No spitting, cussing, or hooliganism or wagering allowed. Jacksonville residents got a glimpse into the past with the Jacksonville Vintage Cup Baseball tournament in Community Park this afternoon. “Honest”Allen Stare, local expert and umpire for 15 seasons in the vintage baseball circuit, gives history of vintage baseball in the Jacksonville area. “Vintage baseball started in Jacksonville in 2005 by Mike Sieving. Mike put together a club that lasted a couple of years called the Orphans and he contacted me about being an umpire. I got the bug and continued to umpire after the Orphans folded. I’m in 15th season as a vintage baseball umpire. I’ve had the good fortune all over the Midwest, down in Florida, Ohio, Kansas, Branson, Missouri – there are just a lot of good opportunities to be a vintage baseball player and as an umpire.”
Stare says the vintage baseball leagues play under 1858 rules that were first established and codified by the Knickerbocker Baseball Club of New York by a man named Doc Adams. Adams established the common set of rules out of which the modern game of baseball was born. There are many marked differences between the modern era game and the 1858 game. Balls and strikes aren’t called, as they were deemed rude and “ungentlemanly” back then. The pitcher had to cater to batters. The umpire acted solely as a figurehead, and often was simply the mayor of the town that the game was being played in. Equipment was different but the 1858 rules had specific requirements. Despite the rules, baseball was viewed simply as an exercise and not the edgy competition it became with the modern game.
Stare says that vintage baseball thrives throughout the U.S. “We are playing with a set of rules that were only really used about 18 months. We’ve been playing with it now for about 30 years trying to get it right. Vintage baseball is growing – more clubs are being added. It’s a fast-paced game compared to modern baseball. It’s something that moves because you don’t have the pitching like modern baseball. The pitcher is just a feeder to get the play started. There’s a lot of action that makes it fun for the players and for the spectators as well.”
Stare says the extreme popularity has brought about an annual vintage baseball World Series in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Vintage baseball is largely seen around massive Civil War re-enactments throughout the U.S. Because of the rules used.
It’s also not just a “gentleman’s club” either. “Going back to the 1830s and the 1840s, it pretty much was a manly sport. it was about health and masculinity and competition. A lot of ladies were interested in it as well. Actually, in the 1860s, Vasser College fielded an all women’s baseball. There were women playing but it was predominantly men. Of course, Major League Baseball begining in the 1870s and in the modern era is definitely all men.”
Stare is a regular contributor to vintage baseball articles through the Society of American Baseball Research. The vintage tourney will last until about 3PM this afternoon, or a gentlemanly time.