As you sit down in the bleachers you’ll hear names like Lockjaw, Sockeye and Piano Legs. You’ll see men and women dressed like it was the 1860’s all over again with period base ball uniforms or at least long sleeve dress shirts, long pants or knickers. The ballists are playing base ball, Vintage style.
While some areas have one or two vintage base ball teams, Arizona is the home of an entire league that spans from Phoenix through Tucson and all the way down to Bisbee, near the Mexican border. The Arizona Vintage Base Ball league has been holding 1860’s rules base ball since 2007. In addition to the league games, there is a traveling team that plays games at a variety of community days, pioneer days and holiday celebrations throughout the state.
Now when you go, don’t be insulted when they call you a crank. That’s a base ball fan. You’ll need to brush up on your base ball vocabulary too. The pitcher is the hurler. The guys out in the grass are gardeners. The infielders are maintainers and the short stop was then the rover or short scout. When they say a player is dead, they just mean he’s out. Or if he’s lucky enough to round the bags and score, it’s not a run but an ace. The striker will then have to go to the scorers table which is very near home base on the playing field, raise his right hand and say, ” I swear that I score an Ace”, as he’s ringing a bell.
Now, it’s not easy to score an ace. If your hit is caught on the fly or on one bounce, it’s an out. You have to use a wooden bat. But, you do have some advantages. The hurler throws underhand and the nine in the field don’t wear gloves, they catch bare handed. Initially, the arbitrator doesn’t call balls and strikes. But, if the striker is too picky or the hurler is too wild, the arbitrator will start keeping track. The maintainers have to be within two steps of their base. You can bunt and any ball that hits in fair territory is a fair ball. It can even bounce straight back past the behind or catcher. Now if a ballist complains to the arbitrator, he can fine that player a copper, but today it’s a quarter.
Now, as a crank you can get involved. Any foul ball caught by a crank whether on the fly or on one bounce is an out. That’s a home field advantage.
Games are played starting in November with a little break for the holidays and then until April. To learn more about the game or to see the schedule and plan to see a game visit the Arizona Vintage Base Ball website. You can also learn more about Vintage Base Ball at the Vintage Base Ball Association.
If you have any further questions call me. I’m not only a Realtor but I’m a hurler for the Phoenix Senators of the Arizona Vintage Base Ball league.
Pat “Pile Driver” Monahan (hey, it’s a better nickname than Frying Pan Hands)