1860s diamond event

'Striker to the line': Vintage baseball turns back time on Dow Field

Annual event sponsored by Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame near exhibit hall
By Ken Waltz | Jul 14, 2017
Photo by: Ken Waltz

Waldoboro — A group of men ranging in ages from 20s to 50s and dressed in loose-fitting, collared shirts, dress pants, high colored socks and eight-panel caps, turned back the hands of time — a whopping 150 years to be accurate — on Sunday afternoon, July 9 as they transformed a parcel of land into a modern day field of dreams.

That was the case for the third straight summer/fall as two Maine 1860s vintage baseball squads — Dirigo and Sunrise Club — played ball on a gorgeous summer day at the Dow Ball Field on 299 Atlantic Highway, Rt. 1.

The field is located across from Dow Furniture and next to Dow Discount Furniture.

Click for photos from this event.

Watch video below.

The event was sponsored by the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame and attracted fans who arrived in 21st-century vehicles, but sat lined around the field in lawn chairs close to the action as they would have a century-and-a-half ago.

Hay bales provided the backstop and a black chalkboard, filled in each half inning by Gabe Lash of Friendship, provided all the information people needed as they enjoyed a slower-paced game, old-time ball on the sun-splashed, makeshift field.

There were no high definition jumbotrons, no cellphones to check out-of-town scores and no piped in music, just the chalkboard and the constant buzz of old-time baseball.

The players not only had fun playing the games, but acted out their parts to perfection, using the correct language when they spoke and, of course, they dressed the part.

The Dirigo squad includes a handful of Midcoast-area residents, managed by player Jake Newcomb. The team travels around New England to play games and bring its old-fashioned fun to parks in the six Northeast states.

Vintage baseball, or spelled base ball back in the day, played by rules and customs from an earlier period in the sport's history. The ball of the 1860s was a bit larger, heavier and softer than the modern baseball, which allowed players to make catches without the use of gloves.

The 1860s rules, subject to change at the judge's (umpire's) discretion before the game, included:

• No bunting, sliding or running out of the base paths.

• No uncivil language, spitting, alchohol consumption, chewing of tabacco and wagering.

• The ball is delivered underhand in a shallow arce to allow good striking.

Fielders played the following positions until the hurled ball crossed home:

First, second and third basemen played on the base or within one foot of their respective base (no dramatic shifts like today), while the short scout (shortstop) could position himself anywhere on the playing field. The behind (catcher) played not more than 45 feet behind home base, while the left, middle and right scouts (outfielders) played in the middle of their respective outfields.
A striker (batter) is dead (out) when: a batted ball is caught on the fly, fair or foul; a batted ball is caught on one bound (bounce), fair or foul; three hurled balls are swung at and missed; a base runner is dead (out) when: forced out at base, tagged out, runs three feet or more out of the base path.
• Foul ticks (balls) were not considered strikes.

 

• When fielding, the ball must be caught with the hands — gloves, hats, or other items could not be used.

• Batters could not wear cleats and the catcher could not wear protective equipment or use a mitt.

• The judge's (umpire's) determination if a batted ball was fair or foul was made by where the ball first hit the ground.

• A base runner could advance at his own risk when a batted ball was caught on one bound, but must return to base on those caught in air.

• All disputes were arbitrated by the team captains and judge (umpire). A judge's decision was final. The judge always was expected to be treated in a respectful manner.

Some vintage terminology: Huzzah means horray; club nine means team; match means game; ballist means player; cranks mean fans or spectators; judge means umpire, behind means catcher, tallykeeper means scorekeeper; horsehide or onion means ball; willow means beat; striker means hitter or batter; striker to the line means batter up; dish means home plate; four-baser means home run; aces or tallies mean runs; hurl means throw or pitch; foul tick means foul ball; player dead means out; muff means error; and leg it means run to base.

For more information on vintage baseball, email Jake Newcomb at jake.newcomb@gmail.com.

Vintage baseball in Waldoboro
Maine 1860s baseball team Dirigo and Sunrise Club play at Dow Field on July 9 in Waldoboro. (Video by: Ken Waltz and Holly Vanorse Spicer)
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Ken Waltz
Sports Director
594-4401, extension 114
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Ken Waltz has been member of the media nearly 35 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon, who lives in North Carolina.

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