Good Ol’ Fashioned Base Ball

The Vermilion Voles who play Vintage Base Ball (according to rules and customs of 1858) had a game on Sunday.  I was out of town visiting my mom but my friend Shawn and his family went.  He was nice enough to pass on his photos and write something up for me.  It sounds like he had a really good time I almost wish I stayed in town and gone to the game instead.  Haha.. just kidding, Mom. 

Anyway, here’s Shawn’s report:

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Wow, what a fun time that was.  First of all, the setting was idyllic.  I’d never been to Kennekuk County Park or heard of it for that matter.  It’s an absolutely huge place, where the road just winds around for what seems like miles.  There were markers along the way letting us know that we were heading in the right direction.  Finally, we pull into this gorgeous, tree-lined meadow.  The game was already in progress, but we found out there were three games being played that day with three teams in attendance:  the host Danville Voles club, the Indianapolis Blues, and the Mackville Mudcats.  There were only a couple dozen fans (or “cranks” as they were known in 1858).
 
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These games were played according to the same rules used in 1858, or “gentlemen’s rules” as they are called.  Manners, civility, and proper etiquette come first before everything else.  There is no yelling or screaming or antagonizing the opposing team.  Arguing with the umpire is simply not tolerated by anyone, period.  Sliding and stealing is not allowed.  Cheering is done by yelling “Huzzah!”  Base runners are told to “Leg it!”  Teammates recognize a good hit by saying “Well struck, Sir!”  Even the pitcher apologizes to the striker (hitter) when a bad hurl (pitch) is made:  “Poor hurl.  Sorry, sir!”  Most sporting events I bring my kids to, I worry about the language being thrown around.  Here, the kids actually learn where sportsmanship was born.
 
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Strikers are dead (out) when the ball is caught on the fly or “on the bound” (one bounce).  Runners may advance when the striker is dead on the bound, but are asked to return to their bases by the umpire when the striker is dead on the fly.  In other words, there is no penalty for leaving the base without tagging up.  Fielders are asked to “play their lanes”.  Play was actually delayed for a few minutes when one team noticed the center fielder was shading a little to the left of center and complained to the umpire.  Infielders may not stray more than a step from the base before the ball is put in play.  The shortstop played the normal shortstop position.
 
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When a runner scores, the umpire reminds him to “tally his ace”.  The runner reports to the tally keeper and asks to record his ace.  The tally keeper obliges, the player thanks them and then rings a bell to signal to the cranks that an ace was just scored.  Runs do not count unless this procedure is followed.  At this game, the tally keeper was a woman dressed in clothing appropriate for the period.  I spoke with her for quite awhile as she schooled me on the rules and customs of vintage baseball.  The players were all friendly as well.  One player on the Voles had a cast on his arm, an injury suffered during a previous game.  Injuries are common since the fielders have no gloves.  The vintage baseball has a slightly softer cover than today’s baseball, and it’s slightly larger.  Otherwise, it’s just as hard as a modern baseball.
 
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The neatest rule:  fans can help their team make outs.  If a ball is hit into the crowd and a crank catches it on the fly or on the bound and gives it to a player, the umpire can call the batter dead.  Foul balls don’t happen that frequently since pitching is underhand, but the kids in the crowd are always alert to help catch foul balls for their team.
 
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Tom, you gotta check it out sometime!  Feel free to excerpt any of the above for your blog.  Pictures are attached.
 
–Shawn

Thanks to Shawn for the pictures and report.  I wish I could’ve been there.  For those who want to attend a Vermilion Vole game, here is their schedule.  Also, the Vintage Base Ball Association web site has lots of info on vintage base ball.

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