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What is Vintage Base Ball?
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A brief history of the game

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Vintage Base Ball is base ball (yes, it was two words originally) played by the rules and customs of any earlier period. Ballists wear old-style uniforms, either the early long trouser and shield shirt, or a later style lace shirt and knickers, and recreate the game based on rules and research of the various periods of the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The activity of vintage base ball can be seen at open-air museums, re-enactments and city parks and is played on both open grass fields and modern baseball diamonds. Some groups consider vintage base ball to be a new sport, but at its core, 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 as it was played in the late 1850s, 1860s and 1880s. Many clubs in the Midwest 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.

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, but the best players always attempted to catch it "on the fly" which eventually made the rule unnecessary. More and more vintage base ball clubs play the late 1860s style "fly game." Balls are 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 the 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 our game as base ball.

When baseball leagues allowed overhand pitching in 1885, the game took on a more modern appearance. Vintage base ball teams will often play 1884 rules to intepret 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.

(Our club will play its home games under the rules of 1864 but we are willing to play other vintage clubs under rules before or after 1864).

 

Playing base ball the way that it was meant to be played