Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Monday before we left for Vermont, I was heading to J.'s last summer baseball game. A. occassionally calls me on my cell phone to tell me something before a game, so I turned on my phone to check my messages once I got off the train. There was a message, but not from A.; Jim Bouton and Chip Elitzer had left me a message.

I had emailed Jim and Chip a day or two before, sending them to a link in the Providence Journal about vintage base ball. The Hillies game on ESPN Classic was the best part of the whole Pittsfield experience. It's my opinion that the game was the catalyst for making vintage base ball more than a fringe thing that just a few people were paying attention to.

A quick tutorial for those who don't know what I'm talking about. Vintage base ball (the two words are on purpose) is baseball played with rules in force from before the turn of the century. There are roughly 225 teams around the country playing vintage base ball. Most play under either 1860s rules or 1880s rules.

I called Chip after J.'s game was over; he got Jim on the phone and they told me their idea. They were starting a a new umbrella organization for vintage base ball teams. It was going to be called the Vintage Base Ball Federation, and they wanted to know if I was interested in being involved.

Well, of course I said yes. Aside from Jim and Chip, there are around ten outher people involved including former baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent and Sports Illustrated's Frank Deford. Pretty impressive company to be a part of!

The VBBF was introduced to the world at a press conference in New York on the 21st. Unfortunately, I couldn't go because we were in Vermont. The press coverage was very favorable, with the Associated Press article being picked up in around 150 newspapers (try Googling the Vintage Base Ball Federation and see all the hits).

Probably the only negative about this so far has been the reaction on the part of some of the existing vintage base ball community. Many of these folks play 1860s style base ball; some of them consider the 1880s version too "modern" to be called vintage base ball. Others, I think, are reacting to a move onto their "turf" by the VBBF.

Fortunately, there are other existing teams that are supportive of our efforts, and the Web site is generating some interest from people who want to form new teams as well. Jim will be doing some interviews (he'll be on Fox & Friends on September 13). I think this has a great chance to be a big success and really promote the sport of vintage base ball. You can find out a lot more (including the plans for a vintage base ball World Series next summer) at the Web site.


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