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Play Ball 3/8 But Be A Gentleman

July 22, 1993

BLENNERHASSETT ISLAND, W.Va. (AP) _ No one will be sliding into bases when the Ohio Village Muffins take on the Blennerhassett Base Ball Club.

After all, it’s against the rules.

The teams will play ball Sunday the way it used to be - in the 1860s.

Equipment will include bats patterned after shovel and ax handles and balls made of rubber wrapped tightly in cloth. Gloves will be absent because they hadn’t been invented yet.

″It’s athletic and competitive but the primary purpose is to educate people about life in the 1860s,″ said Maggie Sanese of the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus.

″Part of that is the gentlemanly way in which the game is played. ... We get a lot of positive reactions to the nostalgic feeling,″ she said.

In 1981, the Muffins were the first team in the nation to play 1860s-style baseball complete with period uniforms and rustic equipment.

″Members are primarily volunteers with other full-time jobs,″ Sanese said. ″They love baseball and doing something educational for the public.″

The teams play by rules established in 1858 when the game was an amateur sport of well-to-do gentlemen. The rules include: Runners do not lead off bases; no sliding, bunting or base-stealing; and a ball caught on the first bounce can be called ″out.″ And of course, no swearing.

The uniforms are patterned after those portrayed in a 1866 Currier and Ives lithograph, including scarlet cravats, tall-striped caps, dark trousers and flowing shirts.

The game will be played on the Ohio River island just off Parkersburg in an empty field.

The island, which now houses the reconstructed 1798 Blennerhassett Mansion, was home to an amusement park in the 1890s through the 1920s.

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