"Take me out to the ball game" will be more than lyrics to a song next summer in Flint. In fact, baseball fans will be able to root, root, root for a new "old" home team.
The University of Michigan-Flint's Department of History is partnering with the Whaley Historic House Museum to bring Vintage Base Ball (yes, it is two words) to Flint.
Vintage Base Ball is a competitive, amateur sport that combines historic reenactment with team sports. Players wear costuming based on uniforms popular in the 1860s and 1870s to recreate the game based on nineteenth-century rules and customs. There are 23 vintage base ball clubs in Michigan that compete every summer at museums, parks, and tournament re-enactments across the state.
Andrew Clark, executive director of the Whaley Historic House Museum choose Lumber City Base Ball Club as the team's name. "We thought this was a great name for a number of reasons. First of all, it was a real amateur club that existed in Flint around 1870. The name also had historic ties to the campus and the Whaley family."
Wyatt Professor of U.S. History Thomas Henthorn Ph.D. hopes to see students, faculty, staff, and community members support the team any way they can. Preparations are already underway to recruit players, enlist sponsors, and educate fans about the game so the club is ready for its first game in May 2013.
"This will be a wonderful opportunity for people in this community to come together as we explore our local history in a way that is engaging and fun for everyone involved," said Henthorn.
Clark and Henthorn said they came up with the idea for a vintage base ball team as they searched for ways to expand the programming of the Whaley Historic House Museum offsite, and create an outreach project for the History Department that would appeal to a broad cross-section of the region.
"When fans watch the games, they will see more than a match between two amateur clubs. Attendees will also be able to engage with costumed re-enactors on the sidelines, and see the team perform interpretive skits that educate people about life and culture in nineteenth-century America," noted Henthorn.
The biggest difference people will notice in the game is the equipment and the playing field. Players usually played without gloves well into the 1870s. In fact, there were still a few gloveless players as late as 1890. Secondly, the field is different. Well-groomed fields with a defined infield and stadium seating were uncommon until the late 1880s. Even then, most clubs would not have had ball parks or stadiums like we have today. Most games in the early days were played in open, grassy fields with a few flags marking the foul lines.
Anyone with an interest in vintage base ball is invited to join. There is a $25 fee for students, $75 for anyone else. The uniform is provided by the team, but a uniform deposit is required.
Besides joining as a player, people can also participate as sideline costumed interpreters. There is no fee but they have to provide their own costume.
The new team will meet for the first time on November 14th at 6:30pm at the Whaley Historic House Museum (624 E. Kearsley St.).