The humidity on Saturday afternoon, June 29, did not deter the Vintage Base Ball teams (yes, that’s how it’s spelled), the New York Mutuals and the Atlantic Base Ball Club from taking the baseball diamond in Herrick Park to demonstrate how the game was played in 1864. They were invited by the East Hampton Historical Farm Museum; these clubs travel across the country playing 19th-Century base ball and wear replicas of the actual uniforms worn during the time period.
“The Vintage Base Ball teams were started to educate the public about the game and its origins and how the rules have changed over time,” stated David Phillips, who was the arbiter for Saturday’s game. Phillips explained, “An arbiter is like the umpire, but the old rules required the arbiter not to be on the field during play. The judging is done from behind the fence. The game also used to be played until a team scored 21 runs. That could take a long time, so the rules changed to play in nine innings.”
The Atlantic’s team captain, Frank “Shakespeare” Van Zant is both a writer and English teacher in Rockville Center. “We enjoy recreating history. Notice that we don’t use mitts. Our motto is gloves are for cheaters and sissies,” he said with a laugh and continued. “Everyone on the team is very talented and we enjoy playing together. It’s like a great fellowship.”
Derek Fesolowich, of the NY Mutuals, has been the team captain for three years. Their home field is at Old Bethpage at the Old Bethpage Restoration Village. Like the Atlantics, the Mutuals are a traveling team and he explained, “Our mission is to educate the public as to the roots of our national pastime. We play other vintage teams and each team member learns the history, rules, and customs of the game as it was played during the 19th Century,” he stated.
The camaraderie and fellowship evident by both teams was not shaken by the 11-to-1 win by the Atlantics. Both teams are hoping to be invited back by the East Hampton Historical Farm Museum for a rematch. As vintage base ball is one of the things the Farm Museum is focusing on this year, board member Dana Lester stated that it is working to organize a vintage base ball game with some local teams in the fall. She said to watch for the museum’s events on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EHHFarmMuseum.