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Arizona Territories Vintage Base Ball League 2012/2013

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The Phoenix Senators and the Bisbee Bees before a game in the 2012 Copper City Classic.
The Phoenix Senators and the Bisbee Bees before a game in the 2012 Copper City Classic.

At some point in your life if you've been on the internet, you've probably seen that Conan O'Brien bit where he goes to New York to see, and eventually participate in, an old timey baseball game. (If you haven't seen that before now then I wonder WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?)

Well, a league like that exists in Arizona. It is called the Arizona Territories Vintage Base Ball League (ATVBBL), and it currently consists of six teams throughout the state that play Civil War era baseball rules and in vaguely period uniforms. For the past two years I have played in this league, and I can tell you from personal experience that Vintage Base Ball is really really fun to do, and is a way to play baseball in a sort of low-key way.

The season doesn't start until November, but teams have started to gather players, and I think you could be among them. The ATVBBL has players of all ages and genders, and is fairly inexpensive to join. Follow after the jump for some details, if you want.

As mentioned, the ATVBBL uses 1860s rules. Is there a better medium to explain them than a Japanese TV show?

Vintage base ball on japanese tv (via patmonahan1)

What, you didn't understand any of that? Fiiiiine The major rules, from the ATVBBL website, are:

Most games in the ATVBBL use rules from 1860. Some of the differences between those rules and modern baseball include:

  • Underhand pitching.

  • If a ball is caught on one bounce, it's an out.

  • If a ball is caught off a foul tip, either on the fly or one bounce, it's an out.

  • Balls caught on the fly or one bounce by anybody (players from either team, spectators, etc.) are outs.

  • If the ball is caught on the fly, you cannot tag up and advance. If a ball is caught on one bounce, runners may advance at will without tagging up.

  • A ball is determined fair or foul based on where it first strikes the ground. It does not have to pass first or third base to be considered fair.

  • Fouls are not strikes.

  • No overrunning first base. If you overrun the base, you can be tagged out.

  • No lead-offs or stealing.

  • Balls and strikes were not usually called in 1860. The hurler's job is to pitch balls that the striker can hit. The defense is supposed to put out the striker, not the hurler.

  • The umpire's word is the law! Only the team captain is permitted to speak to the umpire, who is always addressed as "sir." Any arguing with the umpire, profane language, or ungentlemanly conduct is punishable by a 25 cent fine.

There are a few more nuggets sprinkled in (like ringing a bell when you "Tally an Ace"), but those are the main ones. A full rule by rule list is available at the ATVBBL's website.

Bats, as you may expect, are wooden. Gloves as you and I know them are not allowed. You are allowed to wear a sort of leather gardening glove, but a good percentage of the league (including me) likes to go barehanded. This does not cause unexpected visits to Brown Hand Center, as the balls used are softer than regular balls. They also have a different stitching pattern than modern day baseballs.

Games are generally held on Saturday afternoons. Usually two or three teams converge on a park and there is a double/tripleheader of 7 inning games, and each team usually plays two in one meeting. Near the end of the season, there is a two day tournament held in Bisbee at Warren Ballpark, which has a legitimate claim as the oldest still standing baseball field in America. This tournament attracted a team from Illinois and a team from Colorado this past March as well as the regular ATVBBL teams.

As mentioned above, there are currently six teams in the ATVBBL. Four are in the general Phoenix area, one is in Tucson and the other in the general Cochise County area. They are the: Glendale Gophers, Bisbee Bees ,Phoenix Senators, and the Latin Stars in the valley, The Tucson Saguaros in Tucson, and the Bisbee Black Sox in Sierra Vista/Bisbee/Tombstone.

If you wish to join a team, e-mail the team contact listed on the website (except for the one for the Tucson team, that is out of date). Alternatively, there is a facebook group which you can make inquiries inside of. If you are interested in joining the Tucson team, just talk to me in the comments and I'll set you up with the right people.

Various snakepitters have partaken in this league over the years, and they can all attest that it is more fun than 14.3 barrels of monkeys. If you have any other questions, please leave them in the comments and me or somebody else will answer them.