FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 

The following FAQ and Answers should assist is assembling a 19th century vintage baseball club for any era of play.

Is any research needed to start a club?
Most vintage clubs model themselves after an actual 19th century professional or amateur club from their town or county. Research at your local library or historical society can provide ideas about club names, uniform styles, player nicknames, etc.

Town history may also give you ideas for club names. For example, a Westfield, Massachusetts club calls itself the Wheelmen, in honor of that town's 19th century manufacturing of the first bicycles.

Where do we find players? Vintage clubs can be assembled by converting an existing baseball or softball team. The most common approach used is starting from scratch by letting the local newspaper know that you are interested in starting a vintage club, and having them write a story about it. Also, good old fashioned local word of mouth and networking can be successful

How much will it cost to start a club?
A first year club should expect to budget between $4,000 and $5,000 about for uniforms, equipment, field rental, umpires and misc. Based on the suggested roster size of 15-18, the average cost per player is $250-$275 each. In subsequent years, clubs should budget about $1,500 ($100-$125 per player) per season.

Can I get a sponsor?
A vintage base ball club is a unique sponsor opportunity as it embraces the roots of your community's baseball past while promoting sportsmanship and competitive gentlemanly play. Many clubs today get sponsorships through local businesses,museums, historical societies, or chamber of commerce. Local companies with roots dating back many generations are good candidates for sponsorship.

Do we need insurance?
Town permits and insurance will likely be requested. VBBFactory offers a solid annual calendar year policy for about $160 and includes $1 million town liability policy that covers multiple field locations. Information is found on VBBFactory home page link.

How should I structure my club?
Vintage base ball clubs are like any other good baseball or softball teams. You should have 15-20 committed players, including 2-3 pitchers, two solid catchers, and a fast centerfielder. In other words, strong up the middle.

How old are vintage players?
Ideally your roster should be diversified. To replicate the early town ball clubs, you may want to have players in all age groups, from early 20’s players, to experienced 40’s players.

Do we need a league to play in?
No. Most clubs will schedule single "challenge matches" with other vintage clubs. To cut down on travel, clubs may want to encourage the formation of other clubs in the same county.

How often will we play?
That's completely up to your club. Typically, clubs schedule between 8-15 games per summer, May thru September. Other clubs play an ambitious schedule of 25-40 games.

Where will we play?
Vintage baseball can be played on any conventional baseball field. Vintage base ball can also be played in an open park (as was common in the 19th century) on an all grass field with no infield dirt. This may require building a simple wood-framed, wire backstop, for that authentic look.

How long do vintage games last?
Most games last between 2 to 2 1/2 hours. With timeouts by players notallowed (only occasionally by the Captain), games move along quickly.

How difficult is it to catch a ball with the small glove?
Difficult at first, but like anything with practice, players will adapt. The first rule of vintage base ball is that there is no such thing as a routine play. Infielders have to knock the ball down. Outfielders must use two hands. Unlike the modern game, the player (not the equipment) makes the play. Although rare, a one-handed grab of a long fly ball is a thing of beauty.

How fast is vintage pitching?
The difficulty of catching a pitched ball with the relatively small catcher's mitt dictates that pitchers not throw too hard, which is historically correct. Vintage pitching is characterized by control, changing speeds, and moving the ball around. Also, without a mound or a rubber, pitchers will not be able to get as much on the ball. This saves wear and tear on the catcher.

What about the vintage catcher?
In vintage base ball, the most challenging position on the field is catcher. Catchers position themselves in a modified half crouch, two to three feet beyond where a modern catcher plays. Pitches are caught in the mitt, with the throwing hand cupped behind the mitt. Catchers also can assume the “shotgun” position with bases empty or in certain situations. Catcher will stand back 30-35 feet and catch pitch on a bounce. This also enables pitcher to throw harder if desired. Risk to this approach can be increased attempts to bunt for base hits due to catcher farther removed from play.

Are there safety concerns with vintage base ball?
Vintage base ball is not known for injuries, beyond the usual sprains and pulls. Padded fielder gloves offer much improved protection against hand or finger injuries.Without helmets, batters should always remain alert.Playing gloveless vintage ball will certainly increase hand and finger injury risk.

Where do we find vintage umpires?
This should not be a problem. Only one umpire is used for a vintage game and the rules are fun and easy to learn. Contact your local umpire association. Most umpires will enjoy dressing in period garb and working games where they must always be addressed as "Sir." Local baseball fans with an interest in history are also approachable about becoming an umpire.

What does a Captain do?
The Captain is today's version of Manager and General Manager. Your Captain should be a player, or non-player, who has an appreciation and understanding of baseball history and vintage rules and strategies. The Captain will be your club spokesman and will lead the post-game tribute speech to the opposing team.

What is competitive gentlemanly play?
It's an approach to base ball that values fair play over rough play, and sportsmanship over gamesmanship. Although 19th century baseball was commonly played by ruffians with folklore to match, the vintage baseball network has adopted a “written rule” policy of only gentlemanly play. It is "the way the game was meant to be played" probably back in the 1860s before town ball gave way to more organized and competitive leagues both pro and amateur, in the 1870s and 1880s.