Sunday, June 20, 2010

America's pastime, vintage-style

The Indianapolis Blues, Indianapolis Hoosiers, Mulberry Manglers, White River Base Ball Club and Batesville Lumbermen were among Indiana teams that participated Saturday in a Vintage Base Ball Association Regional Tournament at Garfield Park in Indianapolis. (Mulberry, by the way, is a town southeast of Lafayette, Ind. )

The six teams -- the St. Louis Unions and Lockport (Ill.) Sleepers also participated, although the Sleepers and White River ended up pairing up to form one team -- played for the Hoosier Cup, which goes to the team with the best record in the day's competition. Each team plays three games.

Vintage teams play in 19th-century garb and use rules from the late 1880s as well. On Saturday, they played on three all-grass diamonds at the park, which I've since learned is typical for Vintage Base Ball; they rarely use the traditional dirt infields. It really was interesting to behold; some scenes reminded me a bit of the "Field of Dreams" motion picture.

Most of these images were taken from the game between the Lumbermen and the Manglers, which the Lumbermen won, 13-8; I was taken by the Lumbermen's uniforms, so I hung around their game bit longer. However, a few images also were taken from the Blues-Sleepers/White River game.

According to a story on the Cup at the Batesville Tribune website, the Lumbermen claimed the Hoosier Cup that day. They and the Hoosiers both won all three of their games, but the Lumbermen got the nod on the tiebreaker, which is a team's total runs scored in the tournament. The Lumbermen scored 43 to the Hoosiers' 38.

To learn more about the VBBA, follow this link: Vintage Base Ball Association.

To see a complete gallery of images from this shoot, follow this link: Vintage Base Ball Photo Gallery.

This is a scene where I was half-expecting to see "Shoeless" Joe Jackson walk out from the wooded area in the background, a la "Field of Dreams." And no, your eyes aren't deceiving you; there really is a discernible knoll in the area between where the outfielder in the foreground, the center-fielder, stands (on higher ground) and where his teammate in the background, the left-fielder, is situated.

A photographer loves those "point of contact" shots.

A Manglers pitcher -- er, hurler, as they refer to it in Vintage Base Ball -- is ready to toss another to a member of the Lumbermen. A few of the hurlers I saw Saturday made a point to hold the ball up like this before beginning their underhand motion.

Because the VBBA defenses don't use mitts, the chances of cleanly snagging ground balls or catching fly balls or throws from teammates are greatly reduced. Here, a Manglers defender can't come up with a throw from an infielder on a grounder to retire a sliding Lumberman at first base (or, the first sack). On close plays at first sack, sliding is virtually a necessity -- and not nearly as hurtful on grass as it would be on dirt -- because overruning first base is not protected, or "safe" territory, in Vintage Base Ball as it is in today's game. In the background, near the pagoda, the game involving the Indianapolis Blues unfolds.

Another point-of-contact photo.

An Indianapolis Blues outfielder attempts to catch a fly ball cleanly without the aid of a fielding mitt. He did not succeed.

This Lumbermen shortstop came up with a ground ball cleanly and was preparing to throw to first base -- guarded by the first sacker -- to retire the hitter.

With the well-known Garfield Park pagoda as a backdrop, this scene frames the last pitch of the Blues' game against the Sleepers. The Lockport hitter swung and missed.

Note the hitter's textbook plate form: Keeping his eyes on the ball and using a stride that smoothly shifts his weight from the back foot to the front foot. In an umpired game today, however, this hitter might have been called out because his front foot is well beyond where the batter's box lines would be drawn.

A Lumberman base-runner (right) heads home to score on a hit by a teammate while the Manglers' pitcher prepares to back up the catcher -- called "the behind" in Vintage ball -- if a fielder makes a play on the runner. There was no play, however; this runner scored.

After the Blues' game, Sleepers players went through a hat salute of some sort. I didn't catch the audio, but it could very well have been to fellows players and those who came to watch.

Afterward, players exchanged handshakes.

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