December 29, 1883
Vol. XXVIII, No. 26
The natural conditions of rural life are the most favourable to health. But the artificial conditions are not always the best in the world. Even in our small towns the social organisation is too loose-jointed and spiritless to enter heartily into schemes for the thorough education of the body; and as to farm life there is a vast deal of balderdash talked about that Arcadian mode of existence. Bad food and ill-ordered work are the rule on our American farms. Salæratus bread, heavy pastry and fried meat do not form the best diet for an athelete. And whether he is ploughing, or hoeing, or digging, or pitching hay, the young farmer's labor is little better in kind than that of the drain-digger on our boulevards.
Careful consideration of these facts may convince the most fettered slave of childhood's fond delusion that the male dweller in the city need not be an absolute physical wreck. There is a saving muscular grace for the town man, and it is found in what is known as "amateur athletics". But even he who has some genuine light on the subject will be surprised to learn to what an extent and how successfully the young New Yorker seeks after this saving grace, and will receive with incredulity the statement that New York is in a fair way to become the amateur athletic capital of the world.
It does sound somewhat startling; but it is true. In the first place, Nature has given the child of Manhattan every possible facility for making his recreation literally a re-creation a building up of new strength of body, controlled in its development by gymnastic skill. It seems almost as though the original plan of New York island and the surrounding region had been laid out with this end solely in view.
Look at the map. To the south of the long, high-backed island on which the city sits is a broad bay, at the confluence of two rivers. The bay opens, by a passage miscalled the "Narrows" to another still larger bay, and that has a wide doorway to the open sea. This spread of waters offers accommodations to all kinds and conditions of crafts, from a canoe to a Cunarder. Of the two rivers, the one has been described as "the largest of its size" in the world. It is a broad, deep, powerful stream, with enough volume of water in it to make an Ohio or a Rio Grande, if economized after the Western fashion. In New York it has to be crowded to make room for a few lakes which we have up in the north of the State.
The other river gives a broad stream to the requirements of down-town commerce, and then obligingly splits up and opens in one direction into a mighty sound, and in the other into a shallow, spreading creek, quite the ideal place for rowing.
Two good roads lead from the city proper to the suburbs north, where the new wards in Westchester offer fairly cheap sites for ball-grounds and race-tracks. Ground may be had, likewise, on Staten Island, to the south, or in Jersey, to the west, where are the best roads for bicycling this side of Boston. And the bold hunters of the anise-seed bag have all Long Island to themselves.
But does the young New Yorker take advantage of his opportunities? Let us see. In 1868 there was one athletic club in New York. The year before there was none. This large increase arose from the founding of the New York Athletic Club, and was thought much of at the time. To-day the score of 1867 is beaten by seven, the Staten Island Athletic Club being included. These are the athletic clubs pure and simple, those that encourage all manly sports. Of clubs that make a specialty of one form of exercise there is no end. There are rowing clubs, yachting clubs, bicycle clubs, lawn-tennis clubs, racket clubs, croquet clubs, archery clubs, walking clubs, lacrosse clubs, curling clubs, skating clubs, riding clubs, rifle clubs, gun clubs, base ball and cricket clubs, fishing clubs, bowling clubs, polo clubs and Indian clubs for the "unattached".
The numbering and naming of these clubs would make a chapter like the generations of Enoch; and it would at the best be a misleading ing [sic] piece of work. For it is only a few of the greater associations which can give you documentary evidence of their membership and achievements; and these are, in a sense, the least interesting and important of all. Of course your great club is the standard, the criterion, the shining bright example, to a host of smaller ones; but muscle is made and health gained in the unpretentious little organizations whose names are never in the papers, whose "constitution and by-laws" are not printed in neat little books, whose members never "lower the record," or deck their broad breasts with gold badges.
In looking over the Herald, or, more likely, the News or the Journal, or some other distinctively "popular" paper, you will see a brief paragraph stating that the employés of the Smith Manufacturing Co. defeated the Jones, Brown and Robinson Brothers Club in a boat-race or game of base ball. Now you will never hear of those sturdy young toilers at the spring games or the annual meetings of the New York or the Manhattan Athletic Clubs; there is never a runner among them who will make Mr. Myers tremble for his laurels; the ghosts of the old original Atlantics could pitch and catch and bat them into oblivion at the national game; but they are, in fact, the truest athletes of all. They do not seek semi-professional celebrity; the applause of their friends especially of their young female friends and such a line as you have read in the journal they most affect, represents to them all that glory and fame can give. They work in modest retirement for strength and health, and they get it.
There are such clubs as these in most of the large mercantile and manufacturing establishments, and they compete with each other in a more or less friendly spirit. There is a certain social rivalry between different houses in the same trade, often between different divisions of one house. Compositors do battle with pressmen, weavers with dyers, the hands in the wholesale department with the hands in the retail store. Any morning you may read in the Sun or the Star that a certain valiant lithographer, for instance, offers to row or to wrestle with any other lithographer for the championship of the lithographers. Sometimes you will learn in this way of strange and mysterious callings, undreamed of by the general public. You will read, mayhap, of a "double-wadder" who desires to be known as the strong man of all the double-wadders in New York, and who will put his prowess to the test with any other double-wadder, be he never so mighty of muscle, who will meet him on the peaceful field where double-wadders are wont to "put the shot" or "throw the hammer." The peaceful field is generally a small Schützen Park or picnic "woods" upon the Harlem, or over the river in Jersey.
It is natural that men who make their living by manual labor, end [sic] earn their bread literally in the sweat of their brows, should be athletes. Likewise the athletic clubs of the militia regiments may be taken as a matter of course. And with the apparent inseparableness of a collegiate from an athletic education we are all familiar too, too sadly familiar, perhaps. But it is surprising to see how the mania for forming associations for physical exercise has spread through all the classes of a great city. The young men of a certain neighborhood gather together and get up a loosely organized little club to play base-ball or cricket; the establishment of a good bowling alley is the signal for the appearance of half a dozen new bowling clubs, each one of which has its evening, when it holds exclusive possession of the floor; and on Murray Hill, where base-ball and ten-pins are in no great favor, the young men and women of each little "set" get ease and grace and strength to dance the nightly German by practicing at lawn-tennis in the armories or in public halls, which are to be had cheaply for use in the daytime; and there they acquire the semi-professional skill shown in their championship matches at Newport.
Seeing that these gatherings of muscle-seekers have no yearnings after public notice, and that their incorporate existence rarely passes the limit of two or three years for young men grow up and marry, bowling-alleys are crowded out by local growth and appreciation of real estate, and society friendships faint and fail in a season's space it is not always easy to have ocular evidence of the existence of these very private clubs. But if you want to see the West Ninety-sixth Street Base-ball Nine at work, go over any Saturday afternoon to the waste places of Jersey, between Hoboken and Guttenburg, and you will see a party of young men, whose uniformity of attire goes no further than a general tendency to shirt sleeves, playing the game with a vast deal of unprofessional noise. They do not wear red stockings and conspicuously initialed flannel shirts; but they are a club, and they hold the dignity dear. They have a captain, and a treasurer who is also a secretary, and who collects the fines. Indeed they are a club, and next season they will go far into "Jersey" to meet the South Orange Junction Oriole Stockings, and play their first game in a regular inclosure. And there mayhap, their crack pitcher will distinguish himself, or somebody will do a little neat fielding, and you may see that man, a year or two hence, playing up at the Polo Grounds in a gorgeous uniform, with applauding thousands around.
The bowling-alley, is, as a rule, an adjunct of what is known as a beer garden. The name is somewhat strange. The "beer" part of it is well applied; but the "garden" covers only a tiny square of ground with "two dyspeptic aloes" from which it appears that good beer does in truth need some sort of bush. Beyond this little space "a square of clay, unused to vegetation" lies the alley too, often constructed of green wood, which warps with the rolling years and splinters under the rolling bowls. Here the little coterie of friends is to be found on the evening set apart for it. The club has its own score-board, with the names of the members painted thereon. The proprietor generally furnishes some small solid refreshment, and each member pays for the liquids he consumes a moderate score it is, too, for exercise is the sworn foe of intemperance and at the end of the evening the expenses of the meeting, consisting of hall rent and the hire of the attendant boys, are divided up among those present. The tax may be fifty cents a head or thereabouts.
The Germans are the great bowlers of the city, and they have made the pastime popular; but they have ruined the fine old American system of playing, by the introduction of mighty balls, such as Thor might love to roll in Walhalla, pierced with two holes, side by side, into one of which the player inserts his thumb, slipping two fingers into the other. This reduces the difficulties of the game to a minimum, and makes it largely a matter of brute strength. Any obese giant who can lift one of these great spheres and start it straight in the centre of the alley may trust to its size and the momentum it must acquire to sweep down most of the pins. Oh, for the old balls, hardly larger than a croquet ball, and the round hand bowling of our fathers' days! Strikes and spares were less common then; but when a man cleaned the board he had something to be proud of. Let it be said for our German friends, however, that their own game is more complicated than ours, and that an ordinary club meeting with them means a prolonged tourney, lasting sometimes four or five hours, much more scientifically arranged than our simple contests.
But the shrinking and sensitive club is the tennis club. This is not because of any modesty; it probably calls itself the "True Knickerbocker Tennis Club," or the "Original Mayflower Racketeer." The fact is, it has been for a year or two quietly and unobstrusively "squatting" in one of the militia armories, and it well knows that the State government looks with stern disapproval upon such frivolous tenantry. Nay, so very decided are the powers at Albany that the fine floors and heigh [sic] ceilings of the regimental drill-rooms are now practically delights of the past to the tennis player, and he must needs hire a hall wherein to spread his harmless net.
Now there are not very many halls suitable for tennis-playing in New York, and when a good one is secured it is the part of wisdom for the "True Knickerbockers" to say nothing about their find, lest the "Autediluvian Aristocrats" outbid them, and secure the prize themselves. So the tennis club of "sassiety" hides itself, as it were, in the tender twilight of well-bred retirement, and has a good time all by itself, slipping down in its monogrammed coupés to Avenue A to chase the standard ball over the waxed floors of Klumpenheimer Hall, where in the evening the belles of the Bowery will dance to the music of two fiddles and a piano, at the annual ball of McGeoghegan Coterie No. 2.
It is rather surprising that more use is not made of the smaller halls, meeting-rooms, ball-rooms, and lecture-rooms that are plentiful enough all over the city. They will not do for tennis; but they serve well enough for the practice of light gymnastics, fencing, broadsword, and single-stick exercise, and wrestling and boxing matches. They may be had, in the daytime, for a dollar or two an hour, sometimes even less. There is always a janitor, who will for a small fee take care of the implements of war, so that the parties may meet at stated times without having to make themselves painfully conspicuous in the public eye by marching through the streets loaded down with boxing gloves or broadswords. Of course the lessees of the hall may close the doors and enjoy the strictest privacy.
Senac is New York's great professor of fence, but there are many teachers of less renown. As to the gentlemen whose lives are devoted to spreading a knowledge of the manly art, they are beyond all counting. No man who wishes to learn to box will have the slightest difficulty in finding somebody's "Mouse," or a "Chicken" from somewhere, who will be happy to impart instructions at low rates, and likewise to sell his pupil a pair of gloves at about twenty-five per cent. more than he would have to pay for them at a sporting-goods shop. But let the young disciple beware of those teachers who are known as "sluggers." A knowledge of the Briton's beloved science may be acquired without the loss of one's front teeth and self-respect. It is unwise to rely too fondly upon the instructor's guarantee of "gentlemanly treatment." There are many youths now walking about this city who have been "treated" to black eyes and broken noses by the gentlemanly Mice and Chickens whose patron saint is the Marquis of Queensberry. Decent and competent teachers may, however, be found who will show a man how to use his fists in from a dozen to two dozen lessons, at one or two dollars a lesson.
But if the young cit is really "going in" for athletics, the best thing he can do is to make sure of his enthusiasm lasting by putting it into a joint-stock company. Lonely exercise grows a wearisome thing in the end; it becomes mere work, and distasteful work at that. But the member of a club, be it large or small, has the pleasure of companionship, the stimulus of rivalry; gets advice, encouragement, assistance, and in consequence finds a pleasure in all that he does and bears, in all the sweating and shivering he must go through to come first under or get furtherest over the line. Nor is it strange if the glimmer of a gold medal or a silver cup increases his desire to touch the goal.
Of course there is a prejudice, confined for the most part to overfond mothers and timorous maiden aunts, against the athletic club as a physical educator. Mr. Wilkie Collins's Man and Wife, with its shocking picture of the breaking down of Mr. Geoffrey Delamayne, has frightened many excellent old ladies, and they are likewise troubled with visions of brutal trainers and unmannerly associates "strange gentleman" like those who disturbed the peace of the Countess, née Kilmansegg, and who were
"in the fancy line;
And they fancied spirits instead of wine;
And they called her lap-dog Wenus."
So far as the athletic-club system of New York is concerned, this is a groundless prejudice indeed. Now and then, perhaps, vaulting ambition gets a fall, or a sprain, or a strain; but a young man is likelier to be a sound young man, morally and physically, in a club than he is out of it. Physical training is, in a negative way, moral exercise. The man who is in training must needs keep early hours, be wary of the flowing bowl, and generally lead a sober and temperate life. He is under the charge of a professional trainer, who will see that he does not overwork himself. The collective eye of the club is on him. It watches him to note his special capacity, to find out what he can do best. Then he is encouraged to judicious endeavor. If he undertakes to represent his club at the general games, it is of importance to every member that he shall be in the best condition to sustain its honor. His associates are young men of from eighteen to twenty-five, with a few old veterans, who give a leaven of solid wisdom to the crude mass of youthful enthusiasm. These young men are clerks, lawyers, and the like; the majority of them Americans; the others principally Germans and Irish of the better sort.
No, the young men need come to no harm in this company; and he may choose for himself among what class or clan of amateur athletics he will take his chosen form of exercise. The list is large enough.
At the top should stand, by right of seniority, the New York Athletic Club. Organized in 1868, it is now a gray-headed Nestor among the younger generation of clubs. It has laid down its laurels on the banks of Harlem Creek, and leaves its juniors to fight for medals, cups, and championships. There is an atmosphere of quiet and exclusive respectability about its neat, well-arranged club-house and spacious grounds on the Mott Haven side of the Harlem. It seems altogether too comfortable and conservative a club ever to have been the radical pioneer of amateur athletics, with traditions of poor little games, ill attended, and wholly despised and neglected by conservative and slothful New-Yorkers. But Mr. W. B. Curtis and Mr. H. E. Buermeyer, the founders of the club, are on hand to-day to tell the tale of the old days in the little patch of ground on this side of the river, still active members of the club, and familiar figures at all athletic meetings.
The N.Y.A.C. originates most of the laws which bind the National Association of Amateur Athletes of America, a mighty league which holds its legislative and executive sessions at the spring games, on the first Wednesday in May. It will cost the young man who is properly introduced ten dollars for an admission fee and twenty-five dollars for yearly dues to become a member of this club, and for this he will soon be able to invite his friends to the handsomest club-house and one of the best gymnasiums in the country; these, moreover, are to be within the city limits.
The New York represents Sybaris among the clubs of the city, and the Manhattan may be called Sparta. The Manhattan Club pits an active present against an honored past. It was organized in November, 1877, and got to work early in the following year with just a score of members. It has now about 175, and the number increases with a healthy growth.
The Manhattan holds the championship emblem, and it does more than any other organization to keep the Athletic ball rolling. It has two "grounds" one place at Fifty-sixth Street and Eighth Avenue, and another on the same thoroughfare, exactly one mile and a half to the north, at Eighty sixth [sic] Street. The latter is, or will be when it is finished, the largest and best of its sort. It covers a whole block, has space for base-ball, foot-ball, lacrosse, and lawn tennis, a quarter-mile track for running and bicycling, and a shady, airy grand stand, where the lasses may sit at the games and watch their favored lads in the red-diamond-decked suits of white. If you are seeking luxury and recreation only, you should join the New York. If you want exercise for health's sake, or fame as runner, a vaulter, or a heaver of heavy weights, the Manhattan is your club, for the Manhattans are an ambitious lot. They have heaped up a majority score of individual championships, and their native land is too small to contain their ambition. They send teams to try the muscles of the hardy Kanucks, and they sent the famous Myers to England to drown the roar of the British lion in the whoop of the American eagle. To cover the expenses of this patriotic venture they got up a series of games at the Madison Square Garden, where Charles Rowell gave for their benefit an exhibition of the style of running which gave him for years the title of "the unconquered."
And by-the-way, Alcides Urban, if you think that a huge frame is necessary to a good athlete, it were well for you to look at those two men. Mr. L. E. Myers's weight varies from one hundred and ten to one hundred and twenty pounds, and the "great" Rowell is a little fellow of Napoleonic build, with nothing big about him save his legs.
" 'Ow much do you think my chest measures?" he asked of me.
"About forty inches, I suppose, when you are in training."
"Thirty-five inches," said the champion. He was the champion then.
And as to Myers, the champion "sprint," or short distance runner, he is a walking nay, a running plea for amateur athletics, and he will deliver a little sermon on the subject if you choose to seek him, lounging of a summer evening about the vast grounds at Eighty-sixth Street and Eighth Avenue.
Oh no, Alcides, this isn't at all what your dear aunt Cassandra thinks of when she hears the word "athlete" the prize-fighting, race-selling, bullying, swaggering "professional." This is a good-looking, gentlemanly young skeleton of twenty five [sic]. His eyes, his teeth, his smile, are bright; his skin the costume gives great opportunities for observation is bright and brown. Finger and thumb of a "7 cadet's" glove would girt his slender angle; but you notice that all his bones are light; that his hand is small, his instep high; that he carries himself gracefully; that his muscles play supple, clean, and quick under his thin skin. This is fine stock, not feeble. This is your ameteur [sic] athlete.
"Yes," he says, with a smile, "it's very exasperating. There are people who will persist in classing amateur athletes with professionals. They ask me if I can outrun Rowell!"
If Mr. Myers were to run one hundred yards in a public race with Mr. Rowell, Mr. Myers might put himself out of amateurdom forever.
"They can't understand that money makes all the difference between the two classes. These professionals make a business of sport. But there is nothing mercenary in an amateur's ambition. He values his medals and cups not for the gold or silver in them, but for the achievements which they represent. We try to make our clubs fit for gentlemen, and I think we succeed. We are thoroughly democratic; we don't care for a man's wealth or social position, but we oxact [sic] of him decent and courteous behavior and unquestionable character. Why, we have all sorts of people in this club mostly clerks and young business men, but everybody else, too lawyers, doctors, journalists, brokers I don't know. They all seem to get along well together."
"All great athletes? Oh no. Many join the club only for their health to get a bit of exercise. Awkward for them coming among trained men? No, indeed. Why, the old hands encourage them help them on give them advice. We want to make everything pleasant here, naturally."
"Yes, I was always fond of sport, and as a child I danced a good deal. That, I think, limbered up my legs. Besides, I've got these; they are muscles, and they help me to run."
And he exhibits a pair of abnormal trunk handles, one on each hip, bulging out his running breeches.
"No, sir, no one else has 'em. That's the only pair in the world. Well, when I began as an amateur, I was in very bad health, apparently in the first stages of consumption. No one thought I would live. I was broken down, sickly, weak. But I had made up my mind that there was only one way to get back health through exercise. So I ran and jumped and parred and put the shot, though for a while the least exertion made me very sick, and well, here I am. Pretty sound for a man who was at death's door a few years ago, eh? Not much consumption here?"
And he inflates a healthy chest, small, but sound.
"Exercise now! Well, fifteen minutes a day would cover all the time I spend in active exercise. I just come up here, on pleasant summer evenings, and amuse myself running or throwing weights with the rest of the boys, and when I am tired I stop."
"Training? I never trained but twice, and both times disagreed with me. I eat and drink just as any reasonable man should, avoiding simply what is unwholesome what one knows to be bad for him. I don't deny myself anything good, so long as it doesn't hurt me. But I don't smoke and you oughtn't to either."
Mr. H. G. Crickmore is the great "Krik" of the sporting world. "I know more about horses than about humans," he said to me the other day; "but I have watched those boys. I think they would do well to go in for easy, steady, long-distant running rather than for sprinting and that sort of violent exercise. But they are doing a great work, as all men are who try to build up the body, to increase their physical strength, and to raise the general standard of health. It is a work that will show in their children and in their grandchildren in a race of healthier and stronger men and women."
And your choice lies not only between two athletic clubs. There are four small and active associations in this city, which exist at present mainly to produce good runners and walkers for the championship games, but which may, with accessions to their membership, increase the scope of their efforts. The American Athletic Club is a homeless group of athletic nomads, who hire the grounds of other clubs for practice and for exhibition, until such time as their treasury may warrant the lease of suitable lots and the erection of the necessary buildings. The A.A.C. is generally regarded as an offshoot of the Young Men's Christian Association Gymnasium, and is principally remarkable as having brought to the front young G. D. Baird, a walker who gives promise of great things, if he doesn't walk his short legs off within the next two or three years.
The Pastime A. C. has cool grounds at Sixty-sixth Strtet [sic] and the East River. Among its members are Lambrecht, the champion heaver of the heavy hammer and putter of the ponderous weight; Conolly, the champion heavy-weight boxer; and Mr. Nason, to whom his colleagues proudly point as the "champion sack-racer of the world."
The Gramercy is practically a running club, and its chief glory is in its fine runner, Golden. This club has no grounds. It scarcely needs them. The whole, the boundless continent is its. In winter the members take easy runs up along the Hudson River to Peekskill, for instance.
The hero and president of the West Side Athletic Club is William Meek, champion long distance walker. The club has the grounds of the old Scottish-American Club on Fifty-fourth Street, between Eighth and Ninth avenues. The initiation fee, dues, and assessments in these four clubs are very light indeed. It must be a lean pocket that cannot meet them.
But there are many who are good New-Yorkers at heart, but for whom New York is only a base of financial supplies. These live in the suburbs of the great city, whose boundary line ought to be drawn from, say Yonkers, through Westchester, County, sweeping around through Long Island to Coney Island, around again, embracing Staten Island, through New Jersey to its starting-place. That is really New York, and these her suburban residents are not shut out from the athletic advantages of those who dwell within the walls. Do you live in Yonkers? at Fordham? at New Rochelle? at Mount Vernon? The New York Club's grounds and all the boat-houses of the Harlem are within your reach.
Do you inhabit that fair island that lies like the dot below the crooked exclamation-point of Manhattan, far to the south? Well, you have the Staten Island Athletic Club, with some two hundred and fifty apostles of the knee-breeched cultus. They have a boat-house and boats in it, too at New Brighton, and track and base-ball grounds at West Brighton. They have swallowed up the old Hesper and Neptune rowing clubs and they yearn for aquatic renown.
Long Island, if you in Brooklyn or Williamsburg, can give you the privileges of the W.A.C. a most promising and plucky organization, six years old with more than two hundred members. They have a commodious camping-ground at the corner of Wythe Avenue and Penn Street, Brooklyn, E.D. They have an originally constructed track, tipped outside up, like a railroad curve. They also have a gymnasium and a "crack" trainer, Jack McMasters, and their games are getting to be considered great "events."
If Fate has sent you to New Jersey, you may join the Elizabeth A. C., which is one year younger than the Williamsburg, and has about the same number of active members, who rejoice in a club-house with billiard-tables and bowling-alleys, in a good track and grand stand, and in being also members of the American Athletic Base-ball Association.
But it may be, Alcides Urban, that you prefer to cultivate the one little muscular talent which nature has allotted you, caring naught for sports in general. Well, you can do it without going out of the suburbs.
Do you row? And are you unwilling or unable to pay $100 or $120 for a shell wherein to paddle in selfish solitude? You can join, for twenty-five dollars admission fee and twenty dollars annual dues, the New York Rowing Club, where there are more than a hundred other young men just of your way of thinking, who have the freedom of a well-fitted-up boat-house just above the elevated railroad bridge on the Harlem. This is a veteran club that nowadays feels more inclined for play than for work; but there were days when its name was great among the racers, and the young oarsmen of to-day find that some of the old "New-Yorkers" are the best "coaches" to be had.
If this does not suit you, you may take your choice between the Nassau and the Atalanta. If you are in bondage to learning at Columbia, you will join the college boat club; If you are a budding broker on Broad Street, you may sit on the sliding seats of the Stock Exchange Rowing Club's shells. Or you may be a Metropolitan or a Dauntless; if you live near Bergen Point, an Argonaut; if near Yonkers, one of the Palisades; if on Staten Island, a member of the S.I.R.C.
Perhaps a great yearning has seized upon you to enlarge your biceps after some other fashion. The Scottish-American will teach you to put the shot and to throw the hammer.
Perhaps you have read "The Canoe and the Flying Proa," and wish to test for yourself the relative virtues of the "Rob Roy," the "Shadow," the "Nautilus," and the "Herald." There is a New York Canoe Club at Staten Island, and a Knickerbocker Canoe Club at Eighty-sixth Street and the North River, and another club at Bayonne, "over in Jersey;" and likewise there is the Flushing C.C., of Long Island, and you will be afforded every possible opportunity for accustoming yourself to the sudden dampness that succeeds a capsizing fit before you go on your summer vacation trip, canoeing it all the way to Lake George and back.
Roughly, a canoe costs $100, and it is a good and, except for predestined idiots, a safe investment. It is faster than a row-boat, and less cranky, the seat being below the surface of the water. It tempts to exercise and travel in watery paths of pleasantness and peace. The American Canoe Association is enthusiastic enough to support a handsome little monthly, published by Brentano Brothers, New York, and called The American Canoeist. From its pages he who would canoe may learn how to go about to accomplish his end.
Mr. J. R. Flannery is the good genius of lacrosse in this region, and he is well seconded by Messrs. Erastus Wiman and Hermann Oelrichs; but lacrosse has had in New York a spasmodic sort of career, living, dying, and being resuscitated over and over again for the last fifteen years. It requires grounds that can not be had within the city lines. Yet it is a fine game a sort of shinney raised to the nth, or what we used to call, when we were boys, "gool," I suppose we meant goal, or golf. In '82 six clubs fought for the U.S.N.A.LC. Association Cup, given by Mr. Oelrichs. These were the New York, the Princeton, the Harvard, the Yale, the New York University, and the Bloomfield, New Jersey. There are but two clubs now in the city, the N.Y., and the N.Y.U.C.; and one in Brooklyn, the Adelphic. Lacrosse is earnestly recommended to the unattached athlete.
Tennis perchance suits your errant fancy. It is, indeed, a pretty game, but leads to a lax taste in the way of bats. Well, if you can buy a flannel shirt, a pair of rubber-soled shoes, and a racket, and are able to pay some ridiculously low dues and assessments, you may readily gratify your whim. Tennis is the cuckoo of games. It is ever squatting in some alien nest. It has a building all to itself at 212 West Forty-first Street, where the pioneers and the strictly feminine bonnets rouges play; and yet it confiscates the militia armories and the assembly halls; and you may find it hanging on the skirts of archery, base-ball, cricket, and general athletic clubs all through the suburbs. The new Manhattan grounds are to have some wonderful courts. The St. George's Cricket Club, of New York, has twenty grass courts on its grounds at Hoboken, the Staten Island C. and B-B.C. has twelve, and there are some more in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. There are nine well-established tennis clubs in New Jersey (some of them adjuncts of base-ball, cricket, or archery clubs), two in Brooklyn, one on Staten Island, and one at Hastings particular Hastings-upon-Hudson, which is ever truly British. Old clubs die and new ones are formed all the time, yet it would be fairly safe to hazard the estimate of fifteen hundred club players in New York and her tributary towns. The champion tennis-players are Mr. R. D. Sears and Dr. James Dwight, both of Bolton.
Among these poisers of the airy racket I have not counted the members of the Racquet Club a mighty organization, dwelling in a frowning castle on the corner of Twenty-sixth Street and Sixth Avenue; a bachelor palace within, well known to rich and luxurious young New Yorkers.
If you wish to be a bicycler, Alcides; if you are not afraid of being held on outcast from society beeause [sic] you put on neat knee-breeches and a polo cap, and straddle that wiry wheel which the "average citizen," not daring to mount, doth much deride and ridicule; if you wish to enjoy a ride where you have the combined joy in strength and speed of horse and rider; if you wish to spin over the fine roads of New Jersey, or up the smooth Boulevard to Yonkers, or along the Pelham road, passing on a spurt the truly British turn-outs of the Coaching Club; if you desire wiry legs; good digestion, and sound sleep o' nights you may join the band of wheelmen, who are forbidden to travel in the mazy ways of Central Park because an occasional horse has shown an antipathy to knickerbockers and rubber tires. Horses, it is well known, never shy at locomotives, heaps of brick, circus posters, bands of music, or red parasols.
There is room in the world for the bicycle outside of Central Park, Alcides, and you may learn to ride to-day much more easily and peacefully than did the poor pioneers of the sport three years ago, when the wheel was a new thing in New York ways, and the dogs were set upon it, the while the populace jeered. In those days you had to learn for yourself, but nowadays you may go to Mr. Elliot Mason's school in Thirty-fourth Street, where one of the Masons, sticking closer than a brother, will hold you on to your machine until you are its master. Then you may hire a bicycle there, or at Fifty-ninth street and Fifth Avenue, and practice on the road till such time as you feel that you may wisely invest ninety or a hundred dollars in a "Special Columbia," or from twenty to fifty more in an imported "Humber," or a native "Expert." The English machines have held the top of the market until recently, but it is getting to be pretty well understood that the American bicycles are more durable and better adapted to our heavy country roads. And when you are the owner of a "bi," you may enroll your name on the list of the New York, the Manhattan, the Mercury, the Ixion, the Citizen's, or the Lenox club; or, if you are a Brooklynite, you have your choice between the Brooklyn Bicycle Club, or the King's County Wheelmen, of Williamsburg.
Do you yacht? in the grammar of the day. There are the Brooklyn, the New York, the Seawanhaka, and the Larchmont yacht clubs.
Is cricket your delight, and do you long to hear the English tourist within the gates of the club ground cry, "Well played, sir!"? You may bat under the gonfalon of the St. George, at Hoboken, the Staten-Islanders, or the Manhattans, of Brooklyn. Then you will have opportunities of meeting the Young Americans of Philadelphia or the Thespians of everywhere.
Alcide Urban, my boy, fear not your maiden aunt Cassandra. What if she prophesy truly a few sprained fingers, a bruise or two, or a "barked" chin?
"Qui studet optatam cursu contingere
Multa tulit fecitque puer, sudavit et alsit."
The words are true to-day as when they were written. If you would reach the wished-for goalsound health, self-reliant spirit, well-disciplined forces much must you have done and borne, my boy, and sweated and shivered.
And remember that there are few places where you may reach the goal more surely or more swiftly than in this good city of New York. What she is, I have tried to sketch for you. Of what she will be, I have a vision only. I see "across the swirling Kills and gusty bay" the white sails of yachts that brave the broad ocean to salute the English crafts off the Isle of Wight. I see the long shells dart up and down her rivers, the steel wheels flash along her roads. I see a new generation of young athletes, who swim, who ride, who run, who box with the world's best brawn and muscle, whose breasts glitter with the cheap yet effective medal, whose shelves are loaded with cups wherefrom they drink only draughts of ambition, which, inspiring their strength and skill and pluck, will help them to make New York the athletic capital of the world.