Baseball At Its Vintage

Savanna Prasun

In 1858, baseball was a very different sport. It was less competitive and, if I say so myself, much more fun to play. Baseball was a gentleman’s sport. It was about getting along and having a good time. Throughout history, the game has changed.

The rules were a little different. If a ball is hit foul, if it is caught on the fly or bound, it is an out. In modern baseball, when the ball is hit outside of the playing field, it’s considered a dead ball. When the ball is hit, it can be caught after it bounces once, and be considered out.

Anyone not familiar with the old rules gets really confused by that. It’s easier on the hands, because players don’t wear gloves. Oh yeah, there were no gloves worn at the time. Not to worry, the balls are made of a softer material on the outside.

Wooden bats were used. The unfortunate thing about that is that, when a strong hitter comes up to bat, sometimes the bats break. That could cause some damage, but we have yet to have an injury from broken bat.

If you notice, I said “we.” In Decatur, we have our own vintage baseball team. Although the name isn’t exactly the most intimidating, it’s our name anyway. We are the Rock Springs Ground Squirrels. We have existed since 1992 and we were founded by my grandfather, Lee Slider.

We play in a traditional game every year called the Good Will Match. It is where many teams come together to play a game. There are many different teams all over the Midwest and about two hundred nationally. We don’t keep score and all teams split up to form two different teams.

The Good Will Match is all about the teams having fun together. All of us have fun and, to put it bluntly, talk junk. We bring food and we eat after the game. This year’s match was last Saturday in Alton. Turnout was low this year, we only had five teams represented and with only a few people from each team participated.

The Rock Springs Ground Squirrels/The Alton Giants/The St. Louis Brown Stockings/Lafayette Square Cyclones (also St. Louis)/ and The St. Louis Unions. Usually we have more teams than that, but this year, there was just no luck.

We all had a very good time. We spent all day playing ball and talking crap. We were making fun of each other and acting like children.

At the end of the Good Will Match, a new team is awarded the Gentleman’s Cup. It it awarded, “For a team that exemplifies the highest standards of sportsmanship, courteous behavior, and respect for others.” The Ground Squirrels won this year. To be awarded this trophy shows that you represent vintage baseball for what it is.

Our team, the Ground Squirrels, is in a bit of a squeeze. We need more players. All of our players are often busy, getting old, or both. So, I’m reaching out to all who are reading this. If any of you like to talk junk, not be competitive, and play baseball, please contact us on Facebook.

Look up the Rock Springs Ground Squirrels. All we want to do is have fun on the weekends. You will get to meet our teammates, all pleasant. You will get to travel through the state, playing many different teams throughout the year. After each game, we all eat and fool around some more. There is never a dull moment in vintage baseball.

Although our season is over, you can still sign up for next year. It’s been a part of my entire life. All we do is have fun and play ball. The Ground Squirrels though, aren’t known for winning. Hence the lack of the competitiveness.

I know I would be grateful for some more teammates, and so would many of our older players. So, if you want to have fun next year, please contact us. All of us Ground Squirrels, would welcome you to our weird baseball family.