By Phil Hecken
As we near the end of Paul’s “blogcation” (as he calls it), I’ve tried to bring you an eclectic mix of subjects and topics, and I thank you for indulging me over the past month. It was a trying time, beginning on a difficult note, and I wish I had more time to provide the best content which Uni Watchers so richly deserve. I have tried to highlight the talents of a number of UW’s contributors, and I thank them for helping me by sharing their time and energies.
No month would be complete, however, without one main article from the man we know by many nicknames, Jim Vilk (known fondly to many of us as “Mothervilker” or “Movi” for short). Jim himself has been a very busy man, but when he promised me a story, I knew he wouldn’t disappoint. And he hasn’t. So lets give a big “Huzzah” for Jim and his look at olde tyme base ball. Here’s Movi:
“Huzzah” for Vintage Base Ball
By Jim Vilk
Mention the words “black stockings,” and you’ll probably get a raised eyebrow or an “Ooo la la!” from the bawdier lads amongst your circle of friends. In Akron, Ohio, however, “Black Stockings” bring to mind the great sport of vintage base ball. That’s right, two words: “base ball.”
Recently, the Akron Black Stockings Base Ball Club hosted the 14th annual Akron Cup exhibition at Stan Hywet (that’s pronounced “hewitt”) Hall and Gardens. I had the pleasure of attending, and was very impressed with this look at “base ball as it was meant to be played.” I’ll admit I was expecting a cross between a progressive Civil War re-enactment and a Trekkie convention, with some heavy, uncomfortable woolen uniforms thrown in for good measure. Instead, I enjoyed a day of good old-fashioned fun, with some surprisingly wearable styles. I won’t go much into the rule differences, because, well, there’s a site for that. I’ll touch on a few rules, though, before moving on to the uniforms.
For starters, I absolutely love the heavy emphasis on sportsmanship. Yes, there is one umpire for a game, but if he doesn’t see something, he will defer to the honor of the players to make the final decision on a play. Who needs instant replay? Wouldn’t Don Denkinger, Jim Joyce or Jerry Meals like to have fallen back on that concept? After the games, both clubs say a few words and offer a hearty “Huzzah!” three times for their opponents. Also, I found the out-on-one-bounce (or “one bound”) rule interesting. It speeds up a game where there are no called strikes, plus it adds to the safety factor when playing with no gloves. Instead of sacrificing one’s hands or face on a screaming liner, one can catch it off the bounce instead. As for the field dimensions, while the grass infield may be standard, the outfield is anything but. Got trees in left field? They’re in play.
“We just find a field and play,” said 55-year-old Rudy Frias, Sr., who played either hurler (pitcher) or behind (catcher) for the Columbus Capitals. He mentioned fields in other places during his 20-year career, including one which had a stream running through the outfield. In another, “the outfield was a hill. If you saw just the heads of the outfielders, you knew they were playing back. If you saw more of them, you knew they were playing in on you.” Rudy was a joy to talk to, as was Rich Blasick. Rich normally plays for the Black Stockings, but a broken finger left him relegated to umpiring and taking the time to educate people on the sport. He showed me some of the equipment, including the ball. It looks and sounds hard, but it has *some* give to it. One was still hard enough to be the cause of Rich’s broken finger, though. Rudy said some players could hit it to the warning track when they recently played on a minor-league baseball field. As for the bats, most are custom-made for vintage base ball. “We do allow some modern baseball bats,” Rich said, “if they scrape the manufacturer’s labels off of them.” Bats are supposed to be narrow, while length is not an issue. Case in point: Rudy may speak softly, but he carries a big stick. “I think it’s about 42 inches,” he said. “I’ve checked to make sure it’s regulation, but no one has said it’s too long.”
Now, on to the uniforms. At first, I was taken aback by the lack of numbers. After a few innings, however, I adjusted. In an intimate setting where the spectators can see the players up close, they really weren’t that necessary. Three of the teams – Akron and Columbus, as well as the Hoover Sweepers (from North Canton, home of Hoover Vacuums) – wore monogrammed bib-type crests on the front of their otherwise normal vintage shirts. Two teams – the Cleveland Blues (love the striped blue socks) and the Alliance Crossing Rails (shown in the outfield against the Pittsburgh Franklins) – wore what looked like turn-of-the-20th-century gray uniforms with stitched letters. One Alliance player, though, looked more at home in this century, as you could barely see his red socks. There’s a pajamaist in every crowd, isn’t there? Apparently, there’s a swoosh in every crowd, too, as one Canal Dover Redleg forgot to un-modernize his spikes. Egads, the MOTB is everywhere! Other teams – such as the Franklins and the Wyandotte Ghostriders, wore plain white shirts and colored work pants with suspenders.
I’d wear all of these uniforms, but if I had to pick a favorite, I’d go with Columbus’. Their blue plaid shirts and my talking with Rudy took me back to my childhood. I used to visit my cousins in Pennsylvania, and we’d play ball on one of two irregular fields. One was slanted (to throw to home from the outfield, we’d throw to third and let the ball roll down to home from there) and the other had cow pies, weeds and other distractions in it. My cousin Bobby was a real farm boy, so he wore lots of plaid shirts in contrast to my baseball t-shirts. He’d look right at home on the Capitals, I thought.
Think you’d look right at home on one of these clubs? Maybe you’d like to start your own. After a day of watching and learning, I’ll admit I started thinking about it…and not just because I like to say, “Huzzah!”
Thanks Jim. Great stuff.
Benchies from the Beginning
By Rick Pearson
For nearly three years, “Benchies” has been appearing most weekends at Uni Watch. While Bench Coach Phil fills in for Paul Monday through Friday during August, we present a retrospective. New strips will continue to appear on weekends. For further background, here’s the “Benchies” backstory and bios on the regular Boys of “Benchies.”
And here is the full-size version.
Uni Watch News Ticker (compiled by John Ekdahl): Utah’s new football uniforms will be more “player friendly“, whatever the hell that means (Kyle). … Winnipeg Jets “Est. 2011” gear, while technically true in this iteration, is probably not the message the fans want, right? (Ben Gorbaty) … Dodgers fans are starting to get proactive about the Mark Cuban push (Mike McLaughlin). … Take a look at the Nike Free prototype golf shoe for Tiger Woods. … Mike Smrek, the backup center to the 1988 NBA Champion Lakers, is auctioning off twelve pairs of sneakers worn by all twelve members of the team. It doesn’t say how he acquired them all. … “To celebrate Jeter’s historical 3,000 career hits, the Jordan Brand has teamed up with Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation and Steiner Sports to auction off this limited edition trunk filled with Jeter’s entire signature footwear collection from the Jordan Brand.” (previous three entries by Matt Powers) … Les Miles has assigned #38 to four different players on the LSU Tigers football team this year. This, of course, is allowed as long as they’re not on the field at the same time (Dennis Couvillion). … The Atlanta Silverbacks have launched a uniform design contest for fans (Andrew Rader). … Great pic here of the Iowa State equipment staff “gearing up” for the season (Corey Munson). … A 9-year legal dustup between Southern Miss and Iowa about USM’s logo may finally have been resolved. Lawyers are involved though, so scratch that (Jon Rousseau). … The New York Times posted an article about the evolution of the NASA logos yesterday (Doug Robb). … Wayne Hagin’s replacement? I know Paul would be on board for that (Tim McNulty). … Yadier Molina’s magic loogie (Brady Phelps). … The Durham Bulls will be wearing this Star Wars themed jersey on Saturday (Tim Corrigan). … Can anyone tell who makes NC State’s practice jerseys? It’s so hard to tell (Tom Arnel).
“Have you counted up all the ‘I expect’ and ‘I usually get’ statements in that long-winded diatribe of ego-centrism you passed off as constructive web content criticism? It’s going to pain you to hear this, but the internet doesn’t wake up every morning and tailor its content to your delicate sensibilities.” — John Ekdahl