Baseball history was made on a small field along the Hudson River in the shadows of the New York City Skyline. “Base Ball” or “Town Ball” is forever linked to 1839 Cooperstown, New York but 1846 Hoboken, New Jersey is where Alexander Joy Cartwright and The New York Knickerbockers Base Ball Club developed and published the first rules of the game. Maybe this is why Hoboken is proud to say it is baseball’s birthplace.
Baseball Gloves developed much in the way the game developed. Slowly. Gloves first appeared on the diamond in the 1870′s. Players that were tired of bruising or breaking fingers began wearing gloves to protect their hands. Initially, players wearing these “garments” were mocked or considered “unmanly.” Today enthusiasts of baseball associate “tan gloves” as “traditional” but players may have selected the flesh color to camouflage their embarrassment of wearing a glove. Fortunately for baseball players by the time the turn of the century came around everyone was wearing a glove.
Vintage baseball team. Mount Clemens Base Ball Club – Michigan State Champions 1917. Photo taken at Gaylord, Michigan. September 26, 1917.
Vintage baseball caps – images of the assorted styles of baseball caps from the 19th century. (Strictlyfitteds.com)
The Rules of 1860
From the Rules and Regulations of the Game of Base Ball Adopted by the National Association of Base-Ball Players March 14, 1860:
- The ball is pitched underhanded from anywhere behind the pitcher’s line.
- The batsman must stand on or straddle a line through home plate.
- The pitcher must deliver the ball as requested by the batsman, who holds out the bat to indicate where the ball is to be sent.
- Pitches are not judged as balls or strikes, but the umpire may call a strike if the batsman persists in not swinging at well-pitched balls.
- The ball is judged fair or foul according to where it first touches the ground (people, structures, and trees don’t count as the ground).
- Articles of clothing such as a hat or mittens may not be used to catch a ball.
- An out is declared if
- a hit ball is caught on the fly or the first bound, including foul ticks to the catcher.
- a batsman misses swinging at three pitched balls and the third strike is caught by the catcher on the fly or first bound. If the catcher misses the pitch, the umpire will declare the ball to be fair and the batsman must make his run to first base.
- a ball arrives in the hands of a baseman whose foot is upon the base prior to a base runner who is required to make that base.
- a ball in the hands of an adversary touches a base runner not safely on his base.
- a base runner does not return to his original base before a caught fly ball reaches the same base.
- a base runner overruns any base and is touched by the ball in the hands of an adversary.
- A base runner may not advance on any foul ball and must return to his original base. He may be tagged out if not there after the ball has been settled in the hands of the pitcher.
- A base runner may advance at his own risk on a fair ball caught on the bound.
- A base runner may advance after a fair fly ball is caught provided he has tagged his most recent base after the ball is in the hands of the fielder.
- A base runner must run for the next base if the ball is hit, and the force remains on even if an out is made behind the advancing runner.
Customs of the Time
- Uncivil language, ungentlemanly behavior, spitting, or any actions that would offend a lady are not tolerated on pain of a fine of up to a week’s wages.
- After scoring an ace, a base runner must report to the tallykeeper for the run to count.
- Infielders should play several steps in front of their base. The shortstop plays inside the baseline but may play on either side of the second base. Outfielders play in the center of their field, shaded neither to left nor right; they may play in or out as required by a batsman’s ability.
- The first batsman called to the line in the following inning is the person in the striking order after the player who made the last out, even if the last out was made by an advancing base runner.
- There is no bunting or sliding.
- The fans cheer teams on with loud “huzzas” for a good play by either side. Running to first would be urged by, “Leg it, leg it, leg it.” Hand shakes from opponents and a good word are earned by a ballist making an exceptional play.
- A fine repast and sharing of good fellowship, cigars, and fine liquors follow a match.
Vintage Base Ball is base ball (yes, it was spelled two words prior to the 1880s) played by the rules and customs of the 19th Century. Our players (sometimes called ballists) wear period reproduction uniforms, either with long trouser and shield shirt, or a later style lace shirt and knickers. They recreate the game based on rules and research of the various decades of the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The playing of vintage base ball can be seen at open-air museums, tournament re-enactments and city parks. It is played on both open grass fields and modern baseball diamonds. Spectators may consider vintage base ball to be a new sport, however, some clubs have been in existence since the 1980s. Vintage base ball is a reflection of how baseball existed at an earlier time.
Most vintage base ball clubs in the VBBA play the game of base ball according to the rules of the late 1850s, 1860s and 1880s. Many clubs have adopted the rules recorded in the first Beadle’s Dime Base Ball Player, published in 1860, which recounted the third meeting of the National Association of Base Ball Players. Proper rules interpretation is an important aspect to our game.
The mid-nineteenth century game was considerably different than today’s game. Most ballists played with bare hands until the mid-1880s, but starting in the late 1860s a few catchers with raw hands needed to wear thin buckskin gloves to keep on playing. Until 1865, fair or foul balls caught on one bound were outs. However, the more skilled players always attempted to catch it “on the fly” which eventually made the bound rule unnecessary. More and more vintage base ball clubs play the late 1860s style fly game. Balls are also considered fair by where the ball first touches the ground. That is, a ball hit in front of home plate that then spins into foul territory is still a fair ball. Talented vintage base ball strikers take advantage of this rule and use the bat to swat at the ball, creating what is known as a “fair-foul” ball, which first lands fair and spins foul, forcing either the first or third baseman off their base. Historically, this technique was abused forcing the fair ball rule to be changed for 1877. There are numerous other differences in the all-amateur games of baseball prior to 1869, but modern spectators would still recognize vintage version as base ball.
When baseball leagues allowed overhand pitching in 1885, the game took on a more modern appearance. Vintage base ball clubs will often play 1884 rules to interpret the last year of side arm pitching or 1886 rules to interpret early overhand pitching. 1886 is also the first year a pitcher could deliver the ball with one foot off the ground. Historical research is an interesting part of our sport and we invite you to uncover more information on the evolution of base ball.