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Base Ball Goes Back In Time


Steven Goode

February 13, 2010

Play ball. But don't cuss, toss your bat or get in the umpire's face, because that's not how the game was played in the 1860s.

Back then, "base ball" - as it was called at the time - was played with sportsmanship and dignity and the only name the players called the umpires was "sir."

"They played the game with honor," said Karen O'Maxfield, president of the Friends of Vintage Base Ball.

O'Maxfield is one of the organizers of the Coltsville Vintage Base Ball League, which will begin its inaugural season of play in the Colt Meadows this spring. The league will be made up of four teams named after those that actually played in Hartford around that time.

Teams will play every other Saturday morning and they'll play by 1860s rules, including underhanded pitching. They will observe the traditions of the game at that time.

"Teams will greet one another and applaud good play," O'Maxfield said.

Teams will also wear the baseball gear of the period, including white, blouse-like shirts and Chicago-style, pill-box ball caps. Organizers hope that the people who come to watch will get into the act as well and dress the part.

"People who enjoy the theater would enjoy this," said O'Maxfield, whose group is hosting informational sessions in hopes of getting the 60 players, managers and umpires the league needs.

Julio Concepcion of Hartford is among those who have already committed to play. Concepcion, 27, said his interest in vintage baseball began several years ago when he played in a tournament in Bushnell Park.

"You're really playing baseball at its finest, purest level," he said. "It's just an unbelievable atmosphere."

Concepcion, who has several friends committed to joining the league, said he hopes to play shortstop, but is willing to catch, even though backstops of the day wore little protective gear.

"I caught in that tournament, but I'm hoping not to do that," he said.

O'Maxfield said the league hopes to draw a good segment of its players from the city and neighborhoods around Coltsville but also expects participants from as far away as western Connecticut and western Massachusetts.

Ultimately, they hope the league can develop an authentic 19th-century ball field with a grandstand and become part of the experience of visitors to Coltsville.

"We really see ourselves as a neighborhood organization. It's not entirely about sports," O'Maxfield said.

For information about the league or sign-up sessions, visit www.friendsofvintagebaseball.org or e-mail info@friendsofvintagebaseball.org.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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