GEORGETOWN — Historic Ward Hall, surrounded by acres of sun-bruised grass, became an archaic sanctuary yesterday for two vintage base ball teams.
"We want to try to expose people of every walk of life and every interest to Ward Hall," said David Stuart, chairman of the Ward Hall Preservation Foundation, which sponsored the game. The Greek Revival Mansion was built in 1856 and the hope was to re-create a slice of life on the mansion grounds.
"Our thought was, 'Let's get this base ball game going. We'll play by the 1860 rules and we'll get vintage players.'"
Wearing gold buttoned shirts embroidered with old English script and Victorian-esque pantaloons puffing at the shin, the Dayton Clodbusters and Norwood Highlanders took the field howling "Huzzah!, Huzzah!"
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Fans sat atop hay bales and applauded.
Surrounding the field were broad trees which provided shade and formed a kind of stadium that gave legitimacy to organizers' efforts to slip, for a moment, back through time.
"We were just looking for different things that would fit in with the culture of the time period," said Tommy Druen, who helped organize the event. "We've got the property that we could have a field. It'd be a good thing for the community to bring people out here and have a vintage base ball game."
The rules and customs of vintage base ball differ considerably from the modern game.
First, it is base ball, not baseball.
Vintage base ball was organized in 1996 as delegates from thirteen clubs representing five states assembled in Columbus, Ohio, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first recorded base ball match between organized teams. Using the 1857 National Association of Base Ball Players as a model, the delegates formed the Vintage Base Ball Association. According to the association Web site there are now more than 100 clubs across the country.
They play in period costumes and use no gloves, and the action is also different.
For instance, after each whop of the India-rubber ball, originally hashed together in greasy basements by shoe repairmen looking to score an extra buck, the ball may bounce once and then be snatched up for a player to be called out. Pitchers throw underhand, batters are called strikers, and games aren't measured in outs, but in hands.
Throughout the day Saturday, sweat-soaked spectators whooped it up with the umpire, asking questions each time they couldn't grasp what was happening.
"This is a different experience for us. I've never played in Kentucky," said Chris "Sawdust" Burton, 28, outfielder for the Clodbusters. "There is no vintage base ball continually in Kentucky, so it was a great opportunity for us to come down."
By 3 p.m., after nearly two hours of play, the teams were locked 10-10. Players were breathing heavily and passing back and forth a tarnished canteen that looked like it could have been salvaged from an old bar on the Ivory Coast. The fan count, once at least 100, was shrinking, run off by a feverish heat that had been barreling down all afternoon. Norwood was last at bat. With blood-red stockings hiked up high on the calf, the players sent out their first members to bat and eventually cracked three base hits to score a winning run.
"We played real well against a very tough team," said Jim "Cornbread" Mattingly, 43, a member of the Norwood Highlanders, perhaps proving sports quotes change little through the ages.
"The Dayton Clodbusters are a very good team, usually scoring in the twenties. I think the heat played a good factor for us. I think we outlasted them more than we out-sported them."