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Jun 25

Excelsior Base Ball Club of Arundel

We live in a world where words like “cloud computing” and nanotechnology are part of everyday language. Where your neighbor might as well live in Singapore and communication is often in the form of a 140 word or less text message.[1] The very interconnectivity of modern life is also causing some to feel a certain sense of isolation.

There is a new sport/old sport gaining popularity founded on the principles of fraternity and friendship. Where a hard fought game is followed by a great meal and an icy drink. A sport where any and all are welcomed with open arms and where the players play for the love of the game.

Today’s article features the Excelsior Base Ball Club of Arundel [2]

Welcome to the sport of Vintage, 1860s Era Baseball, designed for a simpler time when even muffins were given a chance. Tim “Shakespeare” Grieb,[3] makes this statement, “Our club’s main focus is to promote health and leisure for the gentlemen and women of Anne Arundel County.”  The club plays at 326 Greenway Road SE, Glen Burnie, MD 21061.

The club was founded in 2010 by Bart “Toe” Raeke, who had previously played on the Elkton Eclipse Base Ball Club.[4] It is now in its third year.

Many early base ball clubs were fairly large social organizations. Unlike some clubs that were composed of individuals of high social standing the early Washington Nationals, for instance, were made up of government employees. Mr. Grieb states, “The team is made up of players from many walks of life. I work for the government outside of Baltimore, Fred Fontz works for the Anne Arundel County School system. Other players are social workers, EMT’s, BGE Employees, college students, mechanics and many others.”

As noted anyone can participate. I noted Ms. Amanda Kasten on the roster. Asking about her “Shakespeare” says, “She is one of three females we have on our team. There are also several more women across the league on various teams. We always appreciate the extra players/interest. We do not ask them to hide their gender, although they do wear the same uniforms as the men.”

Ladies of course have always been a major component of the crowds that attended games in the District. But interest in ladies playing baseball goes way back, many years before Ila Borders pitched for the St, Paul Saints.[5]

On 9 July 1879 a game between two female teams drew a large crowd estimated at 4,000 to a game in Washington. “The nines were the Blue Stockings, of Philadelphia, and the Red Stockings of New York, who are announced by the managers as struggling for the female championship.”

“When the crowd began to poor into the park a score of young women were scattered about the grounds, throwing a ball about and “warming up” for the approaching game. Their dress was a picturesque costume, consisting of a tunic or blouse, blue or red, according to the nine to which the wearer belonged, with skirts extending to the knee, and belted at the waist, a jaunty baseball hat, with a rosette on the side, and baseball shoes. The game was called at 4PM. The interest in the players was so great that the men thronged about the home plate, so seriously incommoding the young women that the police had to drive back the crowd.[6] The uniforms they wear are made up of half cotton and wool with buttons in front, authentic to the period.”

Mr. Grieb reflects on the trial and tribulations of the young organization. “The team has to deal with some interesting obstacles too. Many of the other teams in our league are younger, faster, better equipped or more centrally located to other teams in the league. While the images on film show a uniform front, our team is a somewhat motley crew. Some players can’t afford to buy the uniform;[7] others have had transportation issues in getting to games as far away as Philadelphia. But we do our best and have fun in the process.”

The Arundel Base Ball Club plays a regular schedule of games. Typically several tournaments are held during the season. Membership is open to everyone regardless of age or sex.  Even if you are not able to play or do not desire to play the game you are welcome to help out or just relax and enjoy the game.

”We’ve played in several great events in the past year and hope to be a part of many more. Every year there are two tournaments, a State Championship for the teams in Maryland and then a Mid-Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League championship.”[8]

“We’ve never made it far in either, usually winning just one game, but it’s a great chance to fraternize with the other teams and players. Last year we played in three special events; Fort Day in Delaware, the 150th anniversary of First Manassas (Bull Run), and a Base Ball festival held on the Navy Yard parade grounds in Philadelphia.”[9]

The game in Delaware had its own special challenges, “The game was on Pea Patch Island. We took the ferry over in our uniforms and got off on dock and set up on the field that is next to Ft Delaware.[10] The most important feature of the field was that it was next to the moat that surrounded the Fort. “The moat is 8 feet down to the water line and we were not sure how deep it was. When a ball was hit out to the moat the outfielders would yell, Moat! Moat! And hold their hands up ending play. Another problem we had were shorebirds.[11] “Shorebirds had nests in and around the field. Park Rangers put stakes out and spray painted around the nests. This meant that a catch had to be made before it went into a nest area or after it went through it. As if that was not enough, “The shorebirds would try to keep you away from the nesting area by swooping in on you!”[12]

Justin “Buddha” Linksz, another player, talked about his experiences. Asked how he got involved with the club, “It seemed cool and I had some old friends on the team. This is my third year and I have had some health issues to deal with but doing great this season. The chemistry on the club is really strong we have good time after game go out and grab dinner and a beer. We try to make it authentic and have fun.”

Buddha mentioned the hidden ball trick that occurred in one recent game, “Recently we had a guy on 2nd base and the other team played a trick on him. They acted they had thrown the ball to pitcher, but didn’t! We were screaming to the runner, “He still has the ball!” But the guy was leaning and they tagged him out!”  We keep it a gentleman’s game, like I said we have fun.”

The Excelsior Base Ball Club is open to everyone, either as a great way to exercise or meet some new friends. They can be contacted at, shakespeare@arundelbbc.com

 

Bound Rule

Tim Grieb sent me a note about the bounce rule. In the article about the filming “Day or the Gun”[13] we wrote about the participation of members of the Arundel Nine and others the discussion came up about the rules regarding catching the ball after one bounce.

Here is what we wrote…

The pitcher throws underhand and stands in a box. Another surprise is when the ball is hit to an outfielder. The outfielder comes in on an easy fly ball then suddenly stops and catches the ball on a bounce; the arbitrator calls the striker out. We added, “They play according to the rules that were in place in 1864.[14] The bounce rule, as it was called was controversial even then. The elite clubs would often wave the rule since it was felt good only for muffin players. A muffin being the term for a less skilled player. A batter could also wait on a perfect pitch since there was no danger of striking out, Individual at bats could take ten minutes or even longer. The National Association of Base Ball Players 1857 to 1870 by Marshall D Wright.”

I hope the following is correct, if not please let me know.

The book by Mr. Wright is a handy resource, the 1864 chapter deals with “The Fly Game.” The rule is said to go back to Alexander Cartwright and the 1845 Knickerbocker club. Rule 12 states, “if a ball is struck, or tipped, and caught, either flying or on the first bound, it is a hand out.”

When the rules were modified in 1857, the rule remained on the books. Beginning in 1858 reformers tried to have it changed. In 1860 the delegates voted 55 to 37 against the fly rule. The motion was defeated again at the 1863 convention. In December 1864 the reformers by a vote of 33 to 19 won[15] and the bound game was “relegated to the shelf.”

 

The Ball

I have been asked by several people about the ball used in the filming by the players. To me it is slightly more softball in appearance then a normal hard ball. Several players have mentioned that they have also played softball so there seems a goof fit between the sports.

Here is the description from the Vintage Base Ball Association.[16] “Sec. 1. The ball must weigh not less than five and one-half, nor more than five and three-fourths ounces, avoirdupois. It must measure not less than nine and one-half, nor more than nine and three-fourths inches in circumference. It must be composed of india-rubber and yarn, and covered with leather, and, in all match games, shall be furnished by the challenging club, and become the property of the winning club, as a trophy of victory.”


[1] Twitter is an online social networking service and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets”. It was created in March 2006 by Jack Dorsey and launched that July. Wikipedia

[3] Club President

[4][4] http://www.elktonbbc.com/

[5] 1997, she played from 1997 to 2000.

[6] Washington National Republican

[7] A full one costs around $200 for hat, shirt/shield, pants and socks.

[8] Tim Grieb

[9] Tim Grieb

[10] Fort Delaware is a harbor defense facility, located on Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River.[3] During the American Civil War, the Union used Fort Delaware as a prison for Confederate prisoners of war, political prisoners, federal convicts, and privateer officers. The fort and the island currently belong to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and encompasses a living history museum, located in Fort Delaware State Park. Also starting in 2009, Fort Delaware has hosted at least one game each summer of the Diamond State Base Ball Club, a vintage base ball team. The Diamond State Base Ball Club also typically plays 4-6 games per year at nearby Fort DuPont. The Diamond State Base Ball Club is a non-profit amateur organization created for the purposes of providing physical fitness to its members, educating the public on the history of baseball and local history, and serving as a point of public pride. Wikipedia

[11] Not the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Baltimore Orioles Low A team, but real Shorebirds.

[12] Tim Grieb

[14] In the original article this was listed as 1964 an obvious and bad mistake on our part.

[15] Section 14. Or, if a fair ball is struck, and the ball is caught either without having touched the ground. (upon the first bound; this phrase is deleted. Fair balls can only be caught out on the fly not the bound.)

[16] http://vbba.org/