Striker to the Line!

The Eagle Diamonds, ready to play.

If you want to enjoy a real game of base ball this summer, find a grassy spot and settle in to see how the game was played a century ago.   I can recommend watching the Eagle Diamonds at Old World Wisconsin, but lots of historic sites are fielding teams these days.  Players who simply appreciate the fun of base ball as it was played in the 1860s are also creating teams.  Vintage base ball (historically it was two words) is a fast-growing sport.

The matches are real, played by “clubs” in period attire, using period rules.  That means no gloves, for example.  No strike zones.

Players are called “ballists.”  Batters are “strikers.”  Fans are “rooters,” “cranks,” or “bugs.”

Umpires are “barristers.”  According to Haney’s “Base Ball Book of Reference” (1867), barristers should be known to be a “true man…  One, who howsoever he may err in judgment, decides a point accordingly to his honest and unprejudiced opinion.”

The participants do a wonderful job of evoking not just the game, but the traditions of 19th-century matches.  At the game I watched last summer, one ballist politely asked the barrister for permission to roll up his sleeves.  In turn, the umpire politely asked the spectators if they minded.  (They didn’t.)   Fans can’t help but get caught up in the spirit, imagining themselves back to the days when neighbors turned out to watch the local boys play.

The games are fast-paced, scores can be high, and visitors can expect to be entertained.  For example, once a Diamond ballist hit a ball so high and hard that it got wedged near the top of a pine tree.  A player from the other club carefully climbed the fifty-foot tree and grabbed the ball, depriving the Diamond player a home run.  (He was out, according to period rules.)

The Old World Wisconsin team is modeled after the original Waukesha Diamonds, which formed in 1868.

The Waukesha Diamonds

The Eagle Diamonds, the Greenbush Dead Citys, the Milwaukee Cream Citys, and the Milwaukee Grays were charter members of the 19th-Century Base Ball Clubs of Wisconsin.

An Eagle Diamond player and a Milwaukee Cream Citys ballist at first base.

So mark your calendar, and plan to head out for a game!  The first home game for the Eagle Diamonds is June 11th.  You can find more info and the complete 2011 schedule for the Eagle Diamonds here.

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One Response to “Striker to the Line!”

  1. Pam De Voe Says:

    This looks like so much fun! How exciting to revive the original base ball.

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