OT-Vintage Base Ball 1860's Rules

Last weekend my family and I went up to Big Bend, WI to a see a couple of vintage 1860's base ball (yes-it was two words) matches (games). It was a nice break from the type of ball the Cubs have been giving us lately. I just thought I'd share some of the experience with any of you that may be interested. 

We went to see the Milwaukee Cream Citys, the Milwaukee Grays and the La Crescent Apple Jacks. They try to present the game as historically accurate as possible in regards to the rules, equipment, uniforms, field specifications, customs, and language of the period. They apologized for the bleachers and chain link fence as that is not authentic to the time period, but they are planning on using it for a little league team.


The flag only has 33 stars.


Vintage bats.


The umpire explains the rules.


The visiting team doesn't necessarily get to bat first. The decision is made by a coin toss of the umpire. Before they got underway, they very politely asked for permission from the ladies to roll up their sleeves as it was rather hot outside. We readily consented. It was evident to us cranks (fans) immediately that this was indeed a gentleman's game.

It is the hurler's (pitcher's) job to deliver the ball as near as possible over the center of the dish (home plate) and to the striker's (batter's) liking. It would be ungentlemanly of him to try to deceive. He pitches the apple (ball) underhand. The behind (catcher) wears no protective gear and none of the ballists (players) wear gloves.


The hurler-I believe his name is Stache.

Some of the rules were as follows...

  • Foul balls do not count as strikes.
  • The striker is out after swinging and missing 3 balls if the behind catches the third strike on the fly or first bounce.
  • If the behind does not catch the 3rd strike on the fly of first bounce, the striker may try to make 1st base.
  • Any ball first touching the ground or touched by a player within the base lines is fair, even if it goes a foul thereafter.
  • Hand outs (Outs) are made when any ball, fair or foul, is caught on the fly or first bounce.

When a tally (run) was scored the player reported to the tally table and requested an ace (run) be recorded. He would get to ring a Tally Bell and they kept the score on a chalkboard.

There is only one umpire. He makes no calls of hands out (outs) unless the ballists cannot come to an agreement. Ballists are either out or not out, the word safe was not used. If there is a disagreement and he didn't see the play he'd discuss it with the players and even ask the cranks what happened in order to make his decision. Replay-what's that?



The umpire, the striker and the behind.

The language also made it entertaining. One particularly enthusiastic rooter yelled things like  "nice daisy cutter" (ground ball). There were lots of compliments like "well played" and "well struck". The ballists had great names like Handlebar, Butterfingers and Skunk. The outfield was called the garden.

If anyone is interested in going to a vintage game or learning more The Vintage Base Ball Association has all kind of info. If you are looking for a team in your area it has a list of their members most of which have websites of their own with their playing schedules. The Cream Citys Handbook is also interesting. Along with the rules it has more info about the equipment, uniforms and at the end it has a fun list of reasons not to swear which is pretty amusing.

Hip Hip Huzzah!


This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of SB Nation or Al Yellon, managing editor (unless it's a FanPost posted by Al). FanPost opinions are valued expressions of opinion by passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans.

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