Today’s Vintage Base Ball (it was two words prior to the 1880s) is usually played with rules from the early 1860s. Thankfully the modern version of vintage base ball does not discriminate against gender or race.
According to the National Vintage Base Ball Association, “Many clubs are now playing by later rules; some annual exhibition games portray a different era every year. Women play as members of mainly male teams, and also form teams of their own. Likewise, some African American players are part of Club Nine [Civil War era base ball] that would have been all white in 1858, while others are forming shadow teams that pay homage to the achievements of the Negro Leagues of the 1930s and 1940s.”
Register Now for the 2014 Season
Tennessee Vintage Base Ball (TVBB) was formed in 2012. The two inaugural teams began playing this summer with 1864 rules. TVBB is now forming teams in East Nashville, Brentwood, Kingston, and Knoxville for the 2014 season. Interested players age 18 and older may register now. A free training session for the Knoxville and Kingston teams will be held in Kingston, TN on Saturday, August 18. Training for the new Middle Tennessee teams will be held in Nashville on September 7. TVBB’s Commissioner Michael G. Thurmon says, “We encourage all skill levels to participate. All it takes is a love for the game, a love for the history, and respect for your fellow brothers and sisters. Currently, there are no females in the league, although we do have several signed up as interested in playing in the 2014 season!”
How is it different from modern baseball?
Lemon Peel base ball is softer
No gloves (they weren’t invented yet)
3 balls = walk
A fly ball can bounce once before being caught; that counts as an out
Stealing and sliding are omited due to the gentlemenly nature of the game (although there is no historic evidence that these activities were prohibited in the early 1860s)
No pitcher’s mound
No dirt infield
Umpires treated with respect (and wears a fancy outfit)
If umpire is unsure of a call, he may consult with players or crowd
Men’s uniforms are long flanal pants and long sleeved shirts
Women wear long skirts and long sleeve shirts
Sunglasses are not allowed
Modern athletic shoes are allowed with the brand name covered up
The TVBB tries to select home fields that are pastoral: large grassy fields with no chain link backstop, no pitcher’s mound, no dirt infield, and no chain link fence perimeter. The Franklin Farriers home field is at Carnton Plantation. The Nashville Maroons are based at Bicentennial Capital Mall State Park. Michael Thurman says, “We have had great success with the Tennessee State Parks Department and with historical sites such as the Carnton Plantation. The benefits to both the league and venue are mutal. We get to play vintage base ball on a beautiful location and the venues get exposure to 250-300 visitors that may not have been to or heard of the venue otherwise.” The location for Knoxville’s future Holston Vintage Base Ball Club is to be announced.
Family Fun Atmosphere
According to the National Vintage Base Ball Association’s webpage, “The fact that so many pitches are put into play makes vintage ball scrappier and faster than modern baseball games. Most vintage games take only an hour and a half to two hours.” TVBB’s Vice President Trapper Haskins says, “It’s equal parts competitive and re-enactment for spectators.” Some spectators attend the games dressed in Civil War attire.
All vintage base ball games are free to the public. The Nashville teams’ pre-game kicks off with live string band music from the Civil War era. The ballists (players) also have their own lingo and nicknames. Team etiquette is also an attraction. “It was very sportsman like. If you made a nice hit, the opposing team might still cheer you on,” says Thurmon.
The TVBB’s webpage states, “In addition to monthly living history events during the playing season, demonstrations and workshops for youth and senior groups, museums, historical societies, corporations and others are held year-round. These programs are designed to provide history in a fun as well as educational manner, to develop team-building skills, and to be entertaining.
Please consider supporting the future Knoxville Holston Vintage Ball Club by being a player, an umpire, a volunteer, a sponsor, or a spectator. Vintage base ball will be an exciting and unique local event to look forward to during the summer of 2014!
© Debra Dylan, 2013.