By RON PRESTON
Just as in the movie “Field of Dreams,” a group of men (boys at heart) appeared on the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum campus grounds for a little baseball action.
To the average Joe, or the modern day baseball fan, there were few resemblances to the game known as America’s pastime as we know it today.
The Abilene Iron Cutters played a traveling team from Wichita known as the Bull Stockings. This was the fifth year these teams gathered on the second Saturday in August to play a full nine inning game of baseball, based on the vintage rules of the game from the late 1800s.
A nice crowd of cranks (fans) gathered on this beautiful afternoon to watch these fellows dressed in vintage uniforms play a gentleman’s game from the bygone years.
The few resemblances were: there were nine players on the field in roughly the same positions of today, wooden bats used by the strikers (hitters), an umpire (only one), and the team scoring the most runs won the game.
From there, there were several differences in the vintage era game versus today’s version. For example, the ball (approximately the size of a softball, but made out of one piece of cloth around the core of the ball (thus making it softer) was thrown underhand by the pitcher to the striker.
If the striker hits the ball it can be caught by a fielder in the air or on bounce for an out. That’s right. In those days the ball could actually hit the ground or any other
obstruction such as a tree and if the fielder caught the ball on only one bounce, the striker was out.
Everyone on the team batted when it was their team’s turn whether they played in the field or not.
One of the differences that most people noticed was the absence of baseball gloves. Gloves as we know them today did not appear until well after the turn of the century. In these vintage games there are no gloves used, even by the catcher. Each player was expected to catch the thrown or hit ball barehanded or more easily on the one bounce.
Stealing bases to gain an advantage was not allowed and sliding into a base to avoid a tag didn’t appear until the “cheating” years of the late 1800’s around 1889 or 1890.
At Saturday’s game there was no George Brett, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle around but the Abilene Iron Cutters had suck veterans as Brad “Speed” Anderson, Chad “The Ghost” Volkman, Brad “Big Shoes” Berry, Will “The Brute” Burton, Billy “The Kid” Hansen, Jarred “Miracle Man” Waite, Nolan “Baby Bear” Berry, Jeff “Mailman” Chaput and Bob “The Mule” Mikulecky.
Manager Hank “Hammerin’ Hank” Sanchez had bench players that got into the action as well. Dan “Lightning” Mathers, Tate “Chubby” Berry, Roman “Romeo” Sanchez and Wyatt “Dice” Youtsey rounded out the local team.
Bob Garrett of Wichita was the umpire, who stood off to the side of the plate to call balls and strikes and waved his red bandana when an out was made by the defensive team.
Abilene struck early and maintained an advantage in hitting and defense to win 14-7.
The cranks got into the action of the game by getting onto the umpire for his calls and also the players for not catching the ball or perceived lack of hustle. There was one interlude where the umpire had to quiet the crowd and the teams alike over an interpretation of the one bounce rule.
The Eisenhower Presidential Library Museum staff built the area and people did come to enjoy an afternoon of nostalgia and fun. As the players shook hands following the game you could hear “see ya next year” coming from the team members..