In one Bay Area baseball league, normal gents play the game like it was played in 1886: It takes seven balls for a walk, there are handshakes instead of high-fives and a batter gets a choice whether he wants a pitch above or below the waist.
The San Francisco Chronicle introduces us to the Bay Area Vintage Base Ball Association — a six-team league entering its ninth season. Here, modern fixtures of the game like sunglasses and gloves with a pocket aren't allowed, but a good sense of history and authenticity is paramount.
Matthew "Boxcar" Rheinschild, the player-manager of the San Francisco Pelicans says theirs is "a gentleman's game." Here's more from the Chroncile's Peter Hartloub:
The Pelicans were playing the San Francisco Pacifics on Sunday, at the Golden Gate Park Big Rec diamond, where baseball has been played since the 1890s. The Oakland Colonels, Berkeley Monarchs, Fremont Aces and New Almaden Cinnabars round out the vintage league. Players range in age from early 20s to mid-50s, with occupations including tech workers, architects, a barista and a stand-up comedian.
In terms of taking the rules seriously, the vintage baseball players fall in a tier just below Civil War re-enactors and Renaissance faire die-hards. They wear wool uniforms, don't swear, don't spit and mostly drink from metal canteens. Yogi Berra might find the barely-there catcher's gear a little too old school.
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A few other great factoids from the story:
• Sage "Buttercup" Bray says he's broken four fingers in five years because of the lack of padding in their gloves.
• There's a rules committee that researches things like how high a pitcher's leg-kick should be.
• One modern convenience is allowed: good shoes. It's a rough terrain in their park and vintage shoes won't do.
• More than one hundred people attended a game last week, which ought to be close to what the Miami Marlins are expecting this year.
• Beer was around in the 1880s, so while eye-black isn't allowed, ending a game with a cold one is A-OK.
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