The first Base Ball Club in Scranton, Pennsylvania was organized in 1865 but did you know that a year later it had beaten the powerful Athletic Club of Philadelphia?
Of course not, but according to James Linen, that’s what happened!
In 1915, Linen, a 65 year old former President of the First National Bank of Scranton, was interviewed about the city’s baseball origins and the following pearl was printed in the June 6th edition of the Elmira Morning Telegram:
Our fame reached Philadelphia and with the coming of the next year the famed Athletics of Philadelphia sent us a challenge. We accepted it and we whipped the Athletics even more significantly than the Giants have done since.
Linen had been one of the original members of Scranton’s pioneering Wyoming Base Ball Club in 1865.
But before we get into the ‘Athletics Issue’, what’s really interesting is that Linen began playing organized ball much earlier than that.
Our James Alexander Linen had been Pitching for the Eureka Club of Newark as early as 1860!
On that year he played in -at least- 10 games. Linen was a recurring name in Eureka box scores from 1860 until 1862.
Like it happened to many others, Linen enlisted when the Civil War broke out and his baseball uniform was put aside.
It is not known if he played any ball during war time but when the conflict came to an end and soon after establishing himself in Scranton, the 25 year old former Eureka pitcher helped organize the Wyoming Club on May 6, 1865 with a bunch of local businessmen.
The first match of the Wyomings came against the Susquehanna Club of Wilkes-Barre soon after that.
Played at the grounds of the challenger on September 1st of that same year, the Scranton boys won 18 to 6.
In 1866, members decided to change the name to Scranton Base Ball Club and, just like Linen said, their fame must have reached Philadelphia because on June 14th of that year, the Scrantons did play the Athletics.
Shocker! McBride and his boys ended up trouncing Linen’s Scrantons 49 to 4.
Was Linen still sour 50 years after that 13-run first inning?
He couldn’t have expected better that afternoon.
The Athletics had massacred the Alert of Danville that same morning 92 – 2.
He fared better when facing the Eckford and Al Reach in ’61. Baseball had changed.
But even though Linen didn’t whip the Athletics on that day, his Scranton club kept playing ball until disbanding around 1870.
Linen died 3 years after that ‘interview’.
Some final tidbits about his life:
Born: June 23, 1840 in Greenfield Township, PA
Parents: George Linen (1802-1888) and Sarah Davis
Married: Anna C. Blair (b. 1813 – d. 1888) on December 17, 1869
Children: Margaret Clark, James Blair, Mary Belle, Frank Insley, James Alexander Jr.
Died: May 29, 1918 in Scranton, PA
- Worked with a note broker in Wall Street.
- During Civil War, enlisted with the 26th New Jersey Volunteer Regiment in 1862. Private Linen soon rose to the rank of Lieutenant.
- Began working at the First National Bank of Scranton in 1865 as a Teller. In 1891 he was appointed President.