A different time, a different spelling and an entirely different set of rules come with the vintage style of base ball (two words) played by the Indianapolis Blues.
The Blues and many other vintage base ball teams across the Midwest have resurrected the 1800s by playing an old style of baseball using a set of rules between 1858 and 1869. There are a number of visual differences between the two, including the underhand pitching that no longer exists in today’s game.
Blues player Greg Simons will be speaking in the Red Room of the Bartholomew County Public Library at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, explaining some of the differences that exist in the nearly 160-year gap.
“It’s kind of difficult to be real concise with the differences, but I’ll try to, though,” Simons said. “The game really evolved and the rules changed a lot from when they first played back in the 1840s for the next 50 or 60 years until it got more like it is today.”
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One of the more obvious differences are the lack of baseball gloves. Gloves did not become a thing in baseball until the mid 1870s, according to Simons. So the Blues players play full games catching and pitching with their bare hands.
Simons grew up playing modern day baseball before quitting in high school but continued playing softball in church and company leagues. It wasn’t until nearly 16 years ago when the Seymour resident was introduced to vintage base ball while still living in Cincinnati after he read an applicant’s “other interests” section in a job interview.
Simons attended his first practice in the spring of 2000-01 and said he immediately fell in love with it.
An estimated 300-plus vintage base ball teams exist around the country, according to Simons, and there is even a Vintage Base Ball Association that teams can join, although only a handful of teams are currently members of the association. Teams also form their own leagues, but the Blues are not a part of any league.
Indianapolis prefers to schedule games and tournaments on their own anywhere within a 6-hour drive of the city. The team plays an average of 30 to 40 games a year and opened this season by winning both games of a doubleheader against the Eastwood Iron Horses from Dayton, Ohio.
The Blues were founded in 2002 after Greenwood resident Scott Averson was introduced to the 1886 rules at Connor Prairie in Fishers. Averson did some more research the game before forming his own team on the south side of Indianapolis and the Greenwood area with the 1864 vintage rules.
The Blues played a partial season in 2002, followed by their first full season in 2003. Simons played primarily for the Cincinnati Red Stockings and with the Buckeyes from time to time during that period.
Simons competed against the Blues once or twice a year until he moved to Seymour and joined the team in 2004. Both teams will be reuniting Simons at 10 a.m. Saturday to play back-to-back games against the Blues at Mill Race Park.
“We don’t generally play on regular fields,” Simons said. “Playing at Mill Race Park is a big open area, and that’s what we prefer. Sometimes, trees and things like that can come into play, and you just have to figure out how to work around those. You play with whatever geography you have.”
The Blues have a good relationship with all of the teams they play during the season, and Simons is looking forward to competing against the Cincinnati players he has known for more than 15 years. He still has the uniforms he played in for both teams and will be bringing those with him to the library to display the different uniform styles along with his Blues gear. He also will have a couple of the vintage base ball bats and balls with him on Tuesday.
“Things were just simpler back then,” Simons said. “The bats didn’t have the really skinny handle we have these days. The ball doesn’t have the figure-eight stitching. It’s one piece of leather they call a lemon peal stitch pattern.”
On Saturday, there will be a small break between the two games for anyone who wants to participate in the old-style game by throwing a few underhand pitches and taking a couple of swings. The estimated time for the break is 11:30 a.m.
What: Indianapolis Blues base ball
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Mill Race Park
Opponents: Cincinnati Red Stockings and Cincinnati Buckeyes
Of note: Blues player Greg Simons will speak at the Bartholomew County Public Library”s Red Room at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday