was so well known as the Rivertons.”
The team first organized in 1865, and played in Biddle’s apple orchard. When the interests of the group grew to include the sports of cricket and tennis in 1881, they leased land from the Miller Grounds and improved it with about 250 train carloads each of Pennsylvania sod and soil.
Baseball, particularly, flourished in those days and the players ultimately outgrew even that setting. Consequently, in 1885, they purchased 6¼ acres of the Lippincott property and moved there in April, 1887. In 1894, the more inclusive name change to the Riverton Athletic Association seemed appropriate for the band which was just then adopting the next new American craze—bicycling.
The newly invigorated association built “…one of the finest quarter-mile (bicycle) tracks in the world” with stands that seated nearly 3,000 spectators. (For more details see the September 2009 issue of Gaslight News for Pat Solin’s feature story, “The Fine Grounds of the Riverton Athletic Association”).
In 1895, the club hosted the New York Times Tri-State 150-Mile Relay Bicycle which included 163 cyclists. All preparatory aspects of the event were closely followed in the pages of the New York Times for weeks preceding the event. The race started out from the offices of the Times in New York City and climaxed with the winner crossing the finish line at Riverton’s own quarter-mile track.
Riverton’s long and illustrious sports tradition includes much more, of course: the sailing competitions and regattas at the Riverton Yacht Club, founded 1865; the live-pigeon trap shooting competitions held at the famed Riverton Gun Club (1877-1906); the individual efforts of athletes in national swim meets held at the Yacht Club during the 1920s; the play of men and women golfers of the Riverton Golf Club; as well as the stunning performance of 1923 women’s AAU track phenomenon, Frances Ruppert.
Look for images representing some of these accomplishments on the Images Page. We welcome the submission of photographs, programs, printed material, schedules, team rosters, and personal anecdotes or family stories which may serve as topics for future postings. John McCormick, Gaslight News Editor