When we were at the filming of the movie “Day of the Gun,” we had the privilege of spending time with Eugene “Pop” Meacham. Meacham is one the ballplayers featured in the film “Day of the Gun.” and the short “The Day the Aces got Trumped.” “Pop,” as he is known works in the medical field but in his off hours plays for the Chesapeake & Potomac BBC. The club plays by 1864 rules.
In response to how the club was formed, “Pop” stated, “The club was founded in 2006. It started as a regional club that played half its home games in the DC area and half in the Baltimore area. Four years later, 2010 the Potomacs found a home field and moved to Gaithersburg. One year later a third team was forming and began play in 2012 as the Old Dominions in the Leesburg area of VA. The club is now in the process of forming a team in Carroll County, MD.”
According to the teams’ web site, The Chesapeake and Potomac Vintage Base Ball Club is always looking for new players, fans, or base ball history enthusiasts to join the Chesapeake (Baltimore region), Potomac (DC and Maryland region), and Old Dominion ( and Northern Virginia) clubs. All ages, genders, and level of skill are welcome.
It was a privilege to see the players from various teams showcasing their skills. “Pop” Meacham is quick to tell us, “At the end of every game we thank our opponents for the good play and competition and the Cranks (fans) for coming out to watch.” This June in Kingsville, Maryland, during the 8th Annual Civil War Weekend Encampment; commemorating CSA Major Harry W. Gilmor’s 1864 raid across Baltimore and Harford Counties, the Chesapeake and Arundel clubs played a well fought match. There were between 25-50 cranks watching the game.
The success of the Nationals has sparked a renewal of interest in baseball in the area. But if you turn back the clock, Washington was a great baseball city. Up until 1880s the game was hugely popular. Clubs were social organizations, with large followings and headquarters. Teams were identified by colors, the Nationals went by “Reds,” and the Creighton club was known as the “Greens.”
The baseball clubs in Washington were unique, representing the working class, typically divided by the department the individual worked in or neighborhood. The social aspects were an important part of District life, mirroring the rest of the country.
Clubs like the Chesapeake & Potomac BBC continue the tradition of the early clubs in the District. “Pop” Meacham states, “I joined mainly for the love of the game and for the camaraderie, friendship and sportsmanship. It truly is a Gentlemen’s game, played the way it was in the 1860’s. For example, if a team is way ahead they don’t run up the score. One thing that comes to mind right away is during a recent game with the Arundel Excelsior’s in Glen Burnie. Mona Lisa was having trouble while batting, she struck out twice. The Hurler (pitcher) and the catcher helped her the next time she was up. They pitched a little easier and more direct, and she ended up getting a hit. They helped her even though they were behind in the game. That’s a Gentlemen’s game.”
“Mona Lisa?” “Pop” explained “Nick Names are given by the captain and the players …
Mine is “Pop” because of the pop in my bat, and for Pop from the movie “The Natural” my son is “Marshall” (because he is a Police Officer) and my daughter is “Mona Lisa” (she’s an artist) “
The following headline attests to the significance of the game in the 1870s to the people in Washington. “The Greatest Exhibition of the season, Creighton vs. National, behold! The newspaper followed with, “The array of talent equaled at an enormous expense for this occasion only. Three hundred and sixty-one invitations have been issued, and all the notables in town, including the Sioux delegation, have signified their intention of being present, it is confidently expected that this will be the most interesting game ever played in Washington. “ And since it was a game for gentlemen added, “No betting will be allowed, as a large number of ladies will grace the grand stand, so that any gentleman wishing to “wager a few kopecks: must do so down town, as the police have been authorized to jug and one offending against the rules in this respect. Seats capable of accommodating at least 2,000 spectators have been erected, and it is hoped that every one interest in our Nationals game will turn out.”
“Pop” Meacham joined the Chesapeake & Potomac BBC in 2009 after seeing exhibition at Bowie Baysox game. “The club started at Jerusalem Mill, Kingsville MD, and this is where the Chesapeake Nine have their home field. “Pop,” states, “The first time I played on this field the outfield grass was waist high. They mowed the infield, but not the outfield. So, if a player dived trying to catch a fly ball and came up holding it, we took his word that he caught it.”
“There was also a tree in right field that a ball was hit into and the ball never came out. A few innings later another ball was hit into the tree and came down, but we’re not sure if that was the first ball or the second ball. The uniforms we play in are period authentic, are as close as we can get. We used to have dark blue, long sleeve wool shirts and long cotton or wool-blend pants. We are now using a lighted material that still gives the look of 1860. Someone once said “Don’t know what’s crazier … the uniforms we play in or the fields we play on?????””
As noted the Chesapeake & Potomac BBC is looking for players, score keepers and others. See their web site, http://www.chesapeakeandpotomac.com . The club is a fraternal organization following the tradition of those that played back in the 1860s and 1870s. The club is part of the
Vintage Base Ball Association.