Historical societies to host game
America’s pastime. The old ballgame. The crack of the bat. As the season is winding down, thoughts are turning to the playoffs and the October tradition of the World Series. As recently as the middle of the 20th century, though, teams from Lewes, Milton and Rehoboth Beach competed against each other in what was known as the Peninsula League, or the Eastern Shore League, playing for community pride.
On Saturday, Aug. 21, at 1 p.m., the Lewes, Milton and Rehoboth Beach historical societies are inviting the public to enjoy a game of vintage baseball using 1864-era rules, at the Virden Center, 700 Pilottown Road in Lewes. (For more about 1864 base ball rules, visit http://wiki.vbba.org/index.php/Rules/1864.)
Vintage ballists from the Diamond State Base Ball Club (BBC), Eclipse BBC of Elkton, Chesapeake BBC of Baltimore and, it is hoped, the Fair Play BBC of Easton (Md.) will participate. The players will be in their team uniforms.
Organizers said the games will go beyond being a spectator event, as the historical societies invites the public to participate in the game. There is no charge to watch the game, and refreshments will be served.
Interest will be judged as to the possible formation of a Cape Henlopen Base Ball Club that may participate in a vintage league in the Mid-Atlantic region. Those who are interested in participating as a player on Aug. 21 should contact the Lewes Historical Society at (302) 645-7670 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to www.vbba.org, “Vintage Base Ball is base ball [yes, it was spelled two words prior to the 1880s] played by the rules and customs of the 19th century. Our players (sometimes called ballists) wear period reproduction uniforms, either with long trouser and shield shirt, or a later-style lace shirt and knickers.
“They recreate the game based on rules and research of the various decades of the mid-to-late 19th century. The playing of vintage base ball can be seen at open-air museums, tournament re-enactments and city parks. It is played on both open grass fields and modern baseball diamonds.
“Spectators may consider vintage base ball to be a new sport, however, some clubs have been in existence since the 1980s. Vintage base ball is a reflection of how baseball existed at an earlier time.”
Nancy Alexander, director of the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, noted, “The three museums have been collaborating recently and have been trying to find a fun program that would involve all three organizations and communities. Baseball seemed like a great start.”
“There is a certain level of friendly competition between the communities that we thought would be fun to play on,” Milton Historical Society director Melinda Huff said.
To date, the earliest reference found to baseball in the Cape Region is from Feb. 20, 1874, when a game between Milton and Lewes was to take place. Other references have been found, including an 1874 game between Georgetown’s Central Base Ball Club and a team picked from Lewes and Milton. Played on Lewes Beach, the game was a blowout, with Central winning 27-8.
One of Lewes’s most infamous events unfolded around a disagreement about baseball. Ebe Lynch, Lewes’s postmaster, was manager of the town team when a controversy ensued concerning a Lewes boy being left off the roster. The boy’s uncle was enraged at the prospect of his nephew being left off the team and tracked Lynch down on Second Street, shooting him dead around 11 p.m.
The event was so sensational that the story occupied the entire front page of Lewes’s Delaware Pilot newspaper. The team was left in such disarray that it had to leave its semi-pro league, with Milford taking its place for the 1918 season.
Lewes historian Hazel Brittingham discussed the story in greater detail on a Lewes Historical Society podcast, which can be listened to at www.historiclewes.org/visit/podcast.html. Even small hamlets, such as Nassau, fielded teams occasionally.
For more information, contact the Lewes Historical Society at (302) 645-7670, the Milton Historical Society at (302) 684-1010 or the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, call (302) 227-7310, or e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.