FanPost

Base Ball: 1864

Roxbury, NY (July 8, 2012) - Last Sunday, I went to the Catskills town of Roxbury to see the Roxbury Nine, a vintage baseball team.

The "hurler" of the Roxbury Nine in action.

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The vintage look of the photo is fake, of course. It’s a Photoshop filter. Real 19th century cameras were not able to stop motion like modern ones can, so actual 19th century baseball photos look like this.

The Roxbury Nine play in beautiful Kirkside Park.

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There's a creek running along side the park, with several pretty wooden bridges crossing it.

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It's an ordinary park, not a ballpark. Base Ball was not played on diamonds. It was played on ordinary fields.

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The Roxbury Nine. They usually play by 1898 rules, but this game was played by 1864 rules.

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The visiting team was the Fleischmanns Mountain Athletic Club. I'd guess they usually play by 1864 rules, and Roxbury was being gentlemanly and accommodating them.

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Hand-turned bats. Each player is supposed to make his own.

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The pitcher for the Fleischmanns Mountain Athletic Club.

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There was no pitcher's mound back then.

In 1864, there was no battle between pitcher and batter. The pitcher threw underhand, and was supposed to give the batter something he could hit. Near as I can tell, nobody struck out. I didn't see anyone walk, either, though I heard one player telling a teammate, "Walks are for muffins!"

(By the 1880s, pitchers were throwing a lot harder. They still had to throw underhand, releasing the ball before the hand reached waist level, but they were no longer trying to give the batter something to hit.)

Roxbury's gear, not needed for this game.

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Under 1898 rules, only the catcher can use a mitt. Other players might use ordinary leather work gloves. Under 1864 rules, no gloves are used. All catches are barehand.

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Everyone slid into first base, so apparently you weren't allowed to run through first.

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Ball lost in the woods = ground rule double.

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Ball in the stream = foul.

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Hey, striker!

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Out!

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Out? Yup. To the confusion of the kids there, a ball caught on one bounce was an out. (I figure it had to be that way, or the games would never end. It's just too hard to catch balls in the air without gloves.)

The umpire would explain how the out was made on each call. "Out on the catch," "Out on the bounce," or "Out on the tag."

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This guy was nicknamed "Blackbeard."

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Something you wouldn't see in MLB: the runner was called "out on the tag." He insisted that he hadn't been tagged, and asked the first baseman, as a gentleman, to admit it.

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The first baseman then admitted that he missed the tag, and the call was reversed.

Roxbury's "behind" (catcher), fielding balls with no glove.

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Fleischmanns' catcher doing the same.

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Sliding into third.

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So that's why they're called "bags." They really were bags. Filled with sand, it felt like.

Not your usual switch-hitter.

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This guy switched sides mid-pitch. He seemed to be a natural lefty, but would run around after the pitch was thrown and try to hit from the righty side sometimes, like Kaz Matsui avoiding a backhand catch.

A hit!

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The winning run scores. Walkoff win for Roxbury.

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No high fives to celebrate the victory. Instead, they did a cheer. "Hip hip hooray," doffing their caps on "Hooray."

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