This past weekend, two of our best and brightest commenters decided to attend a very special event out on the West Coast. Farthammer and Phillas were kind enough to document their trip to see some former big league stars participate in an old-timey baseball exhibition game. If you've ever wondered what Kevin Maas was up to, here's your chance to find out. Below, please enjoy the words and photos courtesy of Mssrs. Farthammer and Phillas:
Phillas and I, on a tip from Rob, decided to attend the Legends of Baseball Vintage Showdown in San Jose, CA. What is Vintage Baseball, you ask? Well, I will tell you as best I can. Vintage Baseball is comprised of a federation of teams from around the country who decided to play baseball as it was in the late 1800s. Since these teams are made of old white guys with day jobs like "day trader" or "Regional Manager at coupons.com" (actual job listed on the program for a player), it is actually a pretty accurate portrayal of 1890s base ball (it was two words back then).
Normally these teams play one another, but Saturday we got a special treat. The Stogies of Santa Clara County (a regular Vintage team) organized a charity game against some retired "Legends" of baseball. Amongst these Legends are HOFers like Vida Blue, Rollie Fingers, Gaylord Perry and Jeff Kent. They also had Brady Anderson, who is legendary for his sideburns.
From L-R: Vida Blue, Gaylord Perry, Bill Lee, Lee Smith, Darryl Fatty Fat Fat Evans, Jeff Kent, then a bunch of dudes I can't identify
Lemme give you a run down of some antiquated rules, terms, and equipment used by these jamooks (all research done by Farthammer and phillas was carried out by tracking down officials of the league and interviewing them. When we realized that wouldn't work, we googled.) Please continue after the jump.
EQUIPMENT - Uniforms are super baggy, most likely woven from burlap sacks the Yankees donated from their surplus of baby-stealing sacks. The Yankees would drink the blood of the youth to appease their dark lord Beelzebub, which is how they became so dominant. Mitts were a new-found novelty in the late 1800s; players would come to the games straight from working in the fields or at the factory, so they used said gloves to play ball. You are probably saying to yourself "wow, work gloves don't seem like they offer much padding or have any webbing." Well guess what, dmac and NJPANick- you are right. We'll talk about that later. Bats were usually over 40 oz and were 36 inches in length. The handle was almost as fat as the end of the bat. The ball itself was bigger than today's ball, had lemon-peel shaped stitching and was the only ball used for the entire game. This was because the hand-stitched balls were expensive, so teams couldn't afford more than one.
TERMS - Wow, these are wacky. I won't list all of them, but here are some choice ones:
- Artist - a good player
- Basetender - Infielder
- Boodler - Ungentlemanly play
- Bowler/Hurler/Feeder - Pitcher
- Ginger - Enthusiastic play
- Muckle - Power Hitter (I want this term to come back)
- Muffin - Enthusiastic but unskilled player (Eckstein is a muffin!)
- Rover - SS
- "Show a little ginger" - play harder or smarter
- Striker - Hitter
- Whitewash - this can either be used to describe an entire no-hitter, or just holding a team scoreless for one inning
RULES - Even wackier than terms. Check out some of this tomfoolery:
- 7 balls for a walk, 3 strikes for an out
- Foul balls are not strikes, but if one was caught after only one bounce it was an out
- Every batter gets to pick either a high strike zone or low strike zone to be called on them by the umpire. High = belt to shoulders. Low = belt to knees.
- Bean Balls are not walks. They are simply counted as balls.
- No balk rule, so "quick pitches" and "fake pitches" are legal. So is the Rookie of the Year hidden-ball trick!
- If the umpire misses a call, he can consult with players or the fans (!) for help.
- There is only one umpire, and he stands 15-20 feet away to the side of the catcher.
- He also wears old-west formal wear (red vest, pocket watch, gray slacks, black cowboy hat, black trench coat) and smokes a cigar.
Remember how I said they used tiny-ass gardening gloves? Well imagine trying to field a throw from SS, or catch a line drive with those things. Basically these guys play baseball bare-handed. The top of the first inning consisted of 11 runs scored by the Stogies off of Gaylord Perry. They scored these runs with ground balls and weak pop-ups because everyone was scared of the ball. Apparently this is what actually used to happen all the time. The same hand stitched ball being used for every pitch and heavy-ass bats meant that HRs were extremely rare, so everyone scores on basehits and gets super-aggressive on the basepaths. It's like Joe Morgan's wet dream (BONUS JOE MORGAN RELATED STORY AT THE END). After the Legends were retired 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first, we all feared a rout. However, the umpire assured us the Legends would come back, since every game started this way apparently. Sure enough, shit evened out. I will touch upon some highlights instead of relaying every play:
- Jeff Kent lets his competitiveness show even in a charity game. At different points, he A) kicked the ball away from a fielder to advance to third, and B) tackled an opposing runner to slow him down. (The tackle was harlem-globetrotter style and all in good fun, but still. It was a good hit and totally saved a run)
- I forgot to add this in the rules section, but the bases are not secured to the ground. They are just bags of dirt placed on the ground. This caused some hijinks to ensue when players would kick the bag or pick them up.
- Vince Coleman pulled a hamstring and had to be escorted off the field
- We had an official FIST call by the announcer
- The Stogies took a game against 70-year olds way too seriously. I think their pitcher was hitting 80 mph at one point from 55 ft.
- Brady Anderson pitched at one point for the Stogies, and threw fucking hard.
- The last play of the game was actually pretty cool. Stogies were down 15-14 and had runners on 1st and 3rd with 2 outs. Dude ripped a ground ball that Jeff Kent stabbed at 2nd - it was the only hard grounder fielded all day. He flipped to SS just in time to get the out and save the game. He jumped for joy and was in no way kidding. He was totally excited to win a fake game of fake baseball.
Also, Brady Anderson was traded before the game to the Stogies for the Stogies catcher and a big bag of fake cash (not a joke)
Kevin Maas legged out a triple, and the Stogies manager wheeled out a huge Oxygen tank to help him catch his breath:
NON-GAME RELATED HIGHLIGHTS
- Beers were $5. This is far cheaper than regular games, and we took advantage of this fact. We also pounded 24s of Pacifico in the parking lot, just so we could say we tailgated at a weird charity event
- They held a charity auction during the game. Phillas told me there was a signed Joe Morgan ball whose only bid was for like $80, amongst other cool memorabilia. I went to check it out and noticed that on almost every item, the same guy had the top bid. Said man's name was Harry Lerner. I saw someone had topped his Joe Morgan bid with $120. As soon as I saw this, a small italian-looking man with hair on his neck, a mustache, a gold chain, and a Giants Jersey pushed past me. He grabbed a pen and the Joe Morgan sheet, and angrily scrawled LERNER in all caps with a bid of $150. HE WOULD NOT BE DENIED
- There was a Bill Buckner ball I really wanted to buy and mail to Liakos. But I didn't feel like spending $100 on a ball I would give away. Also, LERNER had the top bid and I didn't want to piss him off.
- There is a Rotten Robbie billboard in right field. This is a direct reference to Iracane. SUCK IT ROB
- We saw one vendor. He sold Churros. HE SOLD THEM HARD. He wouldn't take no for an answer from anyone. I am pretty sure he was paid on commission. At one point phillas took a picture of him, and he was so happy he gave phillas a churro for free.
(for more photos, check out Bruce Newman's coverage at the San Jose Mercury News)