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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Vintage Base Ball in the Diamond State

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147 years ago, a group of attorneys and businessmen assembled in Wilmington, Delaware, with the intention of creating a new base ball club. It was hoped that the new team, called the Diamond State Base Ball Club, would compete with other amateur clubs from cities and towns around the region. At that time, Wilmington was a burgeoning industrial city with its greatest period of growth having come during the Civil War. The city seemed like the ideal place to start a new club, as men returned from the battlefield and base ball’s popularity began to explode.

The Diamond States successfully competed for the Delaware state championship crown throughout the 1860’s and into the early 1870’s, while also competing successfully against clubs from around the region. However, by the early 1870’s, Diamond State had disbanded. The club reformed for one season in the mid-1870’s before calling it quits.

Because baseball history still fascinates many, enthusiasts began an effort in 2008 to revive the vintage base ball club in New Castle County. Several vintage club teams in the Mid-Atlantic region began taking shape in the late 1990’s and provided the inspiration for Diamond State.

The reformed Diamond States played their first match in 2009 and that year became a founding member of the Mid Atlantic Vintage Base Ball League, with 16 clubs from New York to Virginia. Clubs typically play matches according to the rules of 1864, though rules from earlier and later years are also used. The players use reproduction equipment and uniforms and the customs of the period to demonstrate how the National Pastime was played in its nascent years. As was custom during the era, vintage players do not wear fielding gloves, nor do catchers sport protective gear.

A few other differences:

  • vintage baseballs have slightly different stitching and are larger
  • wooden bats tend to be longer, heavier and fatter at the handle
  • foul balls do not count as strikes
  • the pitcher tosses the ball with an underhanded delivery to the striker (batter)

Diamond States’ next match is this Saturday, July 21 at 1 pm at Fort DuPont State Park in Delaware City. The town is also holding its Delaware City Day festivities that day beginning with a parade at 11 am. Diamond States welcomes spectators young and old to enjoy an afternoon of baseball as it was originally played, before professionalism forever changed the game. The club plays at least one match per month at Fort DuPont State Park and other locations up and down the state.

For schedule and other information, visit the club’s website at DiamondStateBaseBall.com.

John Medkeff is president of the Diamond State Base Ball Club
Photos courtesy of Frank Brevoort, III 

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