Why the “Stags”?
Team names were not necessarily the standard in the civil war era, but they were by no means uncommon. Those who did use a team nickname usually based it on something their town was specifically known for. Sometimes that was a particular industry. Belleville, in the day, was a great brewery town, with as many as a dozen operating breweries within its corporate limits, the most notable among these was the Stag Brewery which lasted into the 1990s. In addition, Belleville used to have a Class D minor league affiliate of the St. Louis Browns known as the Stags, which played at Stag Field where the Auffenberg used car lot currently sits at the intersection of Route 159 and IL 13. The Stags continued to exist as an independent team even after the Browns moved to Baltimore.
How is vintage base ball different from the modern game?
To see a game in person, you would recognize it as baseball. But, strategically, you can’t really compare it to the modern game. Vintage teams can follow any set of past rules from different eras, but the more serious teams (and those within a near proximity) follow those rules written in 1860. You’ll find the rules elsewhere in this program. Here are a few highlights:
- The hurler (pitcher) throws underhand with the intent of putting the ball where the striker (batter) wants it.
- It’s still three strikes your out, but called strikes are up to the arbiter’s discretion. He won’t call a strike unless, in his opinion, the striker has stood there watching too many good ones go by. Then he’ll start calling strikes on you. And it takes six balls to get walked.
- You can’t over-run first base.
- Wherever the ball hits the ground first determines whether it’s fair or foul. It could hit three feet in front of the plate and roll into foul territory, but it would still be a fair ball.
- If a struck ball is caught on one bound (bounce), the striker is out.
BALLS – Bats made to 1860s specifications are slightly larger and heavier than a modern ball. They’re firm, but their yarn “guts” soften up some after a few good whacks with the ol’ hickory. They still hurt … just a little.
BATS – Vintage ballists use wooden bats only. They are not too dissimilar from modern bats in length and basic shape, though 19th century bats generally had less of a taper from barrel to handle. Vintage base ball suppliers and other bat companies make bats to the varying specifications common throughout the game’s long evolution. Some players you’ll see here are actually swinging modern wooden bats, but labels and other markings have been sanded off and the bat restained, or even painted, to historic specifications. Still other players you see may be using bats they’ve hand hewn on their own.
GLOVES – Gloves were introduced and mostly just for catchers in the early 1880s. They were mostly fingerless and made of buckskin – nothing like what you would recognize as a baseball mitt. They were not standard equipment until the late 1880s and early 1890s. Ballists of the 1860s game played bare handed. So do we.