Play [Vintage] Ball!
The sound of the wooden bat hitting against the white, red-stitched ball sending it soaring in the air can be heard amongst the screams of the crowd; ballists in long trousers and shield shirts or lace shirts and knickers run for the ball as it descends quickly against a pure, blue sky; calls are made as the batter passes first base, rounding second, heading to third. A ballist reaches out his bare hand and catches the ball in mid-flight. The crowd cheers. Be a part of America’s Favorite Pastime with a twist at Vintage Base Ball games held throughout Tennessee.
First played in the late 1840s and 1850s, Vintage Base Ball became very popular after the Civil War and quickly established itself as America’s sport. Marvel at the uniforms, the rules and customs of the 19th century game.
Head to the Knoxville-based 1797 historic house museum that not only offers guided tours set against more than 100 acres, but also is hosting its opening Vintage Base Ball game noon April 12. Featuring the Ramsey House’s home team, The Knoxville Holston’s, the double header event will include games against the Holston’s and Franklin and Oak Hill Travellers vs. Dry Town Boys of Roane County. No formal field or gloves, original rules of play, and full vintage uniforms will help transport spectators to a time of how the American sport was originally played. Games throughout the summer will take place May 31-July 26. The museum will also have a Vintage Baseball Exhibit from the collection of Tracy Martin through May 1.
Visit the childhood home of Sam Davis, a 21-year-old Civil War Confederate soldier who was hanged for as a spy and not relinquishing information to Union soldiers, stating, “I would die a thousand deaths before I would betray a friend.” The 1850 home in Smyrna contains more than 100 original family pieces, located on a 160-acre farm where cotton is still grown.
The home is also home to the Vintage Base Ball team, Stewart’s Creek Scouts. See the opening game April 27 as the Scouts take on the Phoenix of East Nashville as the 19th century game comes back to life. The game is free and re-enactors play a full game in the back field of the Sam Davis Home property. Have refreshing lemonade in a souvenir mason jar with other concessions. Bring a chair or blanket and root for your favorite team.
Travel to Franklin, rich in Civil War history, and home to Carnton Plantation which was witness to one of the goriest battles of the entire Civil War. The Battle of Franklin was the bloodiest five hours of the Civil War which involved a massive assault larger than Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. The floors of the restored home are still stained with the blood of soldiers who were treated at the home.
Learn the history and then see their opening Vintage Base Ball game noon and 2:30 p.m. April 27. The 1860s-style game is free to the public and its schedule runs through Sept. 7. The home team, the Franklin Farriers, will play the Civil War-era style game in authentic uniforms with original rules.
If you want even more Vintage Base Ball history, one of your stops has to be baseball’s most historic park since 1870 in Nashville: Sulpher Dell. For nearly 100 years, it was a minor league baseball park. The original grandstand was built in 1885 but then rebuilt in 1926-1927 as a concrete-and-steel structure. Sulpher Dell is getting an upgrade with a new stadium which will hold up to 10,000 people and will be completed by the beginning of the 2015 season.
Have you been to a Vintage Base Ball game? Let me know about your experiences!