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HARTFORD - Since team began cropping up here and there several years ago, vintage base ball has been a pleasant past time for former and future players … a way to connect to the 19th century roots of the game.



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HARTFORD – Since team began cropping up here and there several years ago, vintage base ball has been a pleasant past time for former and future players … a way to connect to the 19th century roots of the game.

Now – with the formation of the Vintage Base Ball Federation – former major league pitcher Jim Bouton believes it has a new, stable foundation from which it can really grow.

Vintage base ball features amateur clubs adhering to the rules, uniforms, equipment and gentlemanly competitive play of baseball’s 19th century roots. Until recently the game has been mostly a local phenomenon, with clubs playing weekend games in open parks under a variety of rules.

The game is marked by an array of historical details that are enjoyed by both players (“ballists”) and fans (“cranks”). Players in baggy uniforms wield fat handle bats at lemon peel stitched balls that are caught with what appear to be gardening gloves. Above all, it’s a gentleman’s game in which there is no showboating or taunting, and the umpire is always addressed as “Sir.”

Now there are more than 220 teams in 32 states across the nation and the VBBF promises to lead to more and more teams and all vying for a chance to play in a televised six-team Vintage Base Ball World Series tournament.

It is unclear what role the Newtown Sandy Hooks will have in the new VBBF, if any. The team is weighing its options based on local player interest and field availability - here in Newtown or in surrounding towns. Reportedly, some vintage teams have expressed some concern with the rules which the VBBF will use.

As it stands, vintage base ball is played by varied sets of rules – the “1864” game features no equipment and underhand pitching; the “1876” game features sidearm pitching and some equipment; and the “1886” game features overhand pitching and rules more closely resembling the modern game.

The VBBF – founded by Greg Martin and former Bouton, who made the announcement at Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City – will play by the basic rules of 1886 although there will apparently be a “melding” of rules with previous eras.

Visit www.vintagebbf.com for further information.

What Is Vintage Base Ball?

The first vintage games were played in Old Bethpage, New York, in 1980 between groups of friends who shared a love of baseball and history. These were 1860s style games that dictated bare hands and underhand pitching. Recently, however, vintage clubs have been gravitating to the 1880s overhand style, which allows the use of a glove that is no bigger than a man’s hand.

In 1995, an organization called the Vintage Base Ball Association was formed to help vintage clubs across the country communicate with each other. Most Association members play the 1860s underhand glove-less game. For more about this organization go to VBBA.org.

In 2001 Greg Martin, founder of the Hartford Senators, organized the Hartford Vintage Base Ball Invitational, a three-day tournament that drew more than a dozen clubs and 10,000 fans to downtown Hartford. Playing a mix of under and overhand games, the Hartford Invitational became the signature vintage base ball event in the country.

On July 3, 2004, vintage base ball took a quantum leap forward when Jim Bouton and VBBF board member Chip Elitzer staged a special vintage game event that drew 6,000 fans to Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and was nationally broadcast live by ESPN Classic. The 1880s style game, in which Martin’s Hartford Senators beat Bouton’s Pittsfield Hillies 14-12, featured an antique car parade, period music, and costumed actors, and received national media attention.


The VBBF has adopted the most interesting rules in use from 1860 to 1900 and all other regular baseball rules apply.

BALLS & STRIKES – 6 Balls = Walk. 3 Strikes = Out.

FOUL BALLS – Not counted as strikes. Any foul tip caught by catcher is an out, regardless of the number of strikes

FOUL BOUND RULE – Any foul ball caught on one bounce is an out. A fielder may not drop the ball to catch it on one bounce. Foul bounces must be caught within the designated area of play. Runners may advance.

FOUL FORCE RULE – On a foul ball that is not caught for an out, a runner (anticipating a hit) may be forced out if the ball is returned to the pitcher, and relayed from the pitcher’s box to the base before the arriving runner. If a pitcher’s throw is errant, runners can advance at will.

HIT BATSMAN – No base awarded. Counted as a ball. Dead ball. No base advance for runners.

LIMITED BALK – No balks on throws to any base. Fake throws to any base, while in or out of the pitchers box, are allowed. Pitchers may fake one or more throws to a base, then throw home. A balk only occurs when a pitcher starts to pitch, then throws to a base.

NO INFIELD FLY RULE – A fielder can purposely drop a pop fly to start a double play.

NO TIMEOUTS – Only a Club Captain and the umpire can call for a timeout. A batter who steps out of the box can be quick pitched. And a runner can be picked off.

NO INTENTIONAL WALK – Pitcher must pitch around the batter.

GENTLEMAN’S RULE – In the event the umpire has “missed” a play, due only to a blocked view, a Captain can request a “Gentleman’s Ruling” to reverse the call. The umpire will then announce, “A Gentleman’s Ruling has been requested.” Only players involved in the play must truthfully relate what transpired and a call can be reversed. Also, either club Captain can challenge a rule interpretation by requesting a meeting with the umpire and both Captains, and a call can be reversed.

CRANK CALL – If the Gentleman’s Ruling fails to resolve a difference of opinion about a play, the umpire may appeal to the fans, or “Cranks” as they’re called in vintage base ball jargon.


CODE OF CONDUCT – Sportsmanship is paramount in vintage base ball. Arguing with the umpire, charging the pitcher, taunting, and fighting are not permitted. Clubs or players who breach this code risk being barred from the VBBF.

GENTLEMANLY PLAY – Respect must be shown for the game. There is no berating the umpire, the fans, or the opposing club. Celebrations are limited to handshakes. No posing at home plate, curtain calling, chest bumping, or high fives! Applauding an opposing player is proper. And the umpire must always be addressed as “Sir.”

JARGON – To make the 19th Century game come alive, players should adopt the period base ball jargon: cranks = fans; hands down = out; ballist = player; captain = manager; behind = catcher; garden = outfield; sky ball = pop up; ginger = determination; daisy cutter = grounder; ace = run; striker = batter; hurler = pitcher; striker to the line = batter up; muff = error.

PLAYER NICKNAMES – Nicknames were an important part of 19th century base ball. Your players should all have nicknames with a period flavor like “Crazy Legs” for a fast runner or “Short Order” for a player whose last name is Cook.

HIP! HIP! HUZZAH! – At the end of each game the clubs gather on opposite sides of home plate, and the winning Captain makes a short speech congratulating the losing club on their fine play or effort. The winning club, with caps held aloft, cheers HIP, HIP HUZZAH! Then the losing Captain gives a similar speech, his club cheers and the players all shake hands.

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