America’s Favorite Pastime II

Young ladies in period costume gathered to cheer for their favorite team.  Photo: KGilb.

Young ladies in period costume gathered to cheer for their favorite team. Photo: KGilb.

“Striker to the line!” With that one opening phrase, we were instantly transported back to a grassy playing field in the year 1867. A vintage base ball match between arch rivals, the Vancouver Occidentals and the 1st Oregon Volunteers. For the uninitiated, it means “batter up!”

Mind you, this is not Seattle Mariners baseball. Baseball in the mid-1800’s was more of a gentleman’s game. There was absolutely no swearing, spitting, tobacco chewing, or wagering allowed. And there was no “chaffing” the umpire–disparaging or arguing with his decisions. In fact, umpires had the authority to fine players and cranks (fans) alike up to 25 cents for “ungentlemanly” or “unladylike” behavior during the game.

In vintage baseball, the bats are made of wood, not lightweight aluminum. The ball is hurled underhanded, and fans looking to see fast balls, curve balls, or spit balls will likely come away disappointed. Why? Because it’s the responsibility of the hurler (pitcher) to put the ball as near as possible to where the striker can hit it! No sneaky pitches! Likewise, there is no sliding, leading off, or stealing bases. This is a gentleman’s game, remember?

A player crossing home plate safely must proceed directly to the tallykeeper’s table, put one hand on the table, raise his other hand, and ask the tallykeeper to please tally his ace (run) for his team. He is then instructed to ring the tally bell. Only then will his run count!

Something else we noticed? Unlike today’s athletes, vintage players wear no gloves or other protective gear. And runners aren’t just out, they’re “dead.”

Now, I’m not a huge fan of baseball, but I must admit that I really enjoyed this game. The players, of course, were all in costume, but so were many of the fans. We saw gentlemen dressed in 3-piece suits with colorful waistcoats and top hats strolling about, and women in long dresses with hoop skirts carrying parasols. Even the members of the Whiskey Flats Brass Band were all wearing vintage “Music Man” uniforms.

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