Base Ball is the re-creation of the game as it
was played in the 1860’s. The Ohio Village
Muffins were the first team to play the vintage
game, beginning in 1981, and still fields teams
today. There are now over 100 teams throughout
the country, with the majority based in Ohio
and the Midwest, and many associated with museums
or historic sites. And as in the earliest days,
all teams are amateur.
Cincinnati Red Stockings and their fellow clubmates,
the Cincinnati Buckeyes, play by the rules
of 1869 when playing at Heritage Village. They
also have special ground rules for the Heritage
Village field that are described here.
game of baseball is basically the same in any
era – nine fielders play for nine innings,
with each team trying to outscore the opposition
by hitting a ball with a bat. But there are
many subtleties to the vintage game that spectators
Vintage players do not use gloves. Gloves were not widely used in the game
until the 1880’s. The bat is much heavier and more variable in size
and shape than a modern bat, and the ball slightly larger and softer than
a baseball of today. Typically, the game was played on any flat, grassy
field that was as free of obstructions as possible.
In the 1860’s, base ball was a gentlemen’s game, and the players
are supposed to act as such. There is no spitting, swearing or other action
that may be offensive to a lady. They congratulate their opponents when a good
play is made, and help the umpire make close calls with honesty.
Only one umpire is used in the vintage game, and he typically stands behind
and off to the side of the field. He is allowed to use both players and spectators
alike to judge close plays. No hand signals were used; decisions were shouted.
does not call balls and strikes, but rather
can issue warnings to the striker (batter)
or the pitcher if the at-bat is not proceeding
well. If such warning is administered and the
offender not compliant, the striker is either
called out for failing to swing at hittable
pitches or is allowed his first if the pitcher
offers no hittable pitch. If the striker fails
to strike the ball after three swings, he is
out. Foul balls are not counted as strikes.
The pitcher stood only 45' from the plate and pitched underhand. There is no
A coin toss preceded each game, and the team captain could elect to take the
field or hit first. The batting order is not restricted to nine players, and
players can be benched and return as often as needed. At the beginning of each
inning, the batter that follows the player that made the final out of the previous
inning (as a batter or a runner) is the first batter of the inning.
Playing defense isn’t much different, except that outfielders generally
must be straight-up in their field and first, second, and third basemen should
be two steps off their base. The shortstop can essentially play wherever he
is needed, but typically covers the hole between second and third for right-hand
hitters or between first and second for lefties.
During our Queen City Festival, a somewhat more obscure rule was used a great
deal concerning foul balls. In the modern game, runners that run when a foul
ball is hit and not caught for an out can return safely to their original base
without fear of being tagged out. This luxury is not available to the vintage
player. If the foul ball is recovered and returned to the hands of the pitcher,
he may make a play to tag out any tardy runner that has not returned to their
base of origin.
Some of the more noticeable nuances to the vintage game occur on the field.
In the earliest version of the game, players could catch a fair ball on the
fly or on one bound (or bounce) to get the batter out. In the 1869 game, the
one-bound rule was eliminated. The team captains decide which version to play
before the start of the game, though home field rules are usually honored.
But in either case, a foul ball caught on one bound or on the fly is an out,
even if it is just a foul tick. Also, a ball is deemed foul only if the first
bounce occurs in foul territory. If it strikes fair territory first then goes
foul before passing first or third base, the ball is still in play (it’s
called a “fair-foul” and often used by strikers who are fleet of
pre-modern rules include: no over-running first
base, stealing only if the catcher muffs the
pitch, and sliding (before 1869) was considered
ungentlemanly (and could cost the offender
a week's wages!)