Vintage Base Ball brings Westfield back to 1860s
|By Katelyn Gendron|
Reminder Assistant Editor
WESTFIELD The time-space continuum will finally be broken and time travel back to the 1860s will be possible on July 18, or so it would seem.
This Friday, Bullens Field will appear as though it were a thriving 1860s base ball diamond as the Hartford Senators and the Springfield MassMutuals take the field in the first game of the second annual Vintage Base Ball Regional Playoffs. The grounds will be filled with actors in period costumes and children dressed as "newsies," as well as feature horse-drawn hay wagon rides, a hand-operated scoreboard, period music and vintage foods.
"What's nice about vintage base ball [as it was spelled until the 1880s] is just that it combines different forms of entertainment in one package: sports competition, theater, history and old-fashioned sportsmanship," Jim Bouton, chair and CEO of the Vintage Base Ball Federation and former New York Yankees pitcher, said.
Unlike the modern game, vintage base ball is a game played by "talented young players in baggy uniforms [who] wield fat handle bats at 'lemon peel' stitched balls that are caught with what looks like gardening gloves," Bouton explained.
The rules of vintage base ball are also dramatically different from the modern game: seven balls equals a walk, not four; foul balls are not counted as strikes; the umpire allows each batter to choose his or her yes, there is a woman playing this year strike zone; a batter is not allowed to take first base if hit by a pitch; there are no such things as balks; there isn't a pitcher's mound but a pitcher's box, measuring four by six feet; and there is only one umpire who may consult spectators or players if he does not see a play.
There is also a code of conduct for vintage base ball, which requires that requires that no jewelry, safety pads, batting gloves or sweat bands are worn; no arguing with the umpire is allowed; and there is no congratulatory shenanigans allowed. Vintage base ball is called "The Gentlemen's Game."
However, Bouton noted that this year's tournament will be played by gentlemen and one gentlewoman Melissa Frydlo, starting second baseman for the Whately Pioneers.
"She is there on merit," Bouton said, adding that she's not just there for show. "She's a really good ball player. There are not that many women playing competitive base ball at the higher levels. [She] is the first one I know of playing in the vintage game."
Frydlo explained that she began playing Little League baseball when she was a young girl until she was forced by the league to play softball with the other girls. Frydlo also played Division I collegiate softball at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
She said that her love affair with team sports, especially baseball, has kept her playing into her 30s. Frydlo explained that even though this is her first year playing vintage base ball she has a strong passion for the game already.
"You have to play fundamentally correct. That's why I like the [vintage] game," she said.
She explained that the required use of a "web-less" fielding gloves forces each player to concentrate on their fundamentals, such a fielding a ball directly in front of the body.
Frydlo noted that unlike the base ball of the 1860s or 1880s, women played in separate leagues. "I feel like I should have short hair or something [in order to look more like a man]," she joked. "I don't take [being a woman] for granted and I really appreciate that they let me play."
Pres "Buck" Pieraccini, captain of the Whately Pioneers, said his team has come along way from last year's Vintage Base Ball Regional Playoffs, especially with the recruitment of quality players such as Frydlo.
"Playing vintage base ball is not convenient," he said. "It's extremely difficult. It's like a brotherhood because it's so darn hard to play with any competence so you get really close [as a team]."
Pieraccini added that playing in the Vintage Base Ball Regional Tournament in Westfield provides his team with a "fun and unique experience."
"Jim [Bouton] has created something really special," he said.
Tickets for the tournament are $35 for a seven pass ticket, $30 for a five pass ticket, $24 for a three pass ticket and $10 for one pass. Children under three years of age are admitted for free.
All spectators are encouraged to dress in 19th century attire.
The Regional Playoffs will take place over the course of two consecutive weekends: July 18-20 and 25-27. The winner of the Regional Playoffs will determine the team that will advance to the World Championships featuring the Westfield Wheelmen, a team from California and a Canadian team the weekend of Aug. 14-17.
For more information about the tournament go to www.VintageFederation.com.
The following is the complete schedule of games for the second annual Vintage Base Ball Regional Playoffs and World Championships:
First Round of Regional Playoffs:
July 18: Hartford Senators vs. Springfield MassMutuals at 7 p.m.
July 19: Doubleheader featuring Roxbury Nine vs. Boston Colonials, followed by the Whately Pioneers vs. Simsbury Taverneers beginning at 4 p.m.
July 20: Westfield Wheelmen vs. New Hampshire Granite at 1 p.m.
Second Round of Regional Playoffs:
July 25: Hartford Senators or Springfield MassMutuals vs. Whately Pioneers or Simsbury Taverneers at 7 p.m.
July 26: Doubleheader featuring the Roxbury Nine or Boston Colonials vs. Westfield Wheelmen or New Hampshire Granite in the Championship Game beginning at 4 p.m.
Special Exhibition Game:
July 27: Luis Tiant's Latin Stars vs. Westfield Wheelmen at 1 p.m.
Aug. 14: Playoff winner vs. Westfield Wheelmen at 7 p.m.
Aug. 15: California vs. Canada at 7 p.m.
Aug. 16: Doubleheader featuring the losers bracket and winners bracket beginning at 4 p.m.
Aug. 17: World Championship doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m.