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Brooklyn Atlantics

Gavin Marlborough practices his swing with a solid wood bat. Photo by Mallie Kim

By Mallie Jane Kim

Fans of America’s “old ball game” watched a historical treat in Setauket Saturday, Sept. 16, when the New York Mutuals faced off against the Brooklyn Atlantics on the back field of Sherwood-Jayne Farm using 19th century-era baseball rules.

The two hobby teams from all over Long Island and beyond, hosted at Sherwood-Jayne by Preservation Long Island and The Long Island Museum, represented real baseball teams from the 1800s and played using replica uniforms and equipment. That means swinging heavy wooden bats and catching baseballs with no gloves.

The event was part of Preservation Long Island’s efforts to connect with the community and allow neighbors to engage with one of their historical properties, alongside their local partner organization, The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook.

Two historical baseball teams face off in the upper field of Sherwood-Jayne Farm.
Photo by Mallie Kim

Elizabeth Abrams, PLI’s assistant director for operations and programs, said the event was a success. “We got a lot of folks who’ve never been here before,” she said. “It is great that we’re exposing our organizations to new people.”

Abrams said it was important to PLI, which is a small nonprofit based in Cold Spring Harbor, to make the event open to as many people as possible, and their partnership with LIM as well as some in-kind donations allowed them to offer the event free of charge.

“When we have the ability to put on a larger event, we want to make it as open and accessible as possible for the community that we’re in,” she added.

Among the approximately 240 guests at the event, John and Rebecca Wygand of Shoreham brought their four children to enjoy the game. “A little history for the kids,” Rebecca said, adding, “We’re baseball fans, you know.”

The Wygands said they were supporting both teams, impressed that the players were working so hard and without gloves — jamming fingers is an occupational hazard — and in the case of one player, without shoes.

But Rebecca Wygand balked when her husband suggested they also support both present-day New York teams, the Mets and the Yankees. “No, just Yankees,” she said. “You can keep the Mets for yourself. No thank you.”

The Wygand family enjoys the baseball game at Sherwood-Jayne Farm on Saturday, Sept. 16. Photo by Mallie Kim

In the end, a tie between the Mutuals and Atlantics pushed the game into the 10th inning, with the Atlantics taking the win, 12-11.

At a display with historical baseball artifacts near the field, visitors could hold old baseballs and try out a real wooden bat. Gavin Marlborough, 7, a Nassakeag Elementary School student who plays on the Three Village intramural baseball league, enjoyed watching the game.

“I like to watch old-fashioned baseball,” he said, noting the jerseys were very different from those used today — they look like white bibs buttoned on to white shirts.

For his own future, though, Gavin said he prefers modern baseball. The wooden bat, he said, is “too heavy.”

On the main lawn next to the house, live music provided a backdrop for visitors enjoying food, drinks, tavern-style iron puzzles and a bounce house for children.

The Sherwood-Jayne Farm House is currently open on Saturdays for docent-led tours, and the grounds are open year round from dawn until dusk for “hikers, joggers, bird-watchers and nature lovers,” according to the PLI website.

Smithtown residents can watch the Brooklyn Atlantics play for free through October

By Sara-Megan Walsh

“No gloves, no steroids” is the motto of the Atlantic Base Ball Club, which has a classic approach to playing America’s favorite pastime.

Smithtown’s vintage baseball club team hosted a two-day festival at the Smithtown Historical Society’s Atlantic Park off East Main Street May 5 and 6. The Atlantic Base Ball Club is a recreation of the 19th century Brooklyn Atlantics, wearing period-appropriate jerseys while remaining committed to playing the game by 1864 rules. The original team was organized Aug. 14, 1855, and played home games on the Capitoline Grounds in Brooklyn.

Spectators quickly noticed the hand-made baseballs are larger and made of rubber, and the wooden bats come in different lengths according to a player’s preference. Under the vintage rules, the catcher and field players don’t wear mitts, but a batter will be called out if a fly ball is caught on the first bounce. Runners must be careful not to overrun first base, or they can be called out. Those interested can find a full explanation of the rules changes on the team’s website at www.brooklynatlantics.org/rules.php. 

The Atlantic team is 7-2 at the start of its 2018 season with games running through October. Admission is free. The schedule of upcoming home games is:

May 20 @ 11 a.m.      Versus Talbot Fairplays
June 9 @  11 a.m.      Double header versus Old Dutch Day, Providence Grays
June 30 @ 11 am.      Double header versus New Brunswick Liberty
July 14 @ 11 a.m.      Versus Red Onion BBC
Sept. 15 [day-long]    Smithtown Heritage Fair event
Oct. 27 @ 11 a.m.     Annual ABBC Scrimmage

For those interested in attending, all games are held at Smithtown Historical Society’s Atlantic Park on Franklin Arthur Farm at 239 East Main Street in Smithtown.

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Brooklyn Atlantics and Brooklyn Eckford teams on the grounds of the Smithtown Historical Society this past May. Photo from Tim Keenan

By Marianne Howard

Much intensity erupted when Major League Baseball announced the no-pitch intentional walk rule at the start of the 2017 season. Accordingly, I wondered about the changes of baseball rules and their origins in America. The Smithtown Historical Society is home to the Brooklyn Atlantics, a team of vintage baseball players, those recreate the look and feel of historic baseball. The Atlantics play the game today according to 1864 and 1884 rules.  The original Brooklyn Atlantics were the World Champions of baseball for the 1864-1865 season, and champions of their league throughout the 1860s.

So how do these gentlemen play the game?  I spoke with Atlantics Captain Frank Van Zant, known to his teammates as Shakespeare, about these rules and how they evolved over time.  In 1864, there were no gloves because the homemade baseball was much softer.  It was made of one piece of leather which was sewn together.  The pitcher stood 45 feet away from the batter, and threw the ball underhand, but with some purposeful zip and intention as to force the batter out.  Over the course of 20 years, throughout the 1860s and 1870s, pitchers began to cheat slightly and throw the ball sideways, and eventually quicker and quicker, and then completely overhand.  Since pitching this way is faster, it led to the appearance of the first catcher’s glove by the 1880s.

Think about trying to catch a line drive without wearing a glove as a fielder.  If you stuck your fingers out, you would most likely break one, so you had to make a decision to force your hand out flat to catch the ball and stick to that, an insistence from today’s Atlantics that those who play this way are truly brave and manly men.  In order to avoid injury, balls caught with one bounce in the field were also called as an out.  This rule waned after the 1860s, with the fielders considered less manly if they caught the baseball in that fashion. In the early 1860s, balls and strikes did not exist.  The calls weren’t “invented” until 1864, and at that point, umpires did not have to call them.

Pitchers could be throwing 40 to 50 pitches per batter  Today, a starting pitcher is generally removed after throwing 100 pitches. Therefore, generally speaking, changes in rules over time have been to try to find an acceptable balance between the efforts of the offense and that of the defense.

Want to come down and see the Atlantics in action?  Their next home game at the Smithtown Historical Society is on July 22 at 11am.  All  games are free, open to the public, and the players welcome questions from the audience about the rules and the game.

Marianne Howard is the executive director of the Smithtown Historical Society.  For more information on the Society, its events or programs, or becoming a member, please visit smithtownhistorical.org or call 631-265-6768.