NJ baseball teams playing by (very) old-school rules — equipment and all
HOLMDEL — Who needs a glove to catch a baseball?
Not the men in New Jersey who belong to the Mid-Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League, playing by the rules of the mid-19th century.
Back then, players hit the field with bare hands. During the earliest years, catching the ball on one bounce registered as an out. The ball-strike count started when the ump felt it was needed.
The rules of 1864 were at play when the Monmouth Furnace took on the Hoboken Nine at Longstreet Farm on a rainy Saturday afternoon in June.
"Another thing a spectator might see is that you can't overrun first base like you see in regular baseball," said Russ McIver, head of the Furnace, born out of the historic village of Allaire.
The league stays true to the past as much as possible. Teams dress in makeshift old-fashioned baseball uniforms. Wooden bats and "lemon peel" balls are supplied by a reenactment manufacturer.
McIver noted old school base balls (yes, two words back then) would soften up as the game progressed. So unlike today, when it's preferable to be the home team, some clubs would hope to bat first so they have the first opportunity with a fresh ball.
Toms River resident Rich Wieland, another member of the Furnace, has a passion for baseball and history, so this league was a perfect fit for the 73-year-old.
"It's really cool," he said. "No glove, but you develop callouses and bravery."
When gloves were introduced into the game about a decade later, McIver said, they were still considered unmanly.
Elysian Fields in Hoboken is said to be the site of the first-ever baseball game in June of 1846.
To mark the anniversary, as they do each year, the Hoboken Nine will play a commemorative game. This year's match-up is scheduled for noon Saturday at Stevens Institute of Technology.
Also on WOBM: