A Different Kind of Game

Vevay's vintage baseball team gives
area fans a taste of yesteryear

The league plays its game according to old-time rules

VEVAY, Ind. (July 2015) – Those were the colorful names of Vevay and Switzerland County baseball teams that “The Boys of Summer” played for back in the mid- to late-1800s – when baseball was still in its infancy as a sport.
In those days, the ball field was likely to be in somebody’s field. There were no stadiums; in fact, spectators had little protection from a ball in play while watching a game. The players also had little in the way of protective gear. Most fielders and catchers didn’t wear gloves, lest they be ridiculed by other players or even fans.

Photo courtesy of Thera South

The Vevay White Stocking Vintage Baseball team poses for a group shot prior to the 2015 season. They play again in Vevay on Sept. 27 in the Fall Classic.

Fast-forward to Paul Ogle Park in 2015 – the home of the Vevay (Ind.) White Stockings – and you’ll find the saying is true: Everything old is new again.
Formed as an exhibition event for the city of Vevay’s Bicentennial in 2013, the White Stockings are now in their third season as a vintage baseball club. They strictly adhere to the 1869 rules of the game, when there were no professional leagues, and the Vevay teams hosted an Ohio team known as the Cincinnati Redlegs, long before they became known as the Reds.
“It’s weird,” Andy “Barley” Haskell, one of the club’s founders, said of vintage baseball rules. (All players have nicknames, by the way.)
For example, Haskell explained the “bounce rule” that puts a runner out if a fielder catches a ball in play that has bounced once off the ground.
Other odd-sounding rules specify that the centerfielder must stay in centerfield, and that the third and first basemen must stand no farther than two steps from the bag (the shortstop can stand anywhere) – if the batter is right-handed. If the batter is left-handed, then the first-baseman and shortstop are restricted to two steps from the bag and the third baseman has the freedom to roam.
And games are only delayed in the event of dangerous wind or lightning.

Photo courtesy of Thera South

Ryan “Hannibal” Jesop of the Vevay White Stockings runs for home during a recent game.

“We play rain or shine,” Haskell said, recalling a game last year played during an “unbelievable downpour. We played in the rain until the lightning came.”
When it was safe again, the field was more like a pond, he said, but they still finished the game.
Haskell admits that he is not a great player, but said that’s the norm for vintage clubs.
“Typically, it’s just a bunch of old guys who love baseball but aren’t very good at it,” he said, adding that the average age of players on most teams is about 45 to 50. The White Stockings are one of the younger teams, with an average age of about 35, even though one teammate is in his 60s.
Josh “Flip” South, another club founder, said he played summer league baseball from about age 7 until he was about 18. He played on his high school team, but only as a freshman and sophomore.
Vintage baseball, he said, actually requires any modern player to go against ingrained instincts. For example, without a fielder’s glove, many players forget to drop their hands closer to the grass to catch a grounder.
But that’s OK, because the goal is to have fun, South said. “It’s not about competition. We have a great time, joking and laughing and making trick plays just to get the crowd to laugh out loud.”
That said, however, South admits he is looking forward to their next turnout: the Heart of Vintage Base Ball Tournament on Sunday, July 12, at Coney Island Amusement Park in Cincinnati. It will feature 12 regional vintage teams.
“We’re going to bring home that trophy,” South said. “We got a pretty good team. I’m really looking forward to that.”
Kendall Miller, director of Switzerland County Tourism, said she believes that the vintage games are a draw to the county.
“They’re starting to have a following,” she said. “It’s a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon. It’s history and sports all wrapped together. It’s a good time, and it’s fun to see how baseball was played years ago.”
Vevay resident Julie Greene-Perkins said she attends the games whenever she can and said it is lots of fun. “You don’t have to necessarily like baseball to enjoy these games, because its all in good fun. Very colorful uniforms and a laid back way to spend an afternoon.”
The tourism commission and the city of Vevay are supporting the team by helping to fund the White Stockings’ new uniforms for next season. These will be more authentic to the original uniforms, which are standard for the vintage players who mostly wear cotton and wool, with no modern fabrics.
While the team played its last home game on June 28, fans will have the chance to see them play again when they play host to the Vevay Fall Classic on Sept. 27.
For those in the mood to travel, the White Stockings hit the road Aug. 2 to play the Losantiville (Ohio) Blacklegs. Closer to home, they travel to play the Batesville (Ind.) Lumbermen on Aug. 16 and the Rising Sun Belle Rivers on Sept. 13.

• For more information about the White Stockings, visit their Facebook page or call Andy Haskell at (317) 409-3209.

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