One of the truly original offerings in Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford is the playing of Historic Base Ball games on summer weekends. The game is played by 1867 rules as set down in Henry Chadwick’s Haney’s Base Ball Book of Reference.
It was mentioned in this informative booklet that I was given while watching a game recently:
There are two teams based out of Greenfield Village that play towards the World Tournament of Historic Base Ball. The first is the Lah-De-Dahs and the second is the Nationals Base Ball Club. I root for the Lah-De-Dahs!
But this particular day my team (the Lah-De-Dahs) were playing against the Regulars Base Ball Club of Mt. Clemens. Let’s start with the pitch from the Regulars:
And a mighty swing from the Lah-De-Dahs batter with some hustle from the field:
And the play is in full motion:
And now a brief break from the game: In the background of the picture above you can see a railway track. Every now and then an authentic steam locomotive will chug by. The game must stop when this occurs so as not to hit any passengers with a home run ball, or as the commentator of the game remarked, so as not to have the outfielder knock the train off the tracks as he goes long to catch the ball. Apparently, outfielders in Historic Base Ball stop for nothing! And here she comes now:
“Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!”
The commentator urges the players and spectators alike to yell the above ‘greeting’ to the passengers of the train to scare them so as to help them realize just how dangerous this new-fangled mode of transportation, steam trains, can be!
Now back to the game. One of our fine Lah-De-Dah gentlemen has just made third base:
Lah-De-Dahs wear red with a tie
Let’s have a closer look at this uniform:
Notice there are no helmets, gloves, or cleats (in fact, some players play barefooted). Although Base Ball was an amateur sport in 1867 and played by gentlemen only, it certainly took a tougher breed than today’s professional games call for!
The games almost over so now seems like a good time to introduce you to the games excellent commentator:
This man got quite a workout as he walked back and forth among the spectators answering questions while commenting on the game.
The final score was in favor of the Lah-De-Dahs as they narrowly beat out the Regulars 15-13 in nine innings. What I enjoyed about the game was the open sportsmanship displayed by both teams! In the end, the losing Captain led his team in a cheer of appreciation for the respect of the winning team:
Class never goes out of style!
The game of baseball is much different today as it has become a professional business instead of a gentlemanly pastime. Could this be due in part to the kind of players we have today? Notice how the model Base Ball Player is described in 1867:
“The principal rule of action of our model base ball player is to comport himself like a gentleman on all occasions, but especially on match days, and in so doing he abstains from profanity and its twin and vile brother, obscenity… He never censures errors of play made by a brother member or an opponent, as he is well aware that fault-finding not only leads to no improvement in the play of the one who blunders, but on the contrary is calculated to have the very reverse effect.”
Does that describe your favorite baseball player of today?
Of course, there was some hypocrisy back then, as the commentator frequently made reference to a ‘muffed ball’, which is a ball that the fielder touches but fails to hold or stop. The commentator delighted in gently ribbing players on both teams for doing this. Of course he also enjoyed picking on them for their facial hair and ages, but I guess the rules of 1867 Base Ball say nothing about how a commentator should act!
The commentator also gave free advice to the players of both teams, telling the batters to hit the ball to where no one was standing (Really? Who knew?) and that if the fielders paid attention and caught the ball, they would get more batters out. Well, I can’t imagine any better advice, can you?
So if you’re in the Detroit area and like sports, Greenfield Village has Historic Base Ball games every weekend, Saturdays and Sundays, all summer long. They would love to see you there cheering for all the good plays, no matter which team makes them!