Huzzah for Base Ball!
The shouts of “Leg it! Leg it!” and “nice daisy cutter!” sprung from the Borough Lot on June 25 during “Vintage Base Ball at the Grand”. Three vintage baseball clubs made an afternoon of it with the first game starting promptly at 12:30 and the last of the three ending at 6:30 pm.
The afternoon began with a farthest throw and fastest runner competition among the players. Then Tom Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs, threw out the first pitch on a beautiful day that was made for picnicking and baseball.
Passers by quickly became 19th century spectators, and in some cases players, as the Iron Diamonds of Porter County, Indiana took on the Mighty River Hogs of Midland in a exhibition of baseball played by the rules of 1858. The pitcher asked the batter where he wanted his pitch and did his best to get it there. During one stretch in the game, the Iron Diamonds pitcher was having trouble getting his underhanded pitches over the plate so umpire/Grand Hotel security director Jason Kladiva asked a lady from the crowd to show him how it is supposed to be done. Mrs. Michelle Fisher of Port Huron did just that on her first try.
These bare-handed players were able to put a batter out by catching the ball on the fly or on the bound and often pulled spectators in from the crowd as base runners. Several young kids were recruited from their picnic blankets and ran the bases with big smiles on their faces.
The second game was between the River Hogs andthe Welkin Base Ball Club of Port Huron. This time the game was being played by the rules of 1864 and players had to catch the ball on the fly to make an out. No more of that first bound stuff—unless it was a foul ball.
This game was going along smoothly until one of the Welkin players said he was distracted by the bare legs of the ladies on a picnic blanket behind home plate—highly ungentlemanly conduct for 1864. This player was asked by Mr. Kladiva to kindly go to one knee to ask forgiveness for his actions. After the player did, Mr. Kladiva asked that any other players who were guilty of the same crime to do the same. This cleared both benches, the players in the field—and even the Iron Diamonds who weren’t playing—and a large cheer arose from the crowd.
The third match was between the Iron Diamonds and the Welkins. This match was played by the rules of 1867 and now included the stealing of bases. This game moved right along with several runners getting into a “pickle” and numerous balls being hit far into deep outfield. However, the game came to a screeching halt at the end of the 7th inning with the ring of the dinner bell from the Gate House. Men haven’t changed in the last 145 years.
The first “Vintage Base Ball at the Grand” was declared a success by the spectators and players alike. As for doing this again? Mr. Kladiva has already been contacted by clubs as far away as Arizona and Colorado asking for a chance to play at Grand Hotel. Who else would like to try their turn at bat?