Baseball game in Grayslake played the way it was in 1858
By Dan Moran email@example.com August 18, 2013 6:56PM
Updated: October 18, 2013 2:10AM
To quote directly from the ancestral fight song of the Grayslake Athletics, their rooters hoped the club nine would “show some ginger now” as they took on the lobsters from the McHenry Independants on Sunday in Central Park in Grayslake.
Regardless of any red-headed connotation ginger has taken on during the 21st century, the expression apparently called for maximum effort in 1858 — the moment in time commemorated during Sunday’s tribute to baseball as it was played in the 19th century.
“On the hop! One hand! One duck on the pond!” shouted Grayslake Heritage Center executive director Dave Oberg at one point early in the contest.
“That was English?” said Daniel Johnson, captain of the Grayslake nine.
“More or less,” said Oberg, wearing a tweed hat and yellow vest in his role as arbiter of the match. Translated, it meant that the batter was out — even though he had nailed a one-hop line drive to the left fielder — and one runner remained on base.
As Oberg explained prior to the first pitch, the contemporary rules and nomenclature were all part of the Heritage Center’s ongoing tribute to Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War.
“We had 50 guys from this area who served in the Civil War, and we’re playing the game that our vets would have known from early on,” said Oberg, adding that the rules “are wildly different (from today). We’re taking a page from rounders, we’re taking a little bit from cricket and some of our own home-grown American baseball.
“Officially, these would be the Knickbocker Rules of 1858, one of the early, granddaddy teams of baseball,” he said. “The old Knicks rules are fun — catch the ball on the first bounce, it’s still an out. The ball’s fair or foul depending on where it first lands, no matter where it goes afterward. It really changes the way you hit (and) the way you field.”
The Heritage Center has staged 19th-century baseball games the past two summers with teams that honor actual clubs from Grayslake history — the Athletics and the Merchants of the 1890s. Sunday’s match was the first local pairing of the Grayslake and McHenry teams, with the squads meeting earlier this summer and Grayslake emerging victorious.
Wearing dark slacks, long-sleeved white linen shirts and painters-style caps, the players sported nicknames like “Chief,” “Jackrabbit” and “Mighty Muffin,” and the 100 fans gathered on a perfect mid-August afternoon were encouraged to use 19th-century slang that was printed out and distributed for the occasion.
More colorful examples included “Wasn’t that a corker?” (an observation made following a surprising play) and “Lay the willow on that onion” (an exhortation to hit the ball very well). Kranks (fans) were also generally instructed to shout “huzzah!” for such accomplishments as the twirler (pitcher) hanging a duck egg (shutting out) on a muckle (power hitter).
But even the best attempts to invoke the antebellum age were undone by 2013 technology at one point, when spectator Sam Roseman of Riverwoods happened to be shooting video on his smartphone during a disputed out at third base. Oberg and the two teams agreed to use the evidence in overturning the call.
“It wasn’t a force, but (the runner) stepped off because he was called out, and they tagged him,” Roseman explained. “I shot a couple of plays, and that was one of them.”
“I thought it was funny,” said Roseman’s father, Ted, “that a video replay was used in 1858.”
Oberg made sure to step quickly back into the past as soon as the dust settled.
“On behalf of Major League Baseball,” he said, “I’d like to apologize for that last half-inning.”