Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A great day for Vintage ballists to play 4

America's past time went retro again on Sunday at Garfield Park, where seven 1880s-rules Vintage Base Ball League teams converged to play in the Indianapolis Hoosiers Cup tournament.

Although the "look" of the team uniforms, the style of play and even the vernacular -- hitters were called "strikers" and players were called "ballists" -- might have been old-school, the enjoyable atmosphere of America's game was every bit contemporary Sunday. Weather cooperated fully, so much so that Ernie Banks, the Major League Baseball Hall of Famer whose love of the game is remembered by his catch phrase: "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame; let's play two!", might even have quipped Sunday: "Let's play four!"

That's because there were four rounds of games, beginning at 11 a.m. and running through about 5 p.m. Actually, only three teams played four games -- the Hoosiers, Indianapolis Blues and a team that combined players of two clubs from St. Louis. Each round, one of the four other teams had a bye. They played on three makeshift diamonds in the expansive green between the park's aquatic center and landmark pagoda.

A fourth diamond was going to be included, as eight teams initially committed to participate. But the Unions and Perfectos of St. Louis ended up combining to form one team due to personal reasons that heavily depleted the Unions' squad.

I caught and photographed parts of games in the first two of four rounds before calling it a day. It was my third shoot of Vintage Base Ball at the park, home field for the Hoosiers. I was on hand for the Cup in June 2010, and stopped in briefly -- not more than 15 minutes -- earlier this summer to test a specific lens for shooting baseball.

Sunday was my first look at the Unions and Perfectos, as well as the Vermilion (Ill.) Voles and West Lafayette Couriers, the former Mulberry Manglers, which had participated in the 2010 Cup.
Also participating Sunday were three local teams -- the host Hoosiers, the White River Base Ball Club and the Indianapolis Blues -- and the Batesville Lumbermen. Several of the teams are members of the umbrella Vintage Base Ball Association.

A full gallery of photos from the Hoosiers Cup is at my site at SmugMug.

Above: It was common to see teammates in the background when a fellow ballist was in the batter's box. 

Above: One of the interesting styles of underhand pitching seen Sunday. This hurler was a member of the Vermilion Voles.

Above: Outfielders, or "scouts," for the combined Perfectos and Unions of St. Louis converged to catch this fly ball in their Round 2 game against the Hoosiers. The Old English lettering on the jersies combined with the "vintage" nature of the sport prompted the idea to use a monochrome version of this image filtered in an "Antique" tint. 

Above: The front sides of the St. Louis Perfecto jersies stood out and were easily the most colorful outfits on the field.

Above: A delivery by a hurler for the Cup host team, the Indianapolis Hoosiers. I chatted with this ballist briefly during the team's opening game against the Voles, and he told me a hurler often incurs hand injuries for instinctively trying to "glove" liners off the bats of hitters going back up the middle. There is little time to think -- and to remember -- that these teams play 19th-century rules, when ballists did not wear mitts or gloves. He has two permanent injuries to his hands, including a finger that won't straighten. 

Above and below: A pitcher for the Batesville Lumbermen saw this shot off the bat of a striker for the White River Base Ball Club come right back at him. He did not try to "glove" the ball; he did well to dodge the liner altogether.

The Vintage style rules allow for a putout if an outfielder gathers a fly ball on the first bounce, as this Vermilion Voles outfieler, or "scout," is doing. Baserunners are not required to tag up on a one-bounce flyout; they must tag up, however, if an outfielder catches a fly in the traditional no-bounce form. 

Above: A Voles batter, or "striker" as the league calls the hitter, takes a cut at this pitch.

Above: There weren't enough umpires to work all the games as this period-dressed umpire did for a game between the Hoosiers and Perfectos-Unions. In games without umpires, teams dutifully abide an honor system in which the batting team designates one of its ballists to call fair or foul balls and any plays at the plate. 

Above: Ballists for the Indianapolis Blues stood behind home plate during their Round 2 game against the Voles. 

Above: Another pitching style, this by a hurler for the White River Base Ball Club.

Above: A fielder prepares to attempt a putout on batted ball. 

Above: A left-handed Batesville Lumberman striker makes contact with the pitch in a game against White River.

Above: A wide-angle overview shot of the open area where three games were played at a time. Closest to the camera was a game between Batesville and White River.

Above: A Hoosiers striker prepares to take a cut at a pitch.

Above and next six below: Fans -- known as "cranks" in Vintage Base Ball jargon -- dotted the grounds during the tournament, as these images document.

Above and next two below: At the conclusion of the West Lafayette Couriers' first-round game against the Indianapolis Blues, leaders of both teams salute the competition and "cranks," then teams conclude the match with well wishes to each other.

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