A crank’s perspective of the Northern Illinois Vintage Base Ball Tournament on July 7, 2012


Yesterday, I traveled three hours north to Wheaton, Illinois and attended the Northern Illinois Vintage Base Ball Tournament.  Nine teams participated and played a total of 13 games.

If you’re new to the concept of vintage base ball, the national Vintage Base Ball Association  website has a good summary page.  In short:

Vintage Base Ball is base ball (yes, it was spelled two words prior to the 1880s) played by the rules and customs of the 19th Century. Our players (sometimes called ballists) wear period reproduction uniforms, either with long trouser and shield shirt, or a later style lace shirt and knickers. They recreate the game based on rules and research of the various decades of the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The playing of vintage base ball can be seen at open-air museums, tournament re-enactments and city parks. It is played on both open grass fields and modern baseball diamonds. Spectators may consider vintage base ball to be a new sport, however, some clubs have been in existence since the 1980s. Vintage base ball is a reflection of how baseball existed at an earlier time.

Depending on the vintage base ball team or league and what particular era they are re-creating, the rules are markedly different than today’s.  A few differences:

  • No stealing bases and no leading off.
  • Infielders play at their designated bases and outfielders play in the center of their positions.  Shortstop may play anywhere on the field.
  • Striker (batter) is out if ball is caught on one bounce.
  • Baserunner may be tagged if he runs past first base

…among others, of course.


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Pre-tournament team introductions

Here is the list of the teams that participated in Saturday’s tournament and some links to their respective web sites:

DuPage County Plowboys Aurora Town Club Vermilion Voles
Rockford Forest Citys Chicago Salmon Creston Regulators
Oregon Ganymedes Somonauk Blue Stockings Springfield Long Nine



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Maybe MLB umps should wear top hats with a feather and carry a cane like arbiter Ray “Never Wrong” Grish of the DuPage County Plowboys Chicago Salmon.  Just sayin’.

I attended the tournament as a “crank” (or fan) of my local vintage base ball team, the Vermilion Voles.  I even had the privilege of riding  up with one of the players, Steve “Irish” McGaughey.  Irish gave me the lowdown on the what was going on with the Voles since I hadn’t seen them play for a couple years.


The NIVBBT was held at beautiful Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois though the aesthetics were somewhat overwhelmed by the oppressive near-100 degree heat that wasn’t helped by the warm outfits the players wore.  The uniforms and equipment are all specially ordered by each team to conform to the standards of pre-1880 play.  One advantage, no need to order gloves.  Vintage base ball teams generally don’t use them.

Cantigny Park was large enough so that they could have three or four games going on at one time.  One could walk up and down the sideline and get a good view of all the games.

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Hurler “Jack Rabbit” Rich unleashes the onion

Depending on the event, the focus on vintage base ball is on re-creating a pre-Civil War baseball atmosphere through the rules of play, vernacular, uniforms.  No doubt, everyone plays to win but it’s a gentleman’s (and in some cases, gentlelady’s) game.  An effort is made to inform the cranks in attendance about the game between innings and during down times.

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Ballpark scoreboard… 1858-style

As for the Vermilion Voles, well.. they had better days.  They were shut out the first couple games by the Rockford Forest Citys and DuPage Plowboys respectively.  They got their first lead in the first frame in the game against the Oregon Ganymedes but the fair maiden who was pitching for them held them to two aces for the game.  To be fair, the Voles played hard and the defense was pretty solid. They just couldn’t get the stick to the onion.

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Striker Steve “Irish” McGaughey takes his turn with the willow

I posted more photos here in my Vintage Base Ball photo gallery.

I want to thank the organizers of the Northern Illinois Vintage Base Ball Tournament for hosting a successful event.  I think everyone had a great time.  Also, Vermilion Voles captain Jim “Weedeater” Knoblauch and his lovely wife Joyce deserve a lot of kudos for doing so much for the Voles team.  Finally, thanks again to “Irish” for the ride.  I had a fantastic time.

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1 comment

  1. Greg "Legs" Green (Vermilion Voles)


    Great job! We appreciate your attendance and coverage. See you another time.

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