It’s our great American pastime. Other sports might be more action-packed, hard-hitting and in-your-face, but there’s just something special about the pace of the game, the crack of the bat and the thrill of a home run.
Nothing symbolizes summertime in America more than the underhanded toss of the pitcher, the smack of the ball into a bare, ungloved hand and the unmistakable colored shield adorning the chest of each “ballist.”
There’s nothing quite like good old fashioned base ball – played 19th century style – and it’s coming soon to a field near you.
To add a new twist to living history lessons in Havre de Grace and have some fun while learning about the city’s past, some local historians and educators are introducing people to vintage base ball (yes, I checked, it’s supposed to be spelled as two words).
Vintage base ball, according to Susquehanna Museum and Lock House President Gary Wasielewski, is “similar to modern baseball, but with some twists: the game is played exactly like it was in 1860s and 1870s. Players will wear replica uniforms of the era, they’ll play without the use of gloves, and the ball will come in underhanded. While the ball is a little softer than a modern baseball, the bat is somewhat thicker, making for an interesting match experience. Even the name is slightly different.”
Wasielewski, a Havre de Grace High School teacher and former city councilman, said he read an article years ago about vintage base ball and always kept it in the back of his mind that it would work well incorporating living history in Havre de Grace, the Lock House and the area’s baseball history.
“The Dauntless Base Ball Club is inspired by two actual clubs that existed in Havre de Grace during the 1860s and 1870s; ‘The Havres’ and ‘The Dauntless.’ We will be the first vintage club in Harford County, and will join competitors who are already in existence in Maryland and along the East Coast. In fact, the Elkton Eclipse has been gracious enough to act as a mentor club to assist us in getting started,” Wasielewski wrote in an email.
The rules of the game are basically the same, but the big changes are the underhanded pitching, the gloveless fielding, the odd-sized bats and, most noticeably, the iconic uniforms.
Wasielewski said the club’s uniform is inspired by one from the 1870s. Since he hasn’t found an exact description of the original team’s uniform, he went with a design inspired by firemen dress but instead of red, it will be maroon, to match the school color of Havre de Grace High School.
Thus far, Wasielewski has coordinated the team – making the contacts, procuring the equipment, developing the paperwork – and he hopes to both play and act in a leadership role for the team. Wasielewski also envisions tying the baseball into the museum to combine for some entertaining and exercising history lessons.
Currently, The Dauntless Base Ball Club of Havre de Grace is looking for enthusiasts, 18 years and older, who are interested in playing vintage base ball. They are in search of players who want to demonstrate base ball in its early days. No upper level experience is necessary since the historical ball clubs were developed from the town stock to provide civic pride and not professional teams.
The club’s hope this year is to establish the organizational ground work, sponsorship and members needed to create a permanent team. By late summer or early fall, the goal is to scrimmage or even play an official game and then create a schedule for next year in order to have a full season. For those who would like to find out more about this fun “new” sport of vintage base ball or want to be an umpire or scorekeeper or support the team, now is the perfect opportunity to get in on the ground floor. Remember you don’t have to be an all-star, you just need to have an interest in the game.
A meeting is being held this Saturday, June 14 at 10 a.m. at the Susquehanna Museum (The Lock House) for those interested to find out more about the game, inspect the uniforms, try out the equipment and get a brief history on early base ball in Havre de Grace. More information can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Gary Wasielewski at (410) 942-0639.