In 1858 Abraham Lincoln had just been elected to the U.S. Senate, Joseph Naper was serving as the first village president of Naperville, and the game of baseball was in its infancy. Local sports fans recently got a blast from the past thanks to two vintage baseball teams, the DuPage Plowboys and the Chicago Salmon, squaring off on a field in the heart of Naper Settlement.
“It’s the game the way it was meant to be played,” said owner of the Chicago Salmons Ellie “Boss Lady” Carlson. “It had official rules in 1858 and those are the rules we play by.”
Games still lasted nine innings with three outs for each team. However, no balls and strikes were called, batters could be called out if a hit was caught on a bounce, and players fielded balls without the help of mitts. The popularity of the game really spread during the time because a diamond could be set up in almost any park.
“There was no television, no internet, no games, so what did they do? They traveled to neighboring towns and they played baseball,” said Alan “Crackerjack” Baldwin, Manager of the DuPage Plowboys. “That’s the core message to show baseball started here in America.”
Sporting hand-stitched uniforms while using vintage style balls and bats, the two teams showed why baseball was often called a “gentlemen’s game” thanks to the arbiter who wasn’t there to call runners safe or out, but to make sure every player acted properly.
“A player would not spit. In fact, you wouldn’t show your elbows in front of the ladies,” said Arbiter Ray “Never Wrong” Grish. “You may see today that I fine someone for showing an elbow or some other error in front of the ladies.”
Even though the Plowboys came out the winner in this contest, every player and spectator had an afternoon of historical fun re-living a ballgame from 1858.
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