Sunday, July 10, 2005

Base Ball

July 9, 1884: Kit Hartman here, sportswriter for the Boston Traveler newspaper, about to head south to East Providence, Rhode Island for a so-called "Base Ball" game between the New York Gothams and the Providence Grays.

Yesterday, Saturday, July 9, after a brief bird-watching stop at Blacks Creek and Wollaston Beach in Quincy, Jake & Rose and Helen & I motored south to East Providence to watch a couple of Vintage Base Ball games between the 1884 Providence Grays and the 1864 New York Gothams. John Hyslop, a childhood friend of Rose's, plays for the New York Gothams. His baseball nickname, "Stacks," refers to his job as a librarian and archivist.

Going to a vintage base ball game was something I had wanted to do since the summer of 2003, when Helen and I were visiting Helen's dad and stepmother in Ann Arbor, Michigan and we went to Greenfield Village, a "living history" museum created by Henry Ford in nearby Dearborn. On the day we were there, a vintage game was scheduled, but the timing wasn't quite right so we didn't see the game.

Since the ballplayers would be decked out in their 19th century duds, I decided to paste on my Billionaires for Bush mustache and wear a set of braces and a skally cap I had bought the day before at Boomerang's thrift shop. I was the only spectator so garbed. When people asked who I was, I variously replied that I was a reporter for the Boston Traveler or a scout from the Cincinatti River Pilots Base Ball Club on an east-coast trip in search of new talent.

The games took place at Mello Field in East Providence, Rhode Island.

Today's exhibition was a doubleheader. The first game was played by 1884 rules, which is the game played by the host Providence Grays. (The Grays are named for the 1884 National League champions.) Under 1884 rules, pitches are delivered overhand, the batter may request a high or a low pitch, foul balls are not strikes, a walk comes after six balls instead of four, and there is no infield fly rule. Oh: and the players do not wear gloves or mitts (except for the catcher, who wore a thin leather glove scarcely bigger than a standard IsotonerTM). The Grays won the game by a wide margin.

New York Gothams hurler Ken "Trolley Car" Schlapp. Note: No gloves.

The second game was played by 1864 rules, which is the game that the visiting New York Gothams play. In this game, pitches are delivered underhand, fly balls may be caught on one bounce for an out, balls landing in fair territory are fair, regardless of where they bounce, and over-running first base is not permitted. And, no gloves or mitts. This game was closer, but the Grays won again.

"Trolley Car" fires an inside pitch to a Providence batsman.

During the first inning of the 1864 game, Gothams player Joel "Digits" Leary severely injured his ankle sliding into second base. The injury was so serious that his fellow Gothams called 911; a fire truck and ambulance responded. Reports from the hospital were that Leary broke his ankle in two places and may need surgery. (Ironically, in his real life "Digits" is an actuary, which is consistently ranked as one of the world's safest professions.)

In the 1864 game, the umpire (in straw hat) stands over to the side of home plate.

After the games, Jake & Rose, John "Stacks" Hyslop and his wife Carey, and Helen and I went for Cambodian and Thai food at Apsara, in the Elmwood neighborhood of Providence, before heading back to Boston.

A Providence Grays striker makes contact with a pitch from Gothams hurler John "Stacks" Hyslop.

EDITED 12 July to correct the spelling of Carey's name.

More photos at


Anonymous said...

Great Blog, Kit!

My grandfather used to go to Grays games growing up in Providence! (Circa 1915, I gues.) They were out of the Natl League by then, but in (I think) the International League and still playing good base-ball.


Anonymous said...

I must commend you on your use of the trademark to ensure fidelity of a brand name.

By the way the name's Carey. The dinner was very good and I recommend it if you can find it. The Mighty Digits had surgery and we hope for a speedy recovery. During his recovery he must umpire all home games including this Sunday's at Central Park, 10 in the am. For more information check out

C - Log said...

Thanks for the correction, Stacks. I should have fact-checked it before publishing. Got-R-corrected now.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Hartman,
You are a true 19th century gentleman.

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