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Area baseball takes trip back in time

Proper conduct was as important as skill

It will be one, two, four strikes you?re out at the ol? ballgame Saturday at Hanley Farm outside Jacksonville.

Just north of the chicken coop and west of the 20th century barn, revelers will return to the days when baseballs were handmade out of rags wrapped in leather and being a gentleman counted just as much as pure skill.

As part of its ongoing efforts in the Rogue Valley, the Southern Oregon Historical Society will be sponsoring the rare look back at our national pastime with a Vintage Base Ball and Traditional Games Day.

Vintage Base Ball (yes, it was two words originally) is baseball played by the rules and customs of an earlier period. For Saturday's action, participants will get a flavor of what it was like to play the grand game circa 1860. Also on tap will be games of horseshoes, sack races and other period-related events.

— — — Vintage Base Ball


Saturday at Hanley Farm, which is outside Jacksonville — at 1053 Hanley Road. Rules meeting is at 10 a.m., with first game — beginning at 10:30 a.m.

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Free for those who participate in the game, or — $3 for adults and $2 for children and seniors. Those 6-and-under get — in free.

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Anyone in attendance interested in playing 1860s — baseball. — — It's a very gentlemanly game, Jon Shaw says of the mid-19th century rules compared to today's concept.

Many of the 1860s rules revolve around behavior, which could make Saturday's vintage games quite intriguing for those unnerved by the trend of today's self-involved stars.

When a guy comes up to bat he points where he wants the pitch to be, and it's a pitcher's honor to try and throw in that area, says Shaw, a programs associate at Hanley Farm. If an umpire feels that the pitcher is not being gentlemanly with his location, he can call out balls instead of strikes.

The different mindset between 1860s play and today's game will allow Saturday's umpire to make other unique rulings. Umpires may fine players or fans for ungentlemanly behavior, so a stash of quarters might come in handy for those heading out to Hanley Farm.

Players may not slide, use foul language or leave their feet. Although fielders played with bare hands until the 1880s, some participants will be provided traditional handmade gloves Saturday.

Also provided will be two vintage bats handmade out of a strong ash wood by Annette Julien of Ashland.

Once you get started with those bats, you just can't stop, says Shaw, who will be one of two players dressed in vintage attire.

Shaw's uniform has been modeled after Ashland's team of the era, but Jacksonville, Medford, Applegate and Yreka, Calif., also played prominent roles in bringing baseball to the Rogue Valley.

And it's these roles Shaw and the Historical Society want to honor.

Our primary goal is to educate people about the history of Southern Oregon, and baseball certainly had a big role in that, says Shaw. When people come out and they have fun, they learn a lot more.

— — — — — In 1876, Ashland's — challenge led to memorable game

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Southern Oregon's role in — organized baseball didn't really take a toehold until a confident — bunch of Ashland players decided that they were ready to take on all — comers.

— On June 17, 1876, the — following announcement appeared in the Ashland Tidings:

— — BASE BALL — — Ho! ye that thirst for base-ballists fame, come to the front or — forever hold your peace! The Ashland Base-Ball Club hereby — challenges any club in southern Oregon or northern California ... — Yreka and Jacksonville papers please copy.

— — Ashland players were — so enthusiastic that the turnout required the formation of two — teams: The First Nine (comprised of top players) and The Second Nine — (comprised of scrubs).

— July 1, the — Ashland B.B. Club had accepted two challenges: One from the — Greenhorn B.B. Club of Yreka, Calif., and the other from the scrubs — of Jacksonville.

— Three days later, — Ashland's First Nine beat the Yreka team 40-32, but Jacksonville's — scrub team swamped the Second Nine 73-38.

— Some Ashland rooters — hinted that there were some first-stringers slyly added to the — Jacksonville scrubs. Ten days later, Ashland's First Nine upended — Jacksonville 27-23.

— Ashland's First — Nine went on to rout the Mystic B.B. Club of Fort Klamath to improve — to 3-0.

— After some — concentrated practice, the natives of Jacksonville regained their — confidence and challenged Ashland to a playoff game.

— Betting on the — winner-take-all game was heavy, with fans in Jacksonville sure they — had a good thing going. Even the Jacksonville players got carried — away and bet on themselves. Amazingly, it was announced that about — $20,000 was riding on the playoff game — no small amount at that — time.

— Playing in front of a — noisy, standing-room-only crowd, Ashland easily took the lead in the — first couple of innings. With Ashland steadily maintaining its lead — and none of the Jacksonville players pulling off spectacular plays, — some of those in peril of losing sizable wagers realized something — must be done.

— When Ashland led — 29-21 in the eighth inning, a bunch of rowdies stormed the field — with Jacksonville at bat. Loudly declaring that the umpire had made — an incorrect ruling three innings before, the group bullied two — players off the field and milled around arguing and waving their — arms.

— The raucous crowd — grew so unruly that the umpire and the manager s of the teams called — off the game.

— Since the game was — halted before the full nine innings were played, the argumentative — Jacksonville fans announced the game was unfinished and that all — bets were off. They withdrew their money from the pot, and the — season ended with an undeclared victory for Ashland.

— And thus ended the — first big season in Southern Oregon competition.

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Information for this story was — gleaned from the Southern Oregon Historical Society and the May 1983 — Table Rock Sentinel.

Jon Shaw dons a replica 1875 baseball uniform - photo by Drew Fleming