Vintage baseball plays to 150 years of Delmarva tradition
By RICHARD POLLITT
Jul. 15, 2017
EASTON, Md. (AP) — The first time the Easton Fair Plays baseball team took the field for a game, Andrew Johnson was the president of the United States.
Flash forward 150 years and the team is still playing, while wearing the same style of uniforms, using the same equipment and playing by the same rules.
The Fair Plays are part of a vintage baseball league that follows the rules and lingo used in baseball's early days of existence.
In 1867, the team's first recorded game was against the Choptanks of Trappe, but this past Sunday at Pemberton Historical Park, the team traveled to Salisbury to take on a group of volunteers eager to take part in the original version of the sport.
Organized by the Westside Historical Society, the event has been a part of summers on the Shore for the past five years. After construction took place in Mardela Springs — the normal playing ground for the event — the Fair Plays decided to set up shop at Pemberton, which has been in Salisbury since 1741.
"We called the team and asked if they'd come down and do an exhibition game for us, and they said 'Yeah.' They love to play, they do it because they have fun, and all we had to do was find a field for them," said Sylvia Bradley, executive director of the Westside Historical Society.
"We have some things that we do that are mission-dominated — it does something to teach, preserve or promote cultural traditions, and that was the goal with this event."
Although similar to modern day baseball, the game was played with a different set of rules used primarily throughout the 1800s.
A fly ball that takes one bounce and is caught is still registered as an out. There are also no foul balls and a batter can be tagged out if he overruns first base.
The rule that came with the most backlash was if a pitcher throws a fastball or "deceitful curve ball" the result would be a 25 cents fine from the game's umpire.
"This is just a different version of baseball. There's a lot more action (than modern day baseball), it's always going, and anybody can play it," Scott Martino said. "You don't have to be an expert ballplayer to play this."
But no fines were handed out Sunday afternoon, instead it was simply learning the game for those who had never played, while those with experience taught and displayed the correct way to play old time baseball.
"This is basically slow, modified pitch, of which there's almost none around anymore," Fair Plays pitcher Jim Apple said. "It's competitive, but it's not cut-throat competitive like modern softball got to be around here — there's a lot of camaraderie."
Along with learning the rules, fans and attendees were also introduced to a new list of terms used in the 1800s, when baseball was first played.
The ball would be referred to as the "apple," ''pill," ''horsehide" or "onion." A pitcher was called a "hurler," while fans were dubbed "cranks."
Even with all the "new" terminology, the game still ran smoothly, with the home team coming out on top 11-5.
"It was really a neat setting here. We've played in a couple of historical places in the past, and it was great here," Martino said.
At the conclusion of the match, the team lined up along the first and third base lines and chanted "Huzzah!" officially closing out the game.
From old to young, businessman to farmer, the teams were quite diverse, but it didn't stop the players from putting any differences aside and coming together to take part in the sport that has been present nearly 200 years.
"It's just fun, and that's the way it got started. It was a bunch of soldiers who when they weren't shooting each other decided to have some fun in the cow pasture," Bradley said. "It personalizes it, people ask questions about history without knowing it — everyone really just gets involved."
Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/