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In Depth: What It Was Was Base Ball

Relief pitchers, free agents, designated hitters and sabermetrics are some of the more recent aspects of the game affectionately called "our national pastime," but as Alan Lytle recently discovered there are still places where people can see baseball in a more primitive, and arguably purer form.

Credit Alan Lytle
The Norwood Highlanders in their trademark red uniforms took on the Losantiville Black Stockings in a Vintage Base Ball game at the Waveland Historic Site in Lexington.

Charla Reed who helps coordinate events at Lexington’s Waveland Estate says the former plantation just off Nicholasville Road has certainly seen its fair share of history.

And on this particular day it helped transport hundreds of sports fans back to a time when base ball…that’s right, two words…was in its infancy.  The Norwood Highlanders and the Losantiville Black Stockings took part in a spirited, yet friendly exhibition.

Vintage Base Ball is a game similar to its modern incarnation with a few notable exceptions, for one pitchers threw the ball underhanded like in today’s slow pitch softball…and that’s not all…according to Norwood catcher and middle school history teacher Tony Hollin.

Different rules, and minimal equipment…circa the 1860’s…including no batting helmets, and no gloves either…something  Hollin learned about the hard way.

Losantiville player-manager Rufus Guy says the game attracts all sorts of players…young, old, casual, and hardcore.

Many of the Vintage contests are more like the sandlot games you might remember.  They’re held not on pristine baseball diamonds but on relatively flat, grass fields large enough to accommodate a regulation infield with first and third 90 feet away from home plate, but no pitcher’s mound, and outfields of questionable dimensions .  The Waveland Estate sported a huge tree that doubled as the center field boundary and a rather short porch in left field.  In fact at one point in the contest, play had to be stopped so that a host of players could track down the game ball which had gotten lost amongst some rather tall weeds behind the outfield fence.

Vintage Baseball is catching on across the country especially in Ohio with no less than 9 teams in the Cincinnati area alone, but surprisingly there are no clubs here in Kentucky…that’s something that Losantiville player and Frankfort resident Jerry Sudduth hopes to change.  He's looking to put together a Vintage team in Lexington by next season.

In the meantime there’s another vintage baseball contest in Central Kentucky scheduled for later this fall at Ward Hall in Georgetown. 

Information on Vintage Base Ball can be found here.

Special thanks to the Norwood Highlanders, the Losantiville Black Stockings, Jerry Sudduth and the people at Waveland Estate in Lexington.