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posted: 6/24/2012 6:33 PM

Teams say 'huzzah!' for vintage baseball in Wheaton

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  • Mike "Dead Pull" Collins, of the Milwaukee Grays, makes a play at first base during a vintage "base ball" game at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday. The event featured teams playing the sport under the very different set of rules as they existed in 1858.

       Mike "Dead Pull" Collins, of the Milwaukee Grays, makes a play at first base during a vintage "base ball" game at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday. The event featured teams playing the sport under the very different set of rules as they existed in 1858.
    John McGillen | Staff Photographer

  • Enrique "El Toro" Rodriquez, of the Milwaukee Grays, enjoys playing in a vintage "base ball" game at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday. The event featured teams playing the sport under rules of the game as they existed in 1858.

       Enrique "El Toro" Rodriquez, of the Milwaukee Grays, enjoys playing in a vintage "base ball" game at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday. The event featured teams playing the sport under rules of the game as they existed in 1858.
    John McGillen | Staff Photographer

  • A member of the Milwaukee Grays bats during an old time baseball game at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday. The event featured "base ball" teams competing under the sport's Civil War-era rules.

       A member of the Milwaukee Grays bats during an old time baseball game at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday. The event featured "base ball" teams competing under the sport's Civil War-era rules.
    John McGillen | Staff Photographer

  • Alan "Cracker Jack" Baldwin, of the DuPage County Plowboys, takes a swing during a vintage baseball game held at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday. The event featured "base ball" teams competing under the sport's Civil War-era rules.

       Alan "Cracker Jack" Baldwin, of the DuPage County Plowboys, takes a swing during a vintage baseball game held at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday. The event featured "base ball" teams competing under the sport's Civil War-era rules.
    John McGillen | Staff Photographer

  • A member of the DuPage County Plowboys hits a double during an old time baseball game at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday. The event featured "base ball" teams competing under the sport's Civil War-era rules.

       A member of the DuPage County Plowboys hits a double during an old time baseball game at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday. The event featured "base ball" teams competing under the sport's Civil War-era rules.
    John McGillen | Staff Photographer

  • The DuPage County Plowboys play the Milwaukee Grays in an old time baseball game at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday. The event featured teams playing the sport under rules of the game as they existed in 1858.

       The DuPage County Plowboys play the Milwaukee Grays in an old time baseball game at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday. The event featured teams playing the sport under rules of the game as they existed in 1858.
    John McGillen | Staff Photographer

 
 

The cranks cheered as the striker sent one deep and then legged it hard so that two aces could be tallied.

Confused? That's baseball slang, circa 1858. And it was heard during two vintage baseball games played at Cantigny Park in Wheaton on Sunday.

Home team the DuPage County Plowboys faced off against the visiting Milwaukee Grays for both games. The teams wore uniforms reminiscent of those worn by Civil War-era ballplayers, and the games followed vintage rules.

"I grew up playing baseball and softball," said Steve "Iron Head" South, a Downers Grove resident who plays for the Plowboys. (All players had nicknames in 1858.) "When I heard about this league, it seemed like a fun and different way to enjoy the game."

Vintage baseball, or "base ball," is quite different from the modern game. The players don't wear gloves or any protective equipment. Pitchers (or "hurlers") throw the ball underhand, as in 16-inch softball. Fielders can record an out by catching a fly ball in the air or after one bounce. There is no sliding or stealing bases.

"Not being able to wear gloves or equipment took some getting used to," South said. "But I think I like it more than softball now."

The Plowboys team, founded in 2004, includes players from DuPage County -- Downers Grove, Naperville, Hanover Park -- and beyond. The team plays roughly 20 games a year against squads from in and around Illinois.

"I like it because it allows me to keep playing the game even though I'm nearing 60," said Craig "Smiles" Kurey of Downers Grove.

Dozens of people watched the games from shady spots at Cantigny. Players said that sometimes the crowds can be as big as 250 to 300 people.

Ken Granderson of Wheaton said he'd gone to Cantigny not knowing that vintage baseball was going to be played.

"I just happened to walk by, and it looked so interesting that I thought I'd watch for awhile," he said. "It's pretty nice that they keep an older version of the game alive like this."

Others curious about what vintage baseball is like should visit Cantigny on Saturday, July 7. The sixth annual Northern Illinois Vintage Base Ball tournament will take place that day, featuring nine teams. For information, go to cantigny.org.

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