BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - Chris "Grit" Moran, Matt "Crazy Legs" March and Cy "Gasoline" Hess are names familiar to the Newtown Sandy Hooks vintage base ball team since those three are the core of the Hartford Senators that waxed the Hooks a
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama â Chris âGritâ Moran, Matt âCrazy Legsâ March and Cy âGasolineâ Hess are names familiar to the Newtown Sandy Hooks vintage base ball team since those three are the core of the Hartford Senators that waxed the Hooks a couple of times during last summer during their inaugural season.
Those three were also members of the Bristol Barnstormers, who played the Birmingham Black Barons on Sunday night at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama, in the ESPN Classic recreation of Negro League Baseball.
Wearing 1940s-era uniforms and equipment, the Barnstormers â representing the so-called barnstorming teams of the 1940s â were managed by former major league pitcher Jim Bouton while the Black Barons were managed by George Scott. Hall of Fame centerfielder Willie Mays â one of the few surviving members of the Black Barons (whom he played before joining the New York Giants in 1951) â was the host.
Besides Moran, March and Hess the Barnstormers also featured Pat Ryan, Terry Bishop, Tom Rizzo and Mike Bissaillion, members of another Newtown Sandy Hooks opponent from 2005, the Pittsfield Elms.
The rosters of both teams featured former collegiate and minor league players.
Former Negro League players, including country music legend Charley Pride, spoke with former major leaguer Billy Sample â who announced the game along with Eric Collins and on-field reporter George Smith â about the legacy of the Negro leagues in baseball history.
On December 11, 1868 â just a few years after the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first professional baseball team and started barnstorming the country â the National Association of Baseball Players voted unanimously to bar âany club which may be composed of one or more colored persons.â
The following year, baseball became a true professional sport and pro teams were not bound by the NABP rules and during the early years African-American players â like Moses Fleetwood Walker, who played for the Toledo Blue Stockings in 1884 â did appear in the major leagues.
By the turn of the century, black players had been excluded.
But that didnât mean they stopped playing baseball. The first black professional team was the 1885 Cuban Giants, but it was an independent club. In 1920, Rube Foster â in the National Baseball Hall of Fame as an founder â created the Negro National League and three years later Ed Bolden formed the Eastern Colored League.
The two leagues were able to operate successfully for several years before experiencing financial problems. In 1933, a new Negro National League was formed and, in 1937, a Negro American League followed.
There were 11 Negro League World Series and 15 Negro League All-Star games.
In 1948, a year after Jackie Robinson âbrokeâ the color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Negro National League folded. There were still African-American teams playing ball, but the more talented players were able to sign with major league franchises.
Richwood Field â the site of the ESPN Classic recreation â is the oldest operating baseball field in the nation. Supposedly modeled after Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Rickwood Field was the creation of Alabama industrialist Rick Woodwood. He built the stadium for his team, the Coal Barons, and it also became the home of the Black Barons.
Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson, Honus Wagner, Burleigh Grimes, Rogers Hornsby, Pie Traynor, Stan Musial, Satchel Paige and Willie Mays and the infamous Shoeless Joe Jackson all had a chance to take their swings or toss a pitch on the Rickwood Field diamond.
Rickwood Field was scheduled to be demolished in the late 1980s, but efforts to preserve it were successful and now it has become a national landmark.
The kind of baseball that was played at Rickwood Field is being captured by vintage base ball (two words) teams across the country. Since the inception of the Vintage Base Ball Association (VBBA) in 1995, more than 150 clubs in 25 states have picked up their gloves (when appropriate), donned their baggy pants, and swung those heavy, heavy bats to recreate the game in its grand old days.
Fresh off their inaugural summer season, the Newtown Sandy Hooks â organized by Ray Shaw and featuring the likes of Pops Pendergist, Bulldog Paes, Moose Margolus, Lefty Greene,Â Â Â Â Â Â Hammer Orlando, Doughboy Norwich and the Dieckmans (thatâs Pudgey, Chief and Shoeless) â are planning a full spring and summer schedule and expects to play in a variety of games using rules from 1861, 1864, 1876 and 1886.
Any ballists interested in the vintage game can peruse the varied rules of ball below â
Anyone interested in joining the Newtown Sandy Hooks vintage base ball club can email Ray Shaw at email@example.com.
1. Umpire call the âstrikerâ to the line. Batter shall stand within one stride of a line extending mid-way through home plate. Batter is required to stay in that position for the duration of the at-bat. Times-outs can only be called by the captains.
2. The hurler throws underhand from 45 feet away. A straight-armed pitch is required. No âjerkâ pitch is allowed.
3. Only one 91/2Â by 93/4Â inch circumference lemon peel ball is used per match.
4. There is no strike zone and the batter is allowed to take as many pitches as he sees fit.
5. The runner may not overrun first base. Leading off base and sliding is accepted.
6. There is only one umpire/referee. His decision is final and there is no arguing a call. The umpire will occasionally confide in a crankâs view of a play before making a call.
7. Foul balls are not strikes. A foul tip caught by the catcher in the air or on one bounce, regardless of the count, is an out.
8. Strike out â a warning is given to the striker before a strike is called. Batter must strike at pitch that is within reach of his bat (pitch does not have to pass over plate; it needs only to pass within fair reach).
9. Hit batsman â striker is not awarded first base. Ball is dead. Runners may not advance.
10. Fair/Foul â Any ball that is struck and first hits in fair territory shall be deemed a fair ball regardless of whether it goes foul before reaching first or third base bags.
11. Bound Rule â any ball caught on one bounce is an out. It is considered more âmanlyâ for a ballist to catch the ball on the fly. Cranks are encouraged to jeer unnecessary âmuffinâ catches by fielders.
12. Foul Balls/Running â There is no infield fly rule. Base runners must tag up when the ball is caught on the fly but are not required to tag up when the ball is caught on a single bound. Any foul ball is also considered a dead ball and is not âliveâ again until the pitcher touched the ball. All runners must return to their base and are subject to being out in the event that the ball is returned to the pitcher and the pitcher throws to the base before the runner returns.
13. No gloves are protective gear authorized.
1864 - Additions/Changes
1. Base on Balls â The batter is eligible to take first base after a warning and three called balls.
2. Strike out â a warning is given to the striker before a strike is called. Batter must strike at pitch that is within reach of his bat (pitch does not have to pass over plate; it needs only to pass within fair reach).
1876 - Additions/Changes
1. Batter shall stand in 3-by-6 batterâs box midway through home plate. Batter will request high or low strike prior to entering the box and that strike zone will remain in effect for the duration of the entire at-bat. The pitcher is then required to throw a strike in the zone specified. Batter must not step out of batterâs box when attempting to hit or he will be called out.
2. Pitching motion â Generally sidearm or underhand delivery where ball is released below the plane of the elbow. No speed limit applies. Pitching box is 6-by-6. Pitching distance is 45 feet from home plate.
3. A 9-by-91/4Â inch circumference (5 to 51/4Â ounce) figure-eight ball (any color: tan, red or white) is used.
4. The striker has the option to hit the ball if desired. Any subsequent pitch that enters in the opposite strike zone than requested by the batter and is not swung at, is a no pitch.
5. A ball is any pitch outside the âhigh/lowâ strike zone. A strike is for any pitch where the striker swings and misses or for a pitch within the strikerâs requested strike zone.
6. Strike out â 3 (called strike requires a warning from umpire.
7. Foul Bound Rule â Any foul ball caught on one bounce is an out.
8. Running â Runner may overrun first base. Tagging up is permitted. Runner can lead from the bases and may steal bases.
9. Foul Balls/Running â Any foul ball is considered a dead ball and is not âliveâ again until the pitcher touched the ball. All runners must return to their base and are subject to being out in the event that the ball is returned to the pitcher and the pitcher throws to the base before the runner returns.
10. Catcherâs mask, protector and gloves are approved; Fielderâs gloves optional.
1886 - Addition/Changes
1. Pitching distance is 50 feet from 4-by-6 box.
2. Pitching motion is unrestricted and can include overhand, three-quarter, sidearm and underhand motions. Breaking balls, change-ups and spitballs are permitted.
3. Base on Balls â 7.
4. Strike out â 3.
5. Foul balls are not counted as strikes and the ball is dead.
6. Foul tip â any foul tip caught in the air by the catcher, regardless of count, is an out.
7. Dropped third strike â Any called or swung third strike dropped by the catcher is a live ball and in a force situation, runners must advance accordingly or be subject to a force out.
8. Running â no infield fly rule. Tagging up is permitted. Base runner must return to base on foul ball or be tagged out.
9. Time outs can only be called by captains. Batter may not step out of batterâs box or call time out.
10. Only one base coach allowed on field during play.
11. Catcherâs mask, protector and gloves â approved.
12. Unlimited use of fielderâs gloves â approved.