Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Mariners vs. The Echoes: Come One, Come All

I have a press release I picked up at Historic White Pine Village: Old Time Base Ball This Sunday.

Some years ago, I wrote about a real estate executive whose hobby was vintage base ball, but I'd never seen it played. Now I have. "The Ludington Mariners Old Time Base Ball Team will start its 2008 season at Historic White Pine Village this Sunday [May 25] with a match against the House of David Echoes from Benton Harbor," the release says. It would be hard to think of a better name for a sports organization than the House of David Echoes if I sat down for days and tried.

Other team names of member clubs of the Vintage Base Ball Assn. include the Dark Blues, the Taverneers, the Crackers, the Regulators, the Ground Squirrels, the Grinders, the Pondfeilders, the Cherry Pits, the Mighty River Hogs, the Perfectos, the Reapers, the Clod Busters, the Black Swamp Frogs and the Frosty Sons of Thunder.

The release continues: "The match will start at 2 pm and visitors will see the game played by 1860 rules and enjoy the variation of rules as compared to today's games." And we did. One of the main differences is that a ball caught on a first bounce is still an out. That and underhanded pitching, and the lack of gloves. Which are for sissies anyway. But it was the uniforms that stood out. The Mariners, in Navy Blue, came complete with an anchor on their chests.

The game was for the players, of course, who seemed to be having a good ol' time, which I figure is true to the spirit of 1860 base ball. In fact there were more players than spectators, who mostly huddled just behind the first base line. We stood there ourselves for a while, watching the refreshingly nonprofessional play.

I don't want to play myself, but if someone would lend me some period clothing, I'd go as an 1860 spectator. The whole thing could be a re-creation of an afternoon in the summer of '60, including not only a base ball game, but a juggler and sword-swallower, a patent medicine salesman and his wagon, a small troupe doing excerpts from the Scottish Play, a primitive brass band, popcorn vendors, an improvised whiskey bar, speechmakers (nobody famous) stumping for the Republicans and the Douglas Democrats, and maybe a Sons of Temperance procession.


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