Here are some questions that we are commonly asked.
Q: I HAVE HEARD OF AN ECLIPSE IN TERMS OF SPACE, BUT WHY NAME YOUR BASE BALL TEAM THAT?
A: Eclipse was the name of an outstanding, undefeated British Thoroughbred racehorse. In the 1800s the name Eclipse came to symbolize greatness and success. Many companies and sporting teams named themselves the Eclipse. Today the Eclipse Awards are given each year to the best in American Thoroughbred Horse Racing Industry.
Q: WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT VINTAGE BASE BALL?
A: Vintage base ball (two words) is a reflection of how baseball (one word, the modern game) existed at an earlier time. Here are some of the main differences from modern baseball:e cover of a vintage ball, called a lemon-peel, is made from one piece of leather rather than two and stitched in a cross pattern. The ball is wound less tightly than a modern baseball, but is slightly heavier.
There was no restriction on bat size except a 2.5” diameter on the barrel. The bats we use show a range of different styles from the 1860s.
The umpire is called the “arbiter,” and he usually positions himself behind and to the side of the striker. He is to loudly announce foul balls and balks, assess fines for ungentlemanly behavior, and request the input of the crowd if a close play is in dispute.
The pitcher throws the ball underhand from 45’. The pitcher must stand between two lines 12’ wide and 3’ apart to deliver the ball. The pitcher’s job is to deliver to the striker a hittable ball. Throwing a speed ball or deceitful curve ball will result in a quick fine. How can you get exercise without running the bases?
Called balls and strikes are only called if the arbiter (umpire) felt the pitcher was intentionally throwing unhittable pitches.
No gloves are used; the catcher and fielders play with bare hands. Two handed catches are the most common, but one handed catches will be occasionally used to draw cheers from the cranks (fans). Gloves, mitts, and other protective equipment didn’t make an appearance until the 1870s and weren’t commonly used until the 1880s.
When a ball is caught on the bound (one bounce) the batter is out. For the other baserunners, catching the ball on the bound allows them to advance in the same way as a ground ball.
There is no over-running of first base. If a striker running to first runs off of the bag, he is then considered a baserunner and may be tagged out. Often you will see players sliding into first base.
Foul balls are considered to be dead balls until the ball is returned to the pitcher. However, a baserunner does not have a free return to the base he started from; once the pitcher has the ball he may be tagged or forced out.
Unlike modern baseball, the home team doesn’t always bat in the bottom half of an inning. Who bats last is determined by the arbiter throwing a bat between the team captains. Whoever grabs the knob of the bat chooses the order of first offense or defense.
The field is the same size and shape as the modern game, but bases are 12” square. Home plate is a 12” painted white disc.
A line is drawn parallel to the pitchers point through home plate, hence the arbiter’s call, “Striker to the line.”
After the first inning, the first striker up isn’t necessarily the next player in the order. Instead, he is the player following the last man who made an out in the previous inning.
A hit striker is not awarded any base.
Outs are referred to as hands.
A ball is considered fair if it touches fair territory at any time, even if it bounces immediately foul.
No infield fly rule. A player may intentionally drop a ball to begin a double play.
Ungentlemanly behavior, such as spitting or cursing, was subject to a fine by the arbiter.
Q: DOES IT HURT TO CATCH THE BALL WITH NO GLOVE?
A: The ball is a bit softer than a modern baseball, but not much. It can certainly hurt and takes some skill to catch it without hurting too much.
Q: WHAT DO I NEED IF I COME TO A GAME?
A: Admission to games is free, unless otherwise noted in the schedule. Bring a comfortable chair and enjoy a ball game in Cecil County countryside. Concessions are available as well as local wine from our host, Terrapin Station Winery.
Q: YOU DON’T HAVE A NICELY MANICURED FIELD WITH DIRT. ARE YOU GUYS LAZY?
A: We certainly are not lazy. We mow the grass and line the field, but fields in the 1860s were just that, fields. The base ball diamond is preferably laid out upon a field of grass, such as the Elysian Field that served as home to the great New York Knickerbockers. Sometimes the field resembles an undulating meadow. Occasionally, there might be a tree or a building out in the garden (outfield). There are no manicured infields to eliminate an errant hop of the base ball. In the vintage game, a ballist’s skills are truly tested. Balls can be caught off of trees as they are considered air. When a ball hits objects that are manmade the ball is considered dead and play stops.
Q: IT LOOKS LIKE FUN, CAN I PLAY TOO?
A: Anyone is welcome to give the game a try. We invite all players age 18-90 to participate. Many of our players are in their 20s and 30s, but we have several in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. Anyone who loves base ball, history, and is physically able is welcome to play.
Q: ARE YOU THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO DO THIS?
A: Currently there are over 400 teams throughout the US and Canada who do this. Old Bethpage Village Restoration in Bethpage, New York played their inaugural 19th century base ball contest in 1980. Around the same time the Ohio Village in Columbus started a 19th century base ball program. The Vintage Base Ball Association was founded in Ohio in 1996 and preserves and perpetuates the game of base ball as it was played during its formative years. The Eclipse Base Ball Club of Elkton is a member of the VBBA.
Q: IF A SPECTATOR CATCHES A FOUL BALL, CAN HE OR SHE KEEP IT?
A: No. In fact, in the vintage game, only one ball was used throughout the entire game, and was given as a trophy to the winning club.
Q: CAN WE TAKE PICTURES OF PLAYERS?
A: Absolutely. We encourage this, just be sure not interfere with the field of play and be heads up, the ball can bounce anywhere. Please be sure to share your pics of us on our Facebook page.