As part of the celebration of Hoboken's 150th anniversary, the city will host a Vintage Base Ball Festival next Saturday, June 18.
According to city officials, the event will include vintage games played by 19th century rules. The players will use authentic replicas of 19th century equipment and wear 19th century uniforms. There will also be performances of time-honored baseball classics such as "Casey at the Bat." "Hoboken is going back to its roots by hosting a vintage baseball festival as part of this anniversary celebration," Mayor David Roberts said. This will be both a great sporting event, but a lesson in history."
Hoboken and baseball
So what's the story behind Hoboken and the first organized game of baseball?
In the mid-19th century, New York bank clerk Alexander Joy Cartwright IV grew up playing early forms of stick and ball games with young friends on fields adjacent to the South Street docks in lower Manhattan.
On Sept. 23, 1845, Cartwright formed the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York, which was made up of middle-class clerks, storekeepers, brokers in New York City.
According to many historians, it was baseball's first formal organization.
In addition to enjoying sports, Cartwright was close friends with many local firefighters and named the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club after the Knickerbocker Engine Co., a local firefighting unit.
On June 19, 1846, the first officially recorded, organized baseball match between rival teams played under Cartwright's rules. The New York Nine defeated the Knickerbockers 23 to 1 in Hoboken. Cartwright umpired.
The game was played at the Elysian Fields, near the site of today's Elysian Park at the intersection of Hudson and 10th streets. The story is that Cartwright rented the property in Hoboken for $75 a year to play "base ball."
Some different rules
According to officials from Flemington Neshanock Base Ball Club, an organization that plays vintage games throughout the region, anyone witnessing a Vintage Base Ball game played using 19th century rules will immediately recognize it as our national pastime.
The four bases are 90 feet apart, there are nine men on the field, and there is hitting, pitching, sliding and stealing.
But some rules and customs were a bit quirky by today's standards and often changed from year to year.
They did not play nine innings until 1857. Before that, the winner was the first to score 21 runs. Gloves were not used until the late 1870s and were not common until the 1890s.
Vintage Base Ball teams today usually play barehanded. Before 1865, an out could be made if the ball was caught before it touched the ground or on the first bounce (called the Bound Game). A foul ball was still an out if caught on one bounce until 1883.
Until 1876, a batted ball was fair or foul depending on where it hit the ground first. It did not have to stay fair past the bases. Balls and strikes were not called before the early 1860s, and then only at the discretion of the umpire.
The early 1870s saw limits of three balls and three strikes, and the batter could request where he wanted the ball to be pitched. In 1879, nine balls constituted a walk, in 1880 eight, 1884 six, 1887 five (and four strikes), and in 1889, finally today's four balls, according to the Flemington Neshanock Base Ball Club.
Pitchers could only deliver the ball below the waist until 1883. They pitched from a 3 by 6-foot pitching box 45 feet away in the early 1860s. The pitching rubber was introduced in 1893.
The Hoboken Vintage Base Ball Festival will have vintage games all day long using the rules from many different years. One of the games in the morning will feature rules similar to the first recorded game played at the Elysian Fields on June, 19, 1846. Another will be an 1873 game, where the batter calls his own strike zone. Ending the day at 4 p.m., there will be a championship game between the Hoboken Police and Fire departments, played according to the 1864 rules.
For more information on Hoboken's Vintage Base Ball Festival, contact Geri Fallo at (201) 420-2207 or at email@example.com. For more information about Vintage Baseball, contact Brad "Brooklyn" Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.neshanock.org. sidebar Festival schedule * Vintage Games all day at JFK Stadium, Jefferson Street - between 10th and 11th streets. * Flemington Neshanock vs. New York Gothams begins at 11 a.m. using the 1864 rules game. * 1 p.m. - Brad Shaw of the Flemington Neshanock will perform Casey at the Bat and give a short talk on the history of baseball, and the difference between the rules over the years. Also, there will be an appearance by Alexander Cartwright, whose great great grandfather is considered the father of modern baseball and played on Elysian Fields. * Elizabeth Resolutes versus Atlantic Base Ball Club begins at 1:30 p.m., using the 1873 rules. * Championship Game between Police and Fire departments begins at 4 p.m. using the 1864 rules. Description of 1864 rules: underhand pitching, stealing, everything caught on a fly or a bounce is an out, overrunning first is not permitted, foul balls are not strikes and no fielder wears a glove. * Meet and greet the Vintage Baseball teams - Willie McBrides, Grand Street bet. Sixth and Seventh streets across from the A & P. Begins at 4 p.m. Admission is $10 and includes a buffet. * Plus vendors selling baseball memorabilia and sports items.