Base Ball is the re-creation of the game as
it was played in the 1860’s. The Ohio
Village Muffins were the first team to play
the vintage game, beginning in 1981, and still
fields teams today. There are now over 100
teams throughout the country, with the majority
based in Ohio and the Midwest, and many associated
with museums or historic sites. And as in the
earliest days, all teams are amateur.
Cincinnati Buckeyes and their fellow clubmates,
the Cincinnati Red Stockings, play by the rules
of 1869 when playing at Heritage Village.
They also have special ground rules for the
Heritage Village field that are described here.
game of baseball is basically the same in
any era – nine fielders play for nine
innings, with each team trying to outscore
the opposition by hitting a ball with a bat.
But there are many subtleties to the vintage
game that spectators will note.
Vintage players do not use gloves. Gloves were
not widely used in the game until the 1880’s.
The bat is much heavier and more variable
in size and shape than a modern bat, and
the ball slightly larger and softer than
a baseball of today. Typically, the game
was played on any flat, grassy field that
was as free of obstructions as possible.
In the 1860’s, base ball was a gentlemen’s
game, and the players are supposed to act as
such. There is no spitting, swearing or other
action that may be offensive to a lady. They
congratulate their opponents when a good play
is made, and help the umpire make close calls
Only one umpire is used in the vintage game,
and he typically stands behind and off to the
side of the field. He is allowed to use both
players and spectators alike to judge close plays.
No hand signals were used; decisions were shouted.
does not call balls and strikes, but rather
can issue warnings to the striker (batter)
or the pitcher if the at-bat is not proceeding
well. If such warning is administered and
the offender not compliant, the striker is
either called out for failing to swing at
hittable pitches or is allowed his first
if the pitcher offers no hittable pitch.
If the striker fails to strike the ball after
three swings, he is out. Foul balls are not
counted as strikes.
The pitcher stood only 45' from the plate and
pitched underhand. There is no mound. Unlike
today, the pitcher's responsibility is to pitch
the ball so that the striker can put it in play,
and may occasionally ask the striker where he
would like the pitch.
A coin or stone toss preceded each game, and
the team captain could elect to take the field
first. The batting order is not restricted to
nine players, and players can be benched and
return as often as needed (this is more of a
vintage game custom, rather than rule). At the
beginning of each inning, the batter that
that made the final out of the previous inning
(as a batter or a runner) is the first batter
of the inning.
Playing defense isn’t much different, except
that outfielders generally must be straight-up
in their field and first, second, and third basemen
should be two steps off their base. The shortstop
can essentially play wherever he is needed, but
typically covers the hole between second and
third for right-hand hitters or between first
and second for lefties (who are often referred
to as "hooks").
In the modern game, runners that
run when a foul ball is hit and not caught for
an out can return safely to their original base
without fear of being tagged out. This luxury
is not available to the vintage player. If the
foul ball is recovered and returned to the hands
of the pitcher, the pitcher may make a play to
tag out any tardy runner that has not returned
base of origin.
Some of the more noticeable nuances to the vintage
game occur on the field. In the earliest version
of the game, players could catch a fair ball
on the fly or on one bound (or bounce) to get
the batter out. In the 1869 game, the one-bound
rule was eliminated. The
team captains decide which version to play before
the start of the game, though home field rules
are usually honored. But in either case, a foul
ball caught on one bound or on the fly is an
out, even if it is just a foul tick.
of the most difficult vintage rule for a
new ballist to overcome is that strikers
are not permitted to overrun first base.
does, he can be tagged out if he does not
return to an open base safely. Only in conditions
that could be harmful to players is this
rule lifted for our matches.
a ball is deemed foul only if the first bounce
occurs in foul territory. If it strikes fair
territory first, then goes foul before passing
first or third base, the ball is still in play
(it’s called a “fair-foul” and
often used intentionally by strikers who are
fleet of foot).