I had the privilege of spending an afternoon watching vintage baseball being played at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, IL. Although I hadn’t originally intended it, my writing instinct kicked in, and I recorded some observations about the day, along with some pictures.
The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh…people will come Ray. People will most definitely come. ~Field of Dreams
Cantigny Park-Parade grounds
June 1, 2014
Today is all about baseball history here on the open fields of Cantigny. Under partly cloudy skies, warm temperatures, and cool breezes, vintage baseball will be played this afternoon. The first game begins at 11:00 a.m. with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball contest made up of a combination of the Rockford Peaches (http://www.aagpbl.org/index.cfm/teams/1943/rockford-peaches/2 ), the South Bend Blue Sox (http://www.aagpbl.org/index.cfm/teams/1943/south-bend-blue-sox/1 ), and the Kenosha Comets (http://www.aagpbl.org/index.cfm/teams/1943/kenosha-comets/4 ). There is a shortage of players, so a few of the men from the Dupage Plowboys are filling in at a couple of defensive positions.
As it is still early, the crowds are sparse. I’m sure that many of the people that are currently here are somehow related to the ballplayers. Watching the girls warm-up, I notice that they are using a softball, though historically the women’s ball clubs played with baseballs. The two teams are split into “Home” (Peaches/Comets) and “Away” (Peaches/Blue Sox). Here are some of the highlights of that game:
- The Away team scored first on several errors and led 2-0 after the 1st.
- The Away team scored another run in the 2nd, the batter reaching safely on a ground ball with the bases loaded.
- The Home team rallied in the 3rd, scoring four runs on five singles, one walk, and one fielding error.
- The Home team scored again in the 4th on a sacrifice fly.
- The Home team added four more runs in the 5th inning, scoring on four singles, one walk, and an error.
Due to time constraints, the game was concluded after the 6th inning. The Home team wins the game 9-4.
After a short intermission, the men’s 1858 vintage baseball teams take the field around 1:00 p.m. Like the women, there are three men’s teams represented: The Cantigny Red Oaks (made up of park employees), the DuPage Plowboys (http://www.dgplowboys.com/About%20the%20Plowboys.htm), and the Milwaukee Grays (http://milwaukeegrays.com/). The Plowboys, who make up the largest team, will split and play the Red Oaks and Grays simultaneously on either end of the parade ground. Prior to play, the teams line up, and the players introduced, each of them equipped with unique handles like “Cracker Jack,” “Snake Oil,” and “Iron Head.”
Because two games were being played at once, I opted not to keep score. I mainly hopped around from field to field taking pictures. I did quickly pick up on some of the 1858 rules of the game. One in particular is the one-bounce out rule. In addition to balls being caught on the fly, a batter (called a “striker”) is called out if a fielder catches the ball on one bounce. I suppose this rule makes sense considering players in the 19th century didn’t wear gloves. It was interesting to see some of the batters blasting shots deep, only to be called out when the ball would take a high bounce, giving the fielder time to get under it to catch it.
Several innings into the games, dark clouds began to roll in, and the rain followed shortly thereafter. The games continued on. However, I remained only long enough to watch the conclusion of the Plowboys-Grays game which featured an exciting last minute rally by the Milwaukee club, who eventually won the game.