Friday, August 6, 2010
Take a trip back to 19th century "base ball'' this weekend
Yes, that goofy-looking guy in the old-style “base ball’’ card is yours truly. And I’m running it in hopes that I’ve piqued your interest enough that you’ll want to check out what the 1865 game was like this weekend at the Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, N.Y., about 20 miles southwest of Rochester.
Four vintage base ball (yes, it was two words back then) teams from Rochester will be hosting clubs from the Northeast, Midwest and Canada. We’ll be interpreting a brand of baseball that was very similar and very different from the 2010 version when we host the 8th National Silver Ball Tournament Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The biggest difference (besides the lack of performance-enhancing drugs and multi-million dollar salaries) is that we don’t use gloves and that we truly play for nothing more than the love of the game.
Though the lemon-peel ball we use isn’t as hard as a modern baseball, it is hard enough to hurt. I can attest to that, having broken two fingers in my 10 years in the Silver Base Ball League. The bases are 90-feet apart, but the pitcher’s box (no mound in those days) is only about 45 feet from homeplate and pitches are delivered underhand.
Our uniforms, too, are different, and so is our terminology. We try to hit “daisy cutters” and pitch “dew drops” and we expect all the players to “show a little ginger,’’ which was the 19th century phrase for making sure you hustled. We express our gratitude and approval by shouting “Huzzah.’’
All of us have nicknames. Some of the monikers are based on what we do for a living, which is why I’m known as “Scribe’’ and Ryan Brecker, a real-life MD, is called “Doc.’’ Others have nicknames based on their baseball prowess. For example, Max Robertson is “Country Mile,’’ because that’s how far he hits the ball, and Todd Draper is “Dangerous’’ because he is a dangerous striker, and Jose Pagan is “All Day’’ because he can run all day long and track down every fly ball from here to the next county. Others are pegged according to their ethnicity (Andy Cardot Sr. is “Frenchy”), size (Andy Cardot Jr. is “House.’’) or hair-style (Curt Kirchmaier is “the Barber” because of his long locks.)
The four Rochester-area teams in the tournament are the Flower City Base Ball Club (that’s my squad), the Rochesters, the Live Oak and the Knickerbockers. We also feature two women’s teams who will play an exhibition game Saturday. They are called the Brooks Grove Belles and the Miss Porters Ladies BBC. The out-of-town teams are the Cleveland Blues, Flemington (N.J.) Neshanock, Meddowe (Springfield, Mass.), Kent (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Melrose Pondfielders (Melrose, Mass.), Talbot Fair Play (Talbot, Md.) and the Woodstock Actives (Woodstock, Ontario.)
In addition to the Silver Ball tournament, the museum will be hosting plenty of other events this weekend, including the Laura Ingalls Wilder Festival, commemorating “The Little House on the Prairie’’ era of American history.
So, if you are looking for a trip back in time take a trip out to Mumford this weekend. You won’t be disappointed.
(And if you take in the ballgames, please root for Flower City and that goofy hurler pictured on that old-style base ball card. ;-)
I was happy to see that C.J. Spiller has ended his holdout and come to terms on a contract with the Buffalo Bills. The first-round pick was in danger of becoming a non-factor if he held out much longer. I’m interested in seeing all the different ways new coach Chan Gailey plans to utilize him in the offense and on the return teams.
My lovely bride and radio news show co-host Beth interviewed documentarian Ken Burns this morning and talked to him about his comments about Pete Rose. Burns has an interesting take on the “Hit King,” who was banned for life for betting on games. He says Charlie Hustle should be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame after he dies. I assume then, that Burns would agree with me that it is time to induct Shoeless Joe Jackson, who also was banned for gambling and who has been dead for a good half century. By the way, I didn’t know until Beth’s interview on WHAM this morning that Burns’ father and grandfather hailed from Rochester. You can listen to a podcast of the interview at www.wham1180.com.