Playing ball like the good old days

Patrick Fisher

Staff Writer

Batter up!

Those two words, synonymous with the game of baseball, will have a slightly different meaning as the New Prague Fire Department takes on the Silver Stars, a vintage baseball club based out of Northfield, at 7 p.m. Friday at Memorial Park. The event is part of New Prague’s Sesquicentennial Celebration.

Gary Meyer, a member of the local fire department, made contact in April with the club, which plays the game according to the rules from the 1860s, and in vintage dress.

Some of the rules aren’t that different from today’s version of baseball, such as the use of wooden bats and four bases. Others show how the game has changed. For instance, no gloves are worn. A player catches a ball barehanded. There is no bunting, no walks and a ball caught on its first bounce off the ground counts as an out.

Even some of the terminology of the game is different. In vinatage baseball, the batter is called a striker, balls are struck, not hit, and a sharp grounder is called a daisy cutter.

Meyer noted there are 38 rules for the game. We don’t even know all the rules yet. We’ll pick it up quickly.

There are also other, subtle differences in the game, which show how society in the United States has changed since the 1860s. For instance, bunting, sliding into a base, swearing and spitting were considered bad form. Violations could result in a fine from the umpire.

The uniforms of more than a century ago varied, but had common features. They were made of cotton or cotton twill and there was a hat or brimmed cap. The shirt, or blouse, was long-sleeved, had a collar and cuffs, and was usually white or off-white. It was common for the front of the shirt to have the team logo, in the shape of a shield, which was usually an initial in Old English script. Bow ties or cravats were worn at times, trousers were full-length and could be plaid or checked.

It should be humorous

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