Saturday, August 25, 2007

Vintage Base Ball

I have just watched my first Vintage Base Ball games and loved it. As a family, we are members of a group called WOW whose duty it is to promote Westfield and bring non-profits together in that effort. We chose to participate in this Vintage Base Ball thing ever since reading the book. My wife and I participated in all of the 4 games of the first weekend as purveyors of band-aids and cold packs to all that needed them.
We had one lady cut her toe as she got out of her car and needed band-aids. We had a player attempt to catch a ball between two fingers instead of with his hand and broke a finger (ice pack time). There were other minor scrapes, cuts and boo-boo's but I won't bore you with the details. The slow times, during the games, were filled up with a Barbershop Quartet, a strolling banjo player belting out tunes from the turn of the century, Keystone Cops tossing out drunks [pretend] and rowdy patrons. A group of Suffragettes made a few appearances to broadcast their temperance, tolerance, and women rights messages and a few "dandies" strolled around adding to the flavor. The Westfield Boys and Girls club donned period attire to hock programs, food and drink. The game was played by the equipment and rules of the late 19Th century. It was quite a spectacle and all of the games were well fought to add to the enjoyment.
In the tinted photo above are daughter, son-in-law and grandson dressed in 1890's dress as they ready to head out and volunteer duties on various parts of the game.

We had Jim Bouton, pitcher [1962-1968 NY Yankees, 1969 Seattle Pilots, 1969-70 Houston Astros, 1978 Atlanta Braves] as the organizer of the event. Jim had started the Vintage Base Ball Federation and they were the sponsors of the playoffs and the World Series. Our own local team The Westfield Wheelmen were one of the World Series contenders and on the 1st week
end they played a demonstration game against Bill Lee's Green Mountain Boys from Vermont. You baseball fans will remember Bill "The Spaceman" Lee, lefty pitcher [1968-78 Boston Red Sox, 1979-82 Montreal Expos]. Bouton pitched the last several innings for the Wheelmen and the Wheelmen beat the Green MT. Boys quite handily even without Bouton pitching. The Spaceman lived up to his billing as he became upset with some heckling from the Wheelman dugout and very accurately threw a pitch into the dugout, bouncing off the back wall, next to the heckler and a bit of a nose-to-nose confrontation ensued but without punches. Bill Lee is in the right-hand picture in the green, Jim Bouton is in the black vest standing behind a vintage era cop who had just come out to stop the game because it was being played on Sunday. He gave in to the fans protests, finally and allowed the game to go on

When Jim Bouton was asked "How is vintage baseball different from the modern game?" his reply was: "In vintage baseball the games are a half hour shorter because there was no Velcro in the 19th century. And there are other modern improvements it does without. Besides no batting gloves, there are also no helmets, wrist bands, elbow pads, sunglasses, logo shoes, pajama pants, gold chains or earrings. No arguing with the umpire, stepping out of the batter's box, calling time out, charging the pitcher, posing at home plate, curtain calling, chest bumping, high fiving, pointing to the sky, or kissing jewelry. Just base ball." This was a tremendous endeavor with thousands of man-hours from the volunteers, thousands of dollars from Jim and the Federation, as well as much from the various sponsors of the games. Jim's goal and that of the Vintage Baseball Federation is to build a permanent base ball stadium in Westfield and we sure hope that works out.

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