by Noah Pflueger-Peters
The Central Valley Association of Vintage Base Ball (CVAVBB) is hosting a meeting in Davis on Saturday March 10th. Players will appear in uniform at the farmer’s market from 11:00 a.m. until 1 p.m., when they will move to Civic Center Park behind City Hall for an afternoon of batting, pitching, and fielding with historically-accurate equipment. All are welcome to join regardless of age, race, gender or skill level.
The association plays baseball by 1864 rules. Instead of gloves, players simply use their hands to catch batted balls, pitchers throw the ball underhand in a similar style to slow-pitch softball, and the umpire stands away from home plate instead of behind the catcher. The early game also uses the “bound rule,” which means if a fielder catches a ball after it bounces once, it still counts as an out.
CVAVBB channels the long history of the sport in the Central Valley. The first organized club in Sacramento was formed in November 1859 and the first recorded game took place a year later between Sacramento and the San Francisco Eagle Club. By the 1880s, local clubs had sprung up in Davis, Woodland, Dixon, Stockton and surrounding cities.
The Central Valley also holds a place in baseball history because it was one of the stops on the nationwide tour of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. They played, and beat, the Sacramento team on their way to an undefeated season that marked the beginning of professional baseball. Playing vintage baseball connects the present day to the past in a way that’s both informative and fun.
Founder Matt “Brandywine” Stone is a marine scientist who fell in love with the vintage game after joining an 1864 league when he lived in Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley (hence his nickname). Though he had never played baseball before, he quickly found a passion for the game’s culture, history and comradery.
He emphasizes that CVAVBB is an association and not a league, meaning the games are more about having a good time and celebrating the history than winning and losing. This makes it a welcoming place for anyone who is interested in the game of baseball and its history.
CVAVBB hopes to build on the success of its first outing last month. Stone hopes to slowly introduce the Central Valley to the early game and eventually recruit enough players to recreate historical teams in each city.
For more information on how to participate as a player, umpire, scorekeeper or historian, contact Matt “Brandywine” Stone at CentralValleyVintageBaseBall@gmail.com and follow the association on Facebook at facebook.com/CentralValleyVBB.