Want to play baseball, old-style? Here’s your chance.
Baseball didn’t start with multi-million dollar contracts and $10 beer. As simple as that sounds, most sports fans don’t think about the roots of their favorite games. Complex statistics and boundless advertising are far removed from the humble beginnings of “base ball” (its original spelling), a sport dubiously attributed to the myth of Abner Doubleday that likely began long before the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter.
Rules were spurious and disparate, depending on where the game was played, but they all seemed to follow the same creed of “no spittin’, no swearin’ and no gloves!” The Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball is bringing this simpler time to Chattanooga this spring.
On Father’s Day in 2014, Chattanooga had its first look at vintage base ball at an exhibition game between the Nashville Maroons and the Highland Rim Distillers at Engel Stadium. At first glance, the game is faster paced, even with the slower pitching and shorter distances. It has the excitement of the modern game without the lulls of commercial breaks and ponderous pitching.
It has more than enough action to hold the interest of even the youngest in the crowd while maintaining the pastime feel of America’s favorite game. Everything appears authentic, from the uniforms to the bats to the umpires to the speech used by the players. It’s a game with its own rich vocabulary, using phrases like “strikers to the line” and “stir your stumps.” This is a style of base ball not found anywhere else. A vintage base ball game is “part living-history, part sporting event,” meant “to entertain and educate…by recreating the civility of 19th-century base ball.”
But why play vintage baseball? Founding member and director media Justin Brown says, “What drew me to the game was the game itself. I’ve been obsessed with baseball, specifically the Chicago Cubs, for as long as I remember. I spent all my free time in the summers as a kid at the baseball field…I played through high school and still look for any excuse I can find to be around the game. I could never really find anything that filled the void of actually playing baseball. When you think about it, there aren’t a lot of outlets people can take after high school when it comes to actually playing baseball besides church or rec league softball...Like a lot of our members, I’m just glad I get the chance to play ball again.”
Chattanoogans now have that chance. The league is expanding into our area for the 2015 season and looking for a few more ball players. They are hosting a training camp at the 6th Cavalry Museum at Fort Oglethorpe (6 Barnhardt Circle, Fort Oglethorpe, GA 30742) on Saturday, Jan. 17 from noon – 4 p.m. So, if you want to play base ball from a more civilized time, wax up your mustache, trim your beard, and leave your glove at home for a true gentleman’s game.
For more information about the Tennessee Association of Vintage Base Ball or any of its teams, events, rules, customs, etc.; contact Justin T. Brown at CCO@TennesseeVintageBaseBall.com