By Kyla Hurt
A day of “base ball when men were gentlemen”
Donna Stare smiles as she summarizes the words of her husband, Allen Stare, saying, “Come out and witness early days’ base ball when men were gentlemen.”
On Saturday, June 19 at Community Park – across (east) from what was the Sophie Leschin Building on the grounds of the old Jacksonville Developmental Center, there will be a different sort of sight – think a bit like “Field of Dreams.” Starting at 10 a.m., the Jacksonville Vintage Cup will have two fields in play right there near the bandstand.
The Jacksonville Vintage Cup is a free old-time base ball event hosted by The Long Nine, a ball club based out of Springfield. The Ferris wheel will also be running, and free rides will be available courtesy of Jacksonville Rotary Club. Once you’re ready to watch some matches (they were not called games then), it is highly recommended to bring lawns chairs or blankets for sitting.
Then, enjoy the base ball! “ Donna Stare explains, “It was written as two words … We’re keeping it that way because we’re using the 1858 rules and back in 1858 that’s how it was written … Up until 1869, it was called a gentleman’s game … it started to get a little more organized. These guys play by the 1858 or 1859 rules. The main difference that people notice is there are no gloves.”
It will look and sound different – more than missing gloves. Teams are called clubs. Games are called matches. Bats are wooden. The ball is ½-inch larger in diameter than today’s ball and hand-stitched, but still has an India rubber core and wound twine around that. The stitching pattern was a 90-degree pattern. Players will be wearing uniforms from that era, others in more work clothing attire. The Stares
describe how there are theatrics mixed in with the sport of base ball, that they used slang like back then. They spoke kindly to one another, called each other “sir.”
“Because of no gloves, there’s a one bound rule … if it’s hit and bounces once, but is caught just after, it counts as an out,” explains Donna Stare.
“It’s also very exciting to watch because there’s almost a hit on every pitch,” mentions Allen Stare. It’s underhand pitch. The guy up to bat is the “striker.” The guy pitching is the “feeder” or sometimes the “hurler.” Adds Stare, “At the time, there were no called strikes or balls. They wouldn’t call strikes because they considered them to be rude.”
Donna Stare discloses that her husband has researched the rules and the matches more extensively. “He has immersed himself in it. He’s been calling games for over 10 years.”
He’s the umpire and his nickname is “Honest Al.” He is named as such because as the umpire, he is supposed to be fair and honest. He expects good behavior. For example, if a player should spit, he might stop and loudly interject, “Sir! Did I just see you expectorate on my field?!” Also, there is the neat option for those in attendance to ask questions. Stare will field questions from anyone in attendance. So, please come out and quiz Allen Stare.
Stare says, “The really standout guys had nicknames back then [1850s and 1860s] and the press would refer to them that way.” He adds that they all have nicknames when they play now just for fun. Stare points out that the club gives the nickname, it is never self-given.
“There’s a father/son duo who play with one of the clubs who are Creaky Knees and Squeaky Knees, [respectively],” he says.
The Stares encourage people to come dressed in period clothing or vintage dress. “It’s a fun, easygoing, laid back family event,” says Donna Stare.
Five ball clubs are committed. The Long Nine is one. Another is from Branson, which has some club members from Topeka, Kansas joining them because they’d wanted to play in Jacksonville. Prairie Chickens from Bloomington is another. To note, there are vintage ball clubs all over the country. Also, there are some female members.
There will be food trucks on site at the Jacksonville Vintage Cup including Willie’s BAR-B-Q and The Dawg Haus, plus the Pilot Club will have a booth serving food. Woodlawn Farm will be present in period clothing talking about Underground Railroad and the farm itself.
Donna Stare ends, saying, “I’d like to make them feel welcome … give them a good Jacksonville welcome.” Follow and Like “Jacksonville Vintage Cup” on Facebook.