If you’re aching for the good ‘ole days of just live, eyeball-to-eyeball and people-to-people contact and fun, versus everything online, you’re not alone. And the good news is, you can flash back this summer to some great, live-style fun baseball nearby and without running up big dollar-$igns doing so.
For far less than the price of your monthly wireless bill or one seat at Fenway, you could take the whole family out to catch some wildly quirky live baseball. A number of vintage baseball clubs thrive and play in New England and around the South Shore – and offer retro-style games every spring and summer that’ll make you forget cyberspace for live-style entertainment.
Their vintage rules make the whole game new again – and even educational – for those who never saw yesteryear diamond greats like Babe Ruth or Ty Cobb and others.
Raise your hands, sports fans – how many of you know that in early baseball tagging a base runner was the only legal way to make an out? You’ll learn that and more at these colorful games.
Here are some spots where you can experience the thrill and fun of early-style baseball courtesy of local baseball lovers who keep early traditions alive and can deliver you back to a time when the game was also about fun and fan fascination – and didn’t require the income of a tycoon to see it live.
Local Boys Of Summer
Very locally, you can catch some Hingham-style vintage baseball when the Hingham Derbys clash with their rivals the Mighty Coopers. The Derbys, like many other vintage teams, play 1880s-style “base ball,” as it was spelled in the good ‘ole days.
And a number of other teams with lots of appeal play on George’s Island and at other venues worth a summer road trip.
The Derbys’ Shaun Galvin also has DVDs of their Summer Classics so you can relive their games again later. ($20 each)
They have no more games this summer, but check out their website at www.hinghamvintagebaseball.org for information and next year’s schedule. They play every year on the 4th of July, among other dates.
Channeling Mighty Casey On His GOOD Days…
The Mudville Base Ball Club, harkening from farther afield, is worth catching, too, taking the field for a double header on Saturday, Aug. 31, against the likes of the Dirigo Base Ball Club and the Melrose Pondfeilders, on George’s Island.
The Mudvillers come from in and around Holliston’s Mudville neighborhood that locals believe is “The” Mudville made famous by yesteryear journalist, Ernest Thayer, who wrote the famous poem “Casey at the Bat.”
Thayer, a Harvard U. grad, wrote the poem on one of his first writing gigs after college while working for a classmate’s father – THE William Randolph Hearst, then-owner of the San Francisco Examiner, where the Casey poem first appeared.
Thayer’s Casey was likely entirely fictional, but many from Holliston believe Thayer might have had a real area player and team in mind when he wrote the poem, while others contend the poetic play-by-play about cocky Casey was just imaginary. Thayer’s creative spin on the game always evokes at least one thing that never fades here: Boston-area fans’ love-hate attachment to their favorite team’s stars.
Mudville plays at least one local vintage-style game locally and used to play one with Red Sox alumni.
Outfitted in vintage-style uniforms, the Mudville team, like others, plays according to early baseball rules of different eras. So, Sox fans, expect plays that involve pitching underhand only, just as the big-leaguers of yesteryear did, says team member John Shannahan.
And players tag bases that aren’t plates, but posts at first, second, third and home. And outs are called only when players are tagged out – you couldn’t be thrown out running bases in baseball’s formative eras. And it took awhile for the field to be skewed into today’s diamond shape.
In addition, it’s not unusual for vintage teams to have different rules for each half inning to accommodate the rules of the game tied to the era of baseball the different teams represent, said Shannahan. It all keeps players and fans entertained as thoroughly as the Sox can.
Above all, the object of the Mudville games is fun – and, often, fundraising for good causes, said Shannahan.
And the after-game tradition of the Mudville team, when playing nearer home, means retiring to exchange post-game replays and raise some glasses – where else! – at Casey’s, a post-game, ahem, watering hole in Holliston.
The Mudville team also often plays an earlier-season game on Boston Common, weather permitting, and tries to fit in a team pilgrimage to the Baseball Hall of Fame annually.
They traditionally play by the Massachusetts Rules of the 1800s and sometimes assume the identities of vintage players. But the Massachusetts rules “have fallen out of favor” in Massachusetts, and now dominant in vintage base ball are – keep calm, Sox fans – “the New York Rules.”
The Mudville team also has a mascot in Holliston; It was a statue of Mighty Casey, but it was ravaged by time. The new Mighty Casey “is a little more cartoonish,” says Shannahan, but the team is convinced it’s an icon that aids their playing.
MUDVILLE SCHEDULE: Mudville remaining games to catch this season take place: Aug. 10 at Newbury vs. the Elkton Base Ball Club; Aug. 31, at George’s Island in a doubleheader vs. the Dirigo Base Ball Club and Melrose Pondfeilders; and Sept. 28 at the Newbury Music Festival.
For more information visit www.mudvillebaseballclub.com.
Back in Time, Farther Afield
If you’re into road trips during the summer, you also can catch some vintage team games farther west and north of Boston.
The historic Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm at Newbury lists some vintage games, played by the Newburyport Clamdiggers, Lynn Live Oaks, Lowell Base Ball Nine and the Portsmouth Rockinghams, at the Historic New England website, www.historicnewengland.org. Just navigate to the farm’s section of the site.
That website also details all kinds of other vintage style events at organization’s properties where you can “get away from it all” by immersing yourself in yesteryear properties. Some historic New England mansions also host vintage games – and other history-related tours and shows such as vintage and antique clothing exhibits, vintage homes and some vintage car events.