By: Travis Larner
Andrew Tidwell, a former Newark Pilot from the 2011 championship team, remains active in the baseball scene. While some may join slow-slow pitch softball teams or adult baseball teams, Andrew took a different route playing the game how it used to be played in the beginning. Although playing baseball without gloves or the ability to slide may be difficult to imagine, Andrew and his teammates rise to the challenge while paying homage to the orignal ballplayers. He was more than willing to share his experience and shed some light on how the game is played.
Q: What is the name of your team/league in which you compete?
Our team is named the Canton Cornshuckers. Canton Michigan was one of the largest growers of sweet corn in Michigan back in the 1800s. The style of baseball we play is from when the sport was first conceived / gained popularity, so the rules we play by are from 1867.
We don’t compete in a formal league. Most of our matches take place in Michigan and Ohio as exhibition contests. We do have formal events we play in though. First we play in a couple festivals each year which include gatherings of dozens of vintage teams who play 4-6 games over the course of two days in a historic place. We scheduled for next year to play in a festival in Gettysburg, one of the most historical sites in the civil war.
There are also tournaments we compete in with the regions most competitive teams. Each year we compete in the Michigan and Ohio State Cup tournmanets. And in 2019 my team won the World Tournament of Historic Base Ball which is a 12 team tournament that takes place at Greenfield Village in Dearborn Michigan every year.
Q: Would you compare this to an adult league, is it competitive? Or is this more for the fun & to keep the tradition going? Are there regional/national tournaments a team can compete in?
I would compare this to a different flavor of slow pitch softball. Games are still very competitive but more relaxed and sportsmanship is required. If your team gets a reputation of arguing, playing dirty, being unlikeable, teams will not schedule you and you won’t be invited to renowned tournaments.
Q: How did you find out about vintage baseball? Is there somewhere interested players can go to search for vintage baseball teams in their area?
I found out about vintage baseball when I was riding my bike around my hometown. I stumbled upon a game that was taking place in our biggest park. There were people throwing, catching, and fielding without gloves on. I looked at them like what are they doing? I stuck around for a few innings thought it looked like a lot of fun. Decided to get the contact info of the manager. Tried out, did well, and have been playing regularly ever since.
Vintage baseball is something that is fairly common. Odds are if you do a google search for vintage base ball near me. You should be able to locate a local team to play for or go watch. Also historic sites often host vintage base ball games to take place on their grounds.
Q: What are the differences in the rules between the traditional game played today and vintage baseball?
You play without any fielding gloves or batting gloves. Everything has to be bare hands. We also use wooden bats and a special vintage type base ball. Which is similar but slightly softer than a modern baseball.
There are no balls and strikes called or hit by pitches. Only swings and misses are counted as strikes (foul balls are not strikes either). Still 3 strikes and you’re out. But the pitcher is lobbing the ball in underhand (similar to slow pitch softball) so something is wrong if you are swinging and missing three times to get struck out.
If you hit the ball and it lands fair at any point it is a fair ball. (From a batter’s point of view if a ball bounces fair half way to third but is 5 feet to the left of third base it is still a fair ball.
Some teams play if you catch the ball in the air or on one bounce you are out. Others like my team play you need to catch the ball in the air for it to be an out.
You are also not allowed to run through first base. You need to stop and stay on the base, otherwise you can be tagged to be out if you run through. Sliding is also discouraged, especially into first base.
Q: What is the most difficult or challenging aspect of playing this style of baseball as compared to traditional baseball?
Fielding balls without gloves on is definitely the most challenging part. Another thing is that each team has their own small tweaks to the rules, stuff like how big your lead off is supposed to be, when you are allowed to steal, if you slide you are automatically out. Stuff like that can be tough to remember when changing so much.
Q: Tell me more about the uniforms, do you enjoy them? What is the reaction when people seeing you guys playing baseball in uniforms like this?
The biggest aethestic of our game is playing with wooden bats while hitting and bare handed in the field. It is amazing how much like a normal baseball game we make playing without gloves look. But we do have old school style jerseys. Newboy caps, baggy wool jerseys, dress pants, black leather belts, striped stirups, and all black cleats.