Vintage Base Ball

A couple weeks ago I took the boys to a vintage baseball game between the Flemigton Neshanock and the Diamond State Base Ball Club. This was a nice change of pace from our usual baseball fare and a great way to spend an afternoon.

The game was played using the 1864 rules which we sort of teased out over the course of the game and then confirmed with the players afterwards.

  • All pitches are underhand.
  • 3 balls are a walk (but only after the pitcher has been warned).
  • Walks also advance any runner, not just the forced runners.
  • 3 strikes are an out (only after the batter has been warned).
  • Catching a ball on the bounce is an out (but you only have to tag up if it’s caught on the fly).
  • You can be forced out if you don’t return to, and stay on, your base after a foul ball.
  • Foul balls are called based on where a ball first touches the ground as opposed to where it stops.
  • Oh, and no gloves.

Otherwise things are pretty much the same and the game is definitely recognizable. The ball is slightly larger and softer and has a very different seam pattern. The players say it takes a little while to get used to gripping it since your hand expects the standard baseball stitches.

The Neshanock, our local nine, won the game 11–10 in a close, back-and-forth game. The underhand pitching means lots of action. There was only one strikeout and maybe a handful of walks. Lots of stolen bases too.

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There was also a photographer there making tin types. Definitely period-appropriate and lots of fun to watch. Before the game started the boys and I were lucky enough to see a print emerge in the fix. They were impressed. Heck, I was impressed even though I knew what was going to happen. The switch from negative to positive is as close to real magic as you can get.

Sufficiently-advanced technology my ass, watching a tintype emerge is 150 years old and still takes your breath away. We wandered back after the game and got to see the team photo get processed. I vultured a few of his set-ups with my Yashicamat since I wanted a couple photos with the largest negative I had handy. And I took a couple photos of him working so the boys would have something to reference in their albums.

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I also took a hint from the orthochromatic nature of silver nitrate and converted a few of my photos to black and white using the digital equivalent of a blue filter. One is my wannabe Charles Conlon photo and the other is the team photo.

They’re not pure blue filters since I did this in Lightroom instead of Photoshop but I did my best to crank up the blues and crank down the reds, oranges, yellows, and greens in the mix.

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Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

9 thoughts on “Vintage Base Ball”

  1. I went to a double header like this about 5 yrs ago. They played the two games under different rules depending on era. Did the pitcher have a square he had to stay in and pitch from as opposed to the rubber? Could the pitcher quick pitch ?

    1. 1864 appears to be the first year with balls and strikes. Apparently before then batters would just take pitches forever until all the runners could steal their way to 3rd so they instituted strikes (after a warning) to speed things up. Then, after that, pitchers started to throw lots of balls because they knew batters couldn’t take pitches forever so balls got instituted (after a warning) in the same way.

  2. Cincinnati has a good VBBA team (the 1869 Red Stockings). They are pretty active with the Reds Hall of Fame. We went to a game several years ago and I have wanted to go back for another, but haven’t taken the time to do so.

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