|By Courtney Llewellyn|
Reminder Assistant Editor
LONGMEADOW As the famed striker steps up, the cranks applaud lightly. The ballists in the field prepare for a lively play.
(Translation for 2008: Manny Ramirez steps to the plate as the fans go wicked crazy. The infield shifts and the outfielders get ready to run.)
Baseball has changed a lot since it was first developed during the mid-19th century. While young players still yearn to someday play a game in a major league stadium, there are a group of ballists from Longmeadow who look at the game's fabled past as base ball and play it the way their great-great-grandfathers might have.
The Meddowe Base Ball Club (BBC) began last year after Mark "Cappy" Hurwitz saw a vintage game with his family. He thought the old game was "fantastic."
"It was neat, it was clever, it was different," Hurwitz told Reminder Publications. "I thought it would be fun to do. I made a few phone calls and I was amazed at the instant interest."
The 13 founders of the team finished their first season last year with a record of 10 - 8, but Hurwitz said the play "really, really isn't about the win loss."
"The first season was what we call a tremendous success," Hurwitz said. This season's goals include expanding the team a bit and playing more games in more tournaments, he added. The team has already added four new members this year.
The Meddowe BBC plays games based on the rules of two eras the 1860s, which utilizes underhanded pitching and is played bare-handed, and the 1880s, which is more like modern baseball with overhand pitching and the use of gloves, albeit thin ones that look like motorcycle gloves, according to Hurwitz.
Which era of ball is played depends on the home team, he explained. The team from Waterbury, Conn., only plays 1860s ball. Hurwitz said the Meddowe club is still finding out what era they like best, but said they do enjoy the 1860s style as well, because it's a faster-pace game.
"People are fascinated by the old rules," Hurwitz said. The old uniforms and equipment add to the fascination heavy wool uniforms, small brimmed hats, small gloves, etc. Hurwitz thanked the team's sponsors for helping them buy all the authentic gear.
The game play and the gear aren't the only authentic parts of the Meddowe BBC, though. Each member of the team plays under a 19th century alias. "Cappy" Hurwitz "is not all there" mentally; Alan "Bundog" Bundy's nickname may have come from "his inability to spell 'frankfurter'"; Mike "Double-Barrel" Lemke can toss equally well with both arms.
Paul "Slow Train" Sheehan is credited with coming up with the main team's nicknames, but Chris "Oakey" O'Connor comes up with nicknames for the new players as they step on to the field, and those names are usually very accurate, according to Hurwitz.
There's also Terry "Doc" Ditmar, who helps care for the team's various injuries. "Everybody gets the 40-plus-year-old strain or pull," Hurwitz said. "We still play like we're 20 years old."
The Meddowe BBC won their game against the Bridgeport Orators during Long Meddowe Days and have a few upcoming home games to play in Forest Park. On June 22, they'll take on the Hartford Dark Blues at 2 p.m.; on Aug. 24, they'll play the Whately Pioneers at 2 p.m.; and on Sept. 4, they'll challenge the Waterbury Conners in Longmeadow at 2 p.m.
The team also has seven dates on the road and will be playing in the Vintage Base Ball Regional Playoffs in Westfield on July 18.
"There is a camaraderie among clubs," Hurwitz said. "This is a lot of fun for over the hill guys."
And, as someone who's played both vintage and modern baseball, Hurwitz said old era baseball is more fun, hands down.
He sees that fun becoming contagious, too he expects to have two full teams of ballists within the next five years.
To learn more about vintage base ball, visit http://wiki.vbba.org.