Matheson: Vintage base ball a hit with modern players in Philly

From Kathy Matheson at the Associated Press on September 12, 2014:

From afar, it looks and sounds like a regular recreational baseball game: the crack of the bat, the cheering from the bench, the sliding into home.

But a closer glance at this field in Fairmount Park shows something isn’t quite right. They’re pitching underhand. No one is using a batting helmet, fielding glove or catcher’s mask.

“Striker to the line!” bellows a man wearing a straw hat, suit and bow tie.

Translation: “Batter up!”

This is not your father’s baseball. Or even your grandfather’s baseball. It’s your great-great-grandfather’s game.

The Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia plays America’s favorite pastime the old-fashioned way. It’s one of a growing number of teams nationwide that recreates the 19th century through historically accurate uniforms, period rules and cheeky nicknames. And by spelling “baseball” as two words.

“It brings people back to a simpler time, before million-dollar contracts, TVs, cars, steroids and gloves,” said Mid-Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League commissioner Bruce “Early” Leith.

Leith, who is never early, also serves as president of the Eclipse Base Ball Club of Elkton, Maryland. Eight years ago, he said, there were only three teams in that area. Today, there are 14.

“We get calls all the time from people wanting to start a club,” said Leith.

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Originally published: September 17, 2014. Last Updated: September 17, 2014.