What is Vintage Base Ball?

No, that's not a typo; the game was written as two words--base ball--back in the 1800’s.  That is one of many fascinating historical facts about our national pastime and a moniker of the effort to bring back the purity of the game as it was played over a century ago.  The first vintage games were played in Old Bethpage, NY, in 1980 between groups of friends who shared a love of baseball and history.  These were 1860s style games that dictated bare hands and underhand pitching.  Recently, however, vintage clubs have been gravitating to the 1880s overhand style.  Players called “ballists” in baggy uniforms wield heavy, fat-handle lumber at lemon peel stitched balls that are caught with web-less gloves no bigger than a man’s hand.  The umpire, wearing his Sunday best, often in a top hat and tails, is always addresses as “Sir”. 

The Umpire is Always Addressed as "Sir"

125 years ago, baseball was the ultimate gentleman's game.  No intentionally hitting batters (and certainly no elbow pads), no showing up pitchers, no bench clearing brawls, no arguing with umpires.  Respect was the order of the day--respect for everyone on the field, and even more respect for fans, who in those days were called "cranks".  When a questionable call was made, instead of managers kicking around dirt and throwing their caps, they could ask for a "Gentleman's Call" and the Sir would refer to the players involved in the play.  Those two players, on their honor, would be duty bound to get the call right, even if that meant calling themselves out.  And if they couldn't agree, the crowd would be asked to make the call.  That's where the phrase "crank call" came from.  The Vintage 9 Foundation regrets that these values have waned over decades.  So, we're working hard with all the MLB players past and present who feel the same way, to bring events such as Legends of Base Ball Vintage Showdowns and the Vintage World Series to communities all over the country.  We're seeing these old fashioned values return and growing in strength in the areas we play.  Please help us continue growing this mission...  And stay alert while attending a Vintage Base Ball game because it's very likely that you'll be asked to be part of a real, live crank call!  Or even find yourself donning a vintage uniform, wielding a vintage bat, or catching a vintage lemon peel ball!!

To SPEC Replica 19th Century Equipment

"How can they catch anything with those small gloves!?"  It's not an uncommon question overheard at a Vintage Base Ball game.  The gloves have no web, no padding, and no pocket.  It's why there was no such thing as an "error" in the statistics books back in the 1800's.  Dropped balls are a routine part of the game, making it more lively, with more action, and more scoring.  And that's not all.  The bats weigh 40 ounces (true lumber), the ball is wrapped and stitched differently, pine tar (and a wide assortment of substances, since there were no illegal pitches in those days) is everywhere, bases are actually flour or grain sacks which aren't fixed in place, fielders put coal or ash on their face to reduce sun glare instead of modern commercial products, and yes, believe it or not, catchers don't wear any shin pads!!!  You'll see all this and more at every Vintage 9 Foundation event.  PLUS... You'll meet MLB greats up close and personal, even getting a chance at raffles, auctions, and contests to take home one of these authentic replica pieces of equipment, which you can have personally autographed by a Legend!

"The Way the Game was Meant to be Played"

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Baseball is a thinking man's game"?  Though the modern version of our national pastime has morphed more into a game of pitch velocity and bat speed, the roots of the sport were quite different than what you see today--entirely about using the brain to outsmart one's opponent.  At Legends of Base Ball Vintage Showdown events, you'll see this come to life.  For example:


  • Hitters can't call time out on a pitcher, nor step out of the box to adjust their batting gloves (in fact, they're not even allowed to wear batting gloves); the ball is always live so pitchers can quick-pitch absolutely any time and in any manner they wish!

  • There is no such thing as a balk, so runners have to be alert and on their toes at all times; you never know when the ball will be fired in an unexpected direction, or when a hidden or fake ball will appear!  Keep your eyes peeled."

  • "GINGER" was the word used to describe hustle in the 19th century... and it's REQUIRED.  If a foul ball is returned to the pitcher and he can then throw to the base before a runner returns to that base, he's out!


Don't you sometimes wish today's game moved at a similarly exciting pace and today's players would hustle like this!?

Player Code of Conduct:

Respect must be shown for the game.  There is no berating the umpire, the fans, or the opposing club. In fact, applauding an opposing player is considered proper.  Sportsmanship is paramount in vintage base ball.  Causing a kerfuffle with the umpire, taunting, and fighting are not permitted.  Clubs or players who breach this code will be barred from returning.  In vintage base ball there are no batting gloves, helmets, wrist bands, elbow pads, shin guards, sunglasses, logo shoes, pajama pants, gold chains, or earrings.  No stepping out of the batters box, calling time out, eye balling, or posing at home plate.  No curtain calls, trash talking, hot dogging, gambling, spitting, chests bumping, high fives, pointing to the sky, or kissing jewelry.  The original game, just as it was invented. 

Abbreviated List of Vintage Base Ball Rules

BALLS & STRIKES:  7 Balls = Walk, 3 Strikes = Out


OUTS:  3 outs retires the side.  Outs are called "Hands".


STRIKE ZONE PREFERENCE:  The batsman or "striker" selects his preferred strike zone.  EITHER "High" from the belt to the shoulders or "Low" from the belt to the knees.


BATSMAN HIT BY A PITCH:  The batter is NOT awarded first base, and the pitch is counted as a ball.


PITCHER'S BOX:  There is no mound or rubber.  A pitcher must begin and end his motion within a 4’ x 6’ box, the front of which is only 50’ from home plate.  And he (or multiple players) may be in the box without a baseball in hand.


QUICK PITCHES AND FAKE THROWS:  Because there is no pitcher's mound, there is no requirement of take your foot off the mound to throw to a base. Fake throws and quick pitches are legal.  Once invited to the plate by the umpire and a strike zone is communicated, the pitcher is free to throw the ball regardless whether the batter is ready or even in the batter’s box.  The pitcher may not fake to home. He MAY fake to any base and throw home immediately, though.


NO INFIELD FLY RULE:  The batsman is NOT automatically called out if he hits a fly ball into the infield.  Therefore, savvy basemen can and will “accidentally” drop such fly balls to create a double play--or triple play--situation.  From an umpire's point of view, the drop must be or appear to be a bona fide drop so base tenders (as they were called) learn to be slight of hand artists.


BASES:  The bases are not secured down, 1st thru 3rd are bags of sawdust, flour, or grain.  Home plate is a piece of wood cut in a home plate shape.  They will all move.  Watch for a REAL stolen base.


FOUL BALLS:  Not counted as strikes.  Howerver, foul balls can be caught on one bounce for an out.


DROPPED 3RD STRIKE:  On a dropped third strike, the batter automatically becomes a live runner, regardless whether first base is occupied or not.  All runners MUST advance no matter the count or outs, just as if the ball had been batted into play on the ground.  Again, savvy catchers can and will “accidentally” drop third strikes to create a double play situation. 


SCORE BEFORE FORCED 3RD OUT:  If the runner crosses the plate before a force out is achieved for a 3rd out, the run COUNTS.


GINGER RULE:  On a foul ball (officially called an "unfair hit"), runners must return to their staring base before the hit ball is returned to the pitcher; a pitcher may relay to the base to beat the runner back and, if so, the runner is out.


ABSOLUTELY NO ARGUING WITH THE UMPIRE:  Only the one pre-designated team Captain from each team may call for timeout or discuss a call or express disagreement to a call towards the umpire.


HIDDEN BALL TRICK:  Because there is no mound, the pitcher can set up in the pitcher's box without having the ball.  The ball can be hidden elsewhere on the field, i.e. under one of the bases, litterally up a baseman's sleeve, and more.  So be aware!  There is also no rule about "foreign objects" on the field.  Rules prohibit more than one base ball on the field at a time, but there is nothing in the books about foreign objects that look like base balls.  Ergo, surprise items find their way into games from time to time.  You have to be on your toes and both a player AND a fan; keep any eye out for who is holding the real ball.  Vintage Base Ball showcases many game changing (and hilarious) VINTAGE SHENANIGANS!