STORY AND VIDEO BY BOOMER SABATA
PHOTOS BY ALLIE SCHWEIZER
On the morning of Saturday, March 30th, a spacious pitch of snow-frosted grass at Old Fort Hays was set aside for men with names like Scorpion, Viking, Hustler, Dilly-Dally, and Cannibal. The historic site hosted a vintage baseball game that appeared as a snapshot straight out of 1867 to anyone motoring by on Highway 183.
The rules of the game from that time period were adopted for this contest between the Fort Hays Post Nine and the CVBBA (Colorado Vintage Base Ball Association). Listed below are some of the major differences from today’s game. (Courtesy of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum and Baseball Library).
1. A striker (batter) is out when a batted ball is caught after one bounce, fair or foul.
2. Batters cannot wear cleats and catcher cannot wear protective equipment or use a mitt.
3. When fielding, the ball must be caught with hands – gloves or hats may not be used.
4. All disputes are arbitrated by the team captains and the Judge (umpire). A Judge’s decision is final. The Judge is always to be treated in a respectful manner.
5. The ball is delivered underhand in a shallow arc to allow good striking.
The latter-listed difference was practiced in good regards at the Old Fort, as most balls were clubbed with a dominant “pwomp!” At the time, a softer, “lemon peel” style of ball was used, contrasting from the solid, tighter baseball used now that results in a resounding “crack”.
Ryan Gottschalk, the 3rd-basemen and all-around fielder for the Post Nine, explained that his athletic ventures included, but were not limited to, 1860’s baseball.
“A lot of us play on different softball teams; leagues, traveling teams and stuff,” said Gottschalk. “We’re just a bunch of guys from a bunch of different teams.”
On the opposing side, Cooper “Soda Boots” Mikel, the behind (catcher) for the CVBBA, gave a simple motive for wanting to play the literal old ball game.
“For the love of the game, and also the history of it,” Mikel said. “I’m kind of a Civil War buff, and this kind of fits right in.”
The Cincinnati Reds are currently in their 150th season, forming in 1869 and joining the National League in 1890. The American League sprouted in 1901, leading to the first World Series in 1903. Since then, the sport of baseball has been a stubborn yet charming grass-stain in the fabric of America.
The game has also worked as the adaptor between several cultural and social fissures, uniting us all to root, root, root for the home team. This, however, would not have existed if it was not for games like the one at the Old Fort that Saturday morning.